For mortal human life to have meaning it seems that there must be both permanence and personal relevance for some things in that life.

If everything is washed away at death, then there can be no meaning – everything is just a momentary spark of sensation – a brief sensation, which might well be a delusion.

If all that is left is located in biological memory, then this depends on brains which are fragile and temporary, and memories are fallible and may be false.

So (for mortal life to have meaning) there must be some realm or place or time in which at least some thing are ‘stored’ permanently (some kind of ‘Platonic’ realm of true reality, beyond the changes and decays of mortal life).

And this must have memories which are true, real, accurate and valid – which means that there must be a possibility of direct, unmediated transmission of information or knowledge.

(Because any ‘normal’ material processes – working by means of the usual perceptions and senses and the usual modalities such as light, sound and touch – must be incomplete and distorted, and indeed may be wholly illusory.)

But an accurate and true reality ‘somewhere’ is not enough – that reality must also be linked to us as individuals, and to our specific mortal lives – or else mortal life is meaningless.

-thus Bruce Charlton


Absolutely right. We know from experience that our actions are meaningful. We experience the meaningfulness directly. But from that fact, eternal life or the existence of a God who cares, or both, inevitably follow.

If death is the end, over the long run, people’s acts can cease to be meaningful. Hundreds of years ago, many, many, many faceless masses of people lived who no one now remembers, not even vaguely. They do not live on in anyone’s hearts. Any effects their actions may have had have been swamped by time and change. If one more or less of them had never been born, it would make no difference. It is as if they never were. That they once may have existed has become meaningless. And what is meaningless in the end is meaningless all along. The apparent meaningfulness in the short term is only apparent. What is true of Groundhog Day is also true of Groundhog Week and Groundhog Month and Groundhog Life. Decisions that converge on nothing mean nothing: the rate of convergence is irrelevant.

But if the soul lives on . . .

-from How Can Anything Be Meaningful?

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