“A superior intelligence has guided the development of man in a definite direction, and for a special purpose.” – Alfred Russell Wallace.1
We have now considered the ‘purposes’ we can impute to science, nature, and the universe; and studied the characteristics and types of roles befitting human cosmic purpose. This takes us to evaluation of factors that go into three key decisions on this topic: (1) whether to adopt a cosmic purpose, (2) which cosmic purpose to adopt, and (3) the specific role to assume relative to that purpose. I believe we can utilize much of our prior discussion regarding decision factors on societal purpose here, remembering that what follows must remain general rather than specific given each person’s unique circumstances, interests, and strengths.
We begin with the question of whether one should adopt a cosmic purpose at all. It seems reasonable to assert that one need go that route. A full and meaningful life is almost certainly possible as long as one achieves: (1) the individual purposes of making a good life for oneself, aiming for self-perfection, and finding happiness; (2) proximate purpose in filling roles for one’s family, friends, and acquaintances and contributing to their quality of life and virtuous improvement; and (3) societal purpose through a role worthy of one’s dedication. This appears to be the unspoken and cogent thesis of the humanist.
However some if not most of us will see any purpose limited to humanity as inadequate; what if humanity ceases to exist or itself fails to ever accomplish a great cosmic purpose? Any level of societal accomplishment becomes suspect should one of those futures await humanity. An informal proof might look something like this:
- Societal purpose only serves to improve the human condition.
- Improving the human condition has only a small chance of leading to something of enduring cosmic significance.
- Pursuing a cosmic purpose has a good chance of leading to enduring cosmic significance.
- My life is meaningful only if I achieve something of enduring cosmic significance.
- Therefore, my life is more likely to be meaningful if I pursue cosmic purpose.
Needless to say this proof is weak. Most of the points are subjective; some may even be wrong outright. But if the reader believe the first four statements are true, then pursuing a cosmic purpose may be more desirable.
There is of course a middle ground, the one I prefer myself, one ought to have both a societal purpose and a cosmic purpose. This assures the greatest likelihood that one’s life will turn out meaningful. These purposes can be done in parallel though this asks much of oneself and entails a higher risk of failure. A greater chance of completing both to one’s standard for meaning is to do them in tandem – that is, one at a time; waiting until societal purpose is sufficiently complete before taking on a cosmic purpose or vice versa. For the remainder of this site’s work, I will assume dual societal and cosmic purpose is ideal, though each reader will have to decide this question for himself or herself.
1Quoted by Richard Leakey in Origins Reconsidered page 343.