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Easy Truth

The definition of "a meaningful life"

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Having a meaningful life seems to be a necessity of survival qua man. A meaningless life, is painful, leading to depression anxiety etc.

And granted for each it takes a different path, there are different interests etc.

But there must be a core definition that is common to all. That all meaningful lives share.

Further more, in the context, "meaning" has a particular definition. It is not like reading something and determining what it "means".

Life has to have a meaning.

Well, it is what it is. It has a nature. I have a nature. What can a person bring to it, other than observing this "so called meaning".

In psychology, the closest seems to be the concept of the "flow". Being in the flow.

But one can argue that one can be engrossed in the flow of meaningless activity too.

There is also another aspect, that of being "good", avoiding being "evil".

 

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On 7/20/2019 at 4:05 PM, Easy Truth said:

Having a meaningful life seems to be a necessity of survival qua man.

The meaning of a man's life is chosen, because he has free will. But it's chosen within the context of his values, which are also chosen. If he's primarily selfish, he'll choose and pursue values that are good for him. His meaning, his purpose, is then to gain those values necessary for his well-being. If he's primarily unselfish, his life will be defined by behavior that is not necessary for his well-being. And if he's altruistic, he'll act for the benefit of others over his own interests.

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Rand said that life is an end in itself, and I incline to think having a meaningful life includes in its center knowing and being true to human life as an end in itself.

I incline to think also that having a meaningful human life has in its structure what Rand said about Pride as virtue in human life:

“As man must produce the physical values he needs to sustain his life, so he must acquire the values of character that make his life worth sustaining . . . to live requires a sense of self-value, but man, who has no automatic values, has no automatic sense of self-esteem and must earn it by shaping his soul in the image of his moral ideal, in the image of Man, the rational being he is born able to create, but must create by choice.” (1957, 1021)

What should be in that “image of Man” I kind of think are elements I’ve noticed people derive meaning from. Indeed, continuous rationality, but more particularly productions such as earning a living or bringing one’s creative tugs to a reality or productions such as good relationships or accomplishing care of one’s loved ones or indeed of humans more generally or accomplishing making children. We seem rigged up to find meaning in accomplishment in those various channels. I mean that all under the wing of rationality. People find semblance of meaning in irrational, destructive projects, of course, but those are not rightly housed in the “image of Man.”

 

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16 hours ago, MisterSwig said:

The meaning of a man's life is chosen, because he has free will. But it's chosen within the context of his values, which are also chosen.

Yes, but are all of his values chosen? Aren't some of one's values "inclinations/tendencies" that one is born with. As in some have a craving for sugary stuff. Some sleep only 4 hours, some can't sleep less than 8 (like me). Apparently men like "things" and women prefer "people" which pushes people into those type of careers.(I saw this in a Jordan Peterson interview).

In other words, I would agree with "within the context of his values", but it seems that the context, takes away some free will.

When I was formally doing "growth work", i.e. working on my self psychologically, usually it is about changing oneself, going a better direction. Sometimes one sees its won't happen, I have tried everything, and it is concluded that "this is me", this is who I am, it is not going to change. As in "I will never be skinny", "I will never obtain a Doctorate in Anthropology", become like my father etc. etc.

I suppose capability and talent also shape one's values, as in preventing certain avenues from being pursued.

Bottom line, if a young person asks you, "how can I make my life meaningful", the question one asks is "what do you really want in life?". They sometimes will ask "What should I want?". Now one can warn that it is a way of becoming a "second hander", that the person has the obligation to come up with the answer for them self.

That is all well and good, but it does not answer the question what is "meaningful" for a human being. In other words, what does "meaningful" mean in this context.

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9 hours ago, Boydstun said:

As man must produce the physical values he needs to sustain his life, so he must acquire the values of character that make his life worth sustaining .

Which is kind of a circular answer in that the person is asking "what is worth sustaining". Isn't this basically determined by emotional response? Not sure when rationality comes in without knowing what you like.

Your examples are in fact what the young person wants to know. The hypothetical young person is asking for advice on how to give meaning in his life and the examples you give should be helpful.

Now, the idea of "his moral ideal" can be interpreted as subjective or objective.

On the other hand "image of man" seems to be objective. What does "image of man" mean in this context"? In theory that could help my hypothetical young person. 

But ... there is the person that has done ALL that he set out to do. Now, he is in a sense, restarting his life, the question of meaning comes up again. He has done the career and the children thing. Now what? What objective image of man is there to follow in this case?

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6 hours ago, Easy Truth said:

Yes, but are all of his values chosen? Aren't some of one's values "inclinations/tendencies" that one is born with. As in some have a craving for sugary stuff. Some sleep only 4 hours, some can't sleep less than 8 (like me). Apparently men like "things" and women prefer "people" which pushes people into those type of careers.(I saw this in a Jordan Peterson interview).

In other words, I would agree with "within the context of his values", but it seems that the context, takes away some free will.

Free will is not magic. It doesn't mysteriously imbue an item with value to you. Being an objective value means that the thing is of value to you whether you choose it or not, because its value arises from its real relationship to you, not your mental grasp of its nature. Some values are optional and some are required for your life. You can't live, for example, unless you choose to continue breathing oxygen, eating food, and drinking water. But you could live and be happy without ever eating an apple, though an apple is still an objective value to you (unless you're allergic to apples). You just don't need to choose it in particular, because there are many more options for food. So even at the most basic level of survival, you must choose your life's values or die. You start with the life or death choice, and that begins when you develop free will as a young child and learn to make careful choices.

Inclinations, like craving sugar, do not take away free will. Your physical withdrawal symptoms might make it harder to resist sugar, but you still have free will. And with some guidance and self-control you could wean yourself off a high-sugar diet.

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14 hours ago, Easy Truth said:

Which is kind of a circular answer in that the person is asking "what is worth sustaining". Isn't this basically determined by emotional response? Not sure when rationality comes in without knowing what you like.

Your examples are in fact what the young person wants to know. The hypothetical young person is asking for advice on how to give meaning in his life and the examples you give should be helpful.

Now, the idea of "his moral ideal" can be interpreted as subjective or objective.

On the other hand "image of man" seems to be objective. What does "image of man" mean in this context"? In theory that could help my hypothetical young person. 

But ... there is the person that has done ALL that he set out to do. Now, he is in a sense, restarting his life, the question of meaning comes up again. He has done the career and the children thing. Now what? What objective image of man is there to follow in this case?

Rand thought the human animal to have no automatic, instinctual knowledge of what was good or evil for him. She held that man had a nature of rationality, and that this rationality is held as a value in the individual man only by choice (1957, 1013). Part of his rational nature would be the deliverances of the senses automatically giving information in general and pleasure/pain valence in particular. Those primitive elements for rationality, in Rand’s understanding, are not susceptible to human choice however much humans may try to rub out their validity and replace them with feelings (1037).

She maintained, as mentioned earlier, that humans have a life-or-death need of self-esteem (also at 1057), that in truth this self-esteem is (and is at some level generally known to be) “reliance on one’s power to think,” that self-esteem is rightly attached to being morally right, and that a false morality—one valorizing not thinking, not thinking for oneself—can render one’s self-esteem incoherent, a mess (1030–31). Calling the name John Galt in that novel can be calling one’s own “betrayed self-esteem” (1060).

In the 1961 essay “The Objectivist Ethics,” Rand wrote:

“By what means does [man] first become aware of the issue of ‘good or evil’ in its simplest form? By means of the physical sensations of pleasure or pain. Just as sensations are the first step of the development of a human consciousness in the realm of cognition, so they are its first step in the realm of evaluation.

“The capacity to experience pleasure or pain is innate in a man’s body; it is part of his nature, part of the kind of the kind of entity he is.”

She described animals below man having automatic ways of living action enlisting only sensation or sensation together with the automatic integration of sensations into percepts, giving perceptual consciousness of entities in the world, though no freedom over the animal’s governing consciousness or over its range. She regarded man as having that much automatic correct, reality-given inputs to cognition and to evaluation. So his higher-order, volitional cognitive and evaluative powers do not take off from a blank or get no feedback from those lower-level processes.

There are two levels to one’s “moral ideal, the image of Man.” There is what Rand would put into it for all men (not brain-damaged and so forth), and this is what she puts into the moral ideals of ethical theory. That is, that much she writes (explicitly) into basic values and virtues of her ethical theory. She personifies them in her fictional character John Galt. That much of John Galt is to be an ideal for everyone. But his love of particular areas of physics or of a particular woman are parts of him that are the realization of the general ethical ideal, but can vary from person to person still holding the same general ideal “image of Man.”

Sorry so much of this is old hat, but I needed to recount it to reach the point that whether one is crafting a general frame in the “moral ideal, the image of Man” or whether one is persuaded that Rand’s general specification is right and one is only figuring out what to do with one’s own particular likes, aversions, and abilities in bringing about the ideal in one’s own case, one doesn’t need to ignore one’s feelings nor accept them without critically examining them as they are used as inputs for one’s craft of “values of character that make [one’s] life worth sustaining.”  

Before I read Rand’s 1943 and 1957, I was a devout altruist. The way in which she changed me was by subjecting different systems to rational criticism and by appeal to other values (feelings, a key manifestation of them) that we both already shared. And those two factors could also persuade one to some new virtues of character, significantly modifying the old ones.

“The image of Man” is image of fundamental nature of man but also a norm in Rand’s presentation (for man must be Man by choice). It’s somewhat like “image of God” in man taking after God by possessing reason, although God can’t be a full normative model for man because of radical differences of nature between the two.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

ET, an elderly woman dear to me would say to me, Why is God still keeping me here? I can’t do anything or be of any use to anyone anymore.

I think I told her of how good it was for her younger loved ones to be able to enjoy her company. She was still able to talk, as she and I were doing on the phone, and we could stir up each other’s recollections of people and experiences we had shared decades ago.

I am 70. I’m still doing my same creating most important to me. I still have an important work or two in progress. Even if their completion would complete my reach (really, no grasp could match my reach), I think I could still find continued, closing life meaningful. With enough health and memory, I hope to just keep looking back to my accomplishments, including loves attained, here where is the place and future of any value and meaning.

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