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George spent his entire career performing in a mixture of guises: firstly as a comedic musician and then as a leading man in the comic operas of the day. He was regarded as one of the most successful comic performers of his generation. The book will be delivered in instalments or staves , one every day. You will receive an email letting you know when each stave is available. We believe that shared reading leads to new ideas and connections. Post a comment and all your fellow readers will be able to respond. After the serialisation the full book will be available on your bookshelf and you can read it at your leisure.

About the author. Why We Like It. How it works The book will be delivered in instalments or staves , one every day. Making a choice determines which of those possible universes is the one you live in. Combined with the idea of the butterfly effect, that a small change can have enormous consequences, this makes every choice seem almost monumentally significant and difficult to decide.

To the American philosopher Thomas Nagel, this whole situation is absurd because in reality what choice we make is determined by arbitrary cultural factors. I am inclined to agree with him on a practical basis. I also agree with Nagel that these two perspectives combined make my life absurd. However, I also believe that the belief that my choices are significant can explain something more fundamental, something that is often simply chalked up to human nature; the need to have a meaningful life in the first place.

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Before we make a choice, anything is possible, but we have to make a choice because not choosing is still a choice. Additionally, as dark as it may sound, we always have the choice to commit suicide. Excluding some instinctual, basic desires, such as the desire to stay alive, we have very little to base these choices on. We can consider the factual consequences of our choices, what actually might happen, as young Nemo does when deciding whether to live with his father or his mother.

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But, as the film shows, there can be so many possible consequences that it is overwhelming. This is essentially my idea, that we need some kind of value judgement to decide which choice to make, we need some kind of purpose or meaning to tell us which of these choices to make, as even a small choice could determine the fate of the universe through the butterfly effect. Philosophy in Mr. Nobody Sheng Tian.

The Life of Nobody

We can see from the movie, Nemo hesitated to make a lot of choices: father or mother, Anna or Elise or Jean, rich man or poor man, desperate life or boring life. Instead of making choices by himself, a lot of times, he just flipped a coin and chose one of the sides. If some unexpected things out of his control happen, he has the power to delete this path and chooses alternatives instead. In order to answer the above question, the first priority is to answer what is the meaningful life.

Nemo puts a lot of effort into seeking a meaningful life with many different choices. In other words, if we could find the meaningfulness of life, the choices would be easy to make as there is an anchor for us to make a comparison that otherwise we could not. However, the answer we are going to find is much more difficult compared to any questions above. If one would be able to answer the question, he would at least meet a demanding requirement that he has the entire experiences of anything and then evaluate them by making reasonable and rational comparisons, and finally gain the answer.

This whole process is similar to Nemo because Nemo had the talent to predict anything that could be possible in the near future after he made a choice. The first experienced candidate would be the universe. After the expansion of the universe, lives were created. If meaningfulness were ever created, it would be created only after the universe.

So, the universe could not give us any clues. The next candidate would be God as it is a symbol of omnipotence. As this logics goes further, we would find that lives are meaningless. Whatever choices one make, whatever kind of life one leads, whatever initial environment one lives in, whatever kind of pleasure or suffering one had been though, would be pointless as nobody knows what meaningfulness is.

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According Wielenberg, this pessimistic conclusion fits the pointless existence argument he mentioned in his article. If we follow this logic, immortality would be the only plausible cure as we must live long enough to know the answer of what is meaningful. And death seems to be bad as it deprives the opportunity of living meaningfully. Then, we can conclude that immortality cannot promise meaningfulness, and meaningfulness can happen even in a short period of time. This gives us a lot of hope as there is possibility that we could reach meaningfulness during our own lifetime.

However, this thinking may highlight the importance of making the right choices because we only live in a limited time. If we assume that each choice would have ripple-effect to achieve the meaningfulness in the future, we would be better to consider all of the consequences the choices may lead just like Nemo did in the movie.

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This process turned out undesired as the movie indicated. So, what may causes this dilemma? In a TED presentation called how to make hard choice, Ms. Ruth Chang stated that the hard choices we made in our daily lives are in a totally different world from the scientific one. And the reason that these choice are hard to make is that they convey value inside of themselves. The value includes our love toward family, the responsibility, the moral standards and the things which cannot be measured by number, by equations in a scientific way.


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Now, it may more or less make sense that Nemo thought life was meaningless initially because he always wanted to find the best alternatives, and to make the right choices to live a meaningful and desired life. So do we. This rational thinking would be an obstacle for us to gain meaningfulness as in order to make each choice rationally, we always seek the external reasons to support our choices.

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  5. Everything that we depend on would turn us into the slaves of reasons. For instance, Nemo chose Jean instead of Elise only because he wanted to make Elis jealous of him instead of whether he really loves Jean or not. Hence, we should follow our heart fully to make a choice, and we should depend on our internal feelings rather than the external reasons.

    Newspaper Commentaries, Poems, Puffs, and Reviews of Nobody (October-December 1794)

    This is coincident to the ending of this movie: Nemo chooses his own path after he realized that neither of the original choices were what he really want, and all of hard choices he made, all of the paths he went through were just equally meaningful as each other with just different wonderful contents within.

    Meaningful lives often bring us a lot of fears as we are afraid that we are not smart enough to make a right choice each time. Moreover, we may regret some of the choices we made in the past.