“What’s it all about then?”: the standard philosophy test

On what to say when receiving The Default Philosophical Challenge “OK, what’s it all about, then? What’s ‘The Meaning Of Life’?”

One might consider answering in the following ways:

  • Deadpan-Sarcastic / Semi-Hopeful: “I was hoping you’d tell me”
  • Semi-Literary: “42 is a pretty good answer.. but it’s not 42”
  • Strictly Functional: “Never mind life, just watch the road”
  • Vaguely Buddhistic: ” Life is pain – and anyone who tells you differently is selling something”
  • Indistinctly Trashy: “To crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentation of their hipsters”
  • Oblique / Postmodern: “Christopher Walken building Optimus Prime”
Christopher Walken Builds Optimus Prime
Christopher Walken Builds Optimus Prime

Or you could simply judo-reverse this (/false) challenge back with: “You mean you don’t know?”

Thing is, if someone asks you this question ‘seriously’, chances are they’ve been wasting their life and keep themselves busy by blowing spit-bubbles with their brain, which has been rattling around inside their breezy skull – a dried walnut in an empty biscuit tin

Consider a more-correct answer to such a provocation, whether or not the questioner is ‘trolling’ you:

Now that’s an interesting question! The meaning of life is unknown, perhaps unknowable – but the meaning of human life as it is, is unfortunately very simple. The meaning of our current human life is that it’s largely meaningless

That is, apart from the fact humanity endlessly pursues infinite absurd trivialities and seems genuinely hell-bent on ‘Amusing Itself To Death‘, another way of describing this ‘meaninglessness’ is that there are too many meanings – and they all merely forever *explain away* the question of meaning

Indeed, perhaps the question is far more interesting than any answer

Historical Notes

The story goes that Bertrand Russell was once in the back of a taxi and was asked by the cheeky cockney cabbie what ‘it’ was all about – and (despite all those awful books he wrote) he just couldn’t answer

The reason old Bertie failed this simple test was because he wasn’t a philosopher, merely a prune-faced old fascist git