The Meaning of Life

The Meaning of Life

Philosophers of life have debated over the nature of meaning, from an individual’s sense of purpose to the larger significance of events. While some have argued that meaning is a personal attribute, others maintain that it is a collective trait. A common example is the act of stealing an ax from a madman. The latter act might be more meaningful because the ax may cause more harm than the ax itself. In general, however, a single action may be enough to confer meaning on life.

While meaning can be good for its own sake, meaning is not the same as rightness or happiness. While most contemporary analytic philosophers argue that relevant value is absent from experience machines, Goetz takes a different perspective. He cites the famous story of the Greek mythical character Sisyphus, who was condemned to roll a stone up a hill forever. Ultimately, he says, if a person has purpose in life, he or she will feel that sense of significance.

Some philosophers argue that meaning in life depends on pro-attitudes, and varies from person to person. Common examples of meaningful behavior include getting what one wants strongly, achieving a high goal, and doing things that are important to one’s psyche. However, a relevant mental state is compassion, love, and creativity. This is what makes some actions meaningful, and others unworthy of meaning. So, while a person’s pro-attitudes can influence his or her sense of meaning, the goal is to enhance the quality of life.