Meaning (existential)

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Meaning in existentialism is descriptive; therefore it is unlike typical, prescriptive conceptions of "the meaning of life".[ citation needed ] Due to the methods of existentialism, prescriptive or declarative statements about meaning are unjustified[ citation needed ]. The root of the word "meaning" is "mean", which is the way someone or something is conveyed, interpreted, or represented. Each individual has his or her own form of unique perspective; meaning is, therefore, purely subjective. Meaning is the way something is understood by an individual; in turn, this subjective meaning is also how the individual may identify it. Meaning is the personal significance of something physical or abstract. This would include the assigning of value(s) to such significance. [1] [ failed verification ]

Existentialism Philosophical study that begins with the acting, feeling, living human individual

Existentialism is the philosophical study that begins with the human subject—not merely the thinking subject, but the acting, feeling, living human individual. It is associated mainly with certain 19th and 20th-century European philosophers who, despite profound doctrinal differences, shared the belief in that beginning of philosophical thinking.

Meaning of life Philosophical and spiritual question concerning the significance of living or existence in general

The meaning of life, or the answer to the question: "What is the meaning of life?", pertains to the significance of living or existence in general. Many other related questions include: "Why are we here?", "What is life all about?", or "What is the purpose of existence?" There have been a large number of proposed answers to these questions from many different cultural and ideological backgrounds. The search for life's meaning has produced much philosophical, scientific, theological, and metaphysical speculation throughout history. Different people and cultures believe different things for the answer to this question.

Contents

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.

Søren Kierkegaard [2]

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. [3] [ citation needed ]

Sartre

"Existence precedes essence" means that humans exist 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 come 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. [4]

Existence The ability of an entity to interact with physical or mental reality

Existence is the ability of an entity to interact with physical or mental reality.

Atheism is, in the broadest sense, the absence of belief in the existence of deities. Less broadly, atheism is the rejection of belief that any deities exist. In an even narrower sense, atheism is specifically the position that there are no deities. Atheism is contrasted with theism, which, in its most general form, is the belief that at least one deity exists.

Frankl

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". [5] 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. [6]

Philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche Philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche

Friedrich Nietzsche developed his philosophy during the late 19th century. He owed the awakening of his philosophical interest to reading Arthur Schopenhauer's Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung and said that Schopenhauer was one of the few thinkers that he respected, dedicating to him his essay Schopenhauer als Erzieher, published in 1874 as one of his Untimely Meditations.

Alfred Adler Austrian psychiatrist and psychotherapist

Alfred Adler was an Austrian medical doctor, psychotherapist, and founder of the school of individual psychology. His emphasis on the importance of feelings of inferiority, the inferiority complex, is recognized as an isolating element which plays a key role in personality development. Alfred Adler considered a human being as an individual whole, therefore he called his psychology "Individual Psychology".

The will to power is a prominent concept in the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. The will to power describes what Nietzsche may have believed to be the main driving force in humans. However, the concept was never systematically defined in Nietzsche's work, leaving its interpretation open to debate.

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

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.
    About Logotherapy [7]

Logotherapy was developed by psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl.

The Holocaust Genocide of the European Jews by Nazi Germany and other groups

The Holocaust, also known as the Shoah, was the World War II genocide of the European Jews. Between 1941 and 1945, across German-occupied Europe, Nazi Germany and its collaborators systematically murdered some six million Jews, around two-thirds of Europe's Jewish population. The murders were carried out in pogroms and mass shootings; by a policy of extermination through labour in concentration camps; and in gas chambers and gas vans in German extermination camps, chiefly Auschwitz, Bełżec, Chełmno, Majdanek, Sobibór, and Treblinka in occupied Poland.

Viktor Frankl Austrian neurologist and psychiatrist

Viktor Emil Frankl was an Austrian psychologist as well as a Holocaust survivor. Surviving Theresienstadt, Auschwitz, Kaufering and Türkheim. Frankl was the founder of logotherapy, the will to meaning and is most notable for the best-selling book Man's Search for Meaning an account within the concentration camp hierarchy, where in various camps he practiced, 'concluded' and several times quotes, the validity of means, for Nietzchean survival. Man's Search for Meaning has sold over 12 million copies. After which, Frankl was for a time, a minor figure in existential therapy and influenced humanistic psychology.

See also

Related Research Articles

Søren Kierkegaard Danish philosopher and theologian, precursor of Existentialism

Søren Aabye Kierkegaard was a Danish philosopher, theologian, poet, social critic and religious author who is widely considered to be the first existentialist philosopher. He wrote critical texts on organized religion, Christendom, morality, ethics, psychology, and the philosophy of religion, displaying a fondness for metaphor, irony and parables. Much of his philosophical work deals with the issues of how one lives as a "single individual", giving priority to concrete human reality over abstract thinking and highlighting the importance of personal choice and commitment. He was against literary critics who defined idealist intellectuals and philosophers of his time, and thought that Swedenborg, Hegel, Fichte, Schelling, Schlegel and Hans Christian Andersen were all "understood" far too quickly by "scholars".

Absurdism Conflict between the human tendency to seek inherent value and meaning in life and the human inability to find any in a purposeless, meaningless or chaotic and irrational universe

In philosophy, "the Absurd" refers to the conflict between the human tendency to seek inherent value and meaning in life and the human inability to find any in a purposeless, meaningless or chaotic and irrational universe. The universe and the human mind do not each separately cause the Absurd, but rather, the Absurd arises by the contradictory nature of the two existing simultaneously.

<i>Fear and Trembling</i>

Fear and Trembling is a philosophical work by Søren Kierkegaard, published in 1843 under the pseudonym Johannes de silentio. The title is a reference to a line from Philippians 2:12, "...continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling." — itself a probable reference to Psalms 55:5, "Fear and trembling came upon me...".

<i>Mans Search for Meaning</i> 1946 book by Viktor Frankl

Man's Search for Meaning is a 1946 book by Viktor Frankl chronicling his experiences as a prisoner in Nazi concentration camps during World War II, and describing his psychotherapeutic method, which involved identifying a purpose in life to feel positively about, and then immersively imagining that outcome. According to Frankl, the way a prisoner imagined the future affected his longevity. The book intends to answer the question "How was everyday life in a concentration camp reflected in the mind of the average prisoner?" Part One constitutes Frankl's analysis of his experiences in the concentration camps, while Part Two introduces his ideas of meaning and his theory called logotherapy.

In philosophy, essence is the property or set of properties that make an entity or substance what it fundamentally is, and which it has by necessity, and without which it loses its identity. Essence is contrasted with accident: a property that the entity or substance has contingently, without which the substance can still retain its identity. The concept originates rigorously with Aristotle, who used the Greek expression to ti ên einai or sometimes the shorter phrase to ti esti for the same idea. This phrase presented such difficulties for its Latin translators that they coined the word essentia to represent the whole expression. For Aristotle and his scholastic followers, the notion of essence is closely linked to that of definition.

Logotherapy was developed by neurologist and psychiatrist Viktor Frankl, on a concept based on the premise that the primary motivational force of an individual is to find a meaning in life. It is considered the "Third Viennese School of Psychotherapy" along with Freud's psychoanalysis and Adler's individual psychology.

Christian existentialism An existentialist approach to Christian theology

Christian existentialism is a theo-philosophical movement which takes an existentialist approach to Christian theology. The school of thought is often traced back to the work of the Danish philosopher and theologian Søren Kierkegaard (1813–1855).

Existential psychotherapy is a form of psychotherapy based on the model of human nature and experience developed by the existential tradition of European philosophy. It focuses on concepts that are universally applicable to human existence including death, freedom, responsibility, and the meaning of life. Instead of regarding human experiences such as anxiety, alienation and depression as implying the presence of mental illness, existential psychotherapy sees these experiences as natural stages in a normal process of human development and maturation. In facilitating this process of development and maturation, existential psychotherapy involves a philosophical exploration of an individual's experiences while stressing the individual's freedom and responsibility to facilitate a higher degree of meaning and well-being in his or her life.

<i>The Concept of Anxiety</i> book

The Concept of Anxiety : A Simple Psychologically Orienting Deliberation on the Dogmatic Issue of Hereditary Sin, is a philosophical work written by Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard in 1844. The original 1944 English translation by Walter Lowrie, had the title The Concept of Dread. The Concept of Anxiety was dedicated "to the late professor Poul Martin Møller". He used the pseudonym Vigilius Haufniensis for The Concept of Anxiety.

Existential crisis feeling

An existential crisis is a moment at which an individual questions if their life has meaning, purpose, or value. It may be commonly, but not necessarily, tied to depression or inevitably negative speculations on purpose in life. This issue of the meaning and purpose of human existence is a major focus of the philosophical tradition of existentialism.

The philosophy of Søren Kierkegaard has been a major influence in the development of 20th-century philosophy, especially existentialism and postmodernism. Kierkegaard was a 19th-century Danish philosopher who has been labeled by many as the "Father of Existentialism", although there are some in the field who express doubt in labeling him an existentialist to begin with. His philosophy also influenced the development of existential psychology.

<i>Edifying Discourses in Diverse Spirits</i> book by Søren Kierkegaard

Edifying Discourses in Diverse Spirits, also Upbuilding Discourses in Various Spirits was published on March 13, 1847, by Søren Kierkegaard. The book is divided into three parts just as Either/Or was in 1843 and many of his other discourses were. Kierkegaard had been working toward creating a place for the concepts of guilt and sin in the conscience of the single individual. He discussed the ideas generated by both Johann von Goethe and Friedrich Hegel concerning reason and nature. This book is his response to the ideas that nature and reason are perfect.

The proposition that existence precedes essence is a central claim of existentialism, which reverses the traditional philosophical view that the essence of a thing is more fundamental and immutable than its existence. To existentialists, human beings—through their consciousness—create their own values and determine a meaning for their life because the human being does not possess any inherent identity or value. That identity or value must be created by the individual. By posing the acts that constitute them, they make their existence more significant.

Abandonment, in philosophy, refers to the infinite freedom of humanity without the existence of a condemning or omnipotent higher power. Original existentialism explores the liminal experiences of anxiety, death, "the nothing" and nihilism; the rejection of science as an adequate framework for understanding human being; and the introduction of "authenticity" as the norm of self-identity, tied to the project of self-definition through freedom, choice, and commitment. Existential thought bases itself fundamentally in the idea that one's identity is constituted neither by nature nor by culture, since to "exist" is precisely to constitute such an identity. It is from this foundation that one can begin to understand abandonment and forlornness.

Atheistic existentialism is a kind of existentialism which strongly diverged from the Christian existential works of Søren Kierkegaard and developed within the context of an atheistic world view. The philosophies of Søren Kierkegaard and Friedrich Nietzsche provided existentialism's theoretical foundation in the 19th century, although their differing views on religion proved essential to the development of alternate types of existentialism. Atheistic existentialism was formally recognized after the 1943 publication of Being and Nothingness by Jean-Paul Sartre and Sartre later explicitly alluded to it in Existentialism is a Humanism in 1946.

Existential nihilism is the philosophical theory that life has no intrinsic meaning or value. With respect to the universe, existential nihilism suggests that a single human or even the entire human species is insignificant, without purpose and unlikely to change in the totality of existence. According to the theory, each individual is an isolated being born into the universe, barred from knowing ‘why’, yet compelled to invent meaning. The inherent meaninglessness of life is largely explored in the philosophical school of existentialism, where one can potentially create their own subjective ’meaning’ or ’purpose’. Of all types of nihilism, existential nihilism has received the most literary and philosophical attention.

Philosophy of life formal: academic study of the fields of aesthetics, ethics, epistemology, logic, metaphysics, as well as social and political philosophy

There are at least two senses in which the term philosophy is used: a formal and an informal sense. In the formal sense, philosophy is an academic study of the fields of aesthetics, ethics, epistemology, logic, metaphysics, as well as social and political philosophy. One's "philosophy of life" is philosophy in the informal sense, as a personal philosophy, whose focus is resolving the existential questions about the human condition.

Thomas Henry Croxall was an English minister in Copenhagen, instrumental in translating the work of Søren Kierkegaard and introducing him to an English audience.

References

  1. Crowell, Steven (16 October 2017). Zalta, Edward N. (ed.). The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Metaphysics Research Lab, Stanford University via Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
  2. Kierkegaard, Søren. Howard V. Hong & Edna H Hong (ed.). Soren Kierkegaard's Journals and Papers, Part 1: Autobiographical, 1829--1848. p. 34.
  3. Kierkegaard, S. The Essential Kierkegaard, Eds. Howard and Edna Hong. Princeton, 2000. P. 10.
  4. Existentialism is a humanism, Jean-Paul Sartre, (L'existentialisme est un humanisme) 1946 Lecture
  5. Seidner, Stanley S. (June 10, 2009) "A Trojan Horse: Logotherapeutic Transcendence and its Secular Implications for Theology". Mater Dei Institute. p 5.
  6. "Tenets". Logotherapy Institute. Archived March 24, 2009, at the Wayback Machine
  7. 1 2 "Viktor Frankl Institute of Logotherapy". www.logotherapyinstitute.org.