Subjective Meaning in Life

Edward Stuart Russell.jpgEdward Stuart Russell

 Naturalism and Subjective Meaning

Assuming that none of our previous answers to the question of the meaning of life completely satisfies, we now consider the idea that meaning is not something you stumble upon, find or discover, but something you fashion, invent or create. This is the most prevalent view among contemporary philosophers. On this account, life can be meaningful without any supernatural or objective reality if individuals give meaning to their lives. Therefore subjectivists believe that meaning is relative to their desires, attitudes, interests, wants, preferences, etc., and there are no invariant standards of meaning. Something is meaningful to individuals to the extent that they find that thing meaningful, in other words, meaning is constituted by human minds and varies between persons.

Starting tomorrow we’ll look at more than a dozen contemporary thinkers who hold this view. Until then here are a few quotes which hint at the general idea:

The living thing is not the clay molded by the potter, nor the harp played upon by the musician. It is the clay modeling itself. ~ Edward Stuart Russell

There is no golden rule which applies to everyone: every man must find out for himself in what particular fashion he can be saved. ~ Sigmund Freud

I do not know to what great end Destiny leads us, nor do I care very much. Long before that end, I shall have played my part, spoken my lines, and passed on. How I play that part is all that concerns me. In the knowledge that I am an inalienable part of this great, wonderful, upward movement called life, and that nothing, neither pestilence, nor physical affliction, nor depression, nor prison, can take away from me my part, lies my consolation, my inspiration, and my treasure. ~ Owen C. Middleton (after being sentenced to life imprisonment in 1932.)

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