Why do people live? Philosophical reasoning about the meaning of life
Sooner or later, each person begins to think about the question of why people live in this world. This problem accompanies humanity throughout its history. Over the millennia, people have accumulated sufficient baggage of approaches to answering this question. We will tell about the basic concepts of the meaning of life that have developed in religion, philosophy and psychology.
The problem of determining the meaning of life
The phrase "meaning of life" appears in philosophical use only in the 19th century. But the question of why people live in the world arises several thousand years ago. This problem is central to any mature outlook, reflecting on the finiteness of its existence, each person will touch this question and look for a suitable answer. From the point of view of philosophers, the meaning of life is a personal characteristic that determines the attitude towards oneself, other people, and life in general. This is a unique human awareness of his place in the world, which affects life goals and priorities.However, this understanding of one’s place in life is not easily given to a person; it appears only through reflection, sometimes painful. The complexity of this problem lies in the fact that there is no only true, generally accepted answer to the key question: why do people live in the world? The meaning of life is not equal to its goal and so far no uniquely verified argument has been found in favor of this or that concept. Therefore, over the centuries, there exist and coexist various approaches to answering this question.
For the first time, people wondered why people live in the world, in ancient times. As a result of these searches, the very first answer to the question - religion appears; it gave universal substantiations of everything in the world, including man. All religious concepts are built on the idea of afterlife. But each denomination imagines the path of immortality in different ways, and therefore their meaning of life is different. Thus, for Judaism, the meaning lies in the diligent service to God and the fulfillment of his commandments, as set forth in the Torah. For Christians, the main thing is the salvation of the soul. It is possible only through righteous mortal life and the knowledge of God.For Muslims, too, the meaning is obedience to the will of God. Only those who lived devotedly to Allah will go to heaven, the rest of them will have hell. A significantly different approach can be seen in Hinduism. Here the meaning lies in salvation, in eternal pleasure, but for this you need to go the way of austerity and suffering. Buddhism reflects in the same direction, where the main goal of life is understood as relief from suffering by giving up desires. Anyway, every religion sees the meaning of human existence in perfecting the spirit and limiting bodily needs.
The philosophers of ancient Greece on the meaning of life
The ancient Greeks thought a lot about the origins of life, the origins of all things. The problem of the meaning of life, perhaps, is the only one in which representatives of different schools of ancient philosophy converged in opinions. They believed that the search for meaning is a difficult, daily work, a path that has no end. They assumed that every person on earth has his own, unique mission, to acquire which is the main task and meaning. Socrates suggested that finding meaning allows a person to achieve harmony between the bodily shell and the spirit.This is the path to pacification and success not only in mortality, but also in the underworld. Aristotle believed that the search for the goal of life is an essential element of human self-consciousness and with the growth of the soul, the goal of existence, the awareness of a person’s purpose change, and there is no single, universal answer for all about the eternal question of why we live in the world.
Arthur Schopenhauer's Concept
The 19th century was a time of surge in thinking about the goals of human existence. Arthur Schopenhauer's irrational concept offers a new approach to solving this problem. The philosopher believes that the meaning of human life is just an illusion, with the help of which people are saved from the terrible thought of the aimlessness of their existence. In his opinion, the world is led by an absolute will, which is indifferent to the fate of individuals. A person acts under the pressure of circumstances and someone else's will, therefore his existence is a real hell, a chain of uninterrupted suffering, replaced by each other. And in search of meaning in this endless series of sufferings, people invent religion, philosophy, the meaning of life, in order to justify their existence and make it at least relatively tolerable.
Denial of the meaning of life
Following Schopenhauer, Friedrich Nietzsche explained the peculiarities of a person’s inner world in the aspect of a proper nihilistic theory. He said that religion is the morality of slaves, that it does not give, but takes away from people the meaning of life. Christianity is the greatest deception and must be overcome, and only then can the purpose of human existence be understood. He believes that most people live in order to prepare the world for the appearance of the superman. The philosopher urged to abandon humility and hope for external force, which will bring salvation. Man himself must create his life, following his nature, and this is the basic meaning of existence.
Existential Theory of the Meaning of Life
In the 20th century, philosophical arguments about the goals of human existence become central in many directions, including in existentialism. Albert Camus, Jean-Paul Sartre, Karl Jaspers, Martin Heidegger reflect on the meaning of life and pass to the conclusion that the main thing for a person is freedom. Everyone brings meaningfulness to his life, as the world around is absurd and chaotic. Actions and, most importantly, the choice, moral, vital, is what people live in the world for. The meaning can be comprehended only subjectively, objectively it does not exist.
Pragmatic approach to the definition of the meaning of life
Reflecting on the purpose for which we come to this world, William James and his pragmatic colleagues come to the conclusion that the meaning and purpose are equal. The world is irrational, and it’s futile to search for objective truths in it. Therefore, pragmatists believe that the meaning of life is commensurate only with the success of a person in life. Everything that leads to success has value and meaning. It is possible to evaluate and reveal the existence of the meaning of life only by applying the criterion of utility and profitability. Therefore, this concept often appears in the subsequent assessment of the life of another person.
The concept of Victor Frankl and psychology
The meaning of human life has become a central category in the theory of the psychologist and philosopher Victor Frankl. He developed his concept, experiencing terrible tortures in a German concentration camp, and this gives a special weight to his reflections. He says that there is no abstract, common to all meaning of life. Each person has his own, unique. And the meaning can not be found once and for all, it is always - the requirement of the moment. The main conductor of man in search of global goals of existence is the conscience.It helps to evaluate each act in the aspect of life-long sense. A man, in the opinion of V. Frankl, can go on his way to finding it in three ways: the road of creative values, values of attitude, and values of experiences. The loss of the meaning of life leads to an inner emptiness, an existential vacuum.
Answering the question about why people are born into the world, Frankl notes that for the search for meaning and himself. Later psychologists say that the search for the meaning of life and its acquisition are the most important motivational mechanisms. The person who has found for himself the answer to the main question lives a more productive and happy life.