Meaning (existential)  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Meaninglessness

In existentialism, meaning is understood as the worth of life. Meaning in existentialism is unlike typical conceptions of "the meaning of life", because it is descriptive. Due to the method of existentialism, prescriptive or declarative statements about meaning are unjustified. Meaning is only something that is for an individual, it only has a home in one person. Thus it is 'subjective' or should be understood to have an anti-system or anti-answer sensibility.

Contents

Kierkegaard

Philosophy of Søren Kierkegaard
"What I really need is to get clear about what I must do, not what I must know, except insofar as knowledge must precede every act. What matters is to find a purpose, to see what it really is that God wills that I shall do; the crucial thing is to find a truth which is truth for me, to find the idea for which I am willing to live and die. (...) I certainly do not deny that I still accept an imperative of knowledge and that through it men may be influenced, but then it must come alive in me, and this is what I now recognize as the most important of all."

For Kierkegaard, meaning does not equal knowledge, although both are important. Meaning, for Kierkegaard, is a lived experience, a quest to find one's values, beliefs, and purpose in a meaningless world. As a Christian, Kierkegaard finds his meaning in the Word of God, but for those who are not Christian, Kierkegaard wishes them well in their search.

Sartre

Existence precedes essence

"Existence precedes essence" means that a human exists first before they have meaning in life. Meaning is not given, and must be achieved. With objects -- say a knife for example, there is some creator who conceives of an idea or purpose of an object, and then creates it with the essence of the object already present. The essence of what the knife will be exists before the actual knife itself. Sartre, who was an atheist, believed that if there is no God to have conceived of our essence or nature, then we must come into existence first, and then create our own essence out of interaction with our surroundings and ourselves. With this comes serious implications of self-responsibility over who we are and what our lives mean. For this reason, meaning is something without representation or bearing in anything or anyone else. It is something truly unique to each person -- separate, independent.

Frankl

Logotherapy

Logotherapy is a type of psychological analysis that focuses on a will to meaning as opposed to a Nietzschean /Adlerian doctrine of "will to power" or Freud's "will to pleasure." Frankl also noted the barriers to humanity's quest for meaning in life. He warns against "...affluence, hedonism, [and] materialism..." in the search for meaning.

The following list of tenets represents Frankl's basic principles of Logotherapy:

  • Life has meaning under all circumstances, even the most miserable ones.
  • Our main motivation for living is our will to find meaning in life.
  • We have inalienable freedom to find meaning.

We can find meaning in life in three different ways:

  1. by creating a work or doing a deed;
  2. by experiencing something or encountering someone;
  3. by the attitude we take toward unavoidable suffering.

Logotherapy was developed by psychiatrist and holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl.

See also




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Meaning (existential)" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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