Source: The Human Predicament: A Candid Guide to Life's Biggest Questions (1 edn, 2017). p. 20 Top.

  There is sometimes also thought to be a connection between meaning and the quality of life. Whether or not this thought is correct depends, in part, on what one means by quality of life. Meaningfulness does seem to be part of a good life10 if that is what one means by quality of life. A life with meaning is, all other things being equal, better than one that is meaningless. However, a meaningless life may be sufficiently good in other ways such that its quality is nonetheless not unusually bad. Moreover, if by quality of life, one means its felt quality, then it is entirely possible for a life that objectively lacks meaning to have a good subjective quality, either because the subject does not care about meaning or mistakenly thinks that his11 life is meaningful. By contrast, when people perceive their lives to be meaningless, there are typically quite profound negative effects on the quality of life.

Assume objective quality: how's the emboldened sentence true? I ask not about subjective quality that's answered in the next sentence.

  • If everyone realized that their life has only the meaning that they themself give to it, things would be a lot better.
    – Scott Rowe
    Feb 19 at 0:29

1 Answer 1


The writer of this sentence has not defined meaningless to mean objectively meaningless, and he has done nothing to define bad or goodness, so it is like comparing apples-and-oranges when we ask whether something may have objective good quality even though it "is" meaningless.

Suppose the writer of the sentence actually believes that meaning in life is derived from productivity. Thus a sad, self-hating factory worker who is a full-time internet troll has lots of productivity goodness as long as he doesn't fail to tighten those two bolts whenever they pass his station on the assembly line. (A reference to Charlie Chaplin's Modern Times) Maybe this goodness is enough for him to have objective quality!

But if the writer of the sentence is an internet moderator whose purpose is to sell advertising to companies that don't like to see vitriol next to their detergent ads, then that same sad factory worker doesn't have goodness no matter how productive he is at work. This doesn't sound good enough for him to have objective quality after all.

I can impose any such value on "goodness", since the author did not define it. Of the three things quality, goodness, and meaning, meaning is getting fully defined here. Quality is also getting a strong treatment. But the author is starving the definition of goodness such that his argument fails to hit the mark with me. I just end up skeptical.

It is my own synthesis that people get meaning from an authority in their lives. If you give that authority to a skillful book author, then he can assign you meaning. Great!

But does the author have your best interests? Maybe he's using ambiguous words and suggestion to manipulate you into selling your stocks when the market is low, so he can buy 'em. Or maybe he's trying to get you to buy shares in Florida swampland ETFs, which he is selling. How could you know?

  • You should be the authority in your life. Everything good follows from that.
    – Scott Rowe
    Feb 19 at 0:27

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