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Is a Life without Meaning worth Living?


“What could destroy us more quickly than working, thinking, and feeling without any inner necessity, without any deeply personal choice, without pleasure – as an automaton of ‘duty’?” ― Friedrich Nietzsche, The Anti-Christ

Should you ask for my opinion on the matter then you might hear me say that ‘meaning’ is somewhat overrated. The term is such a slippery eel that one may be better off leaving it outside of everyday language. Release the wiggly creature back into the ocean and see what becomes of it. Then again the more pragmatic side of me would feel lessened should others remove the concept from their practice, especially as it relates to justice and liberty.

One chap in particular, who belongs to the lawful practice of zombie-makers (psychiatry) has left behind some bread crumbs for those of us who choose not to search for lost keys under well lit street lamps. He gives much credence to the subjective value of meaning. Let’s inject a few lines of his thought here:

Hence, from my point of view, it is the person herself that confers meaning and value to her own life, not any metaphysical characteristic of persons.

It’s hard to believe that a psychiatrist could actually hold such a point of view. Hell this must fly in the face of all the confusing shit that contorts their enigmatic DSM. So unbelievable in fact that my ‘will’ was prodded to backtrack, and it’s a good thing we did, for Thomas Schramme is no Frankenstein, at least not during the day, but a well respected Professor of Philosophy.

So where did we go wrong in forming our presupposition? Oh yes, it was because he submitted the paper in question with the International Journal of Law and Psychiatry. Phew, now that we have cleared that one up, what else might we add to the mix in honor of personal autonomy:

To lose the meaning of life means to be bored with or tired of life, to have lost the relationships that define one’s life, to no longer have any overarching goals in one’s life, that is, to no longer pursue projects, or else to fall significantly short of one’s ideals by one’s current conduct of life.

Talk about growing teeth and biting into the subject matter eh. By saying what something is not   we somehow arrive at its core. Meaninglessness for Dr. Thomas Schramme seems to be the privation of ‘interest’ in general. Now after letting this sit in my stomach for a while we sense that we can’t quite digest it. Like a flower that needs to be in bloom in order to give its fragrance we can’t comprehend it with just any old sense organ. Meaning can’t be broken down into parts to be anal-ized and probed with cold steely instruments.

That is not to say that Schramme lacks heart as to the nature of meaning. In fact he has a lot to say about it in his paper and probably a great deal more if we had the leisure to explore his other writings. Nevertheless it would certainly help to include the goal by which the good Professor is availing of the term:

Where individual liberty has been granted, and hence where we are allowed to do things ourselves, respect for autonomy implies that we should not be hindered by others to pursue our aims. This has already been established in the case of suicide… But liberty is not real where we rely on the assistance of other people to pursue these aims and where these other people are hindered to offer their assistance. To say a person is free to kill herself where she is unable to do so, for instance because she is physically too weak, is making shambles of the notion of liberty. To be really free we constantly need the assistance of others.

Now there’s no way in Good Heaven, or in Nazi Germany for that matter, that we can reduce Schramme’s essay into the above paragraph. The truth be known there’s a much larger play being enacted here but it will suffice to say that he has made a very important point: being really free to die should be interpreted as involving the means to fulfil one’s desire to die.

So if we feel that our lives have become meaningless, especially after a lengthy consideration over the course of some years, then as mature adults we ought to have access to humane and peaceful means of ending one’s life without being harassed and belittled by shrinks and the like. Neither should we have to put ourselves (and others) in danger by dealing with criminals in order to purchase the resources necessary to end our lives or be expected to use traditionally crude instruments such as a rope or a gun.

Such methods deprive us of our freedom to die with honour, dignity and peace, which in turn violates our right to life and liberty, for death is also an important responsibility of ours and one in which we all must share whether we like it or not. Just because certain groups of people believe that death ought to be approached through passive negligence, need not serve as the model for others and vice versa; neither should those who take a more proactive approach to ending one’s life serve as the ideal for others. Nevertheless it is within our reach to live within a plurality of reasonable options that need not be dictated by conservative values.

About Philosopher Muse

An explorer of volition and soul, a song under a night sky and a dream that forever yearns to be.



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