We humans are unique. We are us; we are not like other species. That is not to say that we are above or below other beings, but we are distinct. How we achieve our Individual Purpose is unique to us as a species. If we were ants, we would talk of the Individual Purpose of the ant. Yet as we are humans, we will focus on ourselves.
We, like all other species and beings, seek the continuation of ourselves. The continuation of existence can be achieved primarily by reproduction, or secondarily, through ensuring the survival of genetic relations. Ensuring the survival of our children or our kin is our purpose. It is so simple and straightforward that, for millennium, it has gone unremarked. Every human is guided unconsciously by this purpose, but when the great thinkers of the world contemplated life’s meaning, it seems to have escaped their notice. For eons, the philosophers and prophets degraded the instinct to protect family to an inferior station. Promoting unattachment to this world and the physical, in exchange for a supposed reward in some other existence. This impulse was as true for the Stoics and Epicureans as for the Buddhists, Christians, or Muslims today. Each path to purpose, happiness, enlightenment, or salvation was and is supposed to lie in the abandonment (or at least relegation in importance) of the family and the physical world. However, this needs not be the way, the purpose of life may be simple; however, its achievement is far from easy.
Our purpose is not as it first seems merely to reproduce. It is to ensure the survival of our genetic line, which forms the unique offshoot of our species. This purpose can only be achieved by ensuring the survival of any children we have and or by ensuring the survival of our close kin, namely our siblings. It is not enough to produce children; we must ensure their survival and the survival of our siblings and their children. How we ensure the survival of this kin is where the complexity comes in.
Each action we take can influence their long-term survival. How we treat other people or beings, how we act at work and at home, if we choose to be part of a community or not. What kind of society we seek to build, what kind of government we allow to govern us, the moral maximins we live by and transmit to our children. Every one of these choices impacts on the long-term survival of our families. In short, if we accept that our purpose as humans is to promote the survival of the human race as represented by our families, then we are obligated to seek the best way of living to achieve that aim.
As beings possessing rationality and intellect, we must utilise those advantages to determine the optimum way to live to achieve our Individual Purpose. It is this search for the optimum that is the proper subject of this book. Before we move on to this, it is necessary to review what we know once more to find where we are. In our examination of existence, we determined that we existed and that we existed in a physical universe. That events in this universe were governed by predictable cause and effect and causative events that we term chance/fortune, which are beyond our prediction. We observed that the objects in this physical universe are divided between the living beings and the non-living things. Finally, we observed that all beings were animated by the same desire to continue existing. This conclusion was seen to be true, be they viewed as a single whole from the universal level, as a grouping of similar beings as a species, or as a single individual being/organism. We deduced that, in all cases, beings being transient (mortal) could only continue to exist through reproduction. From these revelations, we inferred that the highest good and purpose of all beings was to ensure the survival of their species and life itself through ensuring the successful survival of their genetic code, which is the essence of their selves in this physical universe—an aim we coined as their Individual Purpose for short. As we shared a commonality with all other beings, it follows that our purpose as rational beings is to determine how we can best achieve our Individual Purpose based on our own unique advantages and situations. It is how we can accomplish this Individual Purpose which we will now examine.