Purpose is not a thing?

Key points I am responding to:

1. Purpose is not a thing, therefore if I create purpose, I do not create it out of nothing.

2. Purpose does not exist in space and time, cannot be pointed to or painted and such.

3. Purpose does not exist independently from the person that has it.

4. Purpose is not capable of causing effect.

5. Purpose is a word to describe intentions being fulfilled.


I agree with some of what you say here. Purpose is not a piece of matter existing in space and time causing effect. A agree that “purpose does not fall into this category.” So how does purpose exist? You ask me to show it to you, to point it out; and you want me to do so on purpose. You ask me to purposely paint it, or purposely do something to it. The problem, as you ask it, is that purpose is not something you can look at; it is something you look along with. Purpose does not cause effect; it is the guiding factor in the cause and effect fulfilling a specific intention. Purpose is something we apply or use to achieve specific ends or goals. As such, you cannot look at purpose; you can only look along purpose towards the end or goal it points to. And if you actually meet or fulfill the goal you set out to achieve, you can actually say you did it on purpose. Otherwise, if the goal is not met and something different is accomplished, you cannot say you did it on purpose.

But, if purpose is something we use, apply, or look along with, that does not relieve us of the responsibility of accounting for the fact that we have it. It is not material but it is there. To say it is not there, is to say so on purpose and to contradict one’s self. You say that purpose is not a thing; but a thing is just a certain kind of being, and being is the most comprehensive concept that we have, applying, as it does, to everything that exists. But, if purpose does not exist, that is to say, there is no guiding factor that we can use to achieve specific ends or goals, then no ends would be fulfilled except by happy accident. And we could not even take advantage of the circumstance to our benefit because we would be doing so on purpose, and as we have said, “there is no purpose.” Here is clear evidence for purpose — that we point to certain ends and goals and actually reach them repeatedly. We intend to grab a soda and actually do. We intend to paint a wall and actually do. We intend to type on the keyboard and actually do. If the same actions produced random, inexplicable, and unexpected results maybe we would never know purpose at all. It is repetition of the same causes with the same effects that shows purpose. Chains of cause and effect in this world that produce random results actually give us a contrast that highlights the purpose we do see.

You say, “Not only can I create purpose, any purpose assigned to me as the causal agent can only come from me.” And here is where you are confused. You are implicitly indicating that throughout the whole process of evolution from beginning to end nothing had purpose, not a single solitary thing; but all of a sudden at a certain point in man’s evolutionary development, man was the first and only one to have purpose. It’s like saying everything was blue throughout evolutionary history until man appeared and then he was red, but there was no such thing as red before man. Here is where you have to admit that purpose was there all along or else you abandon logic; because you are an effect of which the evolutionary process is the cause, and the cause cannot give the effect what it does not have. If the effect has purpose, so did the causes of that effect in some way or another. The only things that we know of that have purposes or give things purposes are causal agents, therefore it follows that a causal agent existed and included purpose in evolution in various ways in order to produce YOU who now have purpose and give purpose to things you make. A causal agent giving the universe purpose is what everyone usually understands to be God.

You say, “purpose is not an independent thing…” and I have to disagree with you. Logic leads me to. It is true that purpose comes from causal agents like yourself, but purpose also exists in the things that we make. For instance, a coffee maker contains purpose and its purpose, which we gave it, is to make coffee. Purpose exists in the coffee maker because we guided the materials involved to form a chain of cause and effect in such a way that the materials would produce coffee every time we push the button. Now, it doesn’t just work for the person who made it, it works for everyone else too. But, they didn’t give the coffee maker purpose. They didn’t form the chain of cause and effect to produce the specific effect of making coffee. They just have to push a button, and actualize the cause and effect chain. Therefore, the purpose that exists in the coffee maker is independent of its maker and anyone else, though it could not have contained it without the maker, and cannot be used without someone pushing the button. It’s clear that purpose once given to materials becomes independent.


One thought on “Purpose is not a thing?

  1. Purpose exists in the same way numbers do. They are without substance, yet useful. If they did not exist, we could not use them. They are abstract, and exist as by-products or precursors to physical laws. Most likely, they are precursors, since they govern physical laws. Either way, their association is much like the association between numbers and your “coffee maker.” You need one before the other. Except, of course, the physical laws are several orders of magnitude more complex and strict in their carrying out than is a coffee maker.

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