I have a week to live.
So, I want to use my final days here to share with you what matters most in life.
I begin by laying the groundwork. Observe that you have thoughts and feelings. For example, you may have the thought that you are reading something strange. Or you may feel hungry.
But how do thoughts or feelings exist? Why does the world contain any thoughts or feelings?
When we reflect on our thoughts and feelings, we can discover something significant about the foundation of all things. In particular, we can see that the foundation must be rational.
Think about this with me. Suppose you have a particular rational thought, T. Now T either exists eternally as part of the foundation of things, or T is not part of the foundation. If T exists as part of the foundation, then rational thought exists at the foundation of things, since T is a rational thought. (The thought that no thought is rational defeats itself–because it is rational only if it is false.)
But you probably remember the beginning of T. So, let’s say T has a beginning. In that case, T either came into existence from nothing, or T was preceded by some existing thing. If T came into existence from nothing, then T cannot be a rational thought, since rational thoughts come from rational reasons, not from nothing. Therefore, the ultimate basis of T is rational.
The basis of a thought is only rational, though, if it doesn’t have a non-rational basis itself. For example, if the basis of rational thoughts came from nothing or something non-rational, then the basis is not itself rational. Therefore, the ultimate rational basis of thought didn’t come from nothing or something non-rational. In other words, the ultimate rational basis of thought is itself foundational.
We have just discovered–by reflection on thoughts–that rationality must be foundational. Otherwise, no thoughts that emerge from non-rational causes could be rational.
This discovery is fundamental to the question at hand: what matters most in life? The very question is meaningless if the foundation of the world is not rational. For if the foundation of the world is not rational, then meaning is not part of the foundation, since it has no thoughts or purposes. Without meaning at the foundation, however, no meaning can ever arise. For meaning cannot come from non-meaning anymore than a rational thought can come from a non-rational basis, or that something can come from nothing.
Yet, the question–what matters most in life?–is meaningful.
The question is also answerable. What matters most are thoughts and feelings. Thoughts and feelings are the architects of the world. They are the source of all visible things. They are the basis of all valuable things.
To be more precise, what matters most are the beings who have thoughts and feelings. YOU matter because you are the sort of being who has thoughts and feelings.
In the battle over ideas, people fight against each other to win an argument. Yet, people matter more than any argument. In fact, the noblest purpose of all arguments is to serve people. This purpose is noblest because it is a purpose that serves what matters most.
What I want to leave the world, before I depart, is a signpost to what matters most. Thoughts and feelings are that signpost. They point to their own value and to the value of the one who has them. They also point to the value of the foundation of the world, for only a supremely valuable foundation could provide a basis for rationality, meaning, and value itself.