Why do we search for a meaning in life?

I assume that religion arose because of the desire to give meaning to life. Maybe this prerequisite is already wrong ;)

Since we do not know what is the higher purpose, but still searching for it, I assume it is a strong desire to give live a certain meaning. Maybe this assumption is again not true for the majority of people and only my subjective impression.

Since no one found 'the' meaning of life' so far, but we are still trying to find it, I assume it is difficult to understand that there are things without a higher purpose.

Edit: People might argue that all bad things that happen to us will make us think about the 'meaning of life' question. But I will not accept this for an answer ;) because there are also good thinks that happen to us.

No good things without bad things, so who wants to be happy needs to know sadness. Therefore bad things exist to make good feelings possible. Again a purpose question, why is it just so important to us ;)

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    Hello and welcome to Philosophy.SE! Do you think that you could expand this question a little more to explain more of why you are asking this question and in what context it has arisen for you? It seems like your second sentence implies that you think there doesn't have to be a meaning of life, and people who search for one are doing so because they're under a false impression that there needs to be one; do you think you could expand that line of reasoning out into a full paragraph? More context always makes a question able to have better answers.
    – Not_Here
    Commented Aug 2, 2017 at 23:02
  • the answer to your question is 'money'. or not, as the case may be :)
    – user25714
    Commented Aug 3, 2017 at 5:44
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    You make an unnecessary assumption when you say that nobody has found the meaning of life so far. I'd go further and say that it is incorrect. Westerners are usually pessimistic about knowledge but there's no need. There's an extensive literature dealing with this issue. I'd recommend Aurobindo's 'The Divine Life'' if it wasn't so long since he covers the ground.
    – user20253
    Commented Aug 3, 2017 at 10:59
  • You may want to read my response to a similar question here - hinduism.stackexchange.com/questions/19958/… Commented Aug 4, 2017 at 7:18
  • Does this answer your question? What is the meaning of "meaning of life" and why do people seek it?
    – user64708
    Commented Feb 26, 2023 at 21:07

6 Answers 6


Jung would say that it is because we all have parents (of some sort), and the experience of parents sews into us the Archetype of the King.

We spend our early life looking up to adults, and discerning their expectations of us. By the time we are done being children this becomes so ingrained a habit that when we are really free of external expectations, or at least have taken responsibility for them and understand their causes, we can't stop looking for more layers of expectation.

This makes it convenient for an individual to be the Father of Fathers, for huge segments of the population, and holds together Kingdoms. But those are gone in modern life. Even the King is just a man, even if we consider him somewhat special.

Unconsciously, we still want there to be an expectation that tells us what to do with ourselves, and we don't want to attribute that highest expectation to any of the adults that we have now demoted to peers. Otherwise, there is no really good reason to obey it.

We want the Universe to have a plan for us. Because without a plan, we can never satisfy our need to obey something.

(Jung was a religious man, so he would probably see this as a behavior planned into us by God. But he was also a late-Victorian scientist, and would presume God generally works via logical mechanisms, rather than by fiat.)


I'm a bit worn out from writing about sadness just now , but when there is a fire, the fire department has to put it out, no matter how tired they are. It's the same with philosophers. No matter how tired and (very) befuddled we are, we would be remiss if we did not jump in to help answer a meaning of life question. We must do our duty. This obviously will involve some of my opinions, since it is impossible to be entirely objective on this.

Well, you have caused me to have to think about this myself.

I think we search for a meaning in life because man naturally seeks to overcome things, or to solve things, which bother him. Maurice Blondel said man always has a desire to transcend himself, to be more than he is at the moment.

I think our life somehow bothers us in some way. Perhaps a friend or a loved one we know dies, and we want to know, why? What is the meaning of life when we just seem to disappear and leave no trace?

Our life just keeps coming up as as a problem for us and we try to solve the riddle of it without obsessing about it too much. Some people solve this problem by having children, but isn't this really just a way to put the problem off for a while? The meaning of life is to bring children (new life) into the world, but then the children grow up and move away and we still don't really know why we are puzzled about life's meaning.

Gregory Baum wrote a very interesting book on this subject, and Baum himself is a very interesting man. "Man Becoming; God in a secular language (Herder & Herder 1970). In this book he discusses Blondel's thesis that man essentially transcends himself as far as he can go on earth and then reaches out for God. Something like that, it's been a while since I've read the book. Baum was born in Germany, became a priest, was then a well known professor in Canada. He has had a very turbulent life in the church over the years, I think he finally quit it. Anyway, one of the best books I've read on the question of, why?

  • i upvoted, tho not cos you're sad. am about to disappear, so, keep ur head up. :) see you
    – user25714
    Commented Aug 3, 2017 at 2:49
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    Ha. TY. Yeah, more than anything I'm dazed. Entirely too much philosophy today. Take care.
    – Gordon
    Commented Aug 3, 2017 at 2:54
  • Hi @Gordon, many thanks for the answer! I upvote for man's desire to always progress and his/ her tendency to 'want more'. Which is something you can explain biologically. Which qualifies for a perfect answer, since man is a living thing. But I downvote on the argument of 'bad things that happen to us'. See my edit to the original question.
    – user25791
    Commented Aug 3, 2017 at 10:12
  • @kerner1000 What is this? A message from Kerner! I would answer that in the real world, good things and bad things do no cancel out so neatly. Of course, this is my opinion.
    – Gordon
    Commented Aug 4, 2017 at 3:12
  • @kerner1000 I meant .... "do not cancel out so neatly." Sometimes the bad is so bad, the emotional hurt is so deep, the loss is so significant, that it stays with us forever. Now to be sure the good things help, and most things are not so bad, but there are those things that cause a deep wound to the psyche, and the passage of time does not entirely heal those wounds. And so this may lead us to ask about the meaning of life.
    – Gordon
    Commented Aug 4, 2017 at 3:50

We all move through life, searching for meaning. Some search for the meaning of life, while others search for our meaning in life. I wrote about this recently (see article here on Headway - Polina Marinova and her secret to success). With all great trips, our individual journey for meaning eventually veers off-course and recalculates a more liberating path towards our unique destinations.

In the past few years, my search for meaning took an early exit off the highway of prototypical monetary ambition and onto a scenic, deserted backroad - the Liberty Route. Coined in the 1950s by Isaiah Berlin, the new journey focuses on my achievement of positive liberty (i.e. self-determination; freedom from irrational fears/beliefs; finding your creative renaissance) and negative liberty (i.e. freedom from external obstacles or constraints, such as from debt or that corporate job you are reliant on to make a living; etc).

In the end, it's all about honesty with yourself, and a recalibration of who you are, with who you want to be, and with who society needs you to be.


There is an interesting approach to this question which would go something like this: even provided the basis for human morality is "material", the search for a kind of higher purpose to human life could be linked to human social organisation; Georges Bataille wrote a book called Eroticism, and this is how I would summarise what I understood of that work: the sacred and profane worlds of human activity are delimited by transgression and taboo ... Taboo is necessary as a means of delimiting the profane world of work, and the sacred world is delimited by its permission of transgression, for a limited time. So for work to be possible, there needed to be a general taboo on sex and death. Time set aside for work in human tradition is a period of accumulating, whereas times set aside for religious celebration are periods of radical expenditure

If Bataille is right in some sense, that human social organisation has built around the necessity of taboo for work, and the difference in economy between times set aside for profane (non-sacred) and sacred activity, then it would appear that even if we grant that the grounds of human morality are "material", a sense of purpose in human social activity could still be integral to the healthy functioning of a society, and persons within a society - as the purpose brings structure, and from that structure comes the sense of belonging to society through a shared structure, which value I think is missing from most conversations which privilege the idea that the basis of human morality is necessarily "material" ... Whereas many people may consider structure as superfluous to a sense of fulfilment, I think the right kind of structure is necessary for social fulfilment in particular


We are searching for meaning in life to find a definition for self. For me it is in Helping others. When I am engrossed in a work towards that I feel I AM BEING, I am IT, I AM GETTING EXPRESSED FULLY, I AM LIVING. So meaning is something by being that you be yourself. It grounds you, it gives you a definition to say who you are without finding it if I were to ask you who you are what you do, you might be able to answer but that would be without conviction meaning "you" won't be that answer, you'll just be speaking some words...


The right question is "Could we stop seeking the meaning of life ?", by nature humain is a creature who think, stopping this process will make him like any other creature in this earth, could you stop thinking about everything ?? you could if you lose your mind.

it is not that complicated, seeking for the truth, the past the future is one of the most amazing things in humain being, so seek for everything don't stop and as Descarte said "I think, therefore I am"

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