“Unless you assume a God, the question of life’s purpose is meaningless.” –Bertrand Russell
First, I need to mention that the title was ‘Man made god, God made man’. Had to change it because English doesn’t have a proper generic term except man. The phrase loses its edge if I replace it with ‘Humans’. Funny how the mind works. I chose we and us.
The western existential philosophy posits that human experience is ultimately a meaningless reality, leaving only one real philosophical question. To be, or not to be. Suicide. Sweet surrender.
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
-William Butler Yeats (The Second Coming)-
When the point of reference is taken away, there is no direction, there is no purpose.
Who are we? Identity is significant for us as humans. But the truth is, when we think about who we are, when we contemplate upon what elements constitute who we are, we would realize that all those things that we refer to, to create a picture of ourselves, are susceptible to change.
To truly understand the essence of who we are, we need to strip down the superficial constructions of identity and look into the ontological (Ontology is the philosophical study of the nature of being, becoming, existence or reality as well as the basic categories of being and their relations) questions of Being.
If we are to believe that we are the chance product of nature without any meaning or purpose, life becomes something with no value. Without a transcendental being, morals are always subjective.
Two ways to look at this, closest to my mind.
1. Buddhism – The no-self. The illusion of self and our desire for it traps us in suffering through rebirth. There is no real self according to Buddhist philosophy. In Asia, where Buddhism was/is a major worldview, the meaninglessness, or to be specific, the suffering of life and rebirth was embraced and was seen as something to be escaped by one’s own effort.
2. In western thought, which was heavily influenced by the Catholic Church, man was seen as the pinnacle of God’s creation (anthropocentric worldview). With the Enlightenment, in the 17th, 18th century, novel ways of seeing the world were introduced. After the World Wars, these ontological questions gained more visibility as human existence was seen as an absurd phenomena. The idea of life being meaningless was, generally speaking, a relatively difficult concept to digest for the western mind since it is incongruous with their longstanding tradition of anthropocentric thought.
While one view attempts to extinguish the illusion of self, the other understands life as a meaningless entity waiting to be extinguished. Where does this leave us then?