Jeremy Bentham The origins of utilitarianism can be traced back as far as Epicurusbut, as a school of thought, it is credited to Jeremy Bentham who found that "nature has placed mankind under the governance of two sovereign masters, pain and pleasure", then, from that moral insight, deriving the Rule of Utility: He defined the meaning of life as the " greatest happiness principle ".
Author Emily Esfahani Smith explains how one can live a more meaningful life. But a new book, The Power of Meaning: Crafting a Life That Matters, argues that finding meaning in life is ultimately more satisfying than searching for happiness. Author Why meaning in life matters Esfahani Smith says one can find meaning even in tough circumstances to give you a reason to live, whereas a pursuit of happiness focused on satisfying your every whim can still lead to emptiness.
An edited transcript of the conversation follows. What got you thinking down this path?
Most people want to do everything they can to be happy. I certainly thought that myself as I was growing up. But I was a grad student here at the University of Pennsylvania for positive psychology several years ago, and one day we heard a lecture about the difference between a happy life and a meaningful life.
It was eye-opening and provocative because it showed me that the happy life was associated with things like feeling good, being in good physical health, and being a taker versus a giver, to use the language of Adam Grant, a professor here.
That was the germ of idea that led to the book. In many cases, success comes out of leading that meaningful life. The research shows that if you set happiness as your goal and pursue it, value it the way our culture encourages us to do, you can actually end up feeling unhappy and lonely.
But if you set meaning as your goal and devote yourself to living a meaningful life, you experience this deeper and more endearing form of well-being down the road. Many would say the millennial generation is leading the path towards having meaning be an important component of our society.
I remember seeing a study that showed that of all the things that millennials want in a job — financial reward, prestige, status — the No. I would also say that sometimes millennials and non-millennials, all of us, can suffer from some myths about meaning.
We were put on this earth to find meaning. You say meaning can take a variety of different forms. I interviewed all kinds of people about what makes their lives meaningful, and I looked at what the social science research said. No two people told me the same things.
Everyone found meaning on their own. But I did find that there were certain themes that came up again and again. When people talk about what makes their lives meaningful, they talk about having relationships that are defined by a sense of belonging, having a purpose or something worthwhile to do with their time, crafting narratives that help them understand themselves in the world, and having experiences of transcendence or self-loss.
We all have to find it on our own, but I think that there are those universal building blocks that we can all build up in our lives. One of the things you looked at in this book was the element of suicide, which I found very interesting.
Suicide is incredibly impactful, but how does it play into this concept of a meaningful life? A lot of people think of suicide as a problem of unhappiness. Suicide is really a problem of meaning. The best way to get people out of despair and depression is for them to know that their life has a why or a reason.
Is there a link between not having meaning and suicide? Human beings are meaning-seeking creatures. We were put on this earth to find meaning and to live meaningful lives and to know that our lives matter.
If you go back 20, 30 years to that Wall Street culture we all remember, it would seem that was the height of seeking happiness through financial and professional gains and maybe not worrying as much about the meaning part of it.
There was a very hedonic sense of pleasure and happiness that was driving the culture then. Speaking about millennials, there was a study related to this showing that the interest in finding meaning among millennials correlated with the recession. You talk about something called the Pillars of Meaning.4.
Your life matters because you yearn for something better. 3.
Your life matters because you care enough to regret your mistakes. 2. Regardless of how lonely you feel, you are never alone. 1. Your life matters because birth is God saying, “You matter.” Exercise: List more reasons why your life matters!
Record your answer in MyMLC. It happens to the best of us: Sometimes it seems like our lives don’t matter.
Life is the hyphen between matter and spirit. ~Augustus William Hare and Julius Charles Hare, Guesses at Truth, by Two Brothers, My life has a superb cast but I can't figure out the plot. ~Ashleigh Brilliant. I finished reading Susan Wolf's book Meaning in Life and Why It Matters. It was a short book and really terrific. It was a short book and really terrific. In the book, Wolf tries to identify what it would mean to say someone has meaning in life/5. “Under close scrutiny, the division into races according to the colour of skin turns out to be quite the crudest and most obvious method, since there are noticeably inheritable characteristic racial differences among people of identically coloured skins.”.
Whether you are in the depths of depression or have survived an assault on who you are, or even if you are just having a really bad day, sometimes it seems like, “My life doesn’t matter.” However: That thought is wrong. Your life . But a new book, The Power of Meaning: Crafting a Life That Matters, argues that finding meaning in life is ultimately more satisfying than searching for happiness.
Having one fewer child is the most effective way an individual would have to fight climate change.
The next best actions are selling your car, avoiding long flights, and eating a vegetarian diet, according to a study published in Environmental Research Letters. Wolf makes a compelling case that, along with happiness and morality, this kind of meaningfulness constitutes a distinctive dimension of a good life.
Written in a lively and engaging style, and full of provocative examples, Meaning in Life and Why It Matters is a profound and original reflection on a subject of permanent human concern.
Meaning in Life and Why It Matters: Book Description: Most people, including philosophers, tend to classify human motives as falling into one of two categories: the egoistic or the altruistic, the self-interested or the moral.