The purpose of a knife is to cut. The purpose of an eye is to see. The purpose of an architect is to build. And judging whether each of these entities is any good at executing their given task seems simple enough. But, generally speaking, what’s the purpose of a human life? Aristotle believed that deducing a human’s highest function (ergon), and being able to decipher whether a human met that function with excellence (aretê), was necessary if we were to truly understand how human beings can flourish. In this whiteboard explainer, Monte R Johnson, a professor of philosophy at the University of California, San Diego, details why Aristotle came to the (perhaps self-aggrandising) conclusion that engaging our highest intellectual capabilities – and, above all else, philosophising – was the highest purpose of a human life.
Video by Wireless Philosophy
Even in modern secular societies, belief in an afterlife persists. Why?
Trek alongside spiritual pilgrims on a treacherous journey across Pakistan
Thinkers and theories
Photographs offer a colonialist window to the past – one that must be challenged
Meaning and the good life
The world turns vivid, strange and philosophical for one plane crash survivor
Inside the unique creative space where ‘outsider’ artists find their form
When aggression is viewed as brilliance, it hurts women in science, and science itself
From God’s shoes to satellites in heaven – children weigh in on religion
Stories and literature
Myths from Earth’s edge – what the Icelandic sagas reveal about Norse morality
Technology and the self
Why we should worry less about ‘sentient’ AIs and more about what we’re teaching them