Philosophical Proposition on Existence
What is the Purpose of Existence?
To ask the purpose of existence implies that one is capable of obtaining such knowledge. What does one know is true? Pragmatists claim that there is no eternal truth, rather “truth is relative to a time and place and purpose and is thus ever changing in light of new [information]”. Of course, this is not always the case; if one person says that a triangle has four sides and another person says that there are three sides, it is apparent that one answer is true. A statement that could not possibly be false is a necessary truth and its opposite is a contingent truth, which is a true statement that could have been false. A contingent truth would be that Barack Obama is president and a necessary truth would be that Barack Obama’s responsibility as president is to run the United States. An a priori truth is a statement known to be true independently of any experience and a posteriori truths are statements known to be true only through experience. An a posteriori truth would be that changing a fuel filter on a Honda is easier than on a Mazda and an a priori truth would be that existence is only possible because of nonexistence; but what does it mean to exist?
According to Aristotle, existing “is a combination of matter and form”. A desk is composed of the matter wood and it is the form of a desk that makes it what it is; without its form it would just be wood. So existence is matter/form, physical/mental (nonphysical), material/nonmaterial, and thought/extension. Materialism maintains that only the physical reality exists, but contemporary science has revealed a world of atoms, molecules, and cells that exists beyond the perceptions of the naked eye. One cannot see air molecules but know that they exist as a necessity to all life on Earth. The atomists claim that everything on Earth is composed of atoms that are entirely governed by physical laws, yet humans are said to have free will. If a human body comprised of atoms is subject to these physical laws, how can humans be said to have free will? First, humans’ having absolute free will is a misconception because one cannot walk into public nude without suffering consequences. Second, humans have free will to the extent that the physical laws will allow. Just as humans create societal laws to ensure order there must also be a creator of the physical laws of atoms, namely God. Does God exist?
Following from the a priori truth that nonexistence always precedes existence, the Big Bang Theory speculates that the universe was blown into existence and therefore did not always exist. For the universe to come into existence would mean it was created and what is created requires a creator, or God. This is not to say that God is accurately portrayed by the various religions here on Earth. The beliefs presented by religions in the authority of God the “father” have exposed much bias in their teachings that have caused religion to lose some credibility over the years. Father is a human concept that denotes a man has children and if a man has children it requires a mother to produce them. Labeling God as the “father” implies that there is a mother, yet religions make no effort to extend this conception to include this implication. Mary Daly claimed that by worshiping a vengeful and forgiving male God, religion perpetuated a double standard of behavior. People’s most basic belief is whether there is a creator and applying vengefulness, forgiveness, and maleness to this belief generalizes over to a more forgiving attitude toward all men who may be vengeful. Religion’s lack of acknowledging women may have been the primary cause for the development of the feminist movement considering it began following Daly’s publication on the situation.
Along with the feminist movement, postcolonial philosophy exposes more injustice man has committed against those who are different. Humans were designed with a unique capacity for reasoning, implying that humans were designed to be the superior species; the extinction of many species is evidence of human superiority. Human superiority has always rested in the ability to conquer and control to make things easier, which eventually led to the development of the international market system. The international market system was created on the foundation of the injustice of colonialism and is considered a form of injustice by reducing everything to a dollar value.
So what is the purpose of existence?
Considering that Darwin’s Theory of Evolution purports that humans evolved from apes, the only species that shares a fraction of the human ability to reason, suggests that logic and reason seem to be uniquely designed for the human brain. If the ability to use reason and logic was simply an evolutionary response to better adapt, it should have evolved in other species since it is the best way to adapt to the most situations, but they could not because none of the brains of the other species was equipped for it; therefore, humans were designed to desire knowledge for developing the ability to use reason and logic. Human reasoning ability began in a primitive state, rendering it incapable of controlling behavior with thoughts concerning consequences and outcomes; much like a child’s reasoning ability develops over time. All advancements that have resulted from human effort and reasoning, along with primitive humans developing the wheel and fire, reveals that humans have always had the lust to know more than what had already been discovered. Primitive drives of Lust for knowledge left no room for satisfaction in what had already been accomplished. Without satisfaction, the lust to know more became greed that grew into selfishness from our instinctual need for self-preservation.
Human superiority among the world’s species was self-evident due to more complex human creations that animals lacked, such as tools, weapons and clothing. Further superiority was likely found by living with groups of humans, which prevented the occurrences of predator attacks from the few predators that did threaten humans. Now aware of their superiority, humans developed arrogance from their unique abilities to create and survive. “This assumption of the absolute power of humanity was for Heidegger the real cause of the cultural destitution and social dissolution within the twentieth century”. Without any other species posing a major threat, human lust, greed, selfishness, and arrogance was turned inward on their own species; these qualities, which characterize human suffering for many philosophers, were required to initially develop the species in a world where only the strong survive. The arrogant prehistoric men, in their selfishness developed from instinctual self-preservation, viewed anything that was different than them as a potential threat to their superiority. Primitive human instincts motivated behavior with the selfish lust for understanding, thereby destined to create the qualities characterizing human suffering. Albert Camus’ position was that “only through [the] struggle with an absurd world can the individual achieve fulfillment, solidarity with others, and “a brief love of this earth””.
As mentioned earlier, religion has been found to influence the public with a male dominated perspective that once severely oppressed women. Religion has also been used to secure obedience in slaves by altering the Bible’s religious scriptures to guarantee passage into heaven by obeying their white owners. However, it appears that women were destined to fall into oppression from the beginning of the human species. Women were designed to contain and birth children, automatically falling into gender role stereotypes in the future. Since prehistoric women contained and birthed children, men assumed that she be caregiver and nurturer which were required for women to watch the children while the men were off hunting and exploring. There appears to be a reason, which I will explain later, that this arrangement occurred; however, this led women to become globally oppressed by men. The qualities of human suffering extended further to oppress indigenous people that were thought of as inferior and an obstacle to human progress. “The colonial pattern of [the] relationship between whites and Indians of North America … was based primarily on economic exploitation” (p. 583). Most of the world has been founded on the injustices of colonization, causing bad karma to produce the materialistic and chaotic condition that is apparent in the world. Karma is a concept of Eastern philosophy which denotes that “every [human] action inevitably has its effect, and traces of these effects can last over several [generations]; a bad action brings sorrow” (p. 529).
After conquering and colonizing, humans looked to develop technology as a way to improve control over human suffering and the natural order of things. Increased communication from technology provided knowledge beyond the individuals’ immediate environment and also increased human productivity by making it easier to buy and sell globally through this increase in communication. In turn, this increased the capacity of human understanding and allowed medical advancements to defy the law of nature, “only the strong survive.” This law was natures’ way of keeping a balance between all things on Earth and human defiance of this law has led to the overcrowding of the human population and the extinction of many animal species. I believe that diseases, famine, and poverty occur as natures’ attempt at controlling the initial balance that humans have defied, but are also a result of bad karma produced from the injustices of colonization. Nature has always worked to pass down only the strongest genes within a species to ensure survival, but humans have allowed weaker genes to survive within the species due to medical advancements. By assuming natures’ role and increasing human survival, the opposition of nature in reaction to human overpopulation due to the weak surviving is the spread of disease to prevent survival since it has lost control to ensure harmony and balance between all species.
Fortunately, there are signs of hope that past oppression is being offset to produce good karma amongst the human species. The human ability to reason has evolved over many centuries in order to become capable of using it to motivate behavior instead of the primitive instinctual drives used by prehistoric humans’ lust for understanding. In the evolution of human reasoning, adaptation produced morals and values as a method for judging desirable/undesirable, proper/improper, and good/bad behavior to offset past oppression and create a more virtuous society, which we can find evidence of on the FBI website that over the last 20 years the United States crime rate has decreased by 50 percent. It was the development of morals and values that paved the way for offsetting past oppressions through consideration for the other instead of the self. The unique human ability to develop a strong sense of logic, reason and what’s morally more acceptable and less acceptable allowed the injustice that women, indigenous people, and slaves endured to become exposed for moral retribution. The feminist movement’s influence in the changes of equality for women and the election of an African American president are signs of offsetting the bad karma produced by the past oppression from the primitive humans’ ability to reason that lacked moral development. Most of the hope, in my opinion, for a more virtuous society stems from the election of African American President Barack Obama. Racial tension has always been a concern among society but with the election of an oppressed ethnic president brings with it a symbol of justice and equality for all people within society. European philosophers before Emmanuel Levinas focused on the individual and how he or she is blindly stuck in an irrational and absurd world. He tried to develop a philosophy on the concept of otherness and asserted that time, language, and the experience of existence are even conceptualized as ‘other’ by humans. In an attempt for humans to define and understand themselves, all of the different existing things are put in the position of other. When humans come to think of the other as the same and emotionally act as if the other is the same, a unified and harmonious human existence can begin to manifest. Women (Other) are able to act in positions of authority over men and African Americans (Other) are able to act in the highest position of authority, releasing the resentment of slave mentality by symbolizing all people as the slave of the Black man. Acceptance of the other has flourished into all’s consciousness and reveals an open-minded attitude that will in time intuitively eliminate prejudice and discrimination created by past oppression. Levinas believed that “the attempt to meet with the Other represents an act of transcendence and is the key human event” (p. 189).
Considering the various species on Earth, the unique reasoning abilities of humans, the extinction of many species due to humans, and the chaotic condition of the world, I assert that the purpose of existence is to find a way to live with all species harmoniously. Before humans can inhabit the Earth with all species in harmony, harmonious interaction among the human species must occur first. The feminist movement and the election of an African American president are evidence of developing this harmonious interaction among humans.
Philosophy begins, Levinas believed, with the horrible experiences of our otherness (alterity). Other people exist as unovercomable alterity. Time, language, and even existence itself is experienced and perceived as other. And God, for Levinas, exists as Absolute Otherness, a separateness never to be breached. True meaning and understanding of ourselves, for Levinas, can only be reached by a meeting with this radical Other in all its strangeness. The attempt to meet with the Other represents an act of transcendence and is the key human event.