2017/03/24 Meanings of Lives

I have been reading Jean-Paul Sartre's Being and Nothingness, and it inevitably makes me think about the meaning of my life. The book is considered as the principal work of existentialism, a theory that argues existence precedes essence. If the reverse is true, that is, if essence is prior to existence, it follows that we should live according to the essence of the human being. Essence gives your life the meaning. But according to existentialism, there is no prefixed meaning of life. You have to choose your essence, the meaning of your life. I find myself inclined to this position because it matches with my life experience. However, on the other hand, I am prone to think that it doesn't really matter if life bears no meaning at all. So, I have to see what existentialists have to say about this opinion.

Working as I do as a part-time teacher, my life is teeming with chances to speak with teenagers. Some of them have already found a meaning in studying but I am more often than not surprised to see how monolithic it is, although I know it is difficult for them to find a unique one. They say they study so as to find a stable job which pays them well. But as far as I remember, when I was fourteen, I had already been fed up with life in which you had to commute all the way on a packed train to work. Of course, I didn't work at that age, but I went to school by train so I could see how adults were experiencing their lives.

You may well be wondering how I chose my own meaning of life. It is written in this article and according to Sartre, this way of choosing is an instance of what he calls bad faith. You can learn more about existentialism and its implications in the video below.


Existentialism: Crash Course Philosophy #16