THE CONCEPT OF GOOD LIFE AND THE MEANING/PURPOSE OF LIFE

Good Life
Accdg. to Merriam Webster:
a life marked by a high standard of living Accdg. to Dictionary.com: a life abounding in material comforts and luxuries The good life is a term for the life that one would like to live, or for happiness. The good life consists of maximizing happiness.

In his great treatise on how to achieve happiness, Aristotle compares our attempts to live good lives to an archer's attempt to aim an arrow properly. The archer is more likely to hit the right mark if he has a target to aim at, and, similarly, we are more likely to live a good life if we have knowledge about what makes a human life good.

Meaning or Purpose of Life
The meaning of life is a concept that provides an answer to the philosophical question concerning the significance of life or existence in general. It can be expressed through answering a variety of related questions, such as "Why are we here?" "What is life all about?" and "What is the meaning of it all?" It has been the subject of much philosophical, scientific, and theological speculation throughout history. There have been a large number of theories to these questions from many different cultural and ideological backgrounds. The meaning of life is deeply entrenched in the philosophical and religious conceptions of existence, social ties, consciousness, and happiness, and borders on many other issues, such as symbolic meaning, ontology, value, purpose, ethics, good and evil, free will, conceptions of God, the existence of God, the soul, and the afterlife.

The PHILOSOPHICAL PERSPECTIVES on the meaning of life are those ideologies which explain life in terms of ideals or abstractions defined by humans.

WESTERN PHILOSPHICAL PERSPECTIVES
Platonism Plato was one of the earliest, most influential philosophers — mostly for idealism - a belief in the existence of universals. In the Theory of Forms, universals do not physically exist, like objects, but as ghostly, heavenly forms. In The Republic, the Socrates character's dialogue describes the Form of the Good. In Platonism, the meaning of life is in attaining the highest form of knowledge, which is the Idea (Form) of the Good, from which all good and just things derive utility and value. Human beings are duty-bound to pursue the good.

Aristotelianism Aristotle, an apprentice of Plato, was another early and influential philosopher, who argued that ethical knowledge is not certain knowledge (such as metaphysics and epistemology), but is general knowledge. Because it is not a theoretical discipline, a person had to study and practice in order to become "good"; thus if the person were to become virtuous, he

in the same sense of "serious" that one contrasts serious harpists with other harpists. by being free of the possessions acquired in pursuing the conventional. means. by living in a way natural to human beings. which is desirable for its own sake. The Cynical life rejects conventional desires for wealth.. "flourishing". character is a hexis like health or knowledge.[21][22] As reasoning creatures. the Cynic philosophers said that the purpose of life is living a life of Virtue that agrees with Nature. From this starting point. This involves achieving eudaemonia. goal C. who does it well and beautifully (kalos). Happiness depends upon being self-sufficient and master of one's mental attitude. usually translated as "happiness". specifically appropriate to the human "soul" (psuchē). is eudaimonia. (Similarly. Aristotle's term for virtue of character (ethikē aretē) is traditionally translated with the Latinate term "moral virtue". unlike habit. good habits are described as a precondition for good character. He describes a sequence of necessary steps in order to achieve this: righteous actions. and similarly. If there are several virtues the best and most complete or perfect of them will be the happiest one. he had to be virtuous. via virtuous activities. and that goal is "good". This is why the good has rightly been defined as the object of all endeavor [. people could achieve happiness via rigorous training. the language of medieval European philosophy. Yet. and fame. An excellent human will be a person good at living life. meaning it is a stable disposition which must be pursued and maintained with some effort. at its most "excellent" or virtuous (virtue representing aretē in Greek). a Greek word often translated as well-being or happiness. giving us modern English words like "moral". if action A is done towards achieving goal B. Aristotle does not however equate character with habit (ethos in Greek. Aristotle says that such a person would also be a serious (spoudaios) human being. Character is ēthos in Greek. a term Aristotle helped develop. is thought to have some good as its object. However. Aristotle's solution is the Highest Good. power.could not simply study what virtue is. which cause negative emotions and a concomitant vicious character. allow the development of the right habits. often done under the influence of teachers. then goal B also would have a goal. suffering is consequence of false judgments of value. and goal C also would have a goal. The world equally belongs to everyone. To do this. in Latin. Instead of being habit. a way of being in action (energeia). as this is an aspect (an ergon. the highest aim of all human practical thinking. it is its own goal. health. related to modern words such as ethics. The Highest Good is not desirable for the sake of achieving some other good. ethicaland ethos. every action and choice of action. . and all other "goods" desirable for its sake. Aristotle goes into discussion of what ethics. and this in turn gives a chance of achieving eudaimonia.. Aristotelian Ethics is about what makes a virtuous character (ethikē aretē) possible. with a short "e") because real character involves conscious choice. Cynicism In the Hellenistic period. which in turn can allow the development of a good stable character in which the habits are voluntary. Aristotle in turn argues that happiness is properly understood as an on-going and stable dynamic. so suffering is caused by false judgments of what is valuable and what is worthless per the customs and conventions of society. which is in turn necessary if happiness is to be possible. and so would continue this pattern. -------------------Aristotle begins by saying that the highest good for humans. "well-being". literally meaning a task or work) of human living.] Everything is done with a goal. Aristotle established what is virtuous: Every skill and every inquiry. He also asserts as part of this starting point that virtue for a human must involve reason in thought and speech (logos). until something stopped its infinite regression. the habits are mōrēs. and "excellence".

the "Categorical Imperative". by developing clear judgement and inner calm through diligently practiced logic. which produce a pleasant life. Kantians believe all actions are performed in accordance with some underlying maxim or principle. but it is as mortal as the body. abided to develop personal self-control and mental fortitude as means of overcoming destructive emotions. one need not fear death. It is not by an unbroken succession of drinking bouts and of revelry." Stoicism Stoicism teaches that living according to reason and virtue is to be in harmony with the universe's divine order. is without sensation. and natural law." The Epicurean meaning of life rejects immortality and mysticism. not indifference. and metaphysical works of Immanuel Kant. Cyrenaics prefer immediate gratification to the long-term gain of delayed gratification. was an early Socratic school that emphasized only one side of Socrates's teachings—that happiness is one of the ends of moral action and that pleasure is the supreme good. yet. they must adhere to the categorical imperative. wherein bodily gratification is more intense than mental pleasure. the greatest good is in seeking modest pleasures. denial is unpleasant unhappiness. thus a hedonistic world view. Kantianism Kantianism is a philosophy based on the ethical. and virtuous. Epicurus' lauded enjoyment of simple pleasures is quasi-ascetic "abstention" from sex and the appetites: "When we say . Kant is known for his deontological theory where there is a single moral obligation.. entailed by one's recognition of the universal logos (reason). prejudice or wilful misrepresentation. thus improving one's spiritual well-being: "Virtue consists in a will which is in agreement with Nature. searching out the grounds of every choice and avoidance. we do not mean the pleasures of the prodigal or the pleasures of sensuality. There is no afterlife. being objective. and jealousy". Combined. it is sober reasoning. This is a contradiction because if it were a . through ignorance. itself. The Stoic does not seek to extinguish emotions. exemplified in wisdom and self-control. an essential value of all people. and concentration. for that which is dissolved. Epicureanism To Epicurus. having "clear judgement". The Stoic ethical foundation is that "good lies in the state of the soul". In Groundwork. to attain tranquility and freedom from fear (ataraxia) via knowledge. The meaning of life is "freedom from suffering" through apatheia (Gr: απαθεια). Stoicism's prime directives are virtue. By pleasure we mean the absence of pain in the body and of trouble in the soul.. reflection. because "Death is nothing to us. the test is that one must universalize the maxim (imagine that all people acted in this way) and then see if it would still be possible to perform the maxim in the world without contradiction. derived from the concept of duty. Kant gives the example of a person who seeks to borrow money without intending to pay it back. nor the enjoyment of fish. bodily pain (aponia) is absent through one's knowledge of the workings of the world and of the limits of one's desires." The principle applies to one's personal relations thus: "to be free from anger. freedom from pain and freedom from fear are happiness in its highest form. founded by Aristippus of Cyrene. temperate living. and for actions to be ethical.Cyrenaicism Cyrenaicism. as we are understood to do. envy. by some. that pleasure is the end and aim. there is a soul. and that which lacks sensation is nothing to us. Simply put. and other delicacies of a luxurious table. friendship. not by sexual lust. epistemological. only to avoid emotional troubles. reason. that is. and banishing those beliefs through which the greatest tumults take possession of the soul.

to concern itself (mostly) with truth. who found that "nature has placed mankind under the governance of two sovereign masters. positing that "only in struggling with the environment" do data. in direct contrast with Bentham's statement that "Quantity of pleasure being equal. push-pin is as good as poetry". As such. one's ethical prime directives are action. thus. perhaps. and. are of a different opinion. his reasoning being that the physical world is outside one's full control and thus one cannot be held accountable for the events that occur in it. whereas Mill argues that intellectual and moral pleasures (higher pleasures) are superior to more physical forms of pleasure (lower pleasures). Pragmatic philosophers suggest that the practical. within reason. deriving the Rule of Utility: "that the good is whatever brings the greatest happiness to the greatest number of people". pain and pleasure". Mill's argument is that the "simple pleasures" tend to be preferred by people who have no experience with high art. the needs of mankind should guide human intellectual inquiry. and are therefore not in a proper position to judge. a belief wittily encapsulated in the statement that "it is better to be a human being dissatisfied than a pig satisfied. the insufficiency gives . says Kant. This is. defined the meaning of life as the "greatest happiness principle". William James argued that truth could be made. the meaning of life is discoverable only via experience. from that moral insight. Existentialism Each man and each woman creates the essence (meaning) of his and her life. In practice. are also components of truth. arguing that what most contributes to the most human good in the long course is true. ". the existentialist looks to where people find meaning in life. existentialism opposes rationalism and positivism. ultimately. like utility and practicality. or the pig. And if the fool. i. Bentham treats all forms of happiness as equal. Kant also denied that the consequences of an act in any way contribute to the moral worth of that act. results in a contradiction in conceivability (and thus contradicts perfect duty). it is because they only know their own side of the question. Moreover. pragmatism posits that anything useful and practical is not always true. theoretical claims must be practically verifiable. as a school of thought." Mill defines the difference between higher and lower forms of happiness with the principle that those who have experienced both tend to prefer one over the other. better to be Socrates dissatisfied than a fool satisfied. Pragmatism Pragmatism.universal action.[35][36] To a pragmatist. one is free. life is not determined by a supernatural god or an earthly authority. no person would lend money anymore as he knows that he will never be paid back. and derived theories. originated in the late-19th-century U. if a simple child's game like hopscotch causes more pleasure to more people than a night at the opera house. it is more imperative upon a society to devote more resources to propagating hopscotch than running opera houses. claiming that the former is of higher value than the latter. and that consequences. freedom. In seeking meaning to life. Utilitarianism The origins of utilitarianism can be traced back as far as Epicurus. that.S. in course of which using only reason as a source of meaning is insufficient. The maxim of this action.e. Mill's major contribution to utilitarianism is his argument for the qualitative separation of pleasures. have meaning. one should be able to predict and test claims. -----------John Stuart Mill. but. and decision. it is credited to Jeremy Bentham. It holds that one must always act so as to produce the greatest aggregate happiness among all sentient beings. that. useful understanding of life is more important than searching for an impractical abstract truth about life. Mill distinguishes between happiness and contentment. but not sought. then..

it is the human personality (general sense) that is the purpose of a human being's life. One can live meaningfully (free of despair and anxiety) in an unconditional commitment to something finite. therefore. by critical intelligence. which largely translates as ceasing to endlessly reflect on the self. and responsibility. the meaning of life is to care for and look after nature and the environment. and asceticism. experimentation. because humans are social animals. the human race came to be by reproducing in a progression of unguided evolution as an integral part of nature. The question then morphs into more specific worries such as "What delusions am I under?". One should seek the advancement of humanity and of all life to the greatest degree feasible. existence precedes essence. Knowledge does not come from supernatural sources. who find meaning in personal relations. and one must make his and her own values in an indifferent world. life is worth living only if there are goals inspiring one to live. Accordingly. and devotes that meaningful life to the commitment. and painful drive. without supernatural influence. to lead ethical lives of personal fulfillment that aspire to the greater good of humanity". arguing that life is full of absurdity. irrational. this approach suggests that the question is intensely personal. the therapeutic response is that the question of meaning of life evaporates if one is fully engaged in life." People determine human purpose. and that the will (life) is an aimless. and. felt in facing one's radical freedom. and the concomitant awareness of death. Secular humanism Per secular humanism. as a whole. The philosophical sub-genres posthumanism and transhumanism (sometimes used synonymously) are extensions of humanistic values. humanism seeks to develop and fulfill: "Humanism affirms our ability. "values and realities" are determined "by means of intelligent inquiry" and "are derived from human need and interest as tested by experience". as it is. universally binding commitments: Our evaluations are interpretations. the (essence) of one's life arises only after one comes to existence. and not reflections of the world. For Friedrich Nietzsche. From a humanistic-psychotherapeutic point of view. He discredited asceticism. the total personality is [a function] of the biological organism transacting in a social and cultural context. in itself. "As far as we know. all ideations take place from a particular perspective. Likewise. Søren Kierkegaard spoke about a "leap". It is based on the premises that the happiness of the individual person is inextricably linked to the well-being of humanity. deliverance. and escape from suffering are in aesthetic contemplation. to reconcile Renaissance humanism with the 21st century's technoscientific culture. the question of the meaning of life could also be reinterpreted as "What is the meaning of my life?" Instead of becoming focused on cosmic or religious questions about overarching purpose. To the existentialist. in part. thus. and because cultural progress benefits everybody living in the culture. which is self-existing.rise to the emotions of anxiety and dread. every living creature has the right to determine its personal and social "meaning of life". "What is blocking my ability to enjoy things?". he saw nihilism ("all that happens is meaningless") as without goals. that are rationally necessary. instead of engaging in life. and rational analysis (the scientific method): the nature of the universe is what people discern it to be. sympathy for others. "Why do I neglect loved-ones?". On the whole. Humanism aims to promote enlightened self-interest and the common good for all people. that is. because it denies one's living in the world. despite the vulnerability inherent to doing so. There are many therapeutic responses to this question. . denied that values are objective facts. Salvation. Arthur Schopenhauer answered: "What is the meaning of life?" by determining that one's life reflects one's will. Naturalistic pantheism According to naturalistic pantheism. for example Viktor Frankl argues for "Dereflection". but from human observation.

The Gospel maintains that . but the Fall of Man caused the progeny of the first Parents to inherit Original Sin. Confucianists see a goal in achieving virtue through strong relationships and reasoning as well as minimizing the negative. it should not be indiscriminate." (New American Standard Bible. either passively or actively. Mohism promoted a philosophy of impartial caring . impartial love. the belief that human beings are teachable. children should hold a greater love for their parents than for random strangers. Life's purpose in Christianity is to seek divine salvation through the grace of God and intercession of Christ. not as a result of works. most notably the Confucians who believed that while love should be unconditional. 1973). his work on the cross and his resurrection as the fundamental starting point for a relationship with God. for the sake of upholding the cardinal moral values of ren and yi. For example. yi is the upholding of righteousness and the moral disposition to do good. The RELIGIOUS PERSPECTIVES on the meaning of life are those ideologies which explain life in terms of an implicit purpose not defined by humans. John 11:26) The New Testament speaks of God wanting to have a relationship with humans both in this life and the life to come. and does not involve a belief in the supernatural or in a personal god. as presented in the New Testament. -----The core of Confucianism is humanism. Because mankind is driven by both positive and negative influences. its central beliefs derive from the teachings of Jesus Christ. and shares much of the latter faith's ontology. Faith in God is found in Ephesians 2:8–9 – "For by grace you have been saved through faith.a person should care equally for all other individuals. This advocacy of impartiality was a target of attack by the other Chinese philosophical schools. if necessary. 2 Peter 3:9). but all rely on belief in Jesus. Confucianism holds that one should give up one's life. Although Confucius the man may have been a believer in Chinese folk religion. Confucianism focuses on the cultivation of virtue and maintenance of ethics. death and resurrection provide the means for transcending that impure state (Romans 6:23). which can happen only if one's sins are forgiven (John 3:16–21. it is the gift of God. and li is a system of norms and propriety that determines how a person should properly act within a community. yi. Confucianism as an ideology is humanistic and non-theistic.EAST ASIAN PHILOSOPHY Mohism The Mohist philosophers believed that the purpose of life was universal. that no one should boast. The means for doing so varies between different groups of Christians. Confucianism Confucianism recognizes human nature in accordance with the need for discipline and education. Ren is an obligation of altruism and humaneness for other individuals within a community. humankind was made in the Image of God and perfect. and li. People are justified by belief in the propitiatory sacrifice of Jesus' death on the cross. regardless of their actual relationship to him or her. The sacrifice of Christ's passion. (cf. and that not of yourselves. improvable and perfectible through personal and communal endeavour especially including self-cultivation and self-creation. the most basic of which are ren. In the Christian view. WESTERN AND MIDDLE EASTERN RELIGIONS Christianity Though Christianity has its roots in Judaism. The expression of this indiscriminate caring is what makes man a righteous being in Mohist thought.

relates to one of the first scholars of the Oral Law. prosperity. and in the "Day of Judgment". Judaism's most important feature is the worship of a single. In Judaism God is not affected or benefited through worship. his messengers.through this belief. but a person benefits when drawing close to God through prayer and service of the heart. For Allah's satisfaction. Per traditional Judaism. connecting to God in preparing for "Olam Haba". hard work. of which the most significant are to serve the One God of Israel and to prepare for the world to come. by bringing out their own intrinsic holiness and divine nature. Earthly life is merely a test. and your neighbour as yourself" Islam In Islam. and adherence to the laws revealed in the Torah for the benefit of the world. Kabbalistically. Simeon the Righteous. The most important way to elevate life is through the observance of "mitzvot" (divine commandments in the Torah). and he is the almighty. Zakah (charity). the forgiving" (Qur'an 67:1–2) and "And I (Allâh) created not the jinn and mankind except that they should be obedient (to Allah). his names. compassion. This is what the terms "reborn" or "saved" almost always refer to. both in this world ('Olam HaZeh) and in the world to come ('Olam HaBa). the meaning of life is to elevate life. incomprehensible. Obedience testifies to the oneness of God in his lordship. the Torah comprises the written Pentateuch (Torah) and the oral law tradition (later transcribed as sacred writing). notably of Sahih Al-Bukhari and Sahih Muslim. Jewish thought is to use "Olam Hazeh" (this world) to elevate oneself. peace.[65][66] The "Olam Haba" thought is about elevating oneself spiritually. the saying that "the world stands on three things: on Torah.[68] "Al shlosha devarim. they are: Shahadah (profession of faith). though "Klipot" (shells) separate the holiness of God. his revelations. who created death and life that he might examine which of you is best in deeds. the meaning of life is to connect with the One God. humility. transcendent. how one acts (behaves) determines whether one's soul goes to Jannat (Heaven) or to Jahannam (Hell). Among other crucial values in the Torah is pursuit of justice. via the Qur'an. Being of absolute existence. Terrenal life is a test. Salah (ritual prayer).[60] They derive from the Hadith works. Closeness with the one God of Israel. Judaism In the Judaic world view. the meaning of life is to remove those shells and connect to God. determining one's afterlife. and on acts of loving kindness. and allows God to change people and instill in them a new heart after his own will. with all your strength. Sawm (fasting during Ramadan). is the central concept of Judaism. . revealing his laws and commandments in the Torah. his angels." (Qur'an 51:56). with all your soul. and with all your mind. kindness. The Five Pillars of Islam are duties incumbent to every Muslim. God established a covenant with the Jewish people. one. on worship. "Love the Lord your God with all your heart.The Qur'an describes the purpose of creation as follows: "Blessed be he in whose hand is the kingdom. who created the universe and governs it. at Mount Sinai. the barrier that sin has created between man and God is destroyed. he is powerful over all things. In Rabbinic Judaism. therefore. and education. and the ability to do it. Kabbalah posits that there only God exists. either in Jannat (Paradise) or in Jahannam (Hell). man's ultimate life objective is to worship the creator Allah by abiding by the Divine guidelines revealed in the Qur'an and the Tradition of the Prophet. all Muslims must believe in God." This concept further explains the Jewish mentality towards the meaning of it all." a wellknown Mishnah from Pirkei Avot. and Hajj (pilgrimage to Mecca). indivisible. and his attributes.

liberation from Saṃsāra. which is the eternal Buddha essence present. virtue. according to the Four Noble Truths. ethics). love and sensual pleasure). which in turn causes one to be born again and again in the cycle of existence. omnipresent being. immutable. "Prajñānam Brahma" and "Ayam Ātmā Brahma"). known as the purusharthas (ordered from least to greatest): Kāma (wish.[83] Theravada Buddhism is generally considered to be close to the early Buddhist practice. True suffering is caused by attachment to objects material or non-material. BUDDHISM Buddhists believe that life is inherent with suffering or frustration. suggestive and tolerant in content. inconceivable.SOUTH ASIAN RELIGIONS HINDUISM Hinduism is a religious category including many beliefs and traditions. Since Hinduism was the way of expressed meaningful living for quite a long time immemorial. as a form of spiritual improvement. and moksha (liberation). In short. these Devas are taken as ideal forms to be identified with. This is attained in the achievement of Nirvana. The Theravadin goal is liberation (or freedom) from suffering. literally "Teaching of Analysis". Attaining and perfecting dispassion is a process of many levels that ultimately results in the state of Nirvana. the cycle of reincarnation). simply by removing the cause of suffering. the goal is to realize the fundamental truth about oneself. the meaning of life is tied up in the concepts of karma (causal action). though they are generally positive acts in this life as well. this stems from Hindu beliefs that spiritual development occurs across many lifetimes. explicitly teach that bodhisattvas should refrain from full liberation. glory). and its ultimate progression towards liberation from karma. and goals should match the state of development of the individual. In Mahayana. i. considering such advice and evaluation of one's own experiences to be the two tests by which practices should be judged. However. desire. . The Buddhist sūtras and tantras do not speak about "the meaning of life" or "the purpose of life". or Unbinding which also ends the repeated cycle of birth. and use that accumulation to aid all. the Theravadin tradition also emphasizes heeding the advice of the wise. prosperity. Devotional schools such as Pure Land Buddhism seek the aid of celestial buddhas—individuals who have spent lifetimes accumulating positive karma. encompassing notions such as ahimsa (non-violence) and satya (truth) and Moksha (liberation. Artha (wealth. Particular goals for life are generally subsumed under broader yogas (practices) or dharma (correct living) which are intended to create more favorable reincarnations. morality. but rather that pleasure alone does not lend itself to lasting happiness. ------------------Mahayana Buddhist schools de-emphasize the traditional view (still practiced in Theravada) of the release from individual Suffering (Dukkha) and attainment of Awakening (Nirvana).[70] Most believe that the ātman (spirit. generally non-exclusive. duty.[citation needed] Philosophical schools of Mahayana Buddhism. Existence is conceived as the progression of the ātman (similar to the western concept of a soul) across numerous lifetimes. and the existence of the transcendent Buddha-nature. This does not imply that there is no pleasure in life. old age. such as Chan/Zen and the vajrayana Tibetan and Shingon schools. sansara (the cycle of birth and rebirth). when there was no need for naming this as a separate religion. It promotes the concept of Vibhajjavada (Pali). Traditional schools of Hinduism often worship Devas which are manifestations of Ishvara (a personal or chosen God). but about the potential of human life to end suffering through detaching oneself from cravings and conceptual attachments. Nirvana means freedom from both suffering and rebirth. In part. In all schools of Hinduism. There are four possible aims to human life. critical investigation.e. in all living beings. and reasoning instead of by blind faith. This thought is conveyed in the Mahāvākyas ("Tat Tvam Asi". the Buddha is seen as an eternal. Suffering can be overcome through human activity. The fundamental principles of Mahayana doctrine are based on the possibility of universal liberation from suffering for all beings. allowing themselves to be reincarnated into the world until all beings achieve enlightenment. sickness and death. "Aham Brahmāsmi". Hindu doctrines are supplementary and complementary in nature. but hidden and unrecognised. Dharma (righteousness. soul)—the person's true self—is eternal. which says that insight must come from the aspirant's experience.