talking about ‘meaning’ in a general sense, it is usually accompanied by ‘purpose’;
more specifically, the purpose is that of life. To most philosophical theories,
you cannot have one without the other.
is no exact definition of meaning, but the one that can be most accurate is given
by an online dictionary, which states “meaning is the sense or significance of
a word, sentence, symbol, etc.; import; semantic or lexical content”. Also, the
definition of purpose is “the reason for which something is done or created or
for which something exists”.
notion that purpose precedes meaning seems unappealing. This is due to the
unanswerable questions that this notion provokes, which makes the concept of
meaning very restricted, and gives it a doctrine-like nature.
fundamental questions that purpose poses are “why” questions. Therefore, when
asked about life, the answers tend to be weak because they are
oversimplifications. Also, most explanations imply that we have to work our way
into having a purposeful life. This method is highly unperceptive because it
neglects a lot of human factors, especially emotions.
a universal explanation for something so abstract and vast like life is useless
and dull, for life goes beyond thought and purpose. Even more, it is the epitome
of human arrogance and narcissism to claim that life is not worth living
meaning is derived from the significance of things, and since different people
find different things significant to them, it makes more sense for the meaning
of life to be subjective. It also makes more sense that a purposeful life which
adheres to a doctrine is likely to become meaningless.
that are most significant to us are those that give us pleasure, but this does
not mean that a hedonistic life is a meaningful one, for significant pleasures are
not restricted to bodily gratification.
one must give a structure for meaning, it is likely to be general and
applicable for different types of people that value different things – or
simply relative. One theory that is this way is the “Engine Theory”. This
theory states that in order to derive meaning, three elements must be present,
which are: thought – which has a similar function to the engine lubricant,
emotions – which have a similar function to the engine pistons, and personal
experiences – which share the function of the driver. Remove any of those three
elements and you will not be able to properly derive meaning. Similarly, if you
remove any of those elements from a conventional car, it cannot go anywhere.
might be appealing to relate the Engine Theory to Pragmatism. This is due to
the significance of experiences. However, unlike the Engine Theory, Pragmatism
states that meaning is only derived or discovered through experiences.
Similarly, the suggested theory also
shares attributes with the theory of Existentialism, but it is different
because Existentialism decrees that meaning is only derived through thoughts.
grounds can be found between Nihilism and the Engine Theory, since both asserts
that there is no purpose to life. But unlike the Engine Theory, Nihilism requires
that purpose precedes meaning, thus rendering the concept of meaning void.
discontent that people experience does not have to do with the meaning of life,
because everyone is living a meaningful life, especially since the concept of
meaning is subjective. It is more likely that it arises from uncertainty and
its significance. People become discontent when they are uncertain of what is
significant to them, which keeps them from knowing what means to them; thus, they ironically feel as if their life has no
meaning and their dissatisfaction becomes greater and grows exponentially.
the concept of living a meaningful life is significant to most people, and
since everyone is, in fact, living a meaningful life, this means that knowing
that we are living a meaningful life ideally is enough to minimize the
dissatisfaction that people experience from that subject, without going into its
meticulous details. However, the ironic reality is that everyone is
dissatisfied because “meaning” is ubiquitous, which renders the “purpose” of
having a meaningful life untenable.