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我们为什么该追求生活的目标?

更新时间:2017-8-3 18:43:44 来源:纽约时报中文网 作者:佚名

The Universe Doesn’t Care About Your ‘Purpose’
我们为什么该追求生活的目标?

Keys in hand, I took a deep breath. I flipped the ignition and the memories of my Papa rushed back, just as the familiar rumble of his Thunderbird kicked in.

钥匙在手,我深吸了一口气,然后点火。就在爷爷那辆雷鸟(Thunderbird)发出熟悉的隆隆声时,有关他的记忆一股脑地涌现在我眼前。

After a series of painful events in late 2016, I struggled to understand how almost everything around me went wrong so suddenly. If anything, I felt aimless. That is, until the moment I inherited my grandfather’s 1972 Ford Thunderbird. Immediately, it reminded me of the best memories of him — birthday fishing trips, playing with his model trains, learning to make animal balloons (he was a Shriner clown), and my brother and I lounging in his hammock by the shore of Lake Murray, S.C. Kitschy as it sounds, restoring his T-Bird gave me a new sense of purpose.

2016年年底,经历了一系列痛苦的事情后,我不明白怎么突然之间,我几乎事事不顺。如果有什么感受的话,那就是漫无目的。直到我继承爷爷那辆1972年的福特(Ford)雷鸟那一刻。它一下让我想起了有关他的那些最美好的回忆:在生日那一天去钓鱼、玩他的火车模型、学做动物气球(他是神殿马戏团[Shriner]的小丑演员)、我们兄弟两懒洋洋地躺在他搭在南卡罗来纳州默里湖岸边的吊床上。尽管听上去有些俗套,但修好他那辆雷鸟让我重新有了一种目标感。

Purpose is a universal human need. Without it, we feel bereft of meaning and happiness.

目标是人类的普遍需求。没有目标,我们会觉得失去了意义,幸福不再。

A recent ethnographic study draws a strong correlation between purposefulness and happiness. Purpose seems beneficial to overcoming substance abuse, healing from tragedy and loss, and achieving economic success. Businesses and organizations champion goals as ways to unify employees and customers under the banners of brand strategy, community, and well-being. America, in fact, is founded on the idea of purpose: life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. One election cycle after another, Americans rally around candidates personifying deeply rooted ideals of what our country is supposed to be.

最近的一项人类学研究发现,目标感和幸福感之间有很强的相关性。目标似乎有利于克服药物滥用、走出悲哀和痛失和在经济史上取得成功。企业和组织把目标作为让员工和顾客团结在品牌战略、社区和幸福的旗帜下的方式。实际上,美国就是建立在目标这个想法上的:对生命、自由和幸福的追求。在一个又一个选举周期中,美国民众团结在候选人周围,他们代表了我们在国家应该是什么样子这个问题上所坚持的那些根深蒂固的理念。

But, where does purpose come from? What is it? For over two millenniums, discerning our purpose in the universe has been a primary task of philosophers.

但目标来自哪里?它又到底是什么?两千多年来,辨认出我们在茫茫宇宙中的目的是什么已经成了哲学家的一项主要任务。

Aristotle believed that the universe is saturated with it, that everything has an intrinsic drive. Our word purpose comes from the Greek telos, a goal that stipulates what and how something needs to be. For Aristotle, the universe and everything in it has an essential directive. Any deviation from it belies truth and reality. Teleology concerns order, stability and accomplishment. The goal of my grandfather’s T-Bird, for example, is to function successfully as a form of transportation. From cars, trees, animals, all the way to the cosmos itself, Aristotle argued, each thing has an inherent principle that guides the course of its existence.

亚里士多德认为,宇宙充满目的性,万物都有其内在目的。我们口中的目的一词源于希腊语中的telos——一个规定事物需要成为什么样,如何成为什么样的目的。在亚里士多德看来,宇宙和宇宙中的万物有一种基本的指向。任何对这种指向的偏离都会掩盖真理和现实。目的论涉及秩序、稳定和目的的实现。例如,我祖父那辆雷鸟的目的,就是成功地发挥作为交通工具的功能。按照亚里士多德的观点,从汽车、树木、动物,一直到宇宙本身,万事万物都有其内在的原则,为其存在轨迹提供指引。

What about human beings? In his Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle tells us that our purpose is happiness or eudaemonia, “well-spiritedness.” Happiness is an ordered and prudent life. Good habits, a sound mind and a virtuous disposition are some of the steps that lead us there. For Aristotle, nothing is more fundamental for us.

那么人呢?亚里士多德在《尼各马可伦理学》(Nicomachean Ethics)中告诉我们,我们的目的是幸福或至善(eudaemonia)。幸福是一种有序而又审慎的生活。拥有良好的习惯、健康的心态、高尚的性情是我们抵达幸福的一些步骤。亚理斯多德认为,对我们来说没有什么比幸福更重要。

In many ways, we still think like Aristotle. Most everyone strives for happiness. Today, the standing dogma is that purposelessness and disorder are nihilistic. Whether you’re mulling a major life change or healing from trauma, being told that there’s no purpose in life might be particularly devastating. The chances are better that you’re looking for an ultimate explanation. Or you could simply be searching for that something or someone meant for you — God, a soul mate or a calling of sorts.

从许多方面来看,我们的想法依然跟亚里士多德很像。大多数人为幸福而努力着。现今的一个固有逻辑是,无目的、无秩序便是一种虚无。不论你在酝酿生命中的重大转变,还是在治疗创伤,如果有人告诉你生命没有目的,肯定会产生极大的破坏性。如果你正在寻找那个终极答案,才会拥有更好的机会。又或者你只是在寻找与你相契合的某件事物或某个人——上帝,一个灵魂伴侣,或者一种召唤等等。

I’m certainly no Aristotelian. Not because I reject happiness. Rather, as a materialist, I think there’s nothing intrinsic about the goals and purposes we seek to achieve it. Modern science explicitly jettisons this sort of teleological thinking from our knowledge of the universe. From particle physics to cosmology, we see that the universe operates well without purpose.

我的想法当然和亚里士多德不一样。这并不是因为我抗拒幸福。而是因为,作为一名唯物论者,我认为我们寻求达成的目标或目的并不具有什么内在性。现代科学明确地从我们关于宇宙的知识中摒弃了这种目的论思维。从粒子物理学到宇宙论,都让我们看到了没有目的却运转良好的宇宙。

The laws of physics are inherently mechanistic. The second law of thermodynamics, for instance, states that entropy is always increasing. Entropy is the degree of disorder in a system, for example our universe. Physical disorder is all about equilibrium — everything resting randomly and uniformly. Leave your hot coffee on the desk and it will cool to ambient temperature. The coffee molecules are more organized because they are moving faster and working harder to sustain a higher temperature than the surrounding air. But heat transfer results as the coffee molecules expend more energy. As energy is expended, the temperature of the coffee drops and equalizes with the air. Entropy increases since the molecules in the system are now less organized as the overall temperature becomes more uniform.

物理定律在本质上是机械性的。例如,热力学第二定律称,熵总在增加。熵被用来量化一个系统——比如宇宙——的无序程度。物理性无序只关乎平衡——一切都随机而均匀地静息着。把热咖啡放在桌子上,它会冷却至常温。咖啡分子更有序,因为它们正更快速地移动,更努力地想要保持在高于常温的温度。但热传递会导致咖啡分子消耗更多能量。随着能量被消耗,咖啡的温度出现下降,最终与空气的温度持平。在总体温度变得更均一之际,系统中的分子变得更无序,熵也由此增大。

Now, imagine this on the cosmic scale. Just as the temperature of the coffee and air equalizes, the Earth, our solar system, galaxies and even supermassive black holes will break down to the quantum level, where everything cools to a uniform state. This process is known as the arrow of time. Eventually everything ends in heat death. The universe certainly started with a bang, but it likely ends with a fizzle.

现在,我们不妨把这种思考上升到宇宙层面。就如同咖啡和空气的温度会趋同,地球、太阳系、银河,乃至超大质量黑洞,终将湮灭到量子状态——在这种状态中,所有的一切都会冷却至均一态。这一过程被称为时间之矢。最终,一切都归于热寂。宇宙当然是在一声巨响中诞生的,但它的消亡有可能是渐灭的过程。

What’s the purpose in that, though?

那么,其中的目的是什么?

There isn’t one. At least not fundamentally. Entropy is antagonistic to intrinsic purpose. It’s about disorder. Aristotle’s world and pretty much the dominant understanding of the physical universe until the Copernican Revolution is all about inherent order and permanence. But the universe as we understand it tells us nothing about the goal or meaning of existence, let alone our own. In the grand scheme of things, you and I are enormously insignificant.

不存在目的。至少不存在根本目的。熵与内在目的是对立的。它与无序有关。亚里士多德心目中的世界,以及截至哥白尼革命之前人们对物理宇宙的很多主流认知,都关乎内在秩序和永恒。但我们所了解的宇宙,没告诉我们任何与存在的目标或意义有关的东西,更别提我们自己存在的目标或意义了。从大局看,你我都微不足道。

But not entirely insignificant.

但也不是完全不重要。

For starters, we are important to each other. Meaning begins and ends with how we talk about our own lives, such as our myths and stories. Sean Carroll, a prominent cosmologist and theoretical physicist at the California Institute of Technology, makes this case in his recent book “The Big Picture.” Fashioning himself the “poetic naturalist,” Carroll argues that meaning and purpose “aren’t built into the architecture of the universe; they emerge as ways of talking about our human-scale environment.” Even materialists can’t deny the fact that purposes somehow exist to give us meaning and happiness.

首先,我们对彼此来说很重要。意义既始于我们如何谈论自己的生活——比如我们的神话和故事——也终于此。加州理工学院(California Institute of Technology)知名宇宙学家和理论物理学家肖恩·卡罗尔(Sean Carroll),在其最近出版的《大图景》(The Big Picture)中给出了这种观点。卡罗尔自称是一名“诗意的自然主义者”,他说意义和目的“并非被内置在宇宙的结构之中;是在人们借助它们讨论人本尺度环境之际出现的”。就连唯物论者也不能否认一个事实:以某种形式存在的目的,赋予了我们意义和幸福感。

Anthropologists like Dean Falk recently suggested that goal-directed behavior is also evolutionarily advantageous. This doesn’t imply that evolution itself has a purpose, of course. (Though some have argued otherwise.) What it does suggest is that as purposeless as human evolution is, we generally benefit as a species from a belief in it.

迪恩·福克(Dean Falk)等人类学家最近表示,以目标为导向的行为,在进化方面也能带来优势。这并不是说进化本身有其目的(不过一些人持相反的观点)。它其实意味着,即便人类的进化并没有目的,我们作为一个物种也能因为相信存在目的性而获益。

The 20th-century German philosopher and intellectualist Hans Blumenberg, in “Work on Myth,” provides a way to explain this curious concomitance of teleology and evolution with what he calls the “phantom body” of the development of civilization: “The organic system resulting from the mechanism of evolution becomes ‘man’ by evading the pressure of that mechanism by setting against it something like a phantom body. This is the sphere of his culture, his institutions — and also his myths.”

20世纪的德国哲学家汉斯·布鲁门伯格(Hans Blumenberg)在《神话研究》(Work on Myth)中,提供了一种以他口中的文明发展之“幻体”(phantom body),来解释目的论和进化的诡异共存的说法:“产生于进化机制的有机系统,通过回避源自该机制的压力而成为‘人’,其对压力的回避,靠的则是树立某种与进化机制相对立的东西,比如幻体。这是他的文化领域,他的制度——也是他的神话。”

Purpose springs from our longing for permanence in an ever-changing universe. It is a reaction to the universe’s indifference to us. We create stories about the world and ourselves as contours, “phantom bodies,” of the inevitability of loss and change. Myths appear timeless; they have what Blumenberg calls an iconic constancy. Stories pass through generations, often becoming traditions, customs, even laws and institutions that order and give meaning to our lives. Purpose grows out of the durability of human lore. Our stories serve as directives for the ways we need the world to exist.

目的,来自于我们在不断变化的宇宙中对永恒的渴望。宇宙对我们漠不关心,这是我们对此做出的回应。损失和变化必然会发生,而我们创造了关于世界和自己的故事,把它作为轮廓,即“幻体”。神话似乎是永恒的,具有布鲁门伯格所说的那种“标志性的恒常”。故事经历数个世代的传述,往往变成传统、习俗,甚至法律和制度,来为我们的生活提供秩序和意义。目的来自于人类传承的持久性。我们需要这个世界以某种方式而存在,而我们的故事就是这种方式的指路标。

An indifferent universe also offers us a powerful and compelling case for living justly and contentedly because it allows us to anchor our attention here. It teaches us that this life matters and that we alone are responsible for it. Love, friendship and forgiveness are for our benefit. Oppression, war and conflict are self-inflicted. When we ask what’s the purpose of the recent gassing of Syrian children in the Idlib Province or the torture and killings of Chechnyan homosexual men, we ought not simply look to God or the universe for explanations but to ourselves, to the entrenched mythologies that drive such actions — then reject them when the institutions they inform amount to acts of horror.

宇宙以万物为刍狗,这也提供了一个强有力的、引人瞩目的理由,让我们公正而满足地生活,因为我们可以把注意力放在这上面。它教会我们,此生非常重要,对此负责的是我们自己。爱、友谊和宽恕是为了我们自己好。压迫、战争和冲突也是我们自己造成的。当我们询问最近在伊德利卜省对叙利亚儿童放毒气的目的是什么,或是对车臣同性恋者施以酷刑、展开杀戮的目的是什么时,我们不应该简单地向上帝或宇宙寻求解释,而是要向我们自己发问,向驱使这种行为的顽固神话发问——如果它们传达的习规无异于恐怖行为,那我们就要抵制。

The purposes and goals we create are phantom bodies — vestiges of and memorials to the people, places and things we stand to lose and strive to keep. Purpose indexes the world’s impermanence, namely our own. Sure, my grandfather’s T-Bird will function well as transportation once I’m finished. But, that goal only makes sense as an enduring reminder of the stories and memories of him. Purpose is about loss, or at least the circumvention of it. And there’s nothing wrong with that. We create purposes to establish happy endings in a universe where endings are simply that — endings.

我们创造的目标和目的就是幻体——我们必将失去却在努力留住的人、地方、事情的残影和记忆。目的是世间各种无常的索引,也即是我们自己各种无常的索引。当然,我修好祖父的雷鸟之后,它就是一个性能良好的交通工具。但是,这辆车只有在可以持续让我想起他的故事,怀念他时才有意义。目的是关于失去的那些,或至少是关于规避的。这并没有什么不对。我们创造目的,是想在宇宙中获得幸福的结局,于宇宙本身来说,结局不过是结局。

I will never see my Papa again. One day I will die. So will you. The T-Bird will decay along with everything in the universe as the fundamental particles we’re made of return to the inert state in which everything began. Entropy demands it.

我再也见不到爷爷了。有一天我会死去。你也是一样。那辆雷鸟将会老化腐朽,就像宇宙中的万物,随着组成我们的基本粒子恢复到一切开始时的惰性状态,都会老化腐朽。这是熵的效果。

So, take a moment to think about the mythologies informing your purpose. I’ll reflect on mine, too. The universe, however, won’t. And that might be the most meaningful distinction of all.

所以,请花点时间思考带给你目的感的神话与传说。我也会反思我自己的。然而,宇宙却不会这么做。这可能就是最有意义的区别了。

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