Meaning of life
From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
The meaning of life is a philosophical question concerning the significance of life or existence in general. It can also be expressed in different forms, such as "Why are we here?", "What is life all about?", and "What is the purpose of existence?" It has been the subject of much philosophical, scientific, and theological speculation throughout history. There have been a large number of proposed answers to these questions from many different cultural and ideological backgrounds.
The meaning of life is in the philosophical and religious conceptions of existence, social ties, consciousness, and happiness, and borders on many other issues, 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?" The value of the question pertaining to the purpose of life may coincide with the achievement of ultimate reality, or a feeling of oneness, or even a feeling of sacredness.
Popular culture treatments
The mystery of life and its meaning is an often recurring subject in popular culture, featured in entertainment media and various forms of art, and more specifically in music, literature and visual arts, for example:
- in books like Viktor Frankl's Man's Search for Meaning, Ken Wilber's Sex, Ecology, Spirituality, Norman O. Brown's Life Against Death: The Psychoanalytic Meaning of History, Oswald Spengler's The Decline of the West, Daniel Dennett's Darwin's Dangerous Idea: Evolution and the Meanings of Life;
- and in paintings like Paul Gauguin's Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going?, Edvard Munch's The Scream, John Martin's The End of the World, Hieronymus Bosch's Ascent of the Blessed, Hans Memling's The Last Judgment triptych and Thomas Cole's The Voyage of Life series.
- Origin and nature of life and reality
- Value of life
- Purpose of life