Top positive review
5 people found this helpful
Not a bad shot, but not quite complete.
on October 22, 2008
Overall I liked the book very much especially since is was my first on my Kindle! I'm often preoccupied with what life is all about and I was very excited when I found something accessible and comprehensive from a professional philosopher with a 360 degree view on the issue. I found the first few chapters very satisfying but as the book went on, I sometimes struggled to keep up with the author and sometimes a little bored (the chapter on Carpe Diem is kind of boring). One of the problems with the author's style is that he's slightly repetitive. Once you struggle through a paragraph, often the next one reiterates the same idea, and takes just as much time to understand. Again, the section on Carpe Diem is a good example. I would love this book to be a bit less wordy.
The conclusion that meaning of life could be found in finding a satisfying activity that will last a lifetime is just OK. It could work for a lot of people but many others would still be left overboard. True, just because not everybody can be happy doesn't mean that the author's conclusion is wrong, but I would have enjoyed the book much more if I saw some acknowledgment that life can really, well, suck and there could be nothing we could do about it. That would make the discussion more honest. One just needs to think about the great number of those sick, oppressed, tortured (right this moment), deeply depressed, unjustly imprisoned, etc. Their suffering might be too all-consuming to think about anything but putting an end to it. Can they find a meaning to their lives?
I think it would be more honest if we said that there is a tremendous degree of chance and luck involved in our ability to make our lives bearable. We might know the recipe for a good life but our brain constitution could be such that implementing the plan would be anatomically/neurologically impossible. Even if some of us do find a way to get enjoyment out of our lives, it hardly has any significance after our death, because that enjoyment (or any other emotion for that matter) doesn't transcend our being.
Death erases all signs of our lives as Marcus Aurelius kept telling himself in his "Meditations". Our feeling of enjoyment is just a function of our brain (made possible by our dopamine based reward system) and so just another animalistic function that stops working the minute we are dead. How we felt during our lives has zero significance. Except our brains make us feel better when we do something that they think is good for us. A hard question for me is: if it doesn't matter how we feel during our lives, why not just enjoy our lives since it feels better (i.e. generates dopamine)? It sure is an enticing proposition but strangely enough, hurting gives its own pleasure. In the end, happy or unhappy doesn't change anything after our death and in that sense Camus' question "Why not commit suicide?" still stands -- at least for those whose suffering is hard to bear.
In my opinion, the best take on life, its meaning or lack thereof was given by Schopenhauer despite all the criticism his philosophy has received. Yes, his philosophy is pessimistic, but just because it is pessimistic doesn't make it wrong.