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Alex Percival

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the universe does not need to have meaning behind it.

The meaning and reason of the universe and life has been debated over for centuries. religion always states that the point of life is to serve god, or gods, or to fulfil your role in society. with religion, the meaning of the universe is usually not to far off from the reasons for life. as in to serve the god or gods of those religions. with modern discoveries, we have found that the meaning of life itself is pointless, but we are extremely lucky to be here because the probability that any one of us being in existence is next to 0%. there is no meaning behind the universe; however we are trying to discover one. we, as humans, are always perceiving the world as one thing or another and try to make sense out of everything. when we are searching for meaning behind the universe, we often miss that the universe might not need to have a meaning. there may not be any meaning to it at all. and actually, it makes sense that the universe has no meaning to it. the only reason we try to find meaning behind the universe is because we are a curious people who want to be able to understand everything we can. we are always interpreting the world around us based on our built up experiences from our past. take written language, for example. all the text in this is interpreted by our brains and we see meaning in it. but in reality, it is just a bunch of scribbles. it has no other meaning besides what we give it.

Topics: philosophy
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    Jan 23 2012: Everything and everybody has no meaning outside of that which we assign it.
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      Jan 28 2012: also true. our view of the world around us is made up of our past experiences, and our way of interperating them.
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    Feb 3 2012: I'm under the impression that the universe does not owe us anything, therefore there does not have to be any meaning for its existance
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    Jan 29 2012: The universe could have a multitude of meaningful purposes....or none. It is our perception of the universe that colors our own personal beliefs and life experiences. We are intelligent, thinking, feeling human beings, and can percieve the universe in any way we want. Searching for meaning outside ourselves often causes us to miss a lot of things. It seems that humans are often trying to explain the universe as a way of understanding ourselves and our role within the universe. It is true Alex, that we are always interpreting the world around us based on our built up experiences and our personal interpretations of those experiences. So, in our quest to understand the universe, is it wise to leave the exploration "out there" to debate the meaning of the universe? Or would it be wise to understand our "self" and how we use our interpretations in every day life? The latter is a preference for me:>)
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      Jan 30 2012: Yes Colleen : it is our perception of the universe which determine the way we see it (we can't see it in any way we want) .
      But even if we look inside or 'out there' shouldn't we reach the same conclusions ? (at least in a general way) .
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        Jan 30 2012: Hi Eduard,
        We've had similar conversations before! I believe we have choices regarding how we interpret our world, everything and everyone in it, including ourselves:>)

        As you confirm Eduard, "it is our perception of the universe which determine the way we see it".
        It is well known that we do not all have the same perceptions, and because of that fact, we can interpret the universe and the meaning of the universe in different ways.

        Perhaps you can reach the same conclusions Eduard, by looking for answers externally, or looking in yourself for answers. That is not my experience. I find that when I look externally for answers, reasons, information, I'm missing valuable information I can find in my "self". Although I consider and evaluate information coming from external sources, I perfer to recognize the choices I have within myself to determine how I live my life:>)
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          Feb 2 2012: Hi Colleen:

          Yes, we don't have the same perceptions about the universe and this may cause different views on the universe , however all we look at and cause our perceptions is the same universe , I want to say that our perceptions aren't entirely different while our interpretations of this perceptions leads us to total opposite conclusions. There has to be a wrong somewhere .
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        Feb 2 2012: You are right Eduard...sometimes "our interpretations of this perceptions leads us to total opposite conclusions". If you believe "there has to be a wrong somewhere", so be it. My perception is that there are often many "different" perceptions and interpretations regarding the meaning of the universe.
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          Feb 3 2012: You are right Colleen; I just hope to be also so .
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      Feb 3 2012: i agree that we shouldnt spend our time pondering wether the universe has meaning or a reason for existence behind it, but rather, have this as somthing that is just known and move on.
      i do not spend all my time thinking about this subject because it can be very depressing and is not benifitial to either our society nor I. but it is just somthing that i have come to know and move on with my development of my thoughts and ideas. which, i suppose, is what one should do. that is to focus on productive things rather then meaningless things.
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        Feb 3 2012: Hello Alex,
        I'm not suggesting that we shouldn't spend our time pondering whether the universe has meaning or not.
        My statements are:
        "...in our quest to understand the universe, is it wise to leave the exploration "out there" to debate the meaning of the universe? Or would it be wise to understand our "self" and how we use our interpretations in every day life? The latter is a preference for me:>)"
        AND
        " Although I consider and evaluate information coming from external sources, I perfer to recognize the choices I have within myself to determine how I live my life:>)"

        Personally, I LOVE pondering the meaning of EVERYTHING and NOTHING. I LOVE exploring the ideas you put forth. It's fun to ponder the universe and everything connected with the universe. The exploration is not ever "depressing" for me because I have no expectations, nor do I believe I will "know" everything as long as I am in human form. I don't need to have all the answers:>) If/when we become attached to "knowing", being "right", and having all the answers, than the exploration may be depressing...what do you think?
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          Feb 4 2012: i agree with you. im not like this anymore, but i used to be obsedded with knowing the right awnser, or the one closest to being right, when trying to understand the emencity of the universe. but i have learned, as have you, that one person cannot know everything there is to know. nor will we ever when we are still in the primmitive fom we are in now.
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        Feb 4 2012: You sound like a wise young man Alex:>)
        Pondering, seeking, researching, studying, exploring life and being open to all information is a valuable practice. It's also important to feel content and at peace HERE and NOW:>)
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    Jan 29 2012: Agreed:
    "If you ask for the purpose or goal of society as a whole or of an individual taken as a whole the question loses its meaning. This is, of course, even more so if you ask the purpose or meaning of nature in general. For in those cases it seems quite arbitrary if not unreasonable to assume somebody whose desires are connected with the happenings. Nevertheless we all feel that it is indeed very reasonable and important to ask ourselves how we should try to conduct our lives. The answer is, in my opinion: satisfaction of the desires and needs of all, as far as this can be achieved, and achievement of harmony and beauty in the human relationships. This presupposes a good deal of conscious thought and of self-education."
    -Albert Einstein
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      Feb 3 2012: haha i see what you are saying. and i agree, which is why i no longer spend all my time trying to figure out if this universe has meaning or not. we should all just live our lives to the benifit of everyone and everything and to grow in knowledge and wisdom, as well as growing in happynes along the way.
      but why im posting this is to spark the thought of this concept that the we dont need to have a "meaning" behind the universe to be happy.
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    Jan 28 2012: There are several ways to read - the universe does not need to have a meaning.
    - As a mindless total entity it does not have needs
    - Some of the conscious entities within the universe, that are part of the universe, by their very nature assign meaning, communicate meaning ettc. Not sure if we "need" to, but it is inherent in our being.

    This is a different question to does the universe have meaning.
    Again, perhaps there is meaning to the universe if people assign meaning, but agree it is probably not universal or absolute. Rather it is relative and subjective.

    Writing "'has no other meaning besides what we give it"', is an interesting comment.
    Aren't you contradicting your self by saying it only has the meaning we give it but has no meaning.
    Isn't that the point - there is some purpose, to communicate something, via human agency. And perhaps alternative perceived meaning in the eyes of the reader.

    Its seems contradictory to suggest there is no meaning to the universe but then say even writing has meaning given to it.

    Is it just a lack of precision in conveying your meaning in the topic? I guess you mean there there is no universal, common consistent meaning. Some Chinese writing has meaning to those who can read it. To me the only meaning relates to the aesthetics of the calligraphy or any other meaning I attribute it with very little to do with the original intent.
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      Feb 3 2012: im not contradicting myself because "has no other meaning besides what we give it" means that we give it meanng, but that doen't mean that it accualy exists. like in Chinese calligraphy, as you said, has meaning to one but none to another. but ultimatly, it is just scribbles. or the "face" on the moon. when we first saw the "face" we thought it to be some sort of sign. but it just looked like a face becase of the camera angle and our ability to process images.
      ok now this sentence i am about to write will probibly mean nothing to you, but it will to me:
      私は走っています。
      this had little meaning to me before i learnt japanese, but now i can see meaning. but ultimatly it is just scribbles, regardless of wether my brain interperates it a certian way or not

      basicly, meaning given to something doesnt mean that there is any phisical meaning. it is just the way we interperate things.
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      Feb 3 2012: and by "the universe does not need to have meaning behind it" i mean that there is not a necessity for there to be meaning. as well as the universe is a reality with no meaning as to why it exists.
  • Jan 24 2012: The universe has an infinite number of meanings, depending on your definition of "meaning". If you are looking for an externally generated meaning, then I think you're in for a great deal of grief. I think each of us has an internal "meaning of the universe" whether we actually specify what it is or not. The human mind loves to make patterns even with a random set of variables. However, the fact that the "meaning of the universe" is largely arbitrary and individual does not mean that it is without value. We all need an organizing set of principles so that we know what to do when we wake up in the morning. Some of these meanings we would call profound, some trivial, some destructive, some dysfunctional and so on. Our judgement of other people's "meaning of the universe" is absurd on the face of it, but there does seem to be a strong tendency to support one's own "meaning" by denigrating those of other people.
  • Jan 30 2012: Maybe there is not meaning or purpose behind the universe Alex, but I believe that in some situations, when we find no meaning we need stories to survive. Those stories could be realistic or fantastic... We can take them literally or symbolically.
    My friend has an handicapped baby. She likes to believe that this baby was sent to her to make her a better person. She is convinced that she or the baby would have died without her creating this belief.
    Now, I like to imagine that she is right. To the least, I do think experiences like hers can make us become better and can contribute to our evolution and make us survive. We could take her story " my handicapped baby was sent to me to help me become a better person and find my way" literally or explain it with psychology. Which approach really is the closest to reality? What are the true causes to her situation? How will the story she tells herself have an impact on her life and other people life's? What impact would she have on others if she said to herself: " my 18 month old baby cannot hold her head, eat, talk, see for no purpose and cannot be cured by today's science. The universe has no purpose, no meaning, life is there by accident. What is happening is absurd"? Does it really matter whether her belief is close to reality or not in her situation? Isn t it amazing that our body plays tricks on us, usually in order to help us survive? I would like to see a great shift of paradigm in science in my life time.More questions will arise. Reality is probably beyond imagination. Still I believe in the power of imagination. I like to imagine different possible scenarios about the universe. I like to take the latest discoveries and theories in science as a point to start with. And then I love building on it, knowing I am probably wrong. Could we be avatars? I hope love, compassion, curiosity will expand whatever there is or not behind life and the mystery of the universe.
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      Feb 3 2012: i agree that people should beleive what ever they want in order to be happy, as long as they dont try to bring down the overall understanding of reality that someone already has. for example, if one person has way of thinking "A" and is happy, then they should remain that way. that person should build up on their way of thinking and grow in knowledge and wisdom. no one should change the way they think because someone else thinks that they will go to "hell" or somthing if they dont change their ways.
      accualy, i struggled a little bit with depresion because i just could not find a meaning to live. as in, once i died, my memories and experiences would follow me to my grave and would be forgotten as time goes on. more then that, the entierty of the universe has no meaning to it becides that which we give it. but knowing this, i was able to overcome that knowledge by just accepting it and trying my best to live a happy and forfiling life to better the human race as a whole in any way i can.
      • Feb 3 2012: Thanks Percival for sharing your experience. I just started a debate that you can find in Ted conversation. And I though you might be interested in reading that, because it is related to your comment:

        How about using mystical stories as a placebo to help people in difficult situations to cope? But telling them, IT IS A PLACEBO.

        What do you think about creating Mystical placebos without deception?
        In a recent study patient with IBS, irritable bowel syndrome where given a placebo pill and told: this is a placebo. And it worked! A great percentage felt much better! Researchers at Harvard Medical School’s (HMS) Osher Research Center and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) 2010.
        http://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2010/12/placebos-work-—-even-without-deception/
        What do you think about using mystical stories to help people, telling them there are just stories, not real, but, ask them to "take them"? Wouldn't that be a good way to help fragile people not to get into a sect for example?
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          Feb 4 2012: that is really interesting. i suppose i do somthing simmaler to that now. i am an atheist and do not beleive in any spiritual entity. however, i like to think that there is in some way. like when im training for taekwondo, i like to think that all the experience of all the masters in the past is avalible to me by practicing and understanding it more. i dont accualy think that there is something there, it is just somthing that i do. amd it accualy works great. i am also buddhist. and sometimes i like to think that the Buddha is watching over me somehow. of course i dont accualy think he is, because he has been dead for centuries. but its just somthing i do that makes me feel happy at times. so yea, i think it is a good idea. unles the people acualy beleive there is somthing there.
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    Jan 28 2012: If the universe don't have a meaning behind it I guess your words above posted don't have a meaning either , they are part of this universe once with you .
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      Feb 3 2012: exactly. these words im writing have no meaning. the only reason we can take "meaning" out of anything is because of our ability to interperate the world around us.
  • Jan 22 2012: True!
    But then, how can a mass of lowlives be controlled and managed by some interesant morons, who can not agree that "God did something with no meaning"?
    Until humanity wakes up from such dilusional concepts - no one will be able to agree with you my friend.
    Keep trying though :-)
    Good luck!
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      Jan 22 2012: i agree with you compleatl. however, the opinions of the ignorernt arent importent when talking about this :P if we were worried that people would not accept things like evolution then it wouldent of developed.
      • Jan 24 2012: I do wonder how many lists of "ignorant people" you I and would show up on. Ignorance is often more in the eye of the beholder than in any sort of objective rationale. You and I think denying evolution is "ignorant". Someone else will believe that our refusal to accept the supremacy of their deity is "ignorant". I'm not sure that either point of view is particularly helpful. I have no problem with people believing in "intelligent design" if it makes them happy. What I object to is the insistence that everyone else believe in it, too. I think we need to develop an intellectual tolerance for the views of others as long as they are not attempting to infringe on the rights of others. At the end of the day, the value of an idea lies in how well it helps you to cope with life. I'm not suggesting that every point of view on every subject carries equal weight, but I am suggesting that a little tolerance, a little humility and a lot less name calling might be of more value in reaching a rapprochement which allows all of us to live together a bit more harmoniously than we currently do.
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          Jan 28 2012: i also agree with what you are saying. but when i say "the opinions of the ignorent arent importet when talking about this" i mean that someone who has little knowledge of the subject should not try to propose were sothing is true or not based on their own opinion, because they are not compleatly knowledgeable of the subject. however, their opinions should still be respected. wether it is compleatly incorrect or not. but also, the future of the human race will depend on what decisions we make in our time, wether it be another 1000 years of beleiving in religous text to be historicly and literaly accuret, or progress towards deep space travel.