The Meaning of Life: Existentialism.

What’s the meaning of life? It’s a question most of us have probably asked, but never quite found the answer to. To help us, we can look to the 19th century philosophy of existentialism.

Existentialism is a philosophy that aims to understand what it means to exist as a human being in the world and centres around the idea that everything in life is meaningless except the meaning we apply to it.

A bank note is just a bit of paper, but we apply a meaning to it, which gives it a purpose. Human beings through their own consciousness create their own values and determine meaning.

For thousands of years, people believed that they were born into the world with an inherent purpose, given to them by God or fate, and there was nothing they could do to change it.

However, 19th century philosophers started to questions this. They argued that a human being is not born with a purpose. They shape who they are by existing in the world first and then they choose what their purpose is, which creates meaning in their life.

In other words, we have the freedom to choose our own life’s purpose. Human beings are free to decide what they want to do in life and who they want to be.

Create Your Own Meaning

Each individual – not society or religion – is responsible for giving meaning to their life and living it authentically. A human beings’ true purpose in life is to apply their own purpose, to their own lives.

You have the freedom to find meaning in your life, no matter how big or small or mundane. If you decide that the purpose of your life is to watch TV, that is fine, you have the freedom to choose and no one can tell you otherwise.

You have the power to choose the meaning of your own life. There is no right or wrong answer, whichever answer you choose is the correct answer for you. So what will you decide is the meaning of your life?

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2 thoughts on “The Meaning of Life: Existentialism.

  1. Thank you for your post Ben. This is a fascinating and important topic. Yuval Noah Harari wrote “If planet Earth were to blow up tomorrow morning, the universe would probably keep going about its business as usual. Hence, any meaning that people ascribe to their lives is just a delusion. The scientist who says her life is meaningful because she increases the store of human knowledge, the soldier who declares that his life is meaningful because he fights to defend his homeland, and the entrepreneur who finds meaning in building a new company are no less delusional than their medieval counterparts who found meaning in reading scriptures, going on a crusade or building a new cathedral.” Do you think that the meaning each of us chooses in life is just a delusion to help us get through the day?


    1. Hi Michael, glad you like the article and thanks for the great question! I really enjoyed Yuval Noah Harari’s first book Sapiens (the second one is still on my reading list). I agree with the point that the meaning we apply to our lives is a delusion, but in a meaningless world where we are basically just sophisticated animals, what else can we do but try to seek our own meaning? I believe this is what the existentialists were trying to get at; there is no meaning in life, therefore we must apply our own meaning to get through it all. So yes, in a round-about way we are deluding ourselves. What do you think?


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