Hello, I am a seventeen-year old guy, and recently I've been having some philosophical questions that are really getting me down. There is objectively no answer to them, but I want to feel that I am not alone in asking these questions, or if anyone else has thoughts like these. (This is going to be long so brace yourselves!) Basically, at this stage in my life it feels that anything I do is completely pointless. Not in a suicidal or depressed way, but it just IS pointless - even if I blew up the world and everything on it, so what, that would just be the transfer of energy and breaking apart of atoms. It feels like everything we do in life is for the sole aim of keeping us alive. For example, if I cut my hand off, it wouldn't ACTUALLY hurt (as atoms don't have feelings), but it would just send a message to my brain that I have been wounded in some way, and my brain will make me feel a certain level of pain depending on how severe the injury is, because it could possibly be hindering my survival, and that is all the brain wants. Similarly, we spend our whole lives in the pursuit of happiness, yet happiness is just a pleasing chemical in the brain - so we're basically spending our whole lives chasing a chemical which is pleasing to us. Therefore, morals are based solely on humans trying to please their own brains. Why do morals even exist? For example, if I could drop a bomb on an innocent baby or a table (an extreme example, but hear me out), everyone would say drop it on the table, because the baby can feel pain/it would be painful for all its relatives etc. But why drop it on the table and not the baby? All it would be is a transfer of energy and movement of atoms, and the pain that family members would experience would just be a discomfort of their brains, telling them that the survival of the species is at risk, and so they should be sad. (Thus it seems to me that the only reason we're upset when a human dies is because we worry that our genes will not be passed on to expand the human race). It feels like I am a complete slave to my brain (which is ridiculous to type, as I AM my brain, and it's my brain typing this), and that everything I do is to please my brain, yet I will eventually die, and so I will just be surviving for the sake of surviving. There could exist someone who is cruel, murderous and sadistic but it really wouldn't matter because we're all just trying to survive, and when we die, all we are losing is the life that we lived for the sole purpose of being alive. It is hard to put into words exactly what I'm feeling, but I guess it's just a complete void of any point to life. It amazes me that some people can spend their whole lives without asking these questions (and I'm not trying to sound elitist, as by no means am I a philosopher or even an abnormally intelligent person). We are born into a formula, and a society where we just know that we need to work hard and get a job, or find love etc - but why do we just follow this routine without questioning the whole point? Whenever I ask questions like these, I become very depressed about life, and perhaps that shows that my brain does not want me to ask such questions - does that validate my point that there is no real reason for life? I should further note that I am not in any way anything other than a regular human being - of course, I would not hesitate to destroy a table as opposed to a baby, and I am a naturally empathetic person. These thoughts that I express are not that of 'It is better to not care how anyone else feels', but rather 'WHY do I care about how everyone else feels?' Apologies for the very long question/questions - I just want to be reassured that others ask such questions and may have experienced similar feelings to me. I should also note that I consider myself an atheist, though I am open to spirituality, but do not currently engage in it. Many thanks

I will just respond briefly, but first I want to assure you that you are not alone in your existential quandaries--many people face them, perhaps especially adolescents trying to find o make meaning in a difficult and confusing world, as well as philosophers who have been motivated to try to answer these questions for centuries (or to explain why they are not answerable or are being asked in the wrong way, etc.)

I will suggest the latter sort of move, that while your angst is surely genuine, what seems to be motivating it may be a bit off base. You seem to be taking a sort of reductionistic view that suggests, if it's all just atoms in the void or energy in motion or neurons in the head, isn't it all meaningless. But always consider what you are contrasting your view with. Would it all be more meaningful if we were non-physical souls embodied in a material world? Why? You point out that "I AM my brain." Right. So, what you care about, love, and desire and find meaningful is, in some sense, based on what you brain is doing. But if it were based on what your soul (whatever that would be) is doing, I don't see how it would thereby become more meaningful. And if God created us, it's not clear why that would make our lives more meaningful--if love and pleasure and friendship and curiosity and learning (not to mention sports and sex and movies and dogs...) are not meaningful or good without God, I'm not sure why they would become meaningful just because God created us or God declared them meaningful, etc. (You might enjoy Thomas Nagel's View from Nowhere or his essay The Absurd, where he makes related points--e.g., that if life is meaningless because we are so small in the vast universe and our lives are so short relative to all of time, well, if so, they certainly would not become *more* meaningful just because we were relatively bigger or lived longer.)

So, the brief answer is, keep thinking, take some philosophy classes, don't think you are alone in having these thoughts, but don't let them overwhelm you (or lead you to depression) or assume that the right answer is that (materialism means that) life is ultimately meaningless. And either way, love and laugh.

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