If every life results in death, then what is the meaning of life?

The meaning of life comes from what you do in your life: your activities and achievements. These are real even though you die, and would be no more real if you lived forever (though admittedly you would have time for a lot more of them).

If your life now has no meaning, no value or point to it, then having alot more of such a life isn't going to improve the situation. A wholelot of nothing doesn't amount to much.

This is a compelling question. I remember encountering it in a powerful way reading Albert Camus’s essay, “Absurd Reasoning.” Recently, a student of mine broached it during a discussion we were having about the condition the universe seems to be heading towards. It seems, I’m told, that everything in the universe will ultimately degenerate into a vast, endless, more-or-less uniform, horribly cold and dark field of low-level radiation. Some call this condition, the final destination of the universe, “entropic hell.”

In light of this apparent fact, the relevant question concerning the meaning of life is this: since everything we accomplish will ultimately be destroyed and degenerate into “entropic hell,” what meaning can anything have?

I think there’s something misleading about his question, however, something that lurks in a hidden assumption that the question makes. The question and its force rely largely on the assumption that life has meaning only if it lasts forever. In my view, this is a dubious assumption, and indeed one that plagues a good deal of our culture’s thinking about value.

Far from being a necessary condition for meaning, I think that immortality and endless existence would actually undermine the meaning of life.

Consider the issue this way: would life be as meaningful or even meaningful at all if it weren't finite? That is, if we lived forever would much or anything matter to us? Perhaps the avoidance of physical pain would still matter, but simply not being in pain seems to be a relatively meaningless affair. Don't many of our projects have meaning for us just because we know that one day we and they will come to an end?

The very fragility of things gives us reason to care what happens to them, to defend them and us against harm or diminishment. When you can just start over or always have a substitute, things don’t really matter. Because, however, things are finite and we know we're going to die our actions count. We'd better get things right because we're not going to get another shot.

Consider an imaginary world I call “Plentos.” In Plentos people live forever, or at least as long as they wish. There are no shortages of any kind in Plentos. Every kind of food is available in limitless supply. Land of every description is available to all. No one wants for speedy, effective medical care. Everyone is omniscient.

In Plentos, life could not be meaningful.

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