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What is the function of Humans?

[I would like to start by saying that while I arrive at a conclusion here, it is by no means the end-all be-all. If you have anything you would like to add, please feel free to speak up. I would love to get some new perspectives on this, I just ask that you be respectful/tactful in your approach. If you require clarification on anything said, let me know, I would be glad to explain further. :) ]
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On the most basic level of definition, humans are simply living organisms. To deny this would deny the most basic and fundamental aspect of being human. With being living organisms comes the good – namely our ability to think, feel, experience, etc. – but also the bad, such as some of our appetites. Regardless of what these may be, the fact that we are all living organisms at the most basic sense, before any names or positions are given, is chiefly important.

To begin, when we consider what a function for humans might be before labels like carpenter or father, we could look to the apparent functions of organisms in general. Should we look at a bear we might say it's function is to catch fish and eat them, or a dolphin's function is to swim. But this is still not the most basic form of their functions. A bear does not catch fish because it finds enjoyment in the act of fishing, nor does a dolphin swim merely for the enjoyment of swimming. In fact, it would seem that in the case of most living organisms before we attribute labels or names to their roles, the functions we could attribute to them (i.e. catching fish, eating, running, flying, etc.) are not done for the intrinsic values that they hold. There seems to be a single level deeper.

I would then argue that this level is the idea of survival. At the most basic level, living organisms are intrinsically willed to survive. In the case of the bear, she does not catch fish for the pleasure in it but for the food that it provides to her and her young. So too does the dolphin swim so it might escape hunters and hunt for itself. In most living organisms, it would seem that this, survival, is the most basic of functions, and as such it would seem that this would apply to humans as well.

Now, if we accept this idea, that survival is the most basic function of man and living organisms, we might be satisfied. However, should we study it deeper, I feel that some questions arise which need answering. For one, why do we wish to survive? In the end, it is simply an uphill battle that we will never win. No matter how well we survive, no matter how excellent our survival skills are, we will still eventually die. And secondly, what is the end of survival? We have labeled it as intrinsically good, so it should just be surviving, but then if we all die, how can this be the highest form of good for man if it is, in its entirety, unattainable? It should follow that our function should be one that can be completed, or else we could never label a good human or a bad one. Is a human who dies younger worse than one who dies old, regardless of the fact that they both no longer exist? This wouldn't follow as they both, no matter what, have met the same end. So, this leads us to two possible outcomes in my opinion, chiefly that a) our function is death or b) we have no function.

The idea that our function is death seems to have its merits, albeit morbid ones. Since all humans die, it is attainable, so already it has a leg up over survival. But then when we ask about the idea of excellence in death, just as we have with survival, we run into a wall once more. How do we describe or label an excellent death? Is it based on the grounds that it was painless and unexciting, or is a gruesome or brutal death more 'excellent'? Neither of these options seem to be viable, so perhaps just the act of dying is excellent in itself. However, if this is true our first stipulation goes to the wayside as no one can not die, so then there is no way to measure the function. With this, it would seem that neither survival nor death are reasonably our function.

Thus we arrive at the final conceivable option to me, that being the idea that there is no function. We as humans, and living organisms, have no actual attainable goal or purpose in life or death. Our existence is in-and-of-itself absurd and incredible, but otherwise holds no real value in the end – so it would seem. Especially if we look at things on the grand scale, how our actions impact ourselves, each other, the world, the universe, etc., we find that our feats – heroic or rational – seem to hold no meaning beyond our small-knit community of living organisms. Nothing we do seems to impact further than the atmosphere of this world, and even as we explore deeper into the infinite we have no power there. So it would seem that our function as humans, as living organisms, is non-existent. Granted, I have not explored the ideas of the divine, but I feel should we go down the road of religion we would eventually end up on this same path.

Comments

to live and breed and look up at the sky and see far of galaxies explode and hope we are not around when this galaxy we inhabit goes the same way
 
Although I would have come to a different conclusion, I appreciate your exploration.
 
I don't know that I agree with this ending personally, your use of the word 'exploration' is spot on. Thank you for the read.
 
I would argue that beyond our objective function of surviving, lies our subjective reasons for doing so. Survival is the means through which we either attain, or do not attain, our subjective purpose. The mistake I think people make is they think their purpose will come from the universe. That is to say, from outside themselves. But it won't. You owe it to yourself. It comes from within.

The interesting bit about our individual purpose, is that while others can judge all they want, ultimately the only thing that matters is what we think about ourselves. The only thing that matters is, when we're lying on our death bed, are we at peace with our lives?

Personally I think it ruins the fun to try and come up with a single goal that the human race as a whole must abide by, besides that of survival. For some of us maybe it is a competition: see who can last the longest, like a high-score. For some of us it may not be a question or thought that even enters their brain in their entire lifetime; they just want to get as fucked up, rich, and laid as they can.

Sometimes our personal pursuits cross paths with others, either through conflict or cooperation. Like in the movie Point Break, we're all following our own "line". See where it takes you. Try to leave the world a better place. Learn as much as you can so you can appreciate as much of the universe as you can. But at the end of the day, come to terms with the humbleness of being something very very small, in a big big world.

Life really is beautiful.
 
I've thought it through and decided that the answer is NOT 42.

Survival it is. Survival of the individual and survival of the species do tend to vie for position at the top of the chart, but ultimately, it's about surviving as long as possible.
I reckon that we don't have a purpose or a function really. It seems to be scientifically accepted that species eventually become extinct (usually due to predators or environmental change) and that ultimately, this planet will no longer be able to sustain life. We could take the view that the whole thing is, therefore, pointless and initiate an immediate extinction of all creatures (including ourselves), or we can see the beauty that exists and appreciate and contribute towards it as much as possible in our limited lifespans.
I take the view that we are all ultimately responsible for playing the best hand we can with whatever cards we are dealt.
 
How about the survival of the species? that is a goal that can be obtained and one human can be good at it, whilst another is bad at it. There are also plenty of examples in nature of animals choosing death in order for their species, their offspring, to survive.
 
Granted, I have not explored the ideas of the divine, but I feel should we go down the road of religion we would eventually end up on this same path.

Explore it. I very much disagree that it leads down the same road.

Our function is to love and be loved, to know and be known, with the end goal being perfect and complete community. It is the pinnacle of our potential. We are built for it. Our biology strives towards it, art pulls us, and the world around us shepherds us towards it. It is not fully attainable here and now, but there will come a time when it is.

Of course, I come from a different worldview, one whose conclusions you'll likely be unable to accept if you do not share. But so it goes.
 

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