Meaning and Meaninglessness
Thesearch for meaning and the pain of meaninglessness.
Inthe world today, it is a fight for survival. Men are fighting to berich and to outdo each other. Human beings live to give meaning toeverything that happens around them and seek explanation. To them,there is always meaning and reason as to why a particular thinghappened, why it happened, the degree to which it happened, if it hadsignificance and so forth. This is what gives “meaning” to life,and the disappointment of it all will be on the day one realizes thatit was all coincidental and there was no meaning to it. The battlehas gone on for many tears and researchers have also put it to frayand thus the reason we have many religions and many beliefs. Scienceand religion have fought over the years to show the source of lifeand to prove the other as meaningless. That entire struggle is in thefight to explain the meaning of it all. With this, many studies andsciences have come into being. Fields like archeology and the likehave come to being as people try to explain the big question as tohow man came to being and to disapprove the teaching of asupernatural being.
Thetruth is that this battle is not about to cede. It is going to getfierce as human being become more informed and seeks answers to thequestion that they encounter on a daily basis. The article belowlooks at some items and literature that puts into perspective thesearch for meaning and the pain of meaninglessness.
Onesimple definition of meaningfulness is finding the cause forsomething and meaninglessness is discovering the uselessness of thesame thing that you deemed meaningful.
Benjamin,(2016) in his lecture to the University of Columbia starts by askingwhat would one feel if one morning they were to wake up to find everyfurniture in the ceiling. He points out to the fact that human beingexists to find meaningfulness in everything that happens around them.To him, a human being will not rest until they find meaning to anyevent happening around them. In this writing, it is pointed out thatwhen the meaning is broken down, our brains respond to the way theydo when in physical pain. The reaction is the reason why human beinggoes to great lengths to find meaning. The writer also points outthat for one to plan their next move, they need to be certain, andthis certainty is brought about by meaning (Batthyany &Russo-Netzer, 2014).
Meaninglessnesshas a way of bringing out the worse in a human being. With no meaningto life, one would neglect themselves and would not struggle toattain their daily need. Meaning can be seen in the way terrorism andtheir jihadist fight. Their Suicide missions and death have beengiven meaning, and thus the reason they quickly take their livesgiven the cause many believe is fruitless. This gives it anothermeaning as meaning and meaninglessness can be used to create robotsand can be utilized as ill in society. The mind needs to be givenmeaning, and it will focus on that course without question. Thereforethe battle is fully on finding meaning given that meaninglessnessbrings out itself where there is no evidence of meaning.
VictorFrankl (1905-1907) wrote about his ordeal in a concentration campduring the Second World War. In this writings, he discovers that thepeople who survived the ordeals of the concentration camps were thepeople who took control of their environment and not the people whowere physically fit. This shows the real idea of finding meaning andpurpose. He observes that in pain and pleasure there is one thingthat remains of human beings and that is choosing one`s attitude andone’s way. This ultimately helps the survivors to the point thatthe prisoners would give their little food to others but stillsurvive the scares of the camp given their choice and attitudes. ToFrank, the life at the camp gave him that life’s purpose wasmeaning and not pleasure as states Feud in his law nor power as Adlerstates. Frank goes further and states that meaning can be found inthree ways. The first is through experiencing reality by interactingwith the environment and with other human beings. The second is bygiving back to the world through self-expression and creativity, andthe third is a change of attitude when one is faced withcircumstances that one cannot change.
Franklalso brings meaninglessness by pointing out the way people feel aftera long week of working. In the end, they feel “dejected” and feeltheir life has no meaning and that is the reason why people opt forexcess like alcohol, overworking overspending, and binge eating amongothers for them to find “meaning.” To him, depression is a bigsign of meaninglessness of a person.
Astate where ones wish and where they are worlds apart, and sodepression is a show that something needs to change. This shift iswhat will match the lived experience and the expected experience toself-actualizes and find meaning (Burton, 2012).
Inthe Stanford Encyclopedia of philosophy, meaning is explained using astudy on the meaning of life. The article compares the literaturethat was written by Aristotle, Aquinas (beatification vision) andKant (highest good). All these writings allude to meaning of lifeand having a good end to life. On this, the article focusses ontheories of supernaturalism that are divided into two vies that isGod Centered views and soul centered view. The other theory focusedon is Naturalism which is argued out based on subjectivism andobjectivism. The final theory is based on nihilism, and all these aretrying to put meaning into perspective. According to Aristotle valueslife would be meaningless if they were immoral or unhappy. But in areal sense, this would be to put a synthetic relationship betweenmeaninglessness and the ill values in society (Blocker, 1974).
Lookingat it, ills like stealing can provide” meaning” to someone’slife even though it might have come as a result of meaninglessnessand not having a purpose for life.
Naturalismargues to the fact that even though there is no spiritual real,purpose in life is possible depending on the human`s mind perspectiveand invariant conditions among persons. Subjectivity, on the otherhand, is mostly to the fact that meaning in life varies from personto person (Schreiner, 2015).This article on a broader perspective focusses on meaning from ahuman beings perspective and without which people are meaningless.Meaninglessness here is focused based on a person lacking desire anddrive in their life (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 2013)
Inthe book exploring existential meaning by Reker & Chamberlain(2000), the authors look at meaningfulness and meaninglessness byasking the questions to a group of people and analyzing theirresponses. The survey showed the breadth of meaning where the writernoted how differently people experienced meaning in their lives. Intheir research, they found six aspects that provided meaning topeople’s lives and which other researchers had concluded to thesame. The writers found that people found satisfaction and meaningfrom religion and spiritualism, relationship with nature and socialand political affairs. The research showed that with intense lobbyingthe people interviewed leaned towards religion, Christianity andchurch s the highest forms of meaning in their lives.
Onthe subject of meaninglessness existentialist look at meaninglessnessas a challenge that requires a response (Reker & Chamberlain,2000, p. 80). As they look at one response that the intervieweeresponded by saying they look for meaning in life because if life wasmeaningless, then death was far more meaningless. This eventuallyshows that meaning and meaninglessness go together where a fighttowards meaning is a response to meaninglessness. Ultimately meaningfor the respondents is based on the existence of God and religion andbelief against it is meaningless thus the pain of meaninglessness hasnothing to believe in as was portrayed by the respondents.
Indefining meaninglessness, it can be said as the disappointment thatfollows the realization that a first wish is going to be unfulfilled.This definition is based on how Freud saw the word meaninglessness.To him, meaninglessness does not make truth a problem but believes itmakes a social order, morality and other human ills problems of greaturgency. This relates to an early claim that meaninglessness is asituation that requires a response. For Freud, he got tired of themeaning of life, and hat meaning and religion are just illusions thatburden man on his existence. For him, he found his answers inscience rather than religion. This whole belief is set on themetaphysical culture, but the thought of meaninglessness shows thatFreud had not gone deep enough in his analysis and research of thematter.
Anotherscientist in the metaphysical culture Rorty helps to explainmeaninglessness his biased aspect. He does not find the wordtroubling a does Freud and states meaninglessness as synonymous withthe fear of death. For him, this more of anxiety on people that theirstory will cease to be told once they are non-existent. He points outmeaninglessness is what helps people not to go to war or to kill oneanother. This is his look at meaning and meaninglessness, and hisdefinition and reaction to the societal way of life show thedifference between the two he points out as an example that there isnothing that tells people to see others as Catholics orPresbyterians. The sensitivity to pain and humiliation among suchfactors are what drives people towards “meaning” according toRorty (Casey, p. 93).
Thesearch for meaning and meaninglessness is also seen in the Biblewhere the author of the book of Ecclesiastes is trying to look forthe meaning and purpose of life. In the whole book he looks at themeaning of life, and at the end, he finds no meaning and declares themeaninglessness of life. In it life without God is meaningless, andthe purpose of life is to find the Lord.
Thiscan be attributed to the reason why many people find meaning inreligion church and spiritual beings. It gives them satisfaction, anda belief in God gives them purpose (Hay, 2010, p. 48).
Thediscussion above has looked in depth the two topics ofmeaninglessness and meaning. The discussion has tried to put into theperspective meaning and what it entails in any person’s life. Ithas shown that meaning is different from different people andpleasure which was unanimously thought to provide meaning to lifedoes not provide pleasure. Meaninglessness, on the other hand, isthought to be a vacuum according to the discussion above. It has beenportrayed as a large of vision and a fear of not being worth. It isworthwhile to not that meaning produces meaninglessness in thatwithout meaning one is lost in meaninglessness (Brown, Brewer, &MacSwain, 2016). With ills like depression and suicide,meaninglessness starts to take shape as the question of taking one’slife is easily answered by one word but then more questions do arisethat need to be answered thus the reason for such studies.
Inconclusion, more studies need to be done on the topics and morereading Don for individuals to put into perspective the questionslike the origin of life, the reason for human existence and the needfor good and bad. More financing is also needed to carter for thevarious researches that are being conducted. Activities like casestudies require a lot of money for concrete conclusions to be made.Ultimately, human beings will keep searching for the answers meaningand meaninglessness and unless they get them, they are not going tostop.
Batthyany,A., & Russo-Netzer, P. (2014). MeaningIn Positive and Existential Psychology.Haifa: Springer.
Benjamin,R. (2016, 04 18). The Pain of Meaninglessness: Whyit hurts to Be Uncertain.Retrieved from The University of British Columbia:https://www.greencollege.ubc.ca/civicrm/event/info?id=281&reset=1
Blocker,G. (1974). TheMeaning of Meaninglessness.Martinus Nijhoff: Springer.
Brown,D., Brewer, C. R., & MacSwain, R. (2016). Godin a Single Vision:Integrating Philosophy and Theology. New York: Routledge.
Burton,N. (2012, 05 24). Man`sSearch for Meaning.Retrieved from Psychology Today:https://psychologytoday.com/hide-and-seek/201205/mans-search-meaning
Casey,M. A. (n.d.). Meaninglessness:The Solutions of Nietzsche, Freud, and Rorty.
Hay,P. (2010). Saturday: Between Tragedy and Triumph. New York.
Reker,G., & Chamberlain, K. (2000). ExploringExistential Meaning.California: Sage Publications Inc.
Schreiner, M. (2015, 04 22). Existencial Crisis And Meaninglessness. Retrieved from Existential Psychology: https://evolutioncounseling.com/existential-crisis-and-meaninglessness/
StanfordEncyclopedia of Philosophy. (2013, 06 03). TheMeaning of Life.Retrieved from Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy:https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/life-meaning/
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