Finding a way to make your life more meaningful can be a very tricky process. This process can be even more tricky or amplified if you don’t really know what makes life meaningful. More importantly, if you don’t know what makes life more meaningful and unique for you in your own way, it would seem that you might end up looking back with regrets as you reflect at the end of your days. Susan Wolf has a good take on ways to make life more meaningful in her writing “ Meaning In Life.” In the next few paragraphs not only will I dissect and elaborate on her take on what makes for a meaningful life, I will also explain why I agree and disagree on certain aspects of her views. Having a meaningful life is one that consist of goals, having a life filled joy, excitement and above all, the ability to adapt to life’s changes. As AJ Ayer stated in, “The Claims of Philosophy “ How can life in general be said to have any meaning? All events are heading towards a specific end result.”
Susan Wolf begins her argument about what makes for a meaningful life by saying that a “ meaningful life is one where the participant is actively engaged in projects of worth.” I agree with statement. If one does not feel as if there is worth in what they are doing, then that task at at hand is not going to add value to their life. For example, if one is involved in a job that doesn’t bring them happiness in anyway, then it is up to that person to find something outside of that particular job that will bring some sort of fulfillment in their life.
Susan wolf says that “ A person is actively engaged if they are involved with something they are gripped and excited by.” I think in theory, this is a great idea and for the most part I agree with this statement. However, one problem that I see with this is that it is possible to have passion for something or even feel fulfilled in our life if it is something that we are not engaged in. Wolf also goes onto say that the “ Opposite of an active engagement is boredom and alienation.” This I do not agree with. One can be engaged and even feel passion for something and still become bored. WIth the alienation aspect, I think there are plenty of instances when one may feel fulfilled, excited and engaged in something such as online gaming. I use this as an example because it’s not only relevant to our present time period, but because it is an activity that lots of people seem to take pleasure in and feel excited about. It is also something that may not be considered as a “ project of worth” that can bring fulfillment into one’s life.
Wolf’s last statement in “ Meaning in Life” is somewhat accurate when it comes to having a more meaningful life. She writes “ The idea is that in a world in which some things are more worthwhile than others, meaning arises when a subject discovers affinity for one or typically several discoveries to engage in in a positive way.” I agree with this statement to a degree. However, I also see that the idea is one that is a little far fetched. I say this because when we really think about it, can we honestly say that just because someone may have many tasks that they happen to find joy in that they are living a meaningful life?
When it comes to Wolf’s arguments about what makes for a meaningful life, I tend to want to agree with Christine Vitrano when she says that “ Wolf relies on her shared intuition regarding the worth of various activities, but that to assume this is unjustified.” I agree that we can not assume to know what activities or hobbies would bring more fulfilments than others. We also cannot say that we know what is best for another person. One last note regarding Christine Vitrano’s response to Wolf’s argument is that she adds “ Some may appreciate an activity that Wolf disparages, yet dismiss one that she values highley.” I think that this is a perfect response to what Wolf has to say regarding what she thinks is the best route for a more meaningful life.
Even Though there are many aspect to Wolf’s writing “ Meaning In Life” that I agree with, I also see the conflicts with some of her ideas on what makes for a more meaningful life. First, the main conflict I see with her examples is the fact that we cannot say, with certainty, that being positive and passionate about projects leads to a more fulfilling and enriched life at the end. A second conflict that I see with her writing or concepts is that she seems to be suggesting that if we take on many different projects that we are engaged and excited by, that we will feel achieved. The issue with this is stress comes up when too much is taken on. When stress comes up, we tend to not enjoy the task at hand, we tend to treat it as something we have to do instead of something that brings us pleasure. Furthermore, she claims that if we do this with a more positive attitude, then we will feel as we have filled some sort of purpose. If we were to follow what Wolf suggest we do, then we would no longer find the joy in the things we use to do, but yet feel more burden by them. Once we feel burdened by something, we are no longer fulfilled or enriched ending the positive outlook on that particular task.
Basically it would seem that it all boils down to balance and setting goals for ourselves personally and professionally. If we want a more fulfilling life then we must set goals. When we set goals we are giving ourselves something important to work towards. We find balance when we are able to live a life that allows for us to achieve our goals in such a way that will bring us happiness, joy, excitement as well as fulfillment. The ability to adapt to our surrounding and work even harder to achieve these goals will ultimately lead us to feel more fulfilled in life. Being able to look back on our life, whether we are someone who is well known or only known by a few people, and be pleased with what we have done and how we did it is the best way to gage whether or not you feel as if you lived a meaningful life or not.
- Susan Wolf “ Meaning in Life”. “The Meaning of LIfe” : By E.D. Klemke & Steven M. Cahn. Oxford University Press, 2018 pg. 205-208
- Christine Vitrano “ Meaningful Life”. “The meaning of life”: By E.D. Klemke & Steven M. Cahn. Oxford University Press, 2018 Pg. 205-208
- AJ Ayer “ The Claims of Philosophy”. PDF