Discussion Meaning of Human Life

March 8, 2022
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Discussion Meaning of Human Life

Discussion Meaning of Human Life

Both eastern and western philosophers have wondered about the meaning of human life. For example, in the Confucian tradition, meaning is said to be found in the fulfillment of social roles and in the development of character virtues. The tradition of Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle agree on the importance of character development. Character development is an important of religions such as Christianity. In this section, you will consider whether or not human life is objectively meaningful and, if so, why. From the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, read the article, The Meaning of Life.

Listen to The Meaning of Life audio presentation about a fictional dialogue that takes place on Mars Hill, Athens, on the anniversary of Socrates’s death and after a symposium held in his honor by his student, Plato. The series of papers delivered at the symposium were to comprise a festschrift (commemorative volume) to Socrates. The dialogue follows the symposium and is an informal gathering of the scholars who convened, along with inquisitive students who attended.
We all wonder about the meaning of life, but is the answer to this question subjective or objective? A subjective meaning of life would mean the actual meaning is open to interpretation and that the answer is relative to individual or social opinion. An objective meaning of life means that there is only one right answer, and the truth of the answer is independent of individual or social opinion; that is, the answer is true even if nobody believes it.

For this discussion, distinguish between a subjective and an objective meaning of human life. What is the difference? Is there an objective meaning of human life? Why or why not?

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 many 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.

The meaning of life, as we perceive it, is derived from philosophical and religious contemplation of, and scientific inquiries about existence, social ties, consciousness, and happiness. Many other issues are also involved, such as symbolic meaning, ontology, value, purpose, ethics, good and evil, free will, the existence of one or multiple gods, conceptions of God, the soul, and the afterlife. Scientific contributions focus primarily on describing related empirical facts about the universe, exploring the context and parameters concerning the “how” of life. Science also studies and can provide recommendations for the pursuit of well-being and a related conception of morality. An alternative, humanistic approach poses the question, “What is the meaning of my life?”

Scientific inquiry and perspectives
Further information: Eudaimonia § Eudaimonia and modern psychology, and Meaningful Life
Many members of the scientific community and philosophy of science communities think that science can provide the relevant context, and set of parameters necessary for dealing with topics related to the meaning of life. In their view, science can offer a wide range of insights on topics ranging from the science of happiness to death anxiety. Scientific inquiry facilitates this through nomological investigation into various aspects of life and reality, such as the Big Bang, the origin of life, and evolution, and by studying the objective factors which correlate with the subjective experience of meaning and happiness.

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Psychological significance and value in life
Researchers in positive psychology study empirical factors that lead to life satisfaction,[15] full engagement in activities,[16] making a fuller contribution by utilizing one’s personal strengths,[17] and meaning based on investing in something larger than the self.[18] Large-data studies of flow experiences have consistently suggested that humans experience meaning and fulfillment when mastering challenging tasks and that the experience comes from the way tasks are approached and performed rather than the particular choice of task. For example, flow experiences can be obtained by prisoners in concentration camps with minimal facilities, and occur only slightly more often in billionaires. A classic example[16] is of two workers on an apparently boring production line in a factory. One treats the work as a tedious chore while the other turns it into a game to see how fast she can make each unit and achieves flow in the process.

Neuroscience describes reward, pleasure, and motivation in terms of neurotransmitter activity, especially in the limbic system and the ventral tegmental area in particular. If one believes that the meaning of life is to maximize pleasure and to ease general life, then this allows normative predictions about how to act to achieve this. Likewise, some ethical naturalists advocate a science of morality—the empirical pursuit of flourishing for all conscious creatures.

Experimental philosophy and neuroethics research collects data about human ethical decisions in controlled scenarios such as trolley problems. It has shown that many types of ethical judgment are universal across cultures, suggesting that they may be innate, whilst others are culture-specific. The findings show actual human ethical reasoning to be at odds with most logical philosophical theories, for example consistently showing distinctions between action by cause and action by omission which would be absent from utility-based theories. Cognitive science has theorized about differences between conservative and liberal ethics and how they may be based on different metaphors from family life such as strong fathers vs nurturing mother models.

Neurotheology is a controversial field which tries to find neural correlates and mechanisms of religious experience. Some researchers have suggested that the human brain has innate mechanisms for such experiences and that living without using them for their evolved purposes may be a cause of imbalance. Studies have reported conflicting results on correlating happiness with religious belief and it is difficult to find unbiased meta-analyses.[19][20]

Sociology examines value at a social level using theoretical constructs such as value theory, norms, anomie, etc. One value system suggested by social psychologists, broadly called Terror Management Theory, states that human meaning is derived from a fundamental fear of death, and values are selected when they allow us to escape the mental reminder of death.

Alongside this, there are a number of theories about the way in which humans evaluate the positive and negative aspects of their existence and thus the value and meaning they place on their lives. For example, depressive realism posits an exaggerated positivity in all except those experiencing depressive disorders who see life as it truly is, and David Benatar theorises that more weight is generally given to positive experiences, providing bias towards an over-optimistic view of life.

Emerging research shows that meaning in life predicts better physical health outcomes. Greater meaning has been associated with a reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease,[21] reduced risk of heart attack among individuals with coronary heart disease,[22] reduced risk of stroke,[23] and increased longevity in both American and Japanese samples.[24] In 2014, the British National Health Service began recommending a five-step plan for mental well-being based on meaningful lives, whose steps are:[25]

Connect with community and family
Physical exercise
Lifelong learning
Giving to others
Mindfulness of the world around you

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