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How can one determine whether anything has intrinsic or innate value? Would we not, in all cases, be forced to concede that a person could theoretically say that they hold the object in question to have no value at all?

I don't work on this sort of thing, so I won't comment upon the question how one might actually decide whether something has intrinsic value. But I will comment on the overall orientation of the question. It seems to be assumed that, if someone could deny that the object has any value, then that would someone call into question whether it had intrinsic value. But why? People can be wrong about all kinds of things. The fact that something is of intrinsic value does not imply that any particular person will recognize that value. It does not even imply that anyone at all will recognize that value. We might all be completely ignorant of it. So let me ask a question back: What's the significance of the restriction to "intrinsic or innate" value here? Does this worry seem more pressing when those words are included than if they are not? If so, why?

Why do people participate in meaningless activities such as politics, education, mathematics, philosophy and such when either we are all going to die so it won't matter what we have done, or maybe our existence and/or this world is all an illusion so it doesn't matter what happens because it's not real?

There seem to be some large assumptions being made here, such as: If one dies, then it won't matter what one has done. I don't see any reason to believe this. Martin Luther King, Jr, died nearly forty years ago, but what he did with is life seems to have been rather significant. My grandmother died about a decade ago, and while her contributions didn't have quite the global significance that Dr King's did, they were nonetheless important to those of us who knew her and who benefitted from her wisdom, love, and advice, not to mention her giving birth to and raising my mother, who is the sine qua non ("without whom not"), as far as I'm concerned. Death, it has been said, is the ultimate human equalizer, and I'm not saying that one shouldn't live in full awareness of one's mortality. Indeed, I'm inclined to think that, if we did all live in full awareness of the fact that we will one day die, we would live very different lives, focused on things that will survive us rather than upon things that...

I am really interested with philosophy and I can get why many things are put into question. What I do not get is why some people even bother with questions such as: Can there ever be a truly random event? Why should we even care about something like this? It seems like the answer (if it were ever reached) would add no value to our lives. Steve, 17

Are you sure there's nothing to be learned from such a question? The question in what sense radioactive decay, for example, is random is an important question in the foundations of physics, and improving our understanding of the world seems a valuable enterprise. The question how we understand randomness is also important to the foundations of cryptography, because cryptographic ciphers typically require a source of random bits: If the bits aren't really random, then perhaps they can be predicted, and the cipher can be broken. It needs no emphasis how important cryptography is in the age of electronic mail and electronic banking.

Why don't humans think of all lives as equal, and instead that other creatures' lives hold more importance than others? For example a human kills an animal such as cows or pigs and no one (except animal rights activists and the like) has a problem with that, but if that same person killed another human they would be charged and sent to prison. In both cases a life is taken but (one human) and that person's life for some reason holds more importance than the animal's.

It is crucial, I think, to recognize that the relevant question here is not: Are the lives of humans more valuable than the lives of (other) animals? The objection to killing animals need not presuppose that animals' lives and humans' lives are of equal value. Most defenders of animal rights would not, I think, hold such a view. Their claim, rather, is that animals' lives are of sufficiently great value that they ought not to be killed. Note that saying that animals ought not to be killed does not imply that it is never morally permissible to kill an animal. Humans ought not to be killed, but most people would hold that it is sometimes morally permissible to kill human beings, for example, in self-defense. If (say) cows lives are of less value than are the lives of humans, then there may be circumstances in which it is permissible to kill a cow but in which it would not be permissible to kill a human being. But it does not follow from that fact that it is permissible to kill a cow just...

I think that religion is just one's way to answer their own questioning of the meaning of life. Those without religion (like atheists and even agnostics) I believe do not have that internal need to find a meaning, so they do not turn to religion. Believing in God or a god gives a shorthand answer to life: that we were created to live. What are your thoughts?

My main thoughts would be these: Trying to find somesimple, single sentence explanation for something as complex andancient as religious faith is not very sensible. Beforeattempting to answer the question what role religion plays in people'slives, it would probably be a good idea to do some actual empiricalresearch. In this case, I think one would find that there are very,very few religious people, perhaps none, who would accept that the"meaning of life" can be boiled down to: We were created to live. Many people actually have done such research, and much has been written about the matter. There are many viewpoints, and there are no easy answers. But let me end with a question: Why do so many people seem to find it necessary to dismiss faith as a product of something trivial? What is it about faith that is so threatening?

Being a non-religious person I do not believe in 'Intelligent design', I am a strong adherent to evolution. Yet I still wonder 'What is the meaning of life'. After much thought and some reading/learning I have come to the conclusion that the meaning of life is to pass one's ('one' being anything alive, plant or animal) genes or DNA along to the next generation thereby renewing the cycle of life. What are your thoughts on this subject? Another question - If my meaning of life is true, do you think that man, with his science, can surpass this meaning and redefine the meaning of life? David D.

Frankly, I've never understood what "the meaning of life" issupposed to mean. It's an odd phrase. I take it that the question issupposed to be what the purpose or point of life is, but that's an oddway to ask the question, and I'm not sure I really understand it then,either. Why think that life, as such, that of plants or animals,bacteria or gnus, has any uniform point or purpose? What differencewould it make if it did or didn't? I think people who have asked what "the meaning of life" is have wanted some understanding of what they were supposed to be doing with their lives: If we knew what the meaning of life was, the thought is, then we'd have some idea what the goal of life was, and that would give us some sense of what a well-livedlife would consist in. Then we'd have some idea what we ought to bedoing here. The cover of Killing Joke's second album shows a young ladlooking up at the sky and screaming, "What's this for!?" That's thefeeling behind the question. But note that the real...