The problem of death and immortality in philosophy - the meaning of life and the views of philosophers

Man is the most unique and contradictory creation of nature and history. Only people are capable of thinking about the meaning of life and realizing the finitude of their own existence. The problems of death and immortality occupy a central place in philosophy. At all times, this question interested prophets, religious figures, great thinkers, teachers and doctors.

The meaning of life in various philosophical and ideological approaches

The problem of the meaning of life appeared from the very moment a person realized himself, understood his subjective existence. Already in antiquity, philosophers tried to find an answer about the meaning of human life. From the point of view of Socrates, the meaning of life is associated with the experience of happiness, which is possible if a person leads a virtuous life, respects the laws of his state, and acts in accordance with moral commandments. Aristotle believed that the meaning was to achieve human virtue and responsible citizenship. Epicurus, on the contrary, connected the meaning of life with personal peace, bliss, and own happiness. In accordance with his philosophy, the meaning of life for Diogenes was in inner freedom and contempt for material wealth.

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During the Middle Ages, when religion reigned supreme, the emphasis in considering the meaning of life shifted. Instead of dualism comes the monistic principle, according to which there is only one absolute principle - God. It is inaccessible to understanding, and reveals itself only in sacred texts. You can approach him only through faith. Man is characterized by duality. On the one hand, he is sinful; the lower part of his soul always encourages a person to follow his passions. On the other hand, he is created in the likeness of God. This is how the idea of ​​an “inner” man appears, who is turned to God, but he himself is hidden from man’s self-consciousness.

As philosophical concepts change, the approach to the meaning of life also changes. Schopenhauer considered human life to be a manifestation of a certain world will. It only seems to a person that he is acting in accordance with his own decision, while he is guided by someone else’s will. This world will is absolutely indifferent to people, it is unconscious, so a person is left to its mercy and forced to endure numerous hardships. Life in this understanding is hell, in which a fool pursues pleasure and comes to disappointment, while a sage, realizing the inevitability of troubles, curbs his desires.

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Existentialists paid a lot of attention to the meaning of life. From the point of view of many representatives of this movement, human life is an absurdity that does not have any external goals or guidelines, and therefore there is no meaning in it. Only a person himself can create the meaning of life, forming his own values ​​for himself, filling an indifferent reality with colors. Heidegger wrote about the “thrownness” of man into existence. Sartre pointed out that “existence comes before essence,” i.e. a person first exists, then begins to “feel himself in this world,” and then defines himself. There is no God, just as there is no predestination of human nature. “Life before we live it is nothing, but it is up to us to give it meaning.”

Jean-Paul Sartre

The representative of atheistic existentialism, Jean-Paul Sartre, viewed human existence as a meaningful, free activity. However, in the sphere of labor economic participation, a person does not belong to himself, he does not lead an authentic existence. Life itself, according to Sartre, is a consistent chain of self-denials in which freedom is realized, and it is precisely this that is the only basis for the value and non-value of human actions. Freedom places unconditional responsibility on society, as a result of which it is expressed in a critical attitude towards the world and people.

Jean-Paul Sartre. By Moshe Milner.

Philosophy of the meaning of life

Definition 1

The meaning of life is one of the key problems, which includes determining one’s place in the world and nature, determining life goals and one’s purpose, and resolving issues related to both the biological and social nature of man.

Often the question of the meaning of life arises in the wake of an assessment of past years, when it is necessary to make a subjective assessment of the past life and correlate it with the goals that stood at the very beginning. However, young people at the beginning of their journey also often ask this question, although their vector is directed forward.

The meaning of life is an eternal question. Awareness of the finitude of existence and death forces a person to analyze his life path, wanting to highlight in it the red thread of meaning that everything was not in vain. During the existence of mankind, a variety of ideas have been expressed about the meaning of human life:

  • there is no meaning in life;
  • the meaning of human life lies beyond his understanding, is not accessible to him;
  • there is no absolute meaning, there is only here, the real and earthly, and we must strive for it;
  • the meaning of life is in personal correct happiness: build a house, raise children, etc.;
  • the meaning of life as preparation for the correct posthumous existence of the soul.

Religious concepts assure that the meaning of human life is not accessible to knowledge and lies beyond the boundaries of everyday life. While secular philosophers insist that living here and now is the only reality that exists. However, the only thing that is true is that the meaning of life is not given as a ready-made answer, it is individual, and other people’s experience has no meaning in this matter.

Note 1

The meaning of life cannot be found, it can only be found, isolated from the surrounding reality. The ability to correctly set priorities, set true and not false goals, and choose the path in life that leads to personal development and not to its degradation will help with this.

Rene Descartes

Rene Descartes, a French philosopher and sociologist, believed that the main thing in life is the principle of moderation, according to which one should not rush to extremes, make hasty decisions, it is necessary to think everything over rationally and find the right path. According to his philosophy, the old is easy to destroy, but before doing this, you need to think about the consequences. The natural scientist respected the traditions and customs of various peoples, this speaks of his high moral qualities. Descartes' life rule stated the desire to change, first of all, oneself, and not the world around him. After all, man is the highest mind, and only he can control his thoughts and rule over them.

Rene Descartes. Author Franz Hals

The meaning of life and modern society

A modern society is aimed at accumulating material wealth; it is its quantity that is associated with human happiness and the fullness of being. In a consumer society, material things have a status and prestige character. At the same time, an “existential vacuum” is growing, when, despite the amount of material wealth, a person cannot identify his meaning in life and feels emptiness in his soul. Consumer society controls every step, every choice of a person, forcing him to act as fashion, advertising, idols, etc. dictate. Society is also under the direct effect of manipulation, which leads to the formation of primitive needs in humans, the standardization of opinions and tastes, leisure activities, and the organization of life in general. This makes a person’s life faceless, standardized, leading to its devaluation.

Modern society is forming a new view of a person as hyperactive and successful, surviving in conditions of wild competition, with a smile glued to his face. He has prestigious things (expensive clothes, equipment, etc.), which he needs to constantly update to maintain his status. At the same time, it has long been noticed that with such an attitude, indifference to what surrounds a person is developed, to those very things. A person has less and less time, he is constantly rushing, trying to do everything.

By focusing on material things, on satisfying lower needs, a person within the framework of the modern “affluent society” loses the meaning of life. This leads to a growing feeling of the absurdity of what is happening, an increase in the number of depression experienced, and an overall increase in the number of mental illnesses. Loss of meaning in life leads to a person’s indifference both to other people and to society as a whole. Connection with others disappears. As psychologist E. Fromm pointed out, a person in modern society is aimed at the attitude of “having”, instead of “being”.

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The Athenian philosopher Socrates saw his purpose in encouraging people to search for truth. He saw the meaning of life precisely in the purification, treatment and development of his soul, because accumulated wealth cannot replace virtuous deeds. Even in the face of death, the ancient Greek thinker did not renounce his views and adhered to them until the very end.

Jacques-Louis David. "The Death of Socrates"

What does hedonism say about this?

The founders of this doctrine are the ancient Greek philosophers Epicurus and Aristippus. The latter argued that both bodily and spiritual pleasure are good for the individual, which should be positively assessed, respectively, displeasure is bad. And the more desirable the pleasure, the stronger it is. The teaching of Epicurus on this issue has become a household word. He said that all living things strive for pleasure, and every person strives for the same. However, he receives not only sensual, bodily pleasure, but also spiritual.

Interpretation from a religious point of view

Each historical era poses tasks and problems for society, the solution of which most directly affects how an individual understands his purpose. Since living conditions, cultural and social demands change, it is natural that a person’s views on all issues change. However, people have never left the desire to find that one, so to speak, universal meaning of life that would be suitable for any segment of society, for each period of time. This same desire is reflected in all religions, among which Christianity is especially noteworthy. The problem of the meaning of human life is considered by Christianity inseparable from the teachings about the creation of the world, about God, about the Fall, about the sacrifice of Jesus, about the salvation of the soul. That is, all these questions are seen on the same plane; accordingly, the essence of being appears outside of life itself.

Judgment three

And it sounds like this: there is meaning in our existence, it can even be known, but only after you know the one who created this existence. Here the question will be relevant not about what is the meaning of a person’s life, but about why he is looking for it. So, I lost it. The logic is simple. Having committed a sin, a person has lost God. And you don’t need to come up with the meaning here yourself, you just need to know the Creator again. Even the philosopher and convinced atheist Russell Bertrand said that if you initially exclude the existence of God, then there is no point in looking for meaning at all, there will be none. A bold decision for an atheist.


The founder of religious and philosophical teachings, Buddha, devoted a lot of time to thinking about the purpose and meaning of life. Indian systems are characterized by belief in karma, samsara and moksha. Bad and good deeds committed by people throughout their lives, which have either positive or negative consequences and affect rebirth, are karma. Samsara is an endless sequence of birth and death. A person’s desires are always inexhaustible; to this dissatisfaction should be added the suffering and pain experienced throughout life’s journey. Moksha is liberation from samsara, the opportunity to break out of its circle. Hence the purpose and meaning of life, namely the awareness of the state of dissatisfaction and the beginning of getting rid of all desires.


Arthur Schopenhauer's concept

The 19th century saw a surge in thinking about the purpose of human existence. Arthur Schopenhauer's irrational concept offers a new approach to solving this problem. The philosopher believes that the meaning of human life is just an illusion, with the help of which people are saved from the terrible thought of the purposelessness of their existence. In his opinion, the world is governed by absolute will, which is indifferent to the fate of individual people. A person acts under the pressure of circumstances and the will of others, so his existence is a real hell, a chain of continuous suffering, replaced by each other. And in search of meaning in this endless series of suffering, people come up with religion, philosophy, the meaning of life in order to justify their existence and make it at least relatively bearable.

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