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The Question of the Meaning of Life

Updated September 10, 2022
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The Question of the Meaning of Life essay

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What is the meaning of life – a question to which every individual, including me, begins to look for the answer sooner or later. Depending on age, character, and even gender, the responses to it can vary considerably.

The question of the meaning of life is one of the traditional fundamental problems of philosophy, theology, and fiction, where it is viewed primarily in terms of determining what the worthiest meaning of life for a person is.

Ideas about the meaning of life are formed in the course of people’s activities and depend on their social situation, the content of problems to be solved, lifestyle, world understanding, or specific historical situation. In favorable conditions, a person can see the meaning of his life in achieving happiness and well-being, or in an unfriendly environment of existence, life may lose its value and meaning to it.

The social position of individuals, groups, or classes, their needs and interests, aspirations and expectations, principles, and norms of conduct determines the content of mass perceptions of the meaning of life, which in each social system have a specific character, although they discover known moments of repetitiveness. Subjecting to the theoretical analysis of the representation of mass consciousness about the meaning of life, many philosophers proceeded from the recognition of a certain unchanging “human nature”, constructing on this basis a certain ideal of man, in which the accomplishment was seen as the meaning of life, the main purpose of human life.

Great philosophers such as Socrates, Plato, Descartes, Spinoza, Diogenes, and many others had clear ideas about what life was “best” and therefore the most meaningful and tended to associate the meaning of life with the notion of good.

In this essay, however, I am going to study the philosophy Nihilism founded in the 19th century by Fredrich Nietzsche who characterized it as the emptying of the world and human existence from meaning, purpose, understandable truth, or essential value. Nihilism, on its own, teaches that God does not exist or that He is dead and that there is no afterlife. It says there is no higher purpose in life, that life is simply futile. Nietzsche believed that people should live their lives completely in peace and figure out how best to live their lives in a godless, meaningless world.

Similarly, existentialism just like nihilism “asserts that individuals create the meaning and essence of their own lives”, however, it denies the demands of knowledge and truth, explores the meaning of existence without know-it-all truth. This philosophy can find the power and reason for glorification in the various and unique areas of human relationships that it explores. From a nihilistic point of view, the primary source of moral values is the individual, not culture, or another rational or objective basis.

Martin Heidegger described nihilism as a condition in which “… there is no being as such…” and argued that nihilism rested on the transformation of being into a mere meaning. And that is when the thought about the individual meaning of life to each person started to appear known as the philosophy of existentialism.

Heidegger worked on the very foundations of existentialist understanding of the subject and the tasks of philosophy and latched onto nihilism.

Likewise, existentialism is similar to nihilism as it “claims that individual human beings create the meanings and essence of their own lives” (En.wikipedia.org, 2019). However, the individual is unique and creates his own meaning in life as he is free to do as he chooses. In existentialism, “existence precedes essence” one provides the answer to the meaning of his own life (Plato.stanford.edu, 2004).

The existence of man takes place in the world around us (called the philosophy “being in the world”). In turn, “being in the world” consists of: “Being with others”; “Being yourself” (Plato.stanford.edu, 2007). “Being with others” sucks a person, aims for his complete assimilation, depersonalization, transformation into “such as everyone”. “Being yourself” at the same time as “being with others” is possible only if “I” differ from others.

Therefore, a person, wanting to remain himself, must confront “others” and defend his identity. Only then will he be free. To defend your identity in the human-absorbing world is the main problem and concern of man.

Even though the origin of these two philosophies is similar, the ideas are absolutely different. Existentialism implies that man is the “creator of the signs” and gives life and the world around him artificial meanings. In these concepts, the universe and human life are nothing more than chance. At the same time, the existence of God is not denied, although it is not confirmed. If the world was created by God, then without any intention. In fact, for the creator there is no difference – a man or a stone, both of them are equally indifferent.

Nihilism, unlike existentialism more about social than philosophical. It denies not the meaning of existence as such, but simply denies the generally accepted moral foundations, social order, traditions, rules of decency, and other conventions.

But, what bothers me is that, if there is no meaning or purpose in life than how the world that we know today achieved massive changes in technology, infrastructure, architecture, science in just a few decades? What does the human population strive to achieve in the end by developing our industries, international systems and etc.? What is the purpose of all this? And why we are still continuing to improve our lives?

That is why I do not really agree with nihilism because I believe life has a meaning. If life had no meaning in the first place, how did the human race advanced and developed so far? If there is no purpose, why are we still living when life is the same as death?

I find existentialism philosophy more attractive to my vision and understanding of the meaning of life as I believe that we provide the meaning to our own lives, and our actions are responsible for what we turn out to be and what our meaning of life is.

The Question of the Meaning of Life essay

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The Question of the Meaning of Life. (2020, Sep 21). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/the-question-of-the-meaning-of-life/

FAQ

Is it important to question the meaning of life?
Firstly, meaning provides a purpose for our lives . Secondly, it furnishes values or standards by which to judge our actions. Thirdly, it gives us a sense of control over the events in our life.
What are the 3 meanings of life?
The three meanings of meaning in life: Distinguishing coherence, purpose, and significance .
What is the real meaning of life?
According to Frankl, meaning can be found through: Experiencing reality by interacting authentically with the environment and with others . Giving something back to the world through creativity and self-expression, and, Changing our attitude when faced with a situation or circumstance that we cannot change.
Which philosopher questioned the meaning of life?
Heidegger. The great German philosophy professor Martin Heidegger (1889-1976) was certainly concerned with the meaning of life. He presented two different outlooks, which we may call “early Heidegger” and “later Heidegger.”
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