November 20, 2021

What is the meaning of "meaning"?

I don't think these answers match up with the question asked: "What Makes Life Meaningful? Views From 17 Advanced Economies/Family is preeminent for most publics but work, material well-being and health also play a key role."

"Most publics" — who talks like that?

Why would health be the meaning of life? I guess the question is interpreted to mean what is needed to have a meaningful life and health is a prerequisite to finding meaning, since illness is so distracting.

Read the article at the link, which goes to Pew Research Center. I'll just copy this handy (and puzzling) chart:

39 comments:

Jersey Fled said...

Those "publics" must be very strange people. I hope I never run into any of them.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Americans and other free-marketers have been willing to trade mere money for other things for centuries: location, love of work, duty, hours and conditions, adventure. They are an odd combination of luxury goods and true meaning. If you are eating well enough that you can afford to take a different job in order to live near family, be on the cutting edge of development, or stay home with children that means you are not pursuing The Almighty Dollar, as Americans used to be accused of.

But if you are barely getting by and have to take whatever shit job is available in order to feed your family, you learn the importance of those other things. A paradox, as much of life is.

Rollo said...

An unreadable tome by IA Richards and CK Ogden.

tim in vermont said...

Don't go spreading the idea that work is important to a sense of self worth, you could give people the idea that sending so many jobs to China, Mexico, and Viet Nam is a bad idea and the people on Fifth Avenue might have a tiny feeling of guilt when their dividends arrived. Nah! It's just deplorables who deserve to lose there jobs for being utterly worthless.

Owen said...

Any answer to this question is unfalsifiable. It’s just a value statement. Fun for late night BS sessions in the sophomore corridor, or handy on a slow news day when your column is due.

Rollo said...

What is the meaning of "society"? Is it just another word for "friends," or does it mean something else?

rhhardin said...

"Meaning" is a token in framing, a way of dealing with accounts. It doesn't happen in the present.

Say something and mean it. Now say it and don't mean it. What did you do differently?

Yet it's useful to say he meant it and he didn't mean it, about ordinary things. Calling on the handy token for making a narrative about him.

In "meaning of life" is doubly empty.

gilbar said...

"What Makes Life Meaningful?

i see they didn't even let people pick the Actual Answer: GOD
(protip spirituality, faith and religion are Not GOD

gilbar said...

rhhardin said...
Say something and mean it. Now say it and don't mean it. What did you do differently?


see how hardin's answers seem much better, when he leaves the he man woman haters club off?

traditionalguy said...

The US is the only country that has faith as a meaning. No wonder the World Governance guys want so desperately to destroy the US, while the rest of the world’s people want to crash our borders getting in.

Critter said...

One item in the chart stands out above all others. The U.S. is the only country where faith makes the survey’s top 5 list. Also standing out is that material well being and occupation rank below friends. This is the great gift of our Founding Fathers that our government is ordered to provide for liberty and justice for our citizens. We do not need money or job status to secure them for us as in other countries where without material well-being and the social status of a high occupation one has a lesser degree of liberty.

Funny how the iconic country for capitalism seems less focused on materialism than other countries. This is part of the explanation for what makes America exceptional. Our pragmatic pursuit of other “goods” as well as material well-being has always marked Americans as an exceptional people. If this can be preserved then America will not succumb to the onslaught of Marxist martialism. It is with family, friends and faith that we can pursue the calling of our higher angels.

tim in vermont said...

Let's talk about meaningful work.

When I was at the New York Times, I went to Kenosha to see about this, and it turned out to be not true. The part of Kenosha that people burned in the riots was the poor, multi-racial commercial district, full of small, underinsured cell phone shops and car lots. It was very sad to see and to hear from people who had suffered. Beyond the financial loss, small storefronts are quite meaningful to their owners and communities, which continuously baffles the Zoom-class.

Something odd happened with that story after I filed it. It didn’t run. It sat and sat.


It goes on:

A few weeks after I filed, an editor told me: The [New York] Times wouldn’t be able to run my Kenosha insurance debacle piece until after the 2020 election, so sorry.

Supporting that rag is morally reprehensible.

Achilles said...

Another article that shows just how dumb journalists are.

There is a reason we want these inbred idiots to just focus on reporting events and facts.

When they try to think about things it turns out badly.

tim in vermont said...

We bootstrap meaning out of life as best we can rhhardin. We are evolved to need it. It provides us a coherent framework to allow us to deal with the uncaring wilderness, part of the uncaring universe, into which we were born. Anybody who thinks about it for more than a minute knows that a concept like "the meaning of life" cannot be answered with any kind of logical rigor.

RigelDog said...

Maybe "publics" is a new woke-related term, in the same way that "folks" and "black and brown bodies" are promoted.

Bender said...

A lot of conflating here.

What is the meaning of life, what makes life meaningFUL, what gives life meaning (what is the source of meaning in life) -- these are all three different and separate questions.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

I find it interesting that faith only shows up once in the chart

Bender said...

Regarding the source of meaning of life, there are only two alternatives -

Either the meaning is inherent in our human nature, or life has no inherent meaning and we have make it up.

It is the latter choice that is the source of why our society and culture are so f*cked up.

Yancey Ward said...

Frame of reference is different depending on where you live. Do you have the luxury to not care so much about your occupation? Would you think you are virtue signalling if you put family first on that list? There are too many confounding variable here.

Bender said...

"meaning of life" is doubly empty

That's my point. Too many people thinking that there is no meaning to life then restate it a different way as there is no purpose to life, no point in living. And so they just end the pointlessness with a gun in the mouth.

Wince said...

Althouse said...
"I'll just copy this handy (and puzzling) chart...
While family, careers, material well-being, friends and health are all top sources of meaning, they vary in importance across publics surveyed


"What I try to tell you?

"In this country, you gotta make the money first. Then when you get the money, you get the power. Then when you get the power, then you get the women.
"

Leora said...

“To be stupid, selfish, and have good health are three requirements for happiness, though if stupidity is lacking, all is lost.” Gustave Flaubert

The Crack Emcee said...

Survivors of the Holocaust have already answered that question.

Bender said...

In any event, since meaning IS inherent in our very nature as human beings, it seems that most people have necessarily hit upon the right answer as to the meaning of life, as to why we are here, why we exist.

The reason we exist, the meaning of life, is to love and be loved in truth.

mikee said...

The meaning of life is to perpetuate life, endlessly, despite nature's overwhelming efforts to stop that self-propagation. From the first single cells floating in the sea, to the travel of humans off planet, the purpose of life, the meaning of life, has been to continue the possibility of living. Everything else is icing on the cake.

The meaning of life, especially considering the alternatives, is to live.

Tina Trent said...

I’m with Rollo. And unsurprised that hobbies are of such importance in Britain, while they don’t much care about their health.

They deep-fry candy bars.

Who would have thought Australians were so well-adjusted?

The Taiwanese ranking of freedom is grim, but their ranking of hobbies right after it feels like a a screw you to the chi-coms.

What a delightful chart. Rorschach, misunderstanding, myopia, and mystery.

Narr said...

Even with the fuzziness inherent in polling of this type, what struck me most besides the 'faith' component that has already been explored, is that 'hobbies' showed up only in the UK, the US, and (at #5) Taiwan.

That seems to me as remarkable as some of the other choices: some cultures still recognize and value private and eccentric passions and pursuits. (Although, it's also possible that 'hobbies' means sports fandom merely.)

Narr said...

Belay that. Can't read the chart properly. 'Hobbies' rank in for Japan and Greece also.

Anyway, now I really do wonder about the meaning of 'hobbies.'

Joe Smith said...

'I'll just copy this handy (and puzzling) chart:'

How is it puzzling?

It couldn't be more straightforward...

bentoak said...

Meaning is another word for value, purpose, significance, a sense that our life matters. I doubt that it can be measured, but its presence or absence can be noted.

In my hospice work, the persons who face dying with the most equanimity are the ones who have the support of family and faith. They have meaning; they know their life matters.

William said...

It's amazing how many problems money will solve. Only people who have been very poor at one time in their life can understand this simple truth.... A man with a toothache thinks everyone without a toothache is happy. They're not, but it's easy to make that mistake when you have a toothache. Poverty is like a pervasive toothache. Take away the toothache, and it doesn't make you happy but it gives you the option of being happy. So, give me health and wealth and I'll try to negotiate the rest.

Readering said...

Too bad there was not the same international survey 60 years ago. It would be interesting to see the comparison by time.

I have lived in US and UK. Survey shows both outliers.

Bender said...

I notice that recreational sex (as distinguished from mikee's procreation) isn't on the list (and other hedonistic pursuits are missing as well, to the extent not within "hobbies") notwithstanding the culture pushing omnipresent sex as the be all and end all.

Tina Trent said...

cr: Yes, I wrote this sitting next to my lifelong suffering, dying younger brother as I prepare to move him to hospice. If I'm there, it's just enough. If I'm not, it's not.

There is no ambiguity when you arrive here. But reading comments on Althouse is a truly nice approximation of company. And believing is another. Heck, I'd be happy if someone called me vicious slurs while accusing me of oversharing.

Or, as the South Koreans would say: General Positive.

gpm said...

>>"Most publics" — who talks like that?

City kids in the sixties knew who "publics" were: Kids whose parents didn't care about them and sent them to public school instead of Catholic school.

Maripat Donovan, a Chicago contemporary of mine, explained it all (not quite like Sister Mary Ignatius did) in Late Night Catechism, still running now and then in various venues.

--gpm

Lurker21 said...

"Nation," "country," and "people" like "gender" are now assumed to be problematic because they don't give special recognition to the minority groups and borderline populations that complicate questions of group identity. Hence "publics."

As for the meaning of life, one person's meaning is another person's meaninglessness. I guess meaning, happiness, and peace of mind come from knowing when to stop asking what the meaning of it all is, or in never asking the question at all.

Lurker21 said...

'Hobbies' rank in for Japan and Greece also.

Anyway, now I really do wonder about the meaning of 'hobbies.'


Greece: making pottery, breaking plates, buggery, ouzo.

Japan: robots, anime, anime porn, robot porn.

Narr said...

A friend's wife. raised Catholic, said that until high school she thought there were basically two religions-- Catholic and Public. She rode the Catholic School bus, and they rode the Public School bus. Catholics and Publics.

ref. gpm@831PM

Narr said...

@Lurker21-- great!