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Hi! My friend tells me that our purpose in life can't be to be happy. Either one of the religions has got it right, and there is a deity or deities, in which case our purpose is to serve them, or there is no God, in which case we have no purpose other than one we arbitrarily decide for ourselves to follow. Does that claim hold water? Thanks in advance for your help!

I think your friend's argument by dilemma leaves out this possibility: we were made by a deity (or deities) principally in order to lead happy lives rather than principally in order to serve it (or them). Even so, our having been made for the purpose of being happy wouldn't make being happy our purpose . Instruments made for a purpose thereby acquire that purpose (although, of course, they can later be repurposed). But people aren't instruments; I doubt that they're the kind of thing that can be given a purpose, even by their maker. Or at least, because they're autonomous, people can thwart any attempt by their maker to give them a purpose. Hence I don't think there could be any such thing as "our purpose in life," if "our" refers to people in general. So I agree with your friend's conclusion (although for different reasons than your friend gave): our purpose in life can't be to be happy. Nor can it be anything else.

I have been duscussing lately with my friend about thinking. We both agree on what thinking can lead to. But, we disagree on wether or not you should think. Our theory is that thinking will often/most cases lead to unhappiness or depression because most question/problems are for the most part hard to solve. For example, what is the meaning of life? Not an easy question to answer, and the answer you do get may be sad. Therefore, I think not thinking will be good for a person so hin won't get to a stage where hin gets sad. However, my friend see this as fake happiness because you only hide sadness away instead of dealing with the problems. The problems are philosophical and not physical or physiological. So the question is, should people asks "why" questions more often and seek answers to find true happiness? Or is not thinking at all about philosophically questions just fine?

I belong firmly to the camp that advocates more thinking rather than less, especially when the issue is philosophical. Take your sample question: What is the meaning of life? I would answer it this way: In the sense in which the question is probably intended, there isn't and couldn't possibly be any such thing as the meaning of life. (See this link for details.) Should that answer make someone sad? I don't think so. When we come to see that the notion of the meaning (i.e., ultimate purpose) of life makes no sense, we can recognize that seeking the meaning of life is a logically misguided quest, like seeking the largest integer. I hope no one feels sad that there's no largest integer. Really it's an empirical question whether thinking about philosophical issues makes people, in general, happier or sadder than they would otherwise be. I don't know the answer to that question, but in my own case I believe that philosophical thinking has greatly contributed to my overall contentment. But even if it...

Who´s happiness is most important? My own or my family´s wich I have a responsible for as a mother and a wife? I´m used to, and it´s a part of my personality to always make sure that everybody around me is happy and content.But I suddenly realized that I forgotten all about me and what I want and need to be happy. I´m now facing the fact that in order to be happy and content, I need a divorce. Our marrige with two teenagers, is OK, but nothing more- we are like best friends. I suppose that my action will come as a complete surprise to everybody around us. And it will cause a lot of anger, tears and questions. And the only answer I have is- I have to do this for me. Do I really have the ethic right to hurt everybody around me in order for me to be happy.

Your questions are important and obviously deeply-felt. I hesitate to offer answers to them because I don't think I'm particularly qualified as a philosopher to do that. But there are philosophers who hold themselves out as qualified; they're known as "philosophical practitioners," and you can find out more at this website . I don't know enough to say whether they're any good. But a couple of responses do occur to me. You say that you're "responsible" for your family's happiness. If by that you mean "solely responsible" or "more responsible than any other member of the family," then I'd respectfully disagree. I don't see why one parent in the family has more responsibility for the collective happiness of the family than the other does. You also ask if it would be ethically OK for you to divorce if it hurts others. Unless you have reason to think that your divorce would be more hurtful to others than most divorces are, then really you're asking whether divorce, period, is...