TED Conversations

Sanket Gupta

Design Engineer, Marvell Semiconductor

This conversation is closed.

Man's Search for Meaning. Is there a meaning to our lives or is it all meaningless?

Having read Viktor Frankl's book "Man's Search for Meaning", I was struck by the fact that he repeatedly emphasizes the pursuit of meaning in our lives. He also says that for some of us who cant find meaning in our lives, we tend to substitute it by pursuing power or money.

On the other hand, proponents of genetics argue that humans have no meaning but to just propagate. Hence, we do things which are beneficial to us and our future generations. Hence, pursuing power or money is justified and is backed by science.

So, my questions are whether we have any meaning at all or we are here to just survive and propagate ourselves? If we do have a meaning in life, how do we find one? Furthermore, can altruism have any "natural" place in our actions?


Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.

  • Oct 5 2011: Hi Sanket,
    I like your question. If you wouldn't mind reading my idea that I posted, It relates. I stated an idea that we use religion and spirituality to derive meaning out of life. (hopefully won't piss off too many people).
    I think that the pursuit of meaning within our lives is extremely important to ones existence. We can pursue power and money in order to benefit future generations and yes in my opinion that would be justified. Consider that everyone is aiming to generate a purpose. If our purpose is to attempt to place our offspring in a better situation in the future, our purpose becomes aiding in their lives so that what? The next step would be so that they can find purpose in their lives. One might argue that power and money is not needed in order to pursue purpose. What is it that you want in life? What would make your life fulfilling? Finding love? Understanding the world? Just like a child, you must ask yourself over and over again why?
    The question you are proposing is the debate between Existentialism and Nihilism. If we agree that there is no meaning to life, we accept the absurd. Existentialism argues that we try to fill our lives with meaning with something. The something in my opinion depends on who you are, your experiences which define you and what you find meaning in.
    The comment about genetics and that we have no meaning but to propagate is a primitive idea. Most species protect their own and attempt, primitively to ensure the existence of their race. Humans contain that quality, however we are also aware of our own existence and consciousness and for that we require something more than just propagate, we require meaning.
    Individually we seek to find meaning in life, but become distracted by societal norms. It is my belief that it is one's ultimate desire to be happy, always. And that pursuit of happiness is something that everyone is in search of. How we find it is what gives our life meaning
    • thumb
      Oct 9 2011: Hi Matt,
      i agree with your ideas that mere propagation might seem primitive. Yet, if you look at most of our actions, they are directed either for our betterment or our children's betterment. If this primary purpose is fulfilled, then people will go ahead and look for higher meaning, purpose or self-fulfillment. I guess Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs is a pretty good explanation for the purpose of our lives.

Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.