1. PROBLEMS OF HUMAN LIFE
Life means activity and all activity brings with it certain problems. Those problems have to be solved successfully in order to make the human life a success. If we analyse the human problems, we find that they fall under two categories, viz: (1) Immediate Problems; and (2) Ultimate Problems.
The immediate problems are the practical day-to-day problems, such as those which refer to the immediate personal needs of the individuals and such problems as the administration of the state, the production, consumption and distribution of wealth, and the relations between the different nations of the world. There is no human being living on earth who has not to face these problems one way or the other during his life. The manner in which they are faced and the efficiency and practical common sense which is shown in connection with their solutions forms the measure of human success.
As regards the ultimate problems, every human being who takes life seriously finds himself face to face with them as soon as he attains the age of maturity and feels the strains, the burdens and the intricacies of life. The first question which arises in this connection is: “What am I?” Every human being is closer to himself than to anyone else. Hence the first problem which should arise in his mind in connection with the ultimate problems should naturally be about his own self.
The question: “What am I?” is a question about the nature of human beings. But this simple question opens a whole field of questions which shoot off in a continuous chain and whose links are forged with the unbreakable bond of necessity. Consideration of this first question, therefore, leads to the next one, namely: “From where have the human beings come?” Then a third question arises: “What is the nature of human life?” And then a fourth question: “What is the purpose and end of human life?”
All the above-mentioned questions are, so to say, personal. But, then, no human being lives in a vacuum. He lives in a world which is infinitely and immeasurably vaster than his physically-infinitesimal personality, and this world influences his life and his actions at every step. His fortunes, nay, his very life, is interlinked with and dependent upon the world around him. For instance, if the sun were to stop its function, the entire related physical environment would be shattered to pieces. Or, if the heat of the sun rises above or falls below the average to certain levels, the very existence of the human beings on the earth would become impossible.
This being the case, the questions about one’s own self lead to questions about the world. The first question in that connection is: “What is this world?”, which in other words means: “What is the nature of this world?” But the nature of a thing cannot be properly understood unless we have a clear idea about the origin of that thing and the purpose for which it functions. Therefore, the question about “what” leads to questions about “when”, “how”, “wherefrom” and “whereto”. In other words, the enquiry arises: “When did the world come into being?”; “From what source did the world acquire its life?”; “What is the end towards which it is moving?”; and “What is its final goal (destiny)”? Among the questions about the world, the question: “How did the world come into being?” brings forth a number of further questions, namely:—“If this world came into being by itself, how is that conceivable, i.e., on what ground?” “If this world was brought into being by some other force, what is that force?” “Is it an impersonal force like electricity, or is it a person?” “If it is believed to be an impersonal force, that would mean that it is a blind force like all impersonal forces; and if it is a blind force, how could intelligence, foresight, plan, purpose and law come out of it?” “If it is a person, what is the nature and constitution of that person?” “Is He a person like us—physical, faltering and subject to the processes of decay and death, or is He eternal?” “If not physical, what else is He?” “Is He finite or infinite?” “Is He one in number or two or three or more?”
The above-mentioned questions concerning man, the world and God, are ultimate questions (or fundamental problems). The questions are so vital that every thinking human being is bound to face them at one time or the other during his life and they have such a close bearing on the immediate questions of life that anyone who has any knowledge of human problems will admit that they cannot be shirked.
2. IMPORTANCE OF ULTIMATE QUESTIONS IN PRACTICAL LIFE
Some might doubt that these ultimate questions may not after all be as important as they are said to be. Indeed, the modern secular civilisation is, for all practical purposes, based on the notion that these ultimate questions have nothing to do with the immediate practical problems of mankind and that the interest that can at all be reasonably taken in them cannot be anything else than academic. In other words, these questions are meant only for philosophers and no practical person should waste his time and energy on them. But if we go deep into the matter, we are bound to come to the conclusion on the basis of our common sense itself that the ultimate questions are infinitely more important than the immediate questions.
The problem can be attacked from different angles. But here it will suffice to quote just one instance of the importance of ultimate questions in the field of the immediate problems of life. Namely, we shall discuss the practical consequences of belief and disbelief in the existence of God. Taking up disbelief in the existence of God first: If there is no God and the world came into being by itself, it means that it came into being by chance. In other words, it is a world of chance in which everything and every event emerges and dies out by chance. If we consider the nature of “chance” itself, we find that it always indicates an event which has no pre-conceived cause. In any case, it cannot be said to be a planned event. Again, if there is no plan in an event, there can be no purpose, because all purposive activity is planned, whether the planning is conscious (namely, based on intellectual appreciation) or merely instinctive. Resuming the argument, if the world came into being by chance, it is a blind and lawless world. Indeed, the very word “chance” means the absence of law.
Now, if the world is lawless in its inherent constitution and if everything which is born out of it is also in its nature without law, it means that the formulation of any laws by human beings, whether those laws are scientific or ethical or political or economic, would be a violation of human nature and the nature of the world itself. But human beings cannot exist without law. Therefore, they are bound to give up the atheistic hypothesis of the existence of the world in order to live. If they don’t and if they carry the atheistic hypothesis to its logical consequences, the only law which they can establish for themselves would be the law of the jungle in political administration and the rule of expediency in moral life.
Speaking from the other side, namely, affirmation of faith in God’s existence, if we believe that God exists and that He has created the world, it means that the world came into being through planned creation, is functioning under a system of law and is moving towards a purpose. In other words, plan, purpose and law are inherent in the very constitution of the world. This, in turn, provides the ground for every branch of human law—ethical, political, economic, and so on.