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The Meaning Of Life And Existence In The View Of Nursi

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As some of you would be aware, I am a student of the Risale-i Nur (Treatise of Light) by Bediuzzaman Said Nursi. This treatise is primarily concerned with matters such as the Knowledge of the Attributes of Allah, Belief in the Existence and Unity of Allah, and the Nature and Purposes of Life and Existence. The purpose of this thread is to discuss and invite some views on this latter topic. I am interested in the views of believers and non-believers alike.

 

I feel that discussion of the purpose and meaning of life has taken somewhat of a backseat in recent times. Modern life has instead seen a focus on the enjoyment of life, or the Utilitarian 'maximization of utility'. Even much of the religious discourse has gotten bogged down in argumentation over the rules of life, about what's right and what's wrong, rather than an emphasis on its meaning. As a result, I feel that many of us would be hard pressed to offer a meaningful insight into the question of the Meaning of Life. (Me included, prior to my good fortune in meeting the students of the Risale-i Nur.) This is particularly sad for Muslims, because it seems that the knowledge of these matters passed down to us from an illustrious line of persons, commencing with none other than Muhammad (sas) himself and including the likes of Abdul Qadir Gilani, Imam Ghazali, Imam Rabbani and Said Nursi, has almost become lost on the mind of the general Islamic populace. This is problematic and unfortunate for believers, as it stunts their development as worshipers of Allah. How can I properly worship Allah, if I don't know the meaning or purposes of my life?

 

When asked the about the meaning of life, a correct reply from believers is, "To worship Allah". Indeed, Allah says: "And I created not the jinn and mankind, except that they might worship me" (Surah Dhariyat, verse 56). But what is the nature of worship and what are its prerequisites and requirements?

 

 

The Meaning and Purposes of Life and Existence in the view of Said Nursi.

 

Nursi, in the Eleventh Word of the Risale-i Nur, elucidates the nature and purposes of life and the universe via a comparison. He imagines a King who has unbounded wealth. He possesses elevated wisdom in all branches of science and learning, and furthermore, is skilled in countless forms of beautiful art. In fact, the King exemplifies beauty and perfection in all of his attributes.

 

Nursi then applies the truth that "every possessor of beauty and perfection wishes to see and display his own beauty and perfection". Therefore, the King builds a palace in which to display his riches and artistry, and the marvels of his knowledge. He does this so that he can behold his beauty and perfection in his own view, but also so that he can see it through the view of others. To draw an analogy, just as a musician wishes to hear and appreciate his own music, he also wishes for others to hear and appreciate it. Moreover, he wishes for those who can properly appreciate it.

 

Moving from the comparison to reality, Nursi points out that Allah possesses Absolute Beauty and Perfection (Jamal and Kamal) in all His attributes. Allah wishes to display and manifest His Absolute Beauty and Perfection so that He may behold it Himself. This is the purpose of the Universe and all the other realms of His creation. Allah further wishes to see His Beauty and Perfection through the view of others. This requires conscious observers, such as mankind.

 

So one of the purposes in the creation of mankind, and one of our duties, is to be conscious and appreciative observers of the universe. It is for this reason that Allah, in the very first words revealed to Muhammad (sas), commands us to, "Read: In the name of thy Lord, who createth" (Quran, 96:1). We are required to read what Nursi calls the Book of the Universe.

 

Not only is man a conscious observer of Allah's Beauty and Perfection, but he is also a comprehensive place of manifestation - and a mirror that reflects - Allah's attributes (and Names). For example, as Allah possesses the attribute of Love (Wadud) - so too man possesses, to an infinitely lesser degree, the ability to love. As Allah possesses limitless free-will - so too man has been endowed with a small measure of free-will.

 

Free-will therefore, is an integral part of being human. We have the free-will to make decisions, to do or not to do, to believe or not believe, to love or not to love, to utilize the capital of our lives wisely, or to waste it on the fulfillment of base desires. If humans did not possess this small sample of free-will, they could not be considered a 'comprehensive mirror' to Allah's attributes, and would not be freely discerning observers of Allah's art. It is partly for this reason that Allah does not fully manifest Himself in this world in a manner that would force us to believe.

 

Allah making Himself Known and Loved

 

Allah (SWT), being the possessor of Absolute Beauty and Perfection, wishes to see and display to conscious observers, His own Beauty and Perfection. This is so that He can make Himself Known and therefore Loved. Allah possesses Divine Love. In a manner befitting His Glory and Holiness, Allah loves His own art. And He wishes for His art to be loved. Therefore, He has created mankind, a conscious lover of beauty, who is a work of art and who He loves. Allah has shown His elevated Love for us in countless ways. Firstly, he has brought us into existence. He has bestowed upon us the ability to be the most comprehensive mirror to His Names. He has displayed His beautiful art to us. He has given us the senses, tools and faculties to appreciate and gain pleasure from this art. Among these tools and faculties, He has given us limited free-will. With this free-will, not only can we freely discern and weigh up the multifarious types and degrees of Allah's Beauty, we can choose right over wrong. By choosing right over wrong, and truth over falsehood, we truly reflect Allah's attributes and receive a fitting reward.

 

In response to all this bestowal, Allah wants and truly deserves thanks (Shukur). He also deserves to be exalted. He also deserves to be glorified and declared free of all fault. These are the marks of Knowing Him and Loving Him. Acts of worship, which are all forms of Thanks, display these marks. Therefore, we should firstly believe in and strive to know Allah by observing and reflecting upon the universe (and particularly living beings). Having begun to Know Him, we come to Love Him and come to acknowledge His Glory and His Exaltedness. We then express this through the Thanks, Glorification and Exaltation that is Worship. In other words, we say Alhamdulillah (All Praise be to Allah), Subhanallah (Glory to Allah) and Allahu Akbar (Allah is Most Great).

 

 

Conclusion

 

To conclude, the purpose and meaning of our life is to observe Allah's Beauty and Perfection manifest in the universe, and to reflect Allah's attributes in our own selves and actions. It is to Know Allah, then Love Him and acknowledge His Glory and Exaltedness, and then to express these through worship. Let's not confuse the order here. As expressed in a Hadith Qudsi, how can we properly worship Allah if we don't know Him?

 

 

 

Readings

 

For those who may be interested in further reading:

 

The Risale-i Nur in English on Google Books:

(you are not allowed to post links yet)"you can't post links until you reach 50 posts_books.google(contact admin if its a beneficial link).au/books?id=DjSBsAvMAvwC&printsec=frontcover&dq=risale-i+nur&cd=1#v=onepage&q=&f=false"]you can't post links until you reach 50 posts_books.google(contact admin if its a beneficial link).au/books?id=DjSBsA...;q=&f=false[/url]

 

Articles and audio discussions on the Risale-i Nur:

(you are not allowed to post links yet)"you can't post links until you reach 50 posts_you are not allowed to post links yetwordvision(contact admin if its a beneficial link).au/"]you can't post links until you reach 50 posts_you are not allowed to post links yetwordvision(contact admin if its a beneficial link).au/[/url]

 

Scholarly articles on Said Nursi and the Risale-i Nur:

(you are not allowed to post links yet)"you can't post links until you reach 50 posts_you are not allowed to post links yetencyclopedia(contact admin if its a beneficial link)/doc/1O101-SaidNursi.html"]you can't post links until you reach 50 posts_you are not allowed to post links yetencyclopedia(contact admin if its a beneficial link)/doc/1O101-SaidNursi.html[/url]

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PropellerAds

Ah, that is a long post. I will print it out and get back with you.

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Ah, that is a long post. I will print it out and get back with you.

 

Sorry pal! :sl: Hard to squeeze a matter like this into any fewer words... Looking forward to your views.

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Very interesting. It actually reminded me of a Christian document, the (you are not allowed to post links yet)"you can't post links until you reach 50 posts_en.wikisource(contact admin if its a beneficial link)/wiki/Westminster_Shorter_Catechism"]Westminster Shorter Catechism[/url] (an educational book), in which it goes through many of the issues you mentioned in a question and answer form. I think the perspective of it and your view are very similar. I actually think it is a very beautiful document in its logical approach to the subject, sort of like a magnificant building being designed by a master architect. It is very representative of the period it was written, and yet continues to have a sort of timeless grace to it.

 

I don't have much else to add to it. I think that if there is a God, something like what you are describing (and what the WSC describes) would in fact be the purpose of human beings and their life on earth.

 

Here is the first question and answer from the Catechism for those who aren't inclined to click on the link and read it:

Q. 1. What is the chief end of man?

 

A. Man's chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him for ever.

 

If I did have one dispute, it would be with this:

It is partly for this reason that Allah does not fully manifest Himself in this world in a manner that would force us to believe.

It seems to me that there is an implicit equivocation here between force as in the use of violence or some other coercive measure, and force as in compel through reason. The strength of your argument in this passage seems to me to depend on the negative connotations of the first being unintentionally imported into what is clearly the latter use of the word in your phrase. There is nothing wrong with offering people compelling reasons for believing something, in fact, it is usually considered a virtue when asking someone to believe something to offer this kind of evidence. If God made himself manifest in such a way that his existence and character were beyond dispute, it would be a demonstration of the latter kind of force, but not the former, and so would not have any negative aspect to it.

 

I understand that Islam teaches that there is no compulsion in religion, but this does not prevent Muslims from offering proofs for its truth. These proofs are aimed at the second kind of force, the force of compelling evidence, but not the second kind, that of coercion. In fact, offering evidence is in fact a sign of respect for the human beings dignity in that it is an appeal to his or her capacity for reason, one of the classic aspects of humanity in contradistinction with other animals.

Edited by the sad clown

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It seems to me that there is an implicit equivocation here between force as in the use of violence or some other coercive measure, and force as in compel through reason. The strength of your argument in this passage seems to me to depend on the negative connotations of the first being unintentionally imported into what is clearly the latter use of the word in your phrase. There is nothing wrong with offering people compelling reasons for believing something, in fact, it is usually considered a virtue when asking someone to believe something to offer this kind of evidence. If God made himself manifest in such a way that his existence and character were beyond dispute, it would be a demonstration of the latter kind of force, but not the former, and so would not have any negative aspect to it.

 

I understand that Islam teaches that there is no compulsion in religion, but this does not prevent Muslims from offering proofs for its truth. These proofs are aimed at the second kind of force, the force of compelling evidence, but not the second kind, that of coercion. In fact, offering evidence is in fact a sign of respect for the human beings dignity in that it is an appeal to his or her capacity for reason, one of the classic aspects of humanity in contradistinction with other animals.

 

Thanks for your reply. I will endeavour to have a close look at your link, Allah willing.

 

In relation to your point on Allah not forcing us to believe, I'll make this clarification. Any apparent equivocation was unintended. I absolutely agree that Allah will not use coercive force to cause belief. But nor will He provide (to most people) totally irrefutable evidence of His existence. This is somewhat different to what you have referred to as 'compelling reasons' for belief. Compelling reasons do exist. Those reasons are not the topic of this thread, but I'll mention some of them very briefly for the sake of other readers.

 

You have, for example, spoken of something resembling 'personal experience of God' in some of your posts. Indeed, a personal experience of Allah is one compelling reason to believe. (Indeed, this 'Argument from Religious Experience' has been discussed at length by various religious philosophers and theologists and for some, is the most compelling evidence for the existence of God.) In addition, there are various teleological and cosmological arguments including the famous Kalam argument of Mutakallim scholars like Ibn Rushd.

 

So certainly for me, Allah has provided compelling reasons to believe. But He has provided these in such a way that a person is not forced to accept them, for their total undeniability. He has left the door to unbelief ajar, for those wishing to enter through it. As I have said, this is necessary so that humans retain their limited free-will. Understanding this requires an appreciation of the overwhelming Majesty and Grandeur of Allah. Suffice to say that if Allah somehow physically showed Himself to us, we would be robbed of our free-will. We would be so overwhelmed by the vision of Him, that we would find ourselves unable to choose wrong over right. But this would operate contrary to Allah's setting up this life in the form of an examination. As I have also mentioned, the loss of free-will would mean we were no longer freely discerning observers weighing up the varieties and degrees of Allah's Beauty in the universe.

 

In relation to choosing disbelief, Said Nursi makes this interesting point. He refers to a 'strategy of Satan' as being to take something improbable, and highlight that it might be possible. I try to understand this as follows. To us believers, it is highly improbable that intelligent, conscious life could have evolved without Allah's will and direction, or His 'fine tuning' of the physical constants of the universe to make carbon based life possible. But this does not force me to believe in Allah. The door is left open for Satan to highlight to me that it might still be possible that the universe is just one of an infinite Multiverse of universes, so that the value of the physical constants or the 'fine tuning' is no longer remarkable. Of course, there is no evidence for the existence of a Multiverse, but none the less, one can still claim that it just might be true! If I choose to rely on this remote possibility to deny Allah, I do so of my own freewill.

 

A final important matter that I wish to point out is that while Allah does not force me to believe (instead providing me with 'compelling reasons' to do so), He also does not force me to disbelieve. It is for this reason that there is, and never will be, any evidence that disproves Allah's existence. Indeed, most non-theists would admit that they are either agnostics or weak atheists. Few would claim to be 'strong atheists', as doing so would require them to prove that Allah does not exist. This of course, is much different to arguing that He need not exist for the universe to exist.

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I don't have much else to add to it. I think that if there is a God, something like what you are describing (and what the WSC describes) would in fact be the purpose of human beings and their life on earth.

 

If the god was as self-described. The problem with basing ones view of the universe on what one believes a supernatural being has told one is that there are no possible means of testing whether or not they are telling us the truth. One would have to be cleverer than the god to see through any deception, and by definition it isn't posible to be cleverer than an omniscient god.

 

The idea that a god cannot deceive people is just wishful thinking.

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If the god was as self-described. The problem with basing ones view of the universe on what one believes a supernatural being has told one is that there are no possible means of testing whether or not they are telling us the truth. One would have to be cleverer than the god to see through any deception, and by definition it isn't posible to be cleverer than an omniscient god.

 

The idea that a god cannot deceive people is just wishful thinking.

 

"I think therefore I am" of Descartes with the 'evil genius' theory answers this pretty well

 

Peace

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"I think therefore I am" of Descartes with the 'evil genius' theory answers this pretty well

 

Peace

I have to strongly disagree with you here. There are serious problems, both with his use of methodological doubt (of which the evil genius is an element) and his solution to it.

 

Essentially, the problem with methodological doubt is that it is not grounded in any sort of justification (you have no reason for doubting that way, it is instead a method, hence the name). Because of this, the methodological doubter lacks the necessary context to even know he has resolved the doubt or even which direction to take his investigation. Also, despite Descartes protestations, it is possible to doubt the mind. Arguments that it is inconceivable how we could doubt the mind should be reminded of the evil genius. Can you imagine how 1+1 (base 10) equaled anything but 2? And yet Descartes doubts this on the basis of the evil genius deceiving him. Yet, if this genius really could manipulate thought to this extent, then there really is no reason for thinking any thought is so sacrosanct that it cannot be manipulated, including notions of self-consciousness, upon which the cogito is based.

 

What ends up happening then is not the discovering of truth by eliminating what cannot be doubted, but merely the revealing of the innate prejudices in our conceptual framework. Descartes was already inclined towards a rationalist answer before his investigation, and that is where he ended up at the end of it.

 

I wrote on this earlier this semester, if you want to read my thoughts on it in a more verbose format:

  • (you are not allowed to post links yet)"you can't post links until you reach 50 posts_lindenbranch.weblogs.us/archives/3628"]Disagreeing with Descartes[/url]
  • (you are not allowed to post links yet)"you can't post links until you reach 50 posts_lindenbranch.weblogs.us/archives/3632"]More on Descartes[/url]
  • (you are not allowed to post links yet)"you can't post links until you reach 50 posts_lindenbranch.weblogs.us/archives/3654"]Descartes and the Inner World[/url]

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Relying on the "self-evident" truth that clear and distinct perceptions are correct is a bit silly, don't you think?

 

 

 

 

By the way, shorn of the theological stuff, i think the OP is admirable..

Edited by wattle

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He has left the door to unbelief ajar, for those wishing to enter through it. As I have said, this is necessary so that humans retain their limited free-will. Understanding this requires an appreciation of the overwhelming Majesty and Grandeur of Allah. Suffice to say that if Allah somehow physically showed Himself to us, we would be robbed of our free-will. We would be so overwhelmed by the vision of Him, that we would find ourselves unable to choose wrong over right. But this would operate contrary to Allah's setting up this life in the form of an examination. As I have also mentioned, the loss of free-will would mean we were no longer freely discerning observers weighing up the varieties and degrees of Allah's Beauty in the universe.

I wonder if we even know what we are talking about, though. Free will is easy to mention, but hard to pin down. So, I say the following fully recognizing that I could very well be talking nonsense:

 

How do you know that God's presence would rob us of our free will or ability to choose? Obviously there is no empirical evidence for this (for then God would have done what you said he doesn't want to do). So it would have to be a deduction from the very concept of God, and I suppose free will. If you want, we could try to dig into these concepts, but I can already foresee it getting quite messy (as it does even for people who are of the same religion, nevermind an agnostic and a Muslim). Also, even if we did find his presence so compelling that we could not disbelieve in him, we would still be able to reject him, for knowing the truth does not mean you can not act otherwise. And finally, knowing the artist does not prevent us from appreciating his artwork, so why would it do so with God?

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By the way, Josh, if you are arguing that a "clear and distinct" thought is self-evidently an undoubtable one (which you must if Descartes is to stand up), how do you account for the women who have the clear and distinct thought that they have not been manipulated into wearing fashionable swimwear?

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I wonder if we even know what we are talking about, though. Free will is easy to mention, but hard to pin down. So, I say the following fully recognizing that I could very well be talking nonsense:

 

How do you know that God's presence would rob us of our free will or ability to choose? Obviously there is no empirical evidence for this (for then God would have done what you said he doesn't want to do). So it would have to be a deduction from the very concept of God, and I suppose free will. If you want, we could try to dig into these concepts, but I can already foresee it getting quite messy (as it does even for people who are of the same religion, nevermind an agnostic and a Muslim).

 

Yes, it is a deduction from the concept of Allah. Largely, what I have said about free-will is acceptable only if you assume that Allah exists, and has the characteristics described by believers. Of course, this thread is more forum for discussing varying views on the possible meanings of life and the universe, rather than place for argument. You are right that things would otherwise get messy - a non-theist will never accept the theistic view and vice-versa.

 

Also, even if we did find his presence so compelling that we could not disbelieve in him, we would still be able to reject him, for knowing the truth does not mean you can not act otherwise. And finally, knowing the artist does not prevent us from appreciating his artwork, so why would it do so with God?

 

With my comments above in mind, I'll elaborate the Muslim view as follows. The ability of a human to reject Allah and commit wrongdoing (I assume you're referring to 'committing wrongdoing' here) after actually seeing Him, is dependent on that human's capacity for withstanding fear. As Allah has created us and knows us better than ourselves, He knows that if He showed himself, we would be unable to withstand the fear of His punishment. Therefore we would not sin and there would be no examination.

 

There are other forms of conscious life, such as angels, that do not have free-will. They love all of Allah's art for its beauty and do not sin. So they are not 'tested', they do not endure difficulty. Their station is therefore fixed. Humans on the other hand have limited free-will. They have the power to choose right or wrong and are tested on this. Therefore, their station is not fixed - they have the ability to rise to the highest of the high, or fall to the lowest of the low. Since humans have limited free-will, they more comprehensively mirror Allah, since Allah too has free-will. Allah is Most Merciful, Compassionate and Generous. He wishes to see humans, using their limited free-will, to choose also be merciful, compassionate, generous etc. He wishes to see the beauty of these attributes of His, reflected in the conduct of man.

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Why not post a thread about free-will? I would like to hear a more indepth explanation of it. I doubt I will be able to debate you on any of it, but I would probably have some questions that you could clarify.

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Why not post a thread about free-will? I would like to hear a more indepth explanation of it. I doubt I will be able to debate you on any of it, but I would probably have some questions that you could clarify.

 

Sure, why not. It will force me to do some refresher reading, which I am sorely in need of! But in the mean time, I wanted to add the following point on the relationship between the observation of beauty and free-will. These words are mostly mine, so any errors are attributable to me...:

 

As I had said in the original post, the purpose of creation is to manifest Allah's beauty so that He can behold it Himself. The purpose of us conscious beings is to manifest beauty, as well as to be observers of beauty. But apart from enabling us to be examined in the usual sense, why the need for free-will? I see it as follows.

 

Let's imagine a nasty dictator with a penchant for art. The dictator likes to dabble in a little painting from time to time. Naturally, he fancies his own artwork. But what he really likes is for others to fancy it. He displays his artwork in a gallery and when his loyal subjects are not slaving away in the salt mines, they come to see his work. The dictator loves nothing more than to hear his people express their appreciation for his art. But the problem is, (unless he is delusional) he knows that these expressions of appreciation are not really genuine. His people are afraid of him and are acting in accordance with that. They are not freely discerning observers, so the pleasure the dictator receives at hearing their appreciation is quite limited. He knows that his subjects have little choice but to pretend to like his art.

 

In the case Allah Almighty however, the situation is quite the opposite. He has given us humans limited free-will. With this free-will we can freely choose to see, acknowledge and appreciate beauty. How do we have this choice? Let's take the example of our own selves, that it, our living bodies. A person can choose to look at a 'human body' and marvel not just at it's aesthetic beauty - it's symmetry and proportion - but also at the beauty of the wisdom apparent in its construction and make up. A person can remark at how beautifully well ordered the body is, what amazing faculties it is endowed with and how remarkable it is that it possesses consciousness and intelligence. A person can look appreciatively at how the human being possesses elevated and beautiful qualities like compassion, love and mercy. He studies and contemplates upon this and finally declares, "Look how beautifully this human being has been made!"

 

On the other hand, using their free-will, a person may choose to see a human being as nothing more than the product of undirected, chance processes. He may choose to deny its beauty thus, claiming that the human being was not beautifully, wisely made - that it is simply the culmination of 15 billion years worth of accidents. That even consciousness and intelligence are unremarkable. He may go so far as to say, "There is no real beauty anywhere. Beauty is merely a construct of the human brain. It has no independent reality. It therefore deserves no further attention."

 

Or, if a person is apathetic, he may choose to not even search for beauty. Content to amuse himself with his Play Station 3 and DVD collection, in between mind numbing work to service a mortgage only just within his means, he chooses not to concern himself with beauty. With a full tummy and dulled mind - what need has he of exerting himself to read, think, study, travel, enquire, reflect or contemplate?

 

So we humans, possessing free-will, are not bound to see, much less appreciate, the countless manifestations of Allah's beauty in the universe. Much of this beauty is discernible only after considerable effort and study, such as through scientific discovery, followed by inner contemplation. (It is for this reason that Islam commands us to seek knowledge of the universe.) Therefore, when a human being appreciates beauty, especially the non-aesthetic kinds of beauty, he does so freely and genuinely. If the expression may be pardoned, Allah Almighty, in a manner appropriate to His Dignity, feels an elevated, Divine pleasure at seeing us freely appreciate and love His Beauty.

 

Happily for humans, there is an additional aspect here. Because Allah is Love, Mercy and Compassion (Wadud, Rahman and Rahim), He loves for us to truly experience the pleasure of beauty. In other words, He loves for us to experience His Beauty, not only for His sake, but also for our sake. And because He is Enduring (Baqi), He requires the existence of enduring observers of His Beauty. Hence the need for the existence of an enduring Afterlife.

[using large font size is not allowed]Baqi, antal Baqi! - The Enduring One, He is the Enduring One![using large font size is not allowed][using large font size is not allowed]

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But do we really use our free will to appreciate beauty? I don't decide that a flower is beautiful, that a morning sunrise is magnificent, that the great Sequoias of Yosemite are awe inspiring. It strikes me like a force. Some things require contemplation to appreciate its beauty, but this is due to its complexity, not because we can't make up our mind that it is beautiful. An example of this is recognition of philosophical genius. It takes work to read someone like Kant, but once you've done it, and the pieces he is putting together suddenly click inside your mind, it is an amazing experience, an aesthetic experience of reason.

 

But where is free will in that? I didn't decide to think it was a brilliant insight, it simply dawned on me once I had understood the genius that went into insight. Perhaps you are right in that the will is exercised in determining to look for beauty, but it seems more questionable that once they have determined to look for beauty, that they also decide whether it is beautiful.

 

One last thing, this:

A person can choose to look at a 'human body' and marvel not just at it's aesthetic beauty - it's symmetry and proportion

does not contradict this:

a person may choose to see a human being as nothing more than the product of undirected, chance processes.
Edited by the sad clown

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But do we really use our free will to appreciate beauty? I don't decide that a flower is beautiful, that a morning sunrise is magnificent, that the great Sequoias of Yosemite are awe inspiring. It strikes me like a force. Some things require contemplation to appreciate its beauty, but this is due to its complexity, not because we can't make up our mind that it is beautiful. An example of this is recognition of philosophical genius. It takes work to read someone like Kant, but once you've done it, and the pieces he is putting together suddenly click inside your mind, it is an amazing experience, an aesthetic experience of reason.

 

But where is free will in that? I didn't decide to think it was a brilliant insight, it simply dawned on me once I had understood the genius that went into insight. Perhaps you are right in that the will is exercised in determining to look for beauty, but it seems more questionable that once they have determined to look for beauty, that they also decide whether it is beautiful.

 

Yes, the free-will is used in choosing to take the effort to look for the beauty. Or the effort expended in learning to appreciate the beauty. For example, the works of Chaucer may be beautiful, but if I don't take the time or effort to learn how to read and understand this type of literature, I will not see the beauty. The same reasoning can be applied to the beauty in the works of the universe at large.

 

In relation to your latter point, my view is that if a thing is ascribed to chance, its value as a wisely crafted work of art is diminished. As Wattle will tell you, what wisdom can be ascribed to something created by chance? So free-will here is applied in choosing to accept that things are wisely crafted, by a Wise Craftor, as opposed to being the playthings of chance. Now, referring to something in the universe, such as the workings of quantum mechanics, as wise may be an anthropomorphisation - but this is only problematic if you assume a priori the non-existence of a Sentient Creator. In fact, a believer will say that part of the reason why we have been given faculties such as wisdom, intelligence, free-will even, is so that we can use these to understand and know the the One who is true owner of Wisdom etc.

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Yes, the free-will is used in choosing to take the effort to look for the beauty. Or the effort expended in learning to appreciate the beauty. For example, the works of Chaucer may be beautiful, but if I don't take the time or effort to learn how to read and understand this type of literature, I will not see the beauty. The same reasoning can be applied to the beauty in the works of the universe at large.

Well, we may agree here, since I conceded that the will may be exercised in deciding to look for beauty. I'm still going to hold out for the discussion on free will before I invest too much agreement into this, as I'm still not convinced we aren't talking nonsense.

In relation to your latter point, my view is that if a thing is ascribed to chance, its value as a wisely crafted work of art is diminished. As Wattle will tell you, what wisdom can be ascribed to something created by chance? So free-will here is applied in choosing to accept that things are wisely crafted, by a Wise Craftor, as opposed to being the playthings of chance. Now, referring to something in the universe, such as the workings of quantum mechanics, as wise may be an anthropomorphisation - but this is only problematic if you assume a priori the non-existence of a Sentient Creator. In fact, a believer will say that part of the reason why we have been given faculties such as wisdom, intelligence, free-will even, is so that we can use these to understand and know the the One who is true owner of Wisdom etc.

Well of course its value as a wisely crafted work of art is diminished, because if it was chance it wouldn't be a wisely crafted work of art. But that doesn't make it any less beautiful or awe inspiring, which was my point.

Edited by the sad clown

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Well of course its value as a wisely crafted work of art is diminished, because if it was chance it wouldn't be a wisely crafted work of art. But that doesn't make it any less beautiful or awe inspiring, which was my point.

 

I'm pleased that you acknowledge the beauty in things. Some non-theists have told me that they see no beauty in things, that even 'consciousness' is nothing special. Of course, most would take the view that beauty can not come from chance processes. I suspect that this is why the non-theists in question have been forced to resort to such an indefensible view as denying all beauty.

 

But your view seems to differ from all this. It seems that you feel beauty can arise through chance. Obviously, I don't agree with you, but I'm not here to argue the point. Instead, I wish to point out Nursi's view that if a given thing is the result of chance, it can never be as beautiful as something created purposely, simply because it lacks the meaningfulness of created things. Things in the universe, when viewed as missives describing their Maker, become beautifully meaningful. For example, a rain cloud expresses a certain meaning. It was not created just to give rain, it was primarily created to act as a meaningful book describing the Attributes of the Creator, such as Mercy, Compassion, Bestowal. In other words, it was created to enable us to know our Lord, which is the purpose of our creation. The cloud's value and beauty therefore, is in its possessing these meanings. Its other aspects of beauty, such as its appearance and functionality, are merely secondary.

 

Peace.

 

Baqi, antal Baqi! The Enduring One, He is the Enduring One!

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if a given thing is the result of chance, it can never be as beautiful as something created purposely, simply because it lacks the meaningfulness of created things.

It only lacks the meaning that a creator would give it. I am free to supply my own meaning as the observer. But beyond that, I would dispute the claim that something is less beautiful because it resulted from chance rather than an intelligence. We paint lily pads and sunrises, mountains and oceans. Is the painting more beautiful than what is being painted, or is the painter seeking to instill the beauty he sees into the painting? I would offer that the painting is not more beautiful for being a creation. Another interesting thing that painting does is it is the instantiation not only of the beauty observed, but of the beauty perceived, which is a synthesis of observation and our own reaction to that observation. In other words, what we are seeing in the painting is not only the lily, the sunrise, the mountain, or the ocean, but the meaning he found in his perception of it, a meaning he supplies.

 

So, I think these atheists who say there is no beauty in the world are in a sense correct, but only in a very sad and impoverished sense. There is no beauty out there if all you consider is the object. Rather, beauty is always a synthesis of the observed and the observer. It is found not in the observed, nor in the observer, but rather in the observation, that is, in the interaction between the two. There is beauty, it is a force of nature, both without and within us, and your atheistic empirical objectivist can deny this only by denying his own humanity and all the richness of the human experience.

Edited by the sad clown

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It only lacks the meaning that a creator would give it. I am free to supply my own meaning as the observer.

 

Ah, but that meaning is everything! It is the true meaning. Any meaning which I arbitrarily ascribe to something can not be compared in beauty to the true meaning intended by its creator. I look at a supercomputer and say, "this was made for playing Pac Man - its meaning is Amusement or Fun." But its creator tells me, "it was made for performing super complex calculations in order to determine events which occurred at the sub-atomic level just subsequent to Planck time. And this is so that humanity can better understand the universe. Its meaning is Knowledge". Our objective is to find the true meaning of the things in the universe. Of course, if we don't believe in Allah, the true meanings may be lost on us.

 

 

So, I think these atheists who say there is no beauty in the world are in a sense correct, but only in a very sad and impoverished sense. There is no beauty out there if all you consider is the object. Rather, beauty is always a synthesis of the observed and the observer. It is found not in the observed, nor in the observer, but rather in the observation, that is, in the interaction between the two. There is beauty, it is a force of nature, both without and within us, and your atheistic empirical objectivist can deny this only by denying his own humanity and all the richness of the human experience.

 

Yes, the object is not the source of the beauty. And when you say that beauty is in the interaction between the observed and the observer, I do agree with you - but only in the sense that the beauty requires that interaction to be seen by us. But it does not require the interaction to exist. The interaction is not the source of the beauty, nor is the object observed.

 

Indeed, a very interesting issue arises here. If beauty is non-matter, yet still exists, what is its source? Where is it coming from? What is the source of all non-matter things? What is the source of life, love, compassion, Dark Energy, Dark Matter? Nursi sees all of these, which in fact represent the vast majority of all existence, as being sourced from particular Divine Names. Life for example, is sourced from the Name Al-Hayy (The Ever-Living). And the meaning of Life is to manifest and point to this Name, thereby making known the Creator, Allah. In the same vein, things which appear beautiful are merely mirrors reflecting Allah's Beauty. But moreover, they are meaningful words describing and making known their Creator.

 

Nursi says, "The physical world is but a lace veil strewn over the irradiating worlds of the Unseen." One these worlds is the world (or realm) of Meanings. The meanings are intended, not arbitrary, and exist to make known and loved the Creator.

 

Thanks Sad Clown for your always insightful input into this discussion. Unfortunately, I seem to have been unable to interest anyone else in offering their view on the Meaning of Life! Anyway, I hope this discussion has benefited anyone who may have stumbled upon it - I know I have. From now, I hope to honour my commitment to SC to start a thread on 'free-will'. Stay tuned...

 

The Enduring One, He is the Enduring One![using large font size is not allowed]

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Ah, but that meaning is everything! It is the true meaning.

But that meaning is true for me. It is what it means to me. You want an objective meaning, but you find it by choosing the meaning that the author gives it. But why am I bound by that meaning? And in the case where there is no author, clearly I wouldn't be bound by it. I don't know how you can justify this claim that this meaning and not that is what is true. Sometimes we do want to know what the original meaning of something was, and in that case, of course we are asking about the author's intent. But that is the true meaning only once we have limited the parameters of our inquiry to the original meaning. But why is the original meaning the only one allowed? And if other meanings are allowed, meanings found in the interaction between the object and the observer, then why should we say these are less real or untrue? They are as true as the authors intent, in that they exist in that persons perception of the object, even as it existed in the perception of the author.

Yes, the object is not the source of the beauty. And when you say that beauty is in the interaction between the observed and the observer, I do agree with you - but only in the sense that the beauty requires that interaction to be seen by us. But it does not require the interaction to exist. The interaction is not the source of the beauty, nor is the object observed.

But what is beauty? I think here there may be a disagreement between us. My view would characterize beauty as a judgment, hence the need for the observed, to be judged, and the observer, to judge. You seem to be advocating a concept of beauty that is inherent in the object, waiting to be discovered.

 

Thus, I too would not say that it requires the interaction to exist, but rather that it is the interaction.

Indeed, a very interesting issue arises here. If beauty is non-matter, yet still exists, what is its source? Where is it coming from? What is the source of all non-matter things? What is the source of life, love, compassion, Dark Energy, Dark Matter?

These are all good questions. And your answer, from what I can tell, is a strong, theistic, response to them. There is so much beauty in the world, that it would be a shame not to explore it with all of our faculties, including reason. I look forward to continuing the discussion with you.

Edited by the sad clown

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Thanks Sad Clown for your always insightful input into this discussion. Unfortunately, I seem to have been unable to interest anyone else in offering their view on the Meaning of Life! Anyway, I hope this discussion has benefited anyone who may have stumbled upon it

 

wordVision Student, I have greatly benefited from all the threads you have discussed in and follow them very closely. Honestly my Iman has never been stronger, my thanks goes out to you as well sad clown for your input I have a slightly better understanding of a non-Muslims view on life, its purpose etc.

 

Unfortunately, I seem to have been unable to interest anyone else in offering their view on the Meaning of Life!

 

I doubt that people aren't replying due to being uninterested in the discussion, but because any reply would have to be very well thought out and consist of well reasoned, logical thoughts with a deep insight on the matter, an insight that not many of us posses or one that hasn't matured to the same level of understanding as the ones in the posts above.

 

Or.

 

Everyone else is in the process of formulating some hectic reply's. Maybe in a few decades or so, I'll have something to say on the matter.

Edited by Saaabz

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wordVision Student, I have greatly benefited from all the threads you have discussed in and follow them very closely. Honestly my Iman has never been stronger, my thanks goes out to you as well sad clown for your input I have a slightly better understanding of a non-Muslims view on life, its purpose etc.

 

 

I doubt that people aren't replying due to being uninterested in the discussion, but because any reply would have to be very well thought out and consist of well reasoned, logical thoughts with a deep insight on the matter, an insight that not many of us posses or one that hasn't matured to the same level of understanding as the ones in the posts above.

 

Or.

 

Everyone else is in the process of formulating some hectic reply's. Maybe in a few decades or so, I'll have something to say on the matter.

 

My dear brother Saaabz. Thanks for kind words - you praise me much more than my due. You are humble, yet I see the makings of a leader in you. If you are representative of your generation, the future is bright indeed.

 

Jazakallahu khair.

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But that meaning is true for me. It is what it means to me. You want an objective meaning, but you find it by choosing the meaning that the author gives it. But why am I bound by that meaning? And in the case where there is no author, clearly I wouldn't be bound by it. I don't know how you can justify this claim that this meaning and not that is what is true. Sometimes we do want to know what the original meaning of something was, and in that case, of course we are asking about the author's intent. But that is the true meaning only once we have limited the parameters of our inquiry to the original meaning. But why is the original meaning the only one allowed? And if other meanings are allowed, meanings found in the interaction between the object and the observer, then why should we say these are less real or untrue? They are as true as the authors intent, in that they exist in that persons perception of the object, even as it existed in the perception of the author.

 

I agree that a thing could have various meanings. But in the theistic view these are all intended. For example, I look at a snake and am terrified. A zoologist looks at the same snake and feels no fear maybe, but sees wisdom in its camouflage. I am not wrong in saying the snake represents or points to Allah's fearsome Names like Al Qahhar (The Subduer). Nor is the zoologist wrong is saying the snake is representative of Wisdom (Hakim).

 

In relation to narrowing our frame of reference for valid meanings, I am more than happy to apply a narrow frame if it means restricting the valid meanings to those intended by Allah. Obviously, I am a worshiper of Allah, and I don't care for other meanings. But for a non-theists, I can understand that this would be unnecessarily restrictive. What I say is wholly valid if you're a theist, and invalid if you're not. If the universe is really uncreated, yes, there is no one 'true' meaning, perhaps no objective truth at all. But if there is a God, and He created all things to point to Him and make Him known, then His intended meanings are the ones I seek to discover. As Muslims, and as students of Marifetullah (Knowledge of Allah), whenever we look at anything or any event in the universe, we attempt to discern how these point to Allah, how they describe Him. This process leads to Love of Him.

 

But what is beauty? I think here there may be a disagreement between us. My view would characterize beauty as a judgment, hence the need for the observed, to be judged, and the observer, to judge. You seem to be advocating a concept of beauty that is inherent in the object, waiting to be discovered.

 

Thus, I too would not say that it requires the interaction to exist, but rather that it is the interaction.

 

I am advocating that beauty is reflected in the object. If a beautiful person stands in front of a mirror, the mirror reflects a beautiful image. But the beauty is not in the mirror, it is merely reflected in it. It is not the source of the beauty. In our example here, the source of the beauty is the person standing in front of the mirror. But in reality, we believers see that not even the person is source of the beauty. The person, their aesthetic appearance, their good character and behaviour, are all reflections of Allah's Beauty. Allah is the source.

 

Why do we say this? For one, beauty definitely exists. Call it a human construct if you will, but the reality is that there is such a concept as beauty. It is non-matter, yet it exists. Its existence, for us believers, points clearly to a Creator of Beauty. We ask, how should beauty emerge by chance from nothingness? Furthermore, things which appear beautiful come and go. Humans are born and die. Life itself comes and goes. A plant grows but eventually dies. Yet beauty itself endures. A beautiful life which dies, or a beautiful inanimate object which is destroyed, is always replaced by other things which reflect beauty. This to us, points to an Enduring Beauty.

 

There is so much beauty in the world, that it would be a shame not to explore it with all of our faculties, including reason. I look forward to continuing the discussion with you.

 

A beautiful statement! My friend, you feel yourself a non-theist, yet you perform what we see as the duties of mankind better than many of us believers.

 

Indeed, faculties like reason are exactly the things which make us human. We are exhorted to utilise them as far as possible to fulfill the purpose of our existence. It is no coincidence that the universe contains remarkable workings, and we have the tools to discover and marvel at those workings. The next step is to see that these workings describe their Wise Maker.

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Just further to my last point...

 

Said Nursi points to the faculties we human possess, to demonstrate that we were created for much more than the fulfillment of base desires. We are not designed merely to eat, drink and reproduce. We are much more than just 'self-replicating' organisms. Nursi uses the following comparison. A man has two servants. He gives the first servant 20 gold pieces to buy him a garment, which the servant does. He gives the second servant 1000 gold pieces, together with some instructions on a piece of paper and sends him to conduct some business. Now, if the second servant were to neglect to read the piece of paper and following the first, was to spend the 1000 gold pieces on a single garment, he would be in great error. Since the master had given him 1000 gold pieces, not 20, it is clear that his duty was to conduct business of far greater value than that of the first servant. So, since man is equipped with faculties of enormous value and importance, his duties are not confined to the fulfillment of base desires like an animal. His duties are to think, learn, imagine, dream, have ambition, love, empathise, sympathise, contemplate, reflect, and appreciate. His duty is to offer comprehensive thanks and worship to Allah, on behalf of all creation.

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