Can we assume that meaning is relevant to the person who holds that meaning? As in meaning is relative?

Therefor even though elements in my life do have meaning to me (friends, family, art) I find it hard to justify that meaning, beyond my own interpretation. It feels selfish, as if it's just a simple choice, not really any more real than my own perception of reality is. I am grounded in the fact that that perception is all that I have, and so in some sense it is very real. I also know that my interactions with others are real of course. But it still doesn't change the fact, that all there is, is our own subjective perceptions of meaning, and so, they are frail.

Yet in so many cases we like to use this information for the basis of our decisions and actions. I suppose what else do we have to go on, if someone else isn't telling us what to believe.

--Edit after further thought.

What I have realised that we tend to do is either, form our own opinons through the direction of others, or have our own opinons verified or denied from others. Because the received information has come form an external source, it enables us to either, solidify the opinion or push it away.

This happens due to the trust and "faith" that we put into the source that we are interacting with. It's obviously still completely fallible on a truly objective level, but it is certainly a lot easier to make decisions. It's as if once you send a thought out to another human it not only may stop you from over contemplation, but also allow a decision to be reached, based on the response.

The point of this, is that starting from a basis of no meaning in anything, you are able to re-apply meaning in various ways. Obviously making your own meaning is a strong step, but this seems particularly frail in some ways, especially if you have already been to the position of no-meaning.

Next comes externalising the thought (rather as I am doing here) This works particularly well in solidifying the belief quickly, especially given scale. Essentially human beings (friends, family, or shared art experiences) are like meaning validation nodes, either confirming or denying what you choose to externalise or experience.

It's not an objective system, at all really. It's just a distributed subjective network of meaning. But the point is, it works incredibly well for some reason. Tribal evolution perhaps. Group decision making perhaps.

While it's not an answer for objective meaning, it is the path to a direction that will work, or feel like it works anyway.

It's just a slightly better answer to the "Don't worry about it" response, that so many people like to give. Or suggest activities that will allow meaning to return to ones life. Basically having interaction with people, the world or art, will naturally push you to have these externalised interactions, which will re-build your meaning of your life.

That is really the point of what I was trying to get to. When you talk about nothing having meaning, you get this list of things to do. Eat healthy, see the world, be creative. All fine, but I just wanted to get to why those things worked.

So it's not a way to have an objective meaning of life. But it's a way to feel like you do, and perhaps that is all that matters.

  • 1
    You are not crazy, or at least it doesn't sound like it to me. I think this is a great question at the core, but I might suggest focusing a bit more directly on the primary issue. I might also suggest talking about some of the context and motivations behind the philosophical question: what you might have been reading or studying that might have made this an interesting or urgent problem; what you might have found out so far; what sort of answer you might be expecting, etc.
    – Joseph Weissman
    Commented Feb 26, 2013 at 1:57
  • 2
    Don't expect an answer from philosophy about what matters (or that meaning is/is not relevant), just a lot of discussion and debate. That discussion and debate (where different sides propose answers) can be very enlightening, however. One orthogonal area where "meaning of life" type questions come up is evolutionary biology--what is the purpose of an organism? There the answers are often pretty well-agreed-upon, even if they're not typically applied to humans: have high reproductive fitness, all things taken into account. (We're complicated; it's hard to take everything into account.)
    – Rex Kerr
    Commented Feb 26, 2013 at 19:54
  • Thanks. I think I've managed to formulate a better way of discussing this, and alos some suggestion about how we manage to apply objective meaning to subjective beleifs, in a way that appears not to break down. Will rewrite the above. Commented Feb 26, 2013 at 21:10
  • Notice also, how I was able to influence the feedback cycle, by asking you not to shoot me down. This I feel is an interesting part of the cycle, which would be far more apparent in closer interactions. Commented Feb 26, 2013 at 21:30
  • Closing for the time being pending a little more narrowing/specification of the concern; keep in mind you can always ask more questions :)
    – Joseph Weissman
    Commented May 23, 2013 at 3:45

1 Answer 1


Here are some links for you to read to place more philosophical foundation in your question:


Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .