Theistic Perspectives on the Meaning of Life


Philosophy 446

Spring 2005




I.                   The Überargument


P1.       If there is no God to give life ultimate meaning/value/purpose, then there is no ultimate meaning/value/purpose.


P2.       If there is no ultimate meaning/value/purpose, then human life is absurd.


P3.       Human life is not absurd.


C.                 Therefore, there is a God who gives life ultimate meaning/value/purpose.  (From P1-P3, modus tollens 2x)



II.        Variations on the Theme


A.                 Tolstoy


P1.       If there is no way to answer the question, ‘Why?’(i.e., if my life has no meaning), then my life is a “stupid, mean trick played on me by somebody” (12).


P2.       If my life is a stupid, mean trick played on me, then I will be unable to live.


P3.       I must do what I can to live.


4.         There must be a way to answer the question ‘Why?’.  (From P1-P3, modus tollens 2x)


P5.       If the question ‘Why?’ has an answer, it must account for the possibility of knowing the finite through the infinite, and vice versa (17).


6.         The answer to the question must account for this possibility. (From P5 and 4, modus ponens.)


P7.       If there is a way to answer the question, then it must be supplied by reason or faith.


P8.       If it is to be supplied by reason, then it must be supplied by science or speculation.


P9.       Neither science nor speculation can supply the right answer.


10.        Therefore, it cannot be reason and so must be faith.


P11.     If faith is the source of the answer, then God must exist and our lives must be as the Christians say, infused with meaning by God.


C.         God must exist and supply our lives with meaning.


B.                 Swenson


P1.       Life is not dignified life unless it is happy.  (I.e., there can be no view of life without happiness.)  (21-2)


P2.       Happiness is not happiness unless it is justified. (23)


3.         Thus, life is not life unless one can justify the happiness that is essential to it. (From P1 & P2.)


P4.       Happiness must be justified as a “genuine and lasting good”, “interpenetrated with a sense of meaning, reason, and worth.”


P5.       Only Christianity can justify happiness in this way, through its view of the absolute values that underlie our lives.


6.         Thus, only Christianity can justify happiness.



C.         Therefore, only Christianity can justify our lives as dignified.


C.                 Craig #1


P1.       If there is no God, then there is no meaning to our lives (i.e., they make no “ultimate difference”), there are no absolute values (i.e., anything goes!), and there is no ultimate purpose (i.e., the world ends with a whimper).


P2.       But our lives are meaningful, Hitler was wrong, and we are not freaks of nature.


C.         Therefore, God exists.


D.                 Craig #2


P1.       If one lives without God, then one will either be forced to live as if there is a God, or one will be forced to live unhappily.


P2.       If one lives happily, one must make up a “Noble Lie” that will stand in God’s stead.


3.         If one lives in the sway of a “Noble Lie,” then one lives an inconsistent life.


                        P4.       If one lives an inconsistent life, one lives an absurd life.


                        5.         If one is a happy atheist, one lives a logically absurd life.


P6.       If one is logically consistent, one must face up to the ultimate meaninglessness of it all.


P7.       If one faces up to this, one is unhappy.


8.         If one is a consistent atheist, one lives a practically absurd life.


P9.       If one lives without God, one will live an absurd life.


C.         One must live a life with God.