The greater purpose in US
Seeking a greater purpose is at the core of every religion. From the Old Testament to the New Testament, people are seeking something more. From the New Age to the Scientific Revolution, people are looking for meaning and purpose. In the same way that the Scientific Revolution gave humankind a new understanding of the universe, it also gave people a more complete and in depth understanding of themselves. That's because the Scientific Revolution started with a desire to understand more about the world we lived in, how it worked, and why it mattered.
The story of Isaac Newton comes to mind. While he was a young man, he had this idea that all things are meant to cause an effect in one way or another. For instance, when you bathe in the tub, you are opening up space-time and traveling back in time, or when you throw a ball, you are launching the ball into the air and traveling back in time through the entire universe. But there is more going on here than that.
The idea that everything is connected somehow to everything else, that there is a plan behind everything, that there is a force putting it all together - these are not theories but are a direct result of further study, of observation, of philosophy.
Now then, what is it that started this whole thing? Why did the anti-intellectual sentiment against human nature almost seem to permeate all of the science fiction and fantasy genre stories? It must have started in the late 1800s. Progress and advancement seemed to be the order of the day and humans were supposedly faster and stronger than ever before. Life was good and people were looking forward to a better, more fulfilled future.
This is of course, the stereotypical American dream, where a college graduate with some talent or intelligence can rise to the top of the corporate ladder and achieve amazing things with little effort.
Now then, what if you take this philosophy and apply it to the idea that science fiction writers put forth in their work. Now then, what if you take the philosophy of the "tool" and apply it to the idea that human character is a tool and that a human being who is part of a team, has an innate goal and desire to achieve that goal. But again, that goal or desire isn't dependent upon any outside source or force. In other words, although there is an external source, the goal, or purpose that is derived from this source still belongs to the individual.
There is also a philosophical construct that one could make to represent the conflict of character. The object or goal is typically unattainable and therefore the character has to come up with ways to make it happen. So again, although it is not important which character you choose to represent this philosophy, but I would submit that it belongs to you, because once you decide to use that particular philosophy, then the character of the work is a representative for that philosophy. Now then, when you say, there is no meaning in your life, I would submit that this philosophy, which is about personal fulfillment, is more important than the philosophical belief that life is meaningless. However, it would be interesting to see if you disagree with me on this.
What would you say if I told you that although the toy story character has those desires and purposes, it is because he was abandoned by his father and left on his own. His father never really believed in him and never really understood him. He had these desires and purposes, but because of his abandonment and because he was left alone by his father. But then again, he made up his mind that he would not return home and that would be his final decision.
You see, all too often we find that people have characters and philosophers that they live out their lives. Now I would submit to you that you pretty much just described exactly what philosophy is. Philosophy is basically the study of how things work, or how things should work. Now when you ask what there is a greater purpose for existence, and ask does having characters make philosophy any more valid then having a child who is born to live.
But yet when you ask the character if there's a better way and they say no. Now what you're basically doing is presupposing that the character is right and the only way to solve this problem is to do it your way and use your power. The interesting thing is that it doesn't matter what the character wants, or what the answer would be. It doesn't matter if it was a reasonable answer or not. Because if the character wasn't alive there would be no drive to do it at all. This is because when you take away the goal itself no longer matters; the character is just a vehicle for the goal.