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24. What Matters In Life?

Updated: Apr 26, 2020

The biggest philosophical question is wondering how we should live our lives. Closely accompanied by asking well what REALLY matters in our lives? By answering the second question you can answer the latter, well then how should we live our lives? Defining what matters has posed quite the controversy in philosophical world, because does anything actually matter or does nothing matter at all? My partake in an Ethics, Politics and Justice Philosophy paper in my first university semester has brought all of these thoughts to surface and challenged one's own beliefs quite greatly. That is for sure - or at least, I now think about it extensively as it seems that that is all philosophers do: think.

First of all, I want to ask you the question: what matters? Do you think that: everything, nothing or some things matter? I will let you come to that conclusion before reading on as it is invasive to throttle you with my own person bias. Got it? You can now proceed to read on. To me, some things matter and I will work through each possible response to the extent of which is my opinion. Let's begin with the concept of everything mattering. Off the bat, everything mattering may sound like a cute remark but the reality of it is not of the like. If everything were to matter a hierarchy in distinguishing what matters from most to least would have to exist. But that cannot exist as what matters to you will not be what matters to me, it is very subjective. For instance the maintenance of this blog would not be of your best interest, whereas for me it is the epitome of a passion pursuit. As the 'mattering' lacks concrete matter - it is unquantifiable - a universal hierarchal distinguisher could not exist. By making a decision choosing between two options, by making that decision you would naturally negate the unchosen. If everything matters, that alludes to an equality of mattering upon everything, by negating the unchosen you are negating everything mattering in the first place.

Now we come to nothing mattering. Philosophically speaking this can be described as Nihilism, the belief that nothing in the world has a real existence and therefore nothing matters. Freddie Mercury is fond of this belief as he sings in Bohemian Rhapsody "nothing really matters, anyone can see." Who knew that Mr. Mercury would philosophically be a Nihilist? But does nothing mattering exist as plausible case? No (short answer)! Nihilism admits defeat and dispenses of effort. The late great French philosopher Jean Paul Sartre proclaims to be a Nihilist, yet his actions proclaim otherwise. He has this famous novel called Being and Nothingness where he says "thus it amounts to the same thing whether one gets drunk or is a leader of nations." His actions differ from these claims as he literally was one of the most prominent figures in the activities against the post-war society of World War Ⅱ, surely then that activism mattered to him? Is it then hypocritical to declare Nihilism? Of course it is. Sorry for calling you out JP, hope you can find it in you heart to forgive me, love your work otherwise. With the denial of nothing and everything mattering, it must mean that some things must matter.

Philosophers have decided that there can be three major methods when it comes to defining what matters. As some things matter, one must decipher what those things that matter are. Hedonism, which is defined as the ethical theory that pleasure is the highest good and proper aim of human life. The pursuit of pleasure is the ultimate and only pursuit that one should seek. If one were a hedonist, any end that they would set out to achieve would be pleasure. Let's look at brushing your teeth as an example. One does not brush their teeth for that to be the end of that mean, you brush your teeth so that you protect your health and so you are clean and presentable so you can fully enrich yourself in life's pleasures. Personally, I am a Hedonist. However, that was not the original case because I thought that the theory was conceded and shallow. After delving further into all three methods I found that really Hedonism reigns supreme (to me at least) and is undeniable, so let's introduce the other two.

The Desire-Fulfilment Theory encounters a new method in which says you get what you want. Your life is ultimately good if your desires are fulfilled, hence the Desire-Fulfilment Theory. Put into action, a Desire-Fulfilment Theorist compiles a list of what they want and so long as those desires occur, life is good. However, can't desires only be desirable if they result in pleasure? My interpretation deems that to be true. A desire could only be desirable if pleasure is given is pursued. Therefore, the Desire-Fulfilment Theory is just an ever so slightly narrowed version of Hedonism.

Then we come to our final theory: the Objective-List Theory. The theory can formally be defined as the idea that plurality of basic objective goods directly benefit people. Broken down, this poses the idea that one makes a list of which objectively collates things that are supposed to matter. My ol' pal Aristotle does so and preaches the mattering of political science beyond everything else. G.E. Moore also does so in concluding that friendship and beauty are all in which matter. Even still, this alternate theory just projects the same intention of the Desire-Fulfilment Theory, a simplified version of Hedonism. The Objective-List Theory is simply a list of things that result in pleasure; adverbial and sensational. Innately, humans always stray away from disorder so you can't really blame the existence of the two other theories. However, they are fundamentally Hedonism tidied up and therefore unnecessary.

Why I have babbled on philosophically anyway you may be wondering (or may not be), is because this odd time that we are all aboard has brought to surface what things have importance to me and what things matter. So maybe philosophers can add the theory of 'quarantining' to the list of methods in distinguishing what matters, because it has effectively worked. Abstinence from a lot of life and things that would give me pleasure normally has clarified what personal pursuits matter to me. Friends, family, nature, continuously learning, good food and adventures - all things where their importance has only been accentuated by me not experiencing their full entity. Being in Argentina did the same thing; clarification in what people and things in New Zealand I wanted to continue having in my life when I was away from their physical presence. Pleasure and pain are the two sovereign masters in determining our decisions, so ensure that you are maximising your pleasure! So I advise that now you take some thought in what things matter to you. What gives you pleasure in this wild world?

Stay safe whānau, you are doing the best thing for you, your loved ones and the world by staying at home. If you have any inquiries about this post and its content, be sure to get in contact with me through this website or Born in 2000's Facebook page or Instagram account.

Image: wesvandinter/E+/Getty Images

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This blog will encompass the life of a 19-year-old kiwi chica. Composed of stories, advice, life lessons, worldly observations, videos and whatever else Ella's life brings to surface.

For all of this and more, read my new found blog 'Born In 2000': established on the 28th of October, 2019. Where Ella Gibson explores her life that exceeds all limitations. Publications should be expected twice a week. Take this present moment now and rock it!

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