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Definitions

  • Quality of life (QOL) is the general well-being of individuals and societies, outlining negative and positive features of life. It observes life satisfaction, including everything from physical health, family, education, employment, wealth, safety, security, freedom, religious beliefs, finance and the environment. For the sake of this thought, QOL is being related to individuals only. Worth noting is the correlation of QOL with income levels.

    • A meaningful life is one that has a purpose and direction to it, one to which oneself attaches value, one in which one can trace coherent patterns in its past or project plans for the future. All these possibilities apply. The basic idea of meaningfulness here is the Sartrean one of injecting meaning into one's - living authentically by values oneself has chosen. Sartre's view is given in the easily available, 'Existentialism is a Humanism'.

Can it be objectively demonstrated that a serial killers' life is less meaningful than the cops who worked hard to catch him? To my mind from a humanities POV both are meaningful. The criminal in ways has caused changes in society which may be considered an objective improvement (safer roads, relevant education, better policing and laws) to the life of other individuals. When a more sophisticated criminal commits crime by bamboozling the existing norms, it further helps righteous individuals to take a look at ways to improve.

Similarly, consider a person who wants to acquire nuclear arsenal and blow up a nation. This person is acting as a security enforcer and making individuals on the other side vigil. How can you prove that this persons life is not meaningful, regardless of his morality of and ability to destroy a whole nation and its people? Sure a terrorists QOL is worse than say a middle class person from a developed country. But that does not mean his life is not contributing positively towards development of humankind (in a twisted way I concur). This then makes their lives meaningful even though it is immoral and their objective QOL is low.

By extension of this logic, no matter what you or I do or not do, what you or I say or not say, our life even as individuals will always be meaningful because other people will still be able to benefit from it either by following the example or by avoiding the same path to doom.

Help me understand the fallacy in this logic, given the arguments I have written above: Even if you decide to shoot up a school or even if you decide to help build one; in the end you are positively affecting mankind in the long run

Lastly is QOL a good measure for meaningful life determination when an immoral poor person can contribute to the same pot of meaning as the righteous resourceful person? Albeit in their own subjective ways.

  • I don’t understand the question. QOL from an individual’s perspective, but as it pertains to society in general? Your asking if how society views an individual should judge how an individual views themselves? I’m lost. Also do not understand the hypothetical situations. – Robus Dec 11 '18 at 16:45
  • I would add that I like the question if it was worded differently. Or more clear, or less confusing. – Robus Dec 11 '18 at 17:19
  • It's very difficult to have a meaningful life when you're living hand to mouth. Having a basic standard of 'quality' of life, frees people up to try and live 'meaningful' lives, rather than just living 'lives'. – Richard May 13 at 23:59
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As others have noted, your question is confusing. Judging by the title, you're asking if "quality of life" can be used to gauge a "meaningful life."

So we begin with the daunting task of defining "meaningful," which you tackle by a reference to Jean Paul-Sartre. If I remember correctly, Sartre's existentialism revolves around the belief that life has no meaning except what we give it. I'm assuming Sartre believed in the existence of free will.

Quality of life is more materialistic. Though it's possible to be happy without having much money, most QoL indexes would not use poverty as a sign of "quality." Nevertheless, people who have lots of money (along with the other things that define QoL) are presumably happier than people who lack these things.

So we can posit a link between QoL and happiness. For whatever it's worth, the correlation between QoL and free will is weak; one's QoL depends largely on the circumstances into which one is born.

Of course, happiness and meaning are different things. Even your definition of meaning is a little hard to follow.

If I'm fighting for a cause that no one else cares about, I might feel that my life has meaning - but no one else would agree. Conversely, imagine an impoverished bum who shares what little he has without consciously realizing he's doing anything really meaningful. Someone happens to write about him, and he becomes a saint hundreds of years later. People now say his life had meaning, even though he wasn't aware of it.

So whose life had meaning?

The world's billionaires have a QoL vastly higher than the rest of us, yet their lives can be utterly meaningless (aside from their enviro-socio-political impacts, of course).

In contrast, many of the monks, philosophers and political activists who are equated with meaningful existence were well acquainted with poverty, disease and war. On the other hand, access to "quality" makes it easier for one to access the things (e.g. education) needed to make meaningful contributions to society.

In summary, it's hard to see a correlation between quality of life and a meaningful life.

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"A meaningful life" is not the same as a "good life". A serial killer, tyrant, school shooter, etc. does not need to make the world a better place for his/her life to have meaning, nor does it need to have any particular value to the person living it. A better way to view a meaningful life may be to think of it as a measure of how much a person impacts the world. Ted Bundy, Attila the Hun, and Eric Harris all lived very meaningful lives, not because they felt fulfilled by their actions, nor because they did good for the world, but because they impacted other people in meaningful ways.

When you view a meaningful life as such, you realise QoL is an independent variable. So, why do people feel compelled to associate a meaningful life with QoL?

This boils down to the pursuit of self-actualization. People associate helplessness and weakness with a poor QoL and freedom and control with a good QoL. As such, feeling like we are impacting the world is a great way to feel like we have a good QoL. But, self-actualization is just an internal feeling and does not require any actual control, only the belief that you are in control.

So to answer your actual question: There is probably a correlation between quality of life and a meaningful life that you could make estimates about, but this is a classic correlation without causation problem; so, it would not make an accurate measure and there would be many cases where the pattern does not hold.

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