Sunday, September 2, 2001

The meaning of life

Drexel University professor Douglas V. Porpora believes that we need to return to transcendent values in search of a "meaning of life" (Inquirer, Aug. 26). Instead, we should try to figure out how to find a moral purpose in a world in which there is no inherent meaning. One way to begin this would be to learn to see others as people with the same hopes and aspirations - and problems - as ourselves. In other words, to "do unto others as you would have done to you."

One problem with the search for transcendent values is that nobody can agree on what those values are. There are probably as many versions of God as there are people on Earth. As Montaigne said, people will "make gods by the dozen."

The quest for some ultimate "meaning of life" is part of our own egotism and exaggerated sense of self-worth. We've got this idea in our heads that "it's all about us"; that the universe was designed solely for our benefit. We should learn to appreciate life simply for what it is, and other people as our fellow companions on this journey. As for the "postmodern mindset" that Porpora laments, I do not believe that truth (per se) is relative, but that there are different versions of it because none of us sees the full picture. Therefore, instead of thinking we know it all, a little humility is called for.

Kenneth Blackledge

Philadelphia Newspapers Inc.