Purpose in life and why it matters - Susan Wolf (2023)

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Note Aessential reading

life has meaningthere are manyapply in your bookmeaning in life, when “subjective attraction meets objective attractiveness”.1Subjective attraction is “caring deeply about something or things”2and objective attractiveness is the measure of the value of the thing or things an individual cares about deeply.

(Video) Meaning in Life and Why it Matters | Susan Wolf - MWB Ep.4

Susan Wolf arrives at this conclusion by combining two common wisdoms.3The first wisdom can be summed up as “find your passion”,4or “Follow your Bliss”,5which, in general, consists of developing the sensitivity and experience to detect and know when you are passionate about something and then to have the conviction and courage to follow it. This wisdom can be labeled the vision of fulfillment.

The second wisdom is “to be (be) part of something bigger than yourself”,6that, it must be interpreted metaphorically as something beyond the limitations of their own immediate needs, desires and interests; in other words, finding something that derives its value from a source outside of you.

However, argues Susan Wolf, even wisdom alone is not enough to lead a meaningful life, as a life of passion can degenerate into hedonism if you dedicate your life to how you feel while working towards something greater than you can yourself. become boring. if you can't feel any passion or connection with him. Thus, the two wisdoms function only in combination.

Significance is a third category of motivation that departs from traditional views of human behavior governed by self-interest or morality, since many of the things people do, often motivated by love, cannot be satisfactorily explained as self-interest. or moral action. .

(Video) Susan Wolf on The Meaning of Life: When Subjective Attraction Meets Objective Attractiveness

So how do Wolf's theories fit in with the theories of meaning I've laid out in my previous articles? Do the two theories combined help us to reach a fuller understanding of personal meaning? Do the theories fill in each other's gaps?

Susan Wolf's approach to defining meaning for living your life shows that my theories can be divided into two parts: one part coincides with Wolf's concept of meaning, while the other analyzes how a navigation map is constructed from a structure of meaning. In the first part, I define meaning as something that enhances consciousness or mediates physical existence, and we will next examine how these two parts relate to Wolf's theories. The second part of my theories concerns towers of meaning, which are the subconscious and conscious associations we make between things, associations that build on top of one another in tower-like structures culminating at their peak in values ​​that act as beacons by which we sail. our life. This second part concerns more practical aspects of how we can find meaning and significance in our lives.

My theory that meaning is what leads tohigher consciousnessserves to explain several points of Wolf's theories. The subjective attraction Wolf talks about, which is summed up in popular wisdom as "follow your bliss" or "find your passion," can be seen as a deeply rooted human instinct to strive for higher consciousness. In other words, the source of this instinct is actually the human trait of seeking to individualize or fulfill our lives, which in turn is the result of a higher consciousness.

A note about higher consciousness is needed here. By higher consciousness I mean a deeper level of understanding of yourself and the world around you, being able to see multiple layers of what motivates others, and consequently the ability to shape and influence things. . A mind with higher consciousness has more complex and organized knowledge, both tacit, and in practice non-expressible, and explicit. This instinct toward greater organization and complexity is in line with the general evolutionary trend toward ever-increasing organization and complexity that can be observed in all aspects of the universe.

(Video) Introduction to Philosophy: Meaning of Life, Part 5: Susan Wolf and Meaning

Higher consciousness also explains the second wisdom that Wolf calls "objective attractiveness" and that popular wisdom summarizes as "being part of something bigger than yourself." We can see that striving to be part of something bigger is synonymous with higher consciousness, as it is higher consciousness that makes us part of something greater and it is higher consciousness that requires us to expand our minds beyond limits. . By defining objective value as any pursuit that leads to higher consciousness, we have laid the groundwork for objectively judging and measuring that value, and perhaps in the future, as higher consciousness is better understood, psychological tests can be designed to measure it. subjective judgment. .

mediating physical existenceit can then be classified as a by-product of higher consciousness, as by developing a more sophisticated understanding and ability to relate to the world, life becomes more worth living and this concept explains "feelings of boredom and alienation".7what Susan Wolf refers to when we can't find a meaning. Bear in mind again that higher consciousness is not just explicit knowledge that can be written and studied in a book. It is being able to identify, emphasize and fully understand. It has an element of wisdom or practical knowledge and requires direct experience.

The sections of my theories dealing with meaning itself and its tower-like construction are left out of Wolf's article. These theories are actually at a lower level trying to postulate how higher consciousness is constructed and are relevant because they point the way to the practical aspects of the development and meaning of higher consciousness. I won't talk more about these theories in this article.

In short, Susan Wolf's theories of meaning are compatible with my theories, and the two theories are mutually reinforcing. Wolf's theories create further structure by clearly defining the place of meaning in relation to other sources of human motivation, and provide an important rationale for arriving at such a theory by identifying the common wisdom that can form the basis of the theory (see note on endoxic of Aristotle). method). My theories of higher consciousness and the mediation of physical existence explain more fully what is meaning and why these traditions make sense. Thus, my theories provide the basis for a scientific approach to meaning and its measurement.

(Video) meaning of Life and happiness with Susan Wolf

Why does it matter? In a world beset by conflict, the struggle to survive and the increasing marginalization of large segments of the working population due to increased automation, we need a more reliable method for people to reach higher levels of skill and achievement, to truly develop their potential and contribute to solving the problems of life and happiness. Understanding how meaning truly is the main motivating force once we fail to meet our basic needs, and understanding how meaning can be achieved, provides the foundation for a scientific approach to reaching our full potential.

comprarMeaning of life and why it mattersin the Amazon.

1. Meaning of Life and Why It Matters, p. 29
2. Meaning of life..., p. 29
3. This method of deriving philosophy goes back to Aristotle's endoxic method. Consult the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy for aarticleAbout the subject.
4. Meaning of life..., p. 30
5. Joseph Campbell, The Power of Myth, p. 120 , 149
6. Meaning of life..., p. 31
7. Meaning of life…, p.34

(Video) John on "Meaning in Life and Why it Matters"


What is good life according to Susan Wolf? ›

Roughly, then, according to my proposal, a meaningful life must satisfy two criteria, suitably linked. First, there must be active engagement, and second, it must be engagement in (or with) projects of worth. A life is meaningless if it lacks active engagement with anything.

What is Susan Wolf philosophy? ›

Susan Wolf works chiefly in ethics and its close relations in philosophy of mind, philosophy of action, political philosophy, and aesthetics. Her interests range widely over moral psychology, value theory, and normative ethics.

What is Wolf's conception of meaningfulness in life? ›

But what is meaningfulness in life? Wolf will also cover the thought that life is meaningful insofar as one is gripped or excited by things worthy of one's love, and one is able to do something positive about it.

What are wolf's two conditions for obtaining meaning in life? ›

Specifically, Wolf outlines two main criteria for leading a meaningful life: (1) an individual must be successful in accomplishing his or her pursuits and these pursuits ought to be worthwhile in both a personal and societal sense; (2) an individual must be passionate and deeply interested in his or her pursuits.

What is a moral saint Susan Wolf? ›

Wolf defines a moral saint as “a person whose every action is as morally good as possible, a person, that is, who is as morally worthy as can be.”

What is the message of the good life? ›

In its basic form, living the good life is all about the exploration of that which gives you joy and satisfaction. It's about finding purpose and meaning in your life and drawing happiness from that which you do. Every human being aspires to live a good life.

What is Susan Wolf's critique of moral sainthood? ›

According to Wolf, moral saints have to be very, very nice, inoffensive, and therefore, she's worried that they will also be dull witted, humorless, and bland. Her words, wolf contrast moral saints, with the people that we actually admire, the people that we make into role models or character ideals.

What is the key ethical argument for saving wolves? ›

Moral arguments touch on some of our most deeply held values. Moral arguments for wolf reintroduction include: wolves deserve to live where they once thrived, humans should share the land with and respect members of the biotic community such as wolves, and wolves enhance the wilderness character of natural areas.

What is the slogan wolf summarizes her view with? ›

Wolf summarizes her view with the following slogan: Meaning arises when subjective attraction meets objective attractiveness..

What does it mean to be actively engaged Susan Wolf? ›

' A person is actively engaged by something if she is gripped, excited, involved by it. Most obviously, we are actively engaged by the things and peo- ple about which and whom we are passionate.

What is the name of Wolf's theory? ›

Wolff's law, developed by the German anatomist and surgeon Julius Wolff (1836–1902) in the 19th century, states that bone in a healthy animal will adapt to the loads under which it is placed.

What does wolf mean spiritual? ›

The Wolf Spirit Animal symbolizes: Strong connection with your instincts or intuition. High intelligence. Loyalty and communication. Deep desire for freedom.

What are two important traits of a wolf? ›

Wolves are complex, highly intelligent animals who are caring, playful, and above all devoted to family. Only a select few other species exhibit these traits so clearly. Just like elephants, gorillas and dolphins, wolves educate their young, take care of their injured and live in family groups.

What does Wolf symbolize in personality? ›

Wolf symbolism and meaning include loyalty, family and friendship, teamwork, protection, wildness, freedom, instincts, playfulness, and other noble traits. Historically, wolves lived throughout the world, so they are subjects in the mythology and folklore of many cultures.

What does wolf mean by projects of worth? ›

Susan Wolf maintains that meaningful lives are lives of active engagement in projects of worth—those that are “worthwhile,” a term Wolf recognizes as suggesting “a commitment to some sort of objective value.” She offers numerous examples of activities she believes are sources of meaning and ones that are not.

What does Wolf claim allowing morality to dominate our lives? ›

Wolf claims that a necessary condition of moral sainthood is that one's life be dominated by a commitment to improving the welfare of others or society as a whole.

What is the conflict between our moral ideals and our moral assumptions that Wolf addresses? ›

Wolf believes that the moral saint cannot encourage athletic, aesthetic, intellectual, or any number of other virtues because the pursuit of these virtues would conflict with the pursuit of moral excellence.

What is Wolf's primary criticism of the life of a rational saint involves? ›

According to Wolf, a moral saint would not be able to develop a cynical or sarcastic wit. Wolf claims that, when it comes to admiring people, there seems to be a limit to how much morality we can stand. Wolf denies that moral sainthood requires the denial of the existence of an identifiable, personal self.

What the Bible says about living a good life? ›


Life on this earth will never be perfect. This is likely something seniors have come to understand over the years. But by rejoicing daily that there is a perfect life to be had ahead, you can get through the imperfections and be glad for your life in the here-and-now.

What makes a life a good life? ›

A good life can be described as a life that is self-satisfying and self-fulfilling. It is characterized by personal joy, fulfillment, and enjoyment of the small pleasures of life. When someone says their life is good, it means that they can access the basic things that give them comfort and pleasure.

What is the essence of life? ›

What is the essence of life? To serve others and do good. ~Aristotle.


1. Susan Wolf: The Meanings of Lives
(Antonio Dos Santos)
2. Susan Wolf: a conception of meaningfulness in life
(Josh Coller)
3. CEPPA Chats - Susan Wolf talks moral demands
(University of St Andrews)
4. Books on Faith & Meaning | Meaning in Life and Why it Matters with Susan Wolf
(GraceFarms CT)
5. Lecture 22, Wolf
(Karl L)
6. Interview with Susan Wolf
(Simon Cushing)


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