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What is the meaning of life ?

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What is the meaning of human life? Does life have a meaning? How can one give direction to his existence? Philosophical and spiritual approach.

Every human being wonders about the meaning of life, especially when he goes through a period of doubt, malaise or depression, or when he sees misfortune and suffering in the world. This is a fundamental metaphysical question.

For nihilists, life has no meaning: existence is absurd and it is pointless to search for an explanation or truth.

For existentialists, it is up to each individual to choose his destiny, his values and the meaning of his life, beyond concepts, doctrines or morals.

In our Western society, the question of the meaning of life is often treated utilitarian: The goal is to feel pleasure, to be happy, to forget what hurts. We want to enjoy and flourish, for example through travel, consumption or celebration.

For others, the goal is to create a family and raise their children: The meaning of life is then to pass on life and the values and knowledge associated with it.

Before we try to answer the question “What is the meaning of life?” we should deal with the definitions of the words “meaning” and “life”.

What is the meaning of life? Definition of “meaning” and “life.”

The word “meaning” has three meanings:

  • sensation,
  • direction,
  • meaning (of a word, phrase, act, or life in general).

However, each of these three meanings sheds light on the question of the meaning of life:

  • ” sensations ” (through the five senses) enable interaction with the environment: this is one of the characteristics of living beings,
  • ” direction ” is an orientation, a choice. But the phenomenon of life evokes a path, a path underpinned by goals (progress, survival, perseverance, transmission, etc.),
  • Finally, the “meaning” refers directly to the question “Why life?” to which there is no universal answer.

The biological phenomenon of life: interpretation.

Life as a biological phenomenon can be defined as a force capable of forming matter. In fact, life feeds on inert matter, which it transforms, shapes and orders.

Life adapts, programs itself. It is intelligence and will to order.

We can see life as a set of “values”:

  • perseverance,
  • courage,
  • hope,
  • progress (complexity, etc.),
  • acceptance,
  • beauty,
  • harmony,
  • strength,
  • creativity, ,
  • etc…

Let us go further and quote other values of life:

  • unity: life overcomes its internal struggles (predation, wars, etc.) to emerge stronger as a whole,
  • love: life accepts difficulties and death; it never goes against its opponents (inert matter, hostile environment), but knows how to use them to improve and advance,
  • solidarity: living beings sacrifice themselves for the cause of their species and of life in general.
  • Wisdom: life does not take sides, does not judge, has no enemy: it only adapts. Cataclysms and destructive phenomena do not require a revolt of life, but a simple retreat to better recover.

In the end, the words life and meaning are synonymous: life IS meaning. To love life is to embrace the values ​​that make it meaningful.

Does life have a meaning? The philosopher’s approach.

Philosophy (philo-sophia: “love of wisdom”) is not only a reflection on the great metaphysical questions, but also and above all an ethic of life.

The philosopher seeks the logic of thought, and consequently he orders his thought, gives it a meaning, which establishes his ethics and which is for him the meaning of life.

The philosopher is in search of the knowledge of the great universal laws; he adheres to morality and strives for wisdom.

For the philosopher, the search for happiness is not an end in itself. He is above all in search of truth, but a search that may well lead him to happiness and serenity. This could be the meaning of his life.

What is the meaning of life in Christianity?

In Christianity, life is sacred. Its meaning comes from faith, which makes possible the intimate encounter with Jesus and the covenant with God.

In that day you will know that I am in my Father, that you are in me, and that I am in you. He who has my commandments and keeps them is he who loves me; and he who loves me will be loved by my Father; I will love him and will make myself known to him.
John 14, 20-21

The meaning of the Christian life is love, acceptance of evil (cf. the Passion), forgiveness and sacrifice. Far from being a weakness, self-giving is a virtue that gives access to grace and the Kingdom of God. For only love can dissolve evil.

This vision is accompanied by moral values and an ethic of life:

  • The three theological virtues are faith, hope and charity;
  • The four cardinal virtues are prudence, temperance, fortitude and justice.

The meaning of life in Buddhism.

Buddhism is based on the statement that life is suffering. This suffering is caused by ignorance, attachment and aversion, three “poisons” that make beings prisoners of their thoughts, their desires and their fears.

Understanding this unhealthy mechanism is the first stage of liberation. Buddhism then describes a path that leads to the extinction of suffering: the Noble Eightfold Path. This consists of an ethic of life and practices to be respected, including respect, benevolence, effort, and meditation.

At the end of the path is Nirvana: the extinction of all suffering, the attainment of a pure and perfect consciousness that allows access to inner peace and truth.

What is the meaning of life in Taoism?

Taoism calls both to accept and overcome the duality that characterizes our existence in the manifested world:

If you want to be whole,
let yourself be partial.
If you want to be straight,
let yourself be twisted.
If you want to be full,
let yourself be empty.
If you want to be reborn,
let yourself die.
If you want everything to be offered to you,
give up everything you have.
(…) The Master, because he has no goal,
succeeds in everything he does.
Tao Te Ching, 22

Taoism also invites us to accept the world as it is:

Do you want to make the world a better place?
I don’t think that can be done.
The world is perfect.
You can’t make it better.
The Master sees things as they are,
without trying to control them.
He lets them take their course,
and remains in the center.
Tao Te Ching, 29

The acceptance of the order of the world (the Tao ) leads the individual to abandon his ego , his judgments and his ambitions, giving him access to serenity and happiness:

Open to the Tao,
then trust your natural responses;
and everything will take its place.
Tao Te Ching, 23

This, then, is the meaning of life in Taoism.


What is the meaning of life? This is an intimate question, but also and above all a personal quest, which leads above all through better self-knowledge.

For the philosopher, the meaning of life consists precisely in trying to find its meaning. For the mystic, life is IS meaning. For the believer, life is that energy that orders chaos through its generosity and the power of its infinite love.

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