Arguably one of the most pondered questions in philosophical thought has been, What is the meaning of life? Humans have been put on this earth with the knowledge of self awareness and the ability to manipulate the environments that they inhabit to a greater extent than any other species on the planet. Ultimately one must wonder what purpose there is to ones own existence and define what it means for them to be. Presupposing the existence of different human beings in the external world, there would undoubtedly be varying opinions regarding the ultimate purpose of existence. Several key thinkers in modern existentialism provide the necessary framework for establishing a so-called meaning of life. Marcel, Sartre, Heidegger and Camus, refer to the theoretical frameworks of subjectivity, freedom, responsibility and purpose, in modern existentialism.Order now
With reference to the theoretical frameworks, established by these reputable thinkers, one could propose an answer to the age old question, What is the meaning of life?. That being, the meaning of life is to live a good a good life.
The existence of the external world and other human beings:
Perhaps Descartes made the most powerful argument in the form of the Cogito, when he stated, I think therefore I am. Historically, the certainty of the external world has been called into question, at various times, in philosophical thought. The whole Platonic tradition is one such example. Camus carries this notion a step further by saying, This heart within me I can feel, and judge that it exist.
This world I can touch, and likewise I judge that it exists. There ends all my knowledge, and the rest is construction. (Camus, pg. 19) Sartre elaborates on this point claiming, Contrary to the philosophy of Descartes, contrary to the philosophy of Kant, when we say I think we are attaining to ourselves in the presence of the other, and we are just as certain of the other as we are of ourselves. (Sartre, pg. 45) Even if one were to accept Descartes evil genius hypothesis, they would still have to admit that beings in the outside world still affect them.
Regardless of whether other human beings are actually realor not is irrelevant, since we would still have to treat them as such. The consequences of not doing so would inevitably be similar one way or the other. For example, if I decided to go about shooting everyone at random, claiming that I am the only real human being on the planet, I would inevitably be thrown in a psychiatric prison. Besides, existentialists would not waste their intellectual efforts arguing about the existence of the external world, and beings of comparable consciousness to ones self, in it. Although this was a central question in philosophy for some time, it is now generally regarded as nonsense. (Madison, Sept.
It is, logically impossible to deny ones own existence as a subject. (Madison, Dec. 2, 1998) There exists the idea in our reality that every individual person is different. Although we may have similar emotions and undergo the same physical processes, we assume that no two people are exactly alike. If this is the case, we can assume that there will be minute differences in the way individuals perceive certain stimuli. Therefore their reaction to that stimuli, whatever it may be, will be different than that of anothers.
Sartre claims, …every truth and every action imply both a human environment and a human subjectivity. (Sartre, pg. 24) Subjectivity is a key concept in existentialist thought.
Heidegger claims that, the very essence of man is subjectivity. (Heidegger, pg. 133) Although a key notion in existentialism, this idea has existed for ages, being aptly illustrated in the ancient tradition, as the doctrine of Protagorean relativism. We cannot come to know anything about ourselves, except through the mediation of another. (Sartre, pg. 45) This is to say that external observation is required for knowledge.
He goes on to say, Thus we find ourselves in a world which is, let us say that, of inter-subjectivity. (Sartre, pg. 45) People exist in a world with others perceiving different objective events. (Sartre, pg. 46) Man is indeed a project which possess a subjective life .