Thomas Evans
High School Honorable Mention
New Jersey

Philosophy Slam: "What is the Meaning of Life?"

     It can be argued that the meaning of life lies in a life well lived, that life carries social and moral obligations, and even that life is simply a means to an end. It can also be said, there are too many uncertainties in life for there to be certainty in any definition, since the meaning of life evolves in each in each individual based on age, social and interpersonal experience. Therefore, I pose the following question: can we understand such a question and handle such an abstract idea, such as life.
     Without question, I am sure that many people have had experiences where they don't understand why or for what reason things have happened. Personally, I have encountered situations where I have been left puzzled and confused at their outcome that I simply cannot reason out an acceptable conclusion. For example, my mom was salutatorian of her class at Nutley High School and graduated with the highest honors from Seton Hall University and Law School. She was known by countless individuals for her generosity, kindness, goodwill, and ability to brighten any day with her smile. And on top of all this, she raised a family, instilling in them high standards of family values and moral conduct. This is one heck of a lady, and a person who could do no wrong. However, on May 21, 2000, at the age of 46, my mother passed away die to complications with breast cancer. I could only ask why without a reasonable answer in response.
     How can life be the pursuit of personal fulfillment when life is cut so short? How can life be a progressive means to an end when the finish line is placed so close to the start? How can life be a social and moral obligation when those bonds can barely be forged? How can such a kind-hearted soul be so cruelly punished while criminals are given the right to trial by jury? All of these questions have left me confused about my mother's death. I have looked for any reason to such inquiries, but in the end no answer has been found. If life is a process of cause and effect, or even a path to achieve happiness, then what cause or unguided trail did my mother take? When such experiences confront the human mind, it creates an impasse of understanding. No longer do we see our control or awareness of life.
     The principles of the philosopher David Hume support this argument. Hume states that throughout life we encounter a series of impressions and ideas. With the understanding of cause and effect, and applying these impressions and ideas we create memories and develop knowledge. For example, you have a vivid impression when a dentist drills your teeth. When you look back on this event, you recall an idea and remember the pain. Therefore, you learn that drilling on your teeth creates pain. However, Hume says there must be a necessary connection. But, Hume says that this cannot always happen and is merely a habit of association that pain occurs when drilling. Furthermore, this shows that the human mind is incapable of understanding such complex and abstract ideas as beauty, love, and life. Beauty does not always come from those who are beautiful, love is not always present in those that are closely connected, and life does not allow for you to achieve happiness.
     Looking at "what is the meaning of life?" seems to have brought up more questions than answers. Therefore, what has been asked cannot be given a response. The understandings and logic of the human mind cannot unlock the mysteries of life. Too many times we are perplexed and bewildered by life and constantly ask questions seeking answers that are not there. For that reason, the better question is "Why?"

Kids Philosophy Slam Home Page