What is "meaningful" in life?

by phil on Sunday Jun 4, 2006 10:18 PM

A defintion of meaningfulness should have these properties:
1) A social dimension
2) Optimization
3) Predictability

1) A social dimension

Just common sense. You can't find meaning in life if you only serve yourself. Now you can technically serve yourself by serving others because it is your interests to serve others, in which case you aren't just serving yourself. If the rewards of your labor only impact you, then that's probably not meaningful.

2) Optimization

The person who is trying to do meaningful things should be doing his or her most meaningful thing. Otherwise, bagging groceries for everybody should be enough to be meaningful because you're helping people in some way. Optimization, therefore, prevents a too permissive definition of meaningfulness where everything goes. Plus, it fits nicely with Maslow's "self-actualization" principle about the purpose of human endeavours.

3) Predictability

The definition of meaning should have few false positives or false negatives. And there's a really really good test case: a definition for what's meaningful should not imply that Socrates would have better spent his time feeding starving kids in Africa. Even if Socrates' philosophies have saved no lives, it breaks common sense to think that what he did wasn't meaningful. So common sensical cases should be valid under the model.

So what's a good definition of meaning?


konsider said on June 4, 2006 11:48 PM:

permissive, yes. my exgf once was highly critical of this exact developmental hierarchy almost for this exact reason. He ('Brad') on the otherhand vehemently felt the conscious argument in favor of Maslow's hierarchy but she did not and degraded the social critique of Maslow to that of biases and inferior to the authentic socially curious.

stalin said on June 6, 2006 11:21 PM:

When you call 911 thats one of the most Socratic-immediate (5w's) conversations you can have, no?

Philip Dhingra said on June 6, 2006 11:39 PM:

A novel way of looking at it, yeah.

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