General Question

Aubs427's avatar

What is the purpose of life?

Asked by Aubs427 (421points) January 1st, 2011 from iPhone

Is it to find happiness or to make as much money as you can and contribute to the world?

What is more important in life for you? Would you rather make a lot of money or would you rather find genuine happiness; if you had to choose only one?

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53 Answers

marinelife's avatar

It is to live your life the best way that you know how, contributing to the world and your community.

iamthemob's avatar

To attempt to, on average, generate as much good as possible.

lemming's avatar

I’d take the happiness of course. What’s the point of having money if your not happy? I think the purpose of living is to help others when you can, you know, spread the love, get some good karma rolling

troubleinharlem's avatar

Money does not buy happiness – it only buys a better grade of misery.

partyparty's avatar

To live each day in the best possible way.
To cherish each and every moment.

CaptainHarley's avatar

The purpose of homo sapiens sapiens, as the only self-aware species we know of, is to nurture and protect all living things.

poisonedantidote's avatar

To experience consciousness, to think, to guess and to wonder, to be, and then not.

SavoirFaire's avatar

There is no external purpose to life, but you can choose to live purposefully.

9doomedtodie's avatar

If you had no money and you were dirt poor, you wouldnt be necessarily happy. Regarding careers…I believe screw the high paying job if you can get another that makes you happy and you can live off of that salary too. In the end….it’s about HOW you lived your life and you cant take the money with you. Money can’t bring the things back which you’ve lost them forever. You can be happy without money by involving yourself in your Fields of interest.

iamthemob's avatar

@Skaggfacemutt – Not to be a negative nancy about it…but if that’s the purpose, I bet we’re all gonna fail majorly.

SavoirFaire's avatar

@Skaggfacemutt Never dying would perhaps be the best way to make life pointless.

Skaggfacemutt's avatar

@iamthemob LOL

@SavoirFaire But think about it. You want to be healthy so you won’t die, you want to make money so you can buy food and shelter so you won’t die, you want to have kids to perpetuate the race, It just seems to me like everything we do here goes back to basic survival.

SavoirFaire's avatar

@Skaggfacemutt I want health because I like living, not because I don’t want to die. There’s a difference. Same with money. And if I do have children, it will have nothing to do with wanting to perpetuate the human race. Sure, there may be some evolutionary pull in my brain towards it, and that pull may have evolved because of its role in perpetuating the human race, but that doesn’t mean that perpetuating the human race is my reason for having children. It’s a matter of direct and indirect causes. Furthermore, I’d happily die for my wife. That has nothing to do with my survival.

9doomedtodie's avatar

@Skaggfacemutt : Food, money and shelter give us a shoulder for survival, but death is certain. Earning money you can buy food and shelter, but you can’t face natural catastrophes.
Be happy and make others happy while dying.

lucillelucillelucille's avatar

I would choose happiness.Are ya kidding?? XD

Skaggfacemutt's avatar

Well, of course the purpose of life is to find happiness. I am always happy, so my purpose is to stay alive and enjoy it. I’m sure I won’t be successful at staying alive, but I’m going to give it my best shot.

tinyfaery's avatar

To realize there is no purpose but find meaning anyway.

SavoirFaire's avatar

@Skaggfacemutt How are we to find happiness? Are majestic feats such as scaling tall mountains and rocketing into space pointless because they involve more unhappy moments than happy moments along the way?

@psychocandy Existentialists are we!

9doomedtodie's avatar

Pursuing happiness is as difficult as earning money. :/

Aubs427's avatar

At blinkeris response, if you land in a career that is in your field of interest but doesn’t make like, let’s say, a doctor or any other high paying job, would you be happy if you just had that and nothing else?

Skaggfacemutt's avatar

@SavoirFaire I don’t know how to answer that. I was born happy. I love challenges. I love learning new things. I love comfort. I love life. I have had a lot of setbacks, some really bad but I am still basically happy because I look forward to overcoming that setback. As far as a purpose to life; I’ve never really felt the need to have some overall purpose other than to keep on keeping on.

ZEPHYRA's avatar

To get closer to understanding human nature and to realize the futility in everything around us.

SavoirFaire's avatar

@Skaggfacemutt I agree with all of what you just said, I just wouldn’t call it “seeking happiness.” Instead, I’d call it “loving life.” And rather than say it was the purpose of life, I’d say it was my purpose for living. Because it seems we both agree that it is worth sacrificing happiness for other things sometimes.

But perhaps I’m just being a cantankerous philosopher.

9doomedtodie's avatar

@Aubs427 : If the work you do which can make you happy, happiness comes at you iteself.
If you are asking about the how to survive, then earn a lot of money & the buy the things mentioned in above response by @Skaggfacemutt . Obviously, Money can give you happiness, but it’s not the one thing from which the happiness can be bought.

Skaggfacemutt's avatar

@SavoirFaire Yes, life is an adventure, and when I get to the end of it, all beat up and mangled, I will probably say “wow, what a rush!”

SavoirFaire's avatar

@blinkErri Studies show that money only prevents you from falling to a certain level of unhappiness. Past a certain point, an increase in available monetary resources has no appreciable effect on one’s happiness or well-being. So it’s not that money buys happiness so much as that a lack of money in a contemporary society robs us of certain things we need to be happy. Money is a means, not and end.

@Skaggfacemutt What a rush, indeed!

MissAnthrope's avatar

To survive long enough to pass on your genes, at least twice, to keep the population stable.

There is no inherent meaning to life. Individual people make things up to justify “life” and to make it easier for them, because it’s tough thinking we go through what we do for no reason. Hence, why religion is so popular.

Coloma's avatar

To remember that you don’t HAVE a life, you ARE life.

To be thrilled that you are a part of it all, no more and no less special than any other life form.

A delightful little spoonful of the cosmic soup. ;-)

Coloma's avatar


I disagree.

We determine our own value, and while ashes to ashes and all that, I prefer to believe that my presence on earth does have value.
We touch and change others profoundly every day in ways we are not even aware of.
For better and for worse, hence mindfulness comes into play.

If not for my ‘life’ expression so many things would be different.

I am not religious but I am ‘spiritual’, and one definition of that is believing in cause and effect.

Without my particular blend of cause many effects would not exist, therefore I matter. ;-)

When one really connects the dots in an abstract and not so abstract way, much meaning arises.

MissAnthrope's avatar

@Coloma – Respectfully, that’s pretty much what I said…

There is no inherent meaning to life. Individual people make things up to justify “life” and to make it easier for them, because it’s tough thinking we go through what we do for no reason. Hence, why religion is so popular.

Coloma's avatar


Aaah…lost in translation.

But I don’t think we go through what we do for no reason.

We set ourselves up to go through what we go through, almost always, short of an unforseen accident.

I am big on the mantra of we create our own reality, by the thoughts we keep, and how those conscious and often unconscious thoughts determine exactly what we get or do not get out of this experience in form.

Definitly an energetic connection, and we draw to ourselves the energy we exude be it positive or negative. :-)

MissAnthrope's avatar

@Coloma – I understand that, and you are proving my point, so thanks. ;)

I am a biologist first and foremost. I just don’t see any “purpose” to life, aside from survival and reproduction. Everything else is human-crafted, which is fine.. keep in mind that I haven’t put any judgments on this, I haven’t said ‘this is what people do and it’s stupid and pointless’. It makes the human experience easier, so that makes sense to me. However, I don’t think I personally subscribe to the idea of some great cosmic plan.

Coloma's avatar


Yes, but…as a biologist you know firsthand of the interconnectedness of many species, symbiotic relationships, and mega diversity, all part of the greater biological plan within a plan.

‘Purpose’ aside, there is magic and mystery in this thing called ‘life’.

MissAnthrope's avatar

Of course. But I consider all of that to be a marvel of nature. The beauty of multiple systems working together. I suppose some of it is mysterious, but I don’t know that magic has anything to do with it. More like… manymanymanymanymanymany years of trial and error, as these systems are self-refining and adaptive to outside changes (and those that aren’t, become extinguished).

Jeruba's avatar

I don’t think there is any.

I don’t think a mountain has a purpose, or a desert, or a river or an ocean. I don’t think a rose has a purpose, or a swan, or a dung beetle. Nor have I. We just are, all of us.

This is not to say that I can’t find or choose a purpose or meaning. But an a priori purpose to existence: no.

the_state_of_wisconsin's avatar

to reproduce
to die


please insert the rest of my somewhat poetic and thoughtful response below

stardust's avatar

To have the human experience. And quite the experience it is, eh.

CaptainHarley's avatar

noun, verb, -posed, -pos·ing:
“The reason for which something exists.”

“To live” is not a purpose. “To experience” is not a purpose. Explain the WHY!

Jeruba's avatar

I have to take issue with that definition, @CaptainHarley. “Reason” looks to the past. “Purpose” looks to the future. Another word for “purpose” is “end,” and an end can’t be a cause. A cause precedes an effect.

Coloma's avatar

Purpose is ever changing, so there is no one purpose.

Reasons and seasons and all that.

Jeruba's avatar

I assumed you didn’t compose it but got it from somewhere, @CaptainHarley. That doesn’t mean it can’t be questioned, don’t you agree? My comment didn’t challenge you, just the definition.

Cruiser's avatar

I would rather find true happiness….but I have a feeling that it will come at a price for if happiness were free no one would be working.

Jeruba's avatar

@Cruiser, do you think working and happiness are incompatible? For many people, nothing is more satisfying than meaningful work. It either defines happiness for them or is an essential component of it. Doesn’t it feel great to put effort into achieving something worthwhile and in the end succeed at it? How can work of that kind be antithetical to happiness?

Cruiser's avatar

@Jeruba Not sure to be honest…maybe they are compatible or mutually exclusive…I think it depends on the individual. I find happiness in many of my life pursuits. Work is not one thing I do that gives me happiness but it pays the bills including the ones I rack up when doing the things that make me happy.

SavoirFaire's avatar

@CaptainHarley Several people have already contended that life has no purpose by the definition you provided. But that doesn’t mean that people can’t create a purpose for themselves and that “to live” or “to experience” cannot be that purpose. And indeed, most of the answers in that vein seem to be from those who don’t think life has an inherent purpose.

Jeruba's avatar

I think it also depends on the work, @Cruiser. A teacher, for instance, may find work much more deeply satisfying than a person who does electronics assembly or the guy who refills office vending machines. To the extent that education brings you closer to the prospect of such careers, education can contribute to happiness, as well as the enrichment it provides for its own sake.

But there’s no pat formula here. I’ve known doctors who were sick of their careers much too early, while a guy with an IQ on par with those doctors was as happy as could be driving up and down the freeway all day inspecting fire extinguishers in hotels.

Winters's avatar

To me there is no purpose, (thus nihilistic) therefore I do what I want, and yes you could then say I must be living for happiness rather than the money, but I beg to differ, I do find myself seeking my own emotional devastation at times because I want to feel something besides dull boredom and harmful situations are so much easier to create than happy, constructive ones.

CaptainHarley's avatar

Apparently there is a divergence in views between those who think that life is essentially purposeless at a macro level, and those who believe that life in fact does have purpose at a macro level. I am of the latter persuasion. : )

belakyre's avatar

I think that life should be spent making you happy and everyone else happy as well. I mean, regardless of whatever religion you’re from this life is pretty much the only you’ll get… on this planet anyway and I think it should be one spent in happiness (I guess I should exclude Hinduism… but then it would probably dampen the mood that I just set with what I said just now :S)

@Skaggfacemutt “We all die. The goal isn’t to live forever, the goal is to create something that will.”

Coloma's avatar


I agree, except for the goal of creating something that will.

Nothing lasts forever, absolutely no-thing.

Mans obsession with ego is the trouble, the fear of annilhilation, the inability to accept this fleeting existence and egos drive to be immortalized through work, children, etc.

Of course, to do as little harm and as much good as is possible, but, to desire to be canonized beyond the grave is simply more ego.

Humans have a vary hard time in relinquishing their egoic need to control.

Ego screams…. bury me with a headstone to show I existed because to be forgotten is too terrifying. lol

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