Ayaz Kakar is an undergraduate student at the Institute of Business Administration Karachi, pursuing a bachelor's degree in Social Science.
Human beings inhabit the earth and justifiably they encounter huge mountains, rivers, deserts, forests, and huge oceans. And all of the sudden, humanity remains stunned at those big natural bodies. Among all these creations, human beings also established big cities and nations. But let us go 3 centuries back and look at the roots of progress or in other words let's have a look at the emergence of science. Science emerged as a result of enlightenment in the 17th and 18th centuries in western countries. And what is enlightenment? In clear words, enlightenment means that when human beings dared to question the Church when human beings stuck with unlimited questions in their minds and to resolve all the queries, they started doing research and studies. And then subsequently a chain of new inventions and theories emerged. It gave hope to humanity and they proceeded with utter determination to find more and more. What happened among all these events is that human beings in the west got rid of superstitious beliefs. People in the west became enough smart to distinguish between myth, stereotyping and most importantly, they started questioning religious scriptures and knowledge.
As time kept passing and people entered to 18th century, their curiosity and thrust for knowledge increased, and with the enhancement of knowledge, human beings divided knowledge into different branches. Among these branches, social sciences emerged as the branch to study human beings from all aspects, either belonging to economy, society, health, or human existence. About human existence and related questions, the subject of philosophy was introduced. The experts in philosophy are known as philosophers.
These philosophes, specifically those who belonged to the west, introduced different theories and books regarding philosophy. But unfortunately, philosophic terminologies are a bit complex to comprehend nicely. Well, we know that philosophy was introduced to research on main topics like what is the purpose of our life, why are we here, who created us. And the crux of all these questions can be assimilated in a specific terminology, known as existentialism. Well, let us discuss existentialism and its in-depth philosophy.
What is existentialism?
The word existentialism is derived from the word “exist” which refers to the existence of human beings on earth and along with existence it also aims to discuss human objects like, why we are here, what is our goal and who created us. When we all compile all these questions, we called them existentialism. The idea of existentialism was introduced in the mid-eighteen century by a philosopher known as Jean-Paul Sartre. What Sartre intended to show to the rest of the world was that human beings are free to do anything in this world, human beings have no boundaries, whatever they want, they can do. Herewith existentialism, another terminology is being attached and it is Nihilism, and it demonstrates that human existence is useless, we are here with no precise goal and ambition. There is no god and the world existed itself. We can say that the theory of Nihilism is more closely related to pessimism, which arises doubt in the mind, that says that human life is aimless and of no use. In all these prospects, Sartre write a specific sentence, “existence precedes essence” and by his famous sentence, he meant that existence is everything.
He meant that human existence is a biological process, when a baby is born, it decides its own life and the baby grows up as a mature human being and is free to do anything. His/her decisions are the reflection of his/her life. To support this claim, Nietzsche; a German philosopher, introduced a word in the German language “Ubermensch” which means superman. He sees human beings as supermen, as they are more powerful creatures to do anything in the world. Existentialism rejects the religious views completely or partially. Let us discuss religious philosophy about the purpose of life.
Existentialism and Religions:
All the world religions emphasize the fact there is some meaning and aim of human beings’ lives. And the aim of life is different for different religions in the world. For example, In Bible (Christianity), the purpose of life is discussed in words:
"Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under the trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him" [JAMES 1:12]
Similarly, in Quran (Islam), the purpose of life is expressed in the following words:
"and I did not create the Jinn and humankind except to worship me" [Al-Daariyaat 51:56]
The purpose of life according to Hinduism, which is a major religion of the world, elaborates that the aim of life for Hindus is to achieve four goals, called Purusharthas. These are dharma, karma, artha, and moksha. These provide Hindus with opportunities to act morally and ethically and lead a good life. Throughout their lives, Hindus attempt to end the cycle of samsara and behave in a way that provides good karma in this life and the next. Likewise, other religions have their viewpoints for life. But what we can extract from the ideology of major religions is that human beings are created by God for a specific purpose and that all human beings will be held accountable for their deeds in the next world.
Conclusively we can say that the two important prospects about the purpose of life are quite known to humanity. On one side, some philosophers raise questions but have no answer and, those philosophers are quite impressed by human progress by excelling in Scientific studies. On the other hand, theologians and religious men/women believe in God, soul, and purpose that is prescribed by different religious scriptures. Interestingly the people believing in religions have no doubt or ambiguity in determining the purpose of life. Those religious people do not raise questions about life and its purpose.
In short, we can conclude that if human beings have used the faculty of thinking and brain and progressed to an unprecedented level; they can also focus on complex creations of this world and it may give them little hints.