First Comes Survival, Then Comes Meaning

There are many different views on the meaning of life. Hundreds, if not thousands, of credible schools of thought exist, and every individual has an entirely unique opinion about their ultimate purpose.

However, are these “meanings” really the meaning of life, or are they simply methods through which to live?  Something may give life meaning, but does that make it the meaning of life?

Through the entire history of philosophy, no philosophy has truly been centered around the question, “What is the meaning of life?” Each has an answer, or at least a general idea, but none are entirely focused with absolute precision on this matter. It is only recently that the question of the meaning of life has evolved into its own field of philosophy, rather than being associated with other life matters. This new field approaches the question of the meaning of life from a purely analytical standpoint.

Why has it taken so long to come to this point? First of all, it was important to fundamentally ensure one’s survival before searching for meaning. During many, if not all, of the past centuries, the survival of one’s self – if not the survival of the entire human species – has been called into question. In that situation, meaning is apparent: survive long enough to get the next generation started.

Once basic survival is assured, the next pressing question is how to best live life. This question has fueled philosophy and religion since their inception. Indeed, many supposed answers to “the meaning of life” have instead given guidance on the best ways to live life and provide individual meaning. It seems that this answer was required in order for humanity to move forward to the next part of the question. We have figured out how to survive.  We have figured out how to live.  Now, why do we live?

Even though it is likely that the next stage will not come about for centuries or even millennia, what question will we ponder next?

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