The Vet has put me on a Low Cheese Diet. The world seems somehow Greyer. What is the Meaning of Life? I ask the Owner.
Well, says the Owner, I do not think Philosophers agree on the Meaning of Life.
I thought that was the Point about Philosophers, I say. They never Agree about Anything.
Indeed, says the Owner. The Consequentialists argue that Life’s Meaning arises from our Actions in Living Moral Lives, whilst the Kantians argue that Moral Beings have Intrinsic Worth through their Capacity for Choice, and Life’s Meaning arises from Exercising this Capacity. So Life’s Meaning is encapsulated either in What you Choose Or the Fact that you Choose, depending on which sort of Philosopher you are.
That is Very Profound, I say, but it is No Help at all. It does not explain what Life Itself Means. What’s it all for?
Many Philosophers have addressed the question, says the Owner, and their inability to come up with a single, primary sense of Life’s Meaning could suggest that there isn’t one. At least not a single one.
There must be a Several Obvious Ones, I say. Such as Earning the Devotion of a Moral Dog.
Absolutely, says the Owner, although one must bear in mind that there are those who choose instead to Share their Lives with Cats whom they consider Equally Devoted.
We share a moment’s sorrow for these Misguided Individuals.
Does this mean, I ask, that we should Abandon the Search for Meaning?
Not completely, says the Owner, Objectivists would say that there are a number of Inherently Worthwhile Conditions that Everyone Recognises as Conferring Meaning when they Observe Them. Aside from a few Aberrant Views on Cats, most people would probably say that Achievements worthy of Pride or Community Admiration, Receiving Loyalty and Love, Developing Ones Potential and Contributing to the Happiness of Others through Art, Music or the Saving of Life are Broadly seen as Finding Meaning in Life.
So, I say, the Meaning of Life is best discovered by observing the Queen, Sir David Attenborough and any member of a Lifeboat Crew that can Also Play the Guitar?
Well says the Owner, whilst there is no doubt that Sir David is Acknowledged as Particularly Meaningful I think Considerably More Persons Than Those have Meaningful Lives. A Subjectivist would say that we each define Life’s Meaning for Ourselves, from our Own Perspective.
That suggests that if the Things One Values are Taken Away then Life might have No Meaning, I say. I do not mention the Absence of Cheese from my Own Life but I feel the Cheese hangs Unspoken between us.
No, says the Owner, determinedly ignoring the Hanging Unspoken Cheese. Life Itself would still have Meaning even if one’s Own Life did not Seem Meaningful when Compared to the Meaning of Others’ Lives. There is Meaning even in Hoping. Only Nihilists believe that there is No Meaning because Nothing Matters. A Nihilist would say that if you look from a truly external perspective, which Thomas Nagel imagined as the Point of View of the Universe, considering the Billions of Years and Trillions of Beings that Have Existed, Do Exist and Will Exist, and the Billions and Trillions of Years that there Have Been and Will Be, Nothing we can do Really Matters at All. There is even a Song to That Effect.
When you consider the Billions of Years and Trillions of Beings that have Existed, Do Exist and Will Exist, I say, and the Billions and Trillions of Years that there Have Been and Will Be, it is quite remarkable that we have David Attenborough.
Exactly, says the Owner. David Attenborough is Proof that the Nihilists are Wrong.
What do you think is the Meaning of Life? I ask.
I believe it to be Subjectively Objective, says the Owner. I find Life’s Meaning Encapsulated in things upon which Many Agree. In Relationships of Love and Loyalty, in Dancing on the Beach, in Music by such Great Artists as the Rough Island Band, Shearwater, Genesis and Beethoven, in Solidarity, Empathy and Kindness, in the Poetry of Milton and T S Eliot, in the Memories of Good Days and Special People, and in Travelling through Life with the Companionship of a Moral Dog.
That is Very Moving, I say.
Thankyou, says the Owner. I Hoped it Might Be. What does the Moral Dog think is the Meaning of Life?
I think it is Cheese, I say.
That is also Very Moving, says the Owner, and I have enjoyed our Discussion Enormously, but you are still not Having Any.
Hergest the Hound
I am a dog of many thoughts.