Stephen Fry Explains The Meaning Of Life In Three Minutes

What's the secret to living a happy and fulfilling existence? If you don't believe in religion, the answer can be hard to pinpoint. Avowed atheist Stephen Fry attempts to explain humanity's purpose -- in under three minutes.

Photo: Getty Images

The below video is essentially an introduction to humanism philosophy. Instead of searching for some cosmic answer to the meaning of the universe, humanists believe we should create meaning and happiness through our own lives. Because everyone is unique, there is no single meaning of life to discover -- instead, it's something different for everyone.

Naturally, it all sounds a lot more convincing coming from the mouth of Stephen Fry. Here's the video:


    "Are you a humanist"...? Well it certainly makes more sense than believing the whole shebang was made for us by an all seeing all knowing entity...! :)

    It's a very well produced video and Stephen Fry is a very convincing. But ultimately it's all about maximising long term personal pleasure. Doing things we find pleasurable. Having a family in order to create a sense of fulfilment and therefore pleasure, engaging in intellectually pleasurable pursuits, engaging in physically pleasurable actions. Even at the end it asks the question "How can I be happy?"

    But how is that 'meaning?' Using Fry's approach, being hooked up to a device that simply stimulates the opioid receptors in the brain until death 70 years later would be 'meaningful' as it maximises an individuals pleasure. There are broader and more complex existential questions that the British Humanist Association simply ignores.

    I think that in the end, there's no convincing argument by atheists or theists that life has some intrinsic meaning. Every 'answer' offered seems to have flaws that are covered up with unconvincing ad hoc exceptions or rules or by emotive rhetoric.

      I think the point of this video is to illustrate that just because humanists don't view the world as having some particular meaning or purpose doesn't mean we're all nihilists who think that nothing in life can be appreciated or cared about. What meaning I think like has is probably the first question religious people ask me if I tell them I am an atheist. That, and, "but where do you get your morals from!?!?"

    It's all easy for someone like Stephen Fry who's net worth is like $50m.

    Why does life have to have any meaning at all?

      It's not easy for someone like Stephen Fry. The guy's got a form of bi-polar.

      But I do agree with you on the "why have meaning" part.

      Last edited 26/03/14 8:01 pm

        That's the whole point. Whatever meaning you want to give it, including no meaning at all.

    Meanings are a human concept...

    The universe doesn't give a shit about humans...

    There is no 'meaning' of life except what you want it to mean.

    I wish he would shut up and go away...

    Just because he has a funny and cute posh English voice (and does voice overs for Hitch Hikers Guide) does not make him an expert in anything!!

    He is an ACTOR!! - It is his job to sound convincing.....

    He's a self proclaimed "Technology Guru" - where he can't even get basic facts about technology right...

    Now, he's proclaiming "Humanism is simply "do what you want and be happy""??? - shows this to be utter crap!!

    My version of "happy" is playing very crap, loud music well in to the night... Therefore, according to Mr Fry, I should "just do what makes me happy".... This is NOT Humanism!!

    No, not an expert. But Stephen is a well known celebrity who happens to be a bit of a humanist. He didn't write the video, he just narrated it.
    It's an introduction. not a comprehensive philosophical argument.
    Meaning is subjective... seriously, did anyone actually watch the material?

    I'm just happy we have a good replacement for David Attenborough when he finally gives up!!

      No one can ever replace Attenborough. -Though he's not as good now as he was back when he was writing those documentaries himself as well as going to those locations instead of just mostly narrating videos.

    There is a meaning to life and it can be summed up in one word: Food.

    Every living organism on this planet exists because it is a source of food for something else.

    It doesn't matter if you're a single-celled microbe, the largest redwood in the forest, the mightiest dinosaur that walked the Earth or the smartest human being that ever lived - at some point you will either be killed and eaten by something bigger, faster or stronger than you, or will die by some other means and the wee beasties of the world will begin to feast upon your rotting corpse.

    Hopefully, what you do in your life allows you (and maybe help others) to obtain the food and shelter you need to stave off the inevitable meal you will provide for as long as possible.

    Ultimately, unless you've done something in your life that puts you in the history books, after you die, you and everything you've done or achieved in your life will probably be forgotten about within two or three generations.

    On that cheery note - enjoy the rest of your day and try not to get eaten!

      Food is only a means to an end though, like sex, which is the other "meaning" people traditionally pick.
      The only real meaning I can see to "life" is continuance: staving off entropy, striving for immortality. All life seeks to stay alive basically. We eat for that reason, species reproduce in order to keep their genetic strain alive. Some species live in cooperative herds or packs to increase the chances of survival.

      Life is like a sentient chemical reaction that wants to keep on reacting no matter what.

    Does God know the future?

    If he does, then we have no free will.

    & nor does he.

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