If you’ve been asking yourself, “What is the point of life, anyway?” it won’t come as a shock to know you’re in good company. In fact, you’re in big company. Actually, you’re in the biggest company of all since humankind has been pondering the meaning of life from the moment we achieved a level of cognitive development that allowed for more than just meeting basic survival needs. So, what does it mean to live? Is it to be happy, contribute to society’s betterment, or be a parent? Is it instead to serve a chosen religion, theology, or philosophy? Or perhaps it’s to benefit ourselves and have free will? What is the point of life? These questions can drive a person bonkers. We all wish to live a meaningful life. What is your reason for getting up in the morning?
From a religious perspective, human life is a sacred gift from a divine being or beings. Many religious people believe their god is testing them, and there is an eternal reward for unquestioned loyalty. From an evolutionary perspective, the purpose of human life (and most animals) is to survive long enough to reproduce and ensure the propagation of the species. A capitalist might seek to generate as much wealth as possible, while a selfless person will tell you their purpose is to help others.
No two humans are the same, and so there’s an endless list of philosophies with unique perspectives on the meaning of life. That can be good news if you’re just getting started on your quest for answers that feel right for you. We’ve collated a list of these philosophies in the hopes they can serve as a primer on your journey.
What is the Point of Life, According to Different Beliefs
This philosophy believes in the existence of god or a supreme being. There’s polytheism (belief in many gods/goddesses), monotheism (belief in one god), and ditheism (the idea that two gods exist and they are both equal). If you believe there is one divinity that created the Universe, you believe in theism.
What is the point of life for those who follow this philosophy? Depending on what religion you follow, your god(s) prescribes its followers the meaning of life. Since the dawn of humanity, theism has presented in various forms depending on what that religion’s followers believed god wanted from them.
Some believe that we exist in a predetermined world, and all events happen due to something else. Because of this, a person does not have free will, and the meaning of life cannot be understood.
Do you live for that feeling of caring for your children or parents? You’re not alone. Human-centered virtues and ancestor worship is at the core of Confucianism. The goal is to live an authentic life and follow the Golden Rule: Do not do unto others what you would not want others to do unto you.
Do you care about individuals regardless of your relationship with them? Mohism centers around the belief that all humans deserve impartial care and inclusiveness. This philosophy’s tenet is that the meaning of life centers around caring for others and positive behavior that results from doing so.
Cynics live a purposeful, self-sufficient life in tune with nature. The goal is to live a simple life free from external influences like wealth, fame, and power.
Want to live a life based on seeking pleasure and avoidance of suffering? Well, you’re in luck because hedonism isn’t just a resort in the Caribbean. Since the 4th century B.C.E., people have found meaning in simple pleasures like eating, dancing, and playing music.
The Greek philosopher Aristotle believed there is no goal in life except to be a good person. And in being a virtuous person, one will find happiness. “Happiness is the meaning and the purpose of life, the whole aim, and end of human existence,” Aristotle is quoted as saying.
Since first appearing in the 1600s, Liberalists believe a person is free to choose their actions without permission from another person unless proven necessary. They make it their life’s mission to protect individual liberties against political coercion and attempts to limit freedoms. In the past, Liberals have ended royal monopolies and implemented changes that support free trade and free markets.
If you’ve seen The Big Lebowski, then you know that Nihilists “believe in nothing.” Also called Pessimism, it’s the belief that nothing can make life meaningful.
Existentialists believe humans are born feeling anxiety about the apparent meaninglessness of our lives. To find meaning, one must decide on their own values — not their god, community, or family’s — and take action according to them.
Some believe that questioning the point of life is a useless query and is destined to fail. There is a conflict between what we want from the Universe and what we find in the Universe. The human mind seeks meaning, the Universe falls short, and the more you search for purpose in life, the less you understand it.
Absurdist French philosopher Albert Camus had this to say about this process: “You will never be happy if you continue to search for what happiness consists of. You will never live if you are looking for the meaning of life.”
For most people, the point of life is to try to have a happy and satisfying existence and a life that fulfills our physical, emotional, and mental necessities. In the process, like on any journey, you walk, you fall, you pick yourself up, and do it again until you reach the end.
Your answer to “What is the point of life?” is unique to you, even if it’s part of a shared ethos. The only constant is change itself. Life wants us to keep moving, and only when we embrace that movement, that change, do we create space to find satisfaction.
Cyrenaics are a group that derives from the teaching of Socrates. For them, the meaning of life is to achieve the most pleasure and happiness in your present as you can. This includes dismissing social constructs and making your joy a priority. Your satisfaction and comfort are essential, and your present is precious. Live in the moment and don’t put too much emphasis or planning into the future.
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