Meaningful Life: An essay

Published under category: Essay Writing Tips | 2015-02-22 02:02:36 UTC

Context: Social Ideologies

The question of a good and meaningful life has been a point of concern for ages, by various schools of thought. From Aristotle’s eudemonia concepts to positive psychology, the quest for understanding how a human being can attain happiness has led to the postulation of numerous theories such as hedonism, positivism, and so forth. Yet, the subject has remained elusive to date. Therefore, in my endeavor to elucidate on the subject of ‘the meaningful life’, I take into account the complexity of the subject, as a basis for providing a logical construction, as well as an experiential and objective one, into what one can deem as a meaningful life. I wish to assert that, leading a meaningful life is the key to happiness. A person who lives a meaningful life is one who leads a virtuous life, virtuous insofar as such deemed virtuous actions incorporates the intellect, simply what can be termed as intellectual virtue. For example, consider a case where my friend’s sister wanted to carry out an abortion because she differed with her boyfriend after pregnancy. I tried as much to advices my friend’s sister and actually she should gave birth. Today, the baby that she wanted to abort is the center of her life, makes her happy, and is the brightest pupil who has won numerous academic awards in her class. Actually, my friend’s sister often mentions that, she does not know what her life will be without the baby boy. This means simply that, virtuous actions are meaningful actions, and would always offer life worthiness and happiness, rooted in our daily engagements, from social enclaves to areas of work. In focus of Seligman’s PhD thesis on “Authentic Happiness” and Kidder’s article on “The Good Doctor”, there is a notable relationship between meaning, gratification, and work and in exploration of this relationship; I postulate that a meaningful life is the key to happiness in all aspects of engagement because it offers gratification, meaning, and purpose to our actions. Seligman defines a meaningful life as that where his/her one uses own signature strengths and virtues in the service of something much larger than one is. Actually, Seligman postulates that authentic happiness comes about as a function of meeting three major needs: the need to have a pleasant life (pleasure), the need to have the engaged life (engagement), and the need to have a meaningful life. Simply, the pleasant life is about happiness in a hedonic sense while engaged life is about happiness through engagement, and the meaningful life is about happiness by achieving virtue. The simplest of the four forms of good life is that of a pleasant life. According to Seligman, the pleasant life is a life that successfully pursues the positive emotions about the present, past, and future. The pleasant life is characterized by positive emotions, and is actually similar to an understanding of the good life from a hedonic point of view, though Seligman seems to only focus on positive emotions. Further, the need to have a pleasant life is based on Seligman’s interpretation of hedonism, which is a matter of maximizing feelings of pleasure and minimizing feelings of pain. Seligman points to the research by Kahneman as an example of happiness conceptualized in terms of pleasant life, what can be seen essentially as momentary experiences of pleasures. Further, Seligman indicates that our actions must be designed to serve the purpose and objectives of acting so, in order that everything done will be aligned to purpose. Having a clear understanding of what our purpose is in any particular action or interaction, is important in designing every action to align with purpose or to realize the intended objective. Our purpose, and even our specific objective in an interaction, almost never demand a particular form of action, but because a human person is endowed with reason, one must tailor own actions to befit the larger purpose. In implication then, Seligman’s theory of authentic happiness takes into account hedonism in that, part of what makes a happy life a pleasant life. In contrast, the need to have an engaged life refers to gratification, not pleasure. Engagement in life goes beyond hedonism. Happiness in the context of the engaged life is a matter of getting what you want. The engaged life holds that fulfillment of a desire contributes to one’s happiness regardless of the amount of pleasure or displeasure. Actually, Seligman provides plenty of advice to his readers on how to enhance gratification by engaging in activities that generate flow of experience. Moreover, what Seligman terms a good life is more complex than the pleasant life. According to Seligman, using one’s signature strengths to obtain abundant gratification in the main realms of one’s life is a good life. Therefore, a good life is one in which you use your special character properties, that is ‘signature strengths’, in important areas of life to experience gratifications. Authenticity is an important concept for Seligman in this connection. Authenticity describes the experience that comes from using your own special character properties to obtain gratifications. An authentic life is therefore a prerequisite for a good life. Therefore, a good life is to be using your signature strengths, being true to your own character or fundamental nature of virtues. In fact, the need to have an engaged life refers to gratification, not pleasure. Engagement in life goes beyond hedonism. Happiness in the context of the engaged life is a matter of getting what one wants. The engaged life holds that fulfillment of a desire contributes to one’s happiness regardless of the amount of pleasure or displeasure. Note that, desire may be in the form of wanting truth, illumination, and purity, but these desires are very different from bodily pleasures. Noteworthy too, happiness through work in life moves from hedonism’s amount of pleasure felt to the somewhat less subjective state of how well one is working and how well one’s desires are satisfied. Actually, Seligman provides plenty of advice how to enhance gratification by engaging in activities that generate flow experience. Therefore, in addition to experiencing pleasure of a pleasant life, people can experience desire fulfillment through engagement, such as in work, simply, the engaged life. With respect to the need to have a meaningful life, Seligman maintains that happiness consists of a human life that achieves certain things from a list of worthwhile pursuits such as career accomplishments, friendship, freedom from disease and pain, material comforts, civic spirit, beauty, education, love, knowledge, and good conscience. Therefore, leading a meaningful life is the key to happiness. The meaningful life is not necessarily subjective as is the pleasant life as well as the engaged life. Leading a meaningful life is at least objective. The person who lives a meaningful life is one that serves what is larger and more worthwhile than just the self’s pleasures and desires. In my opinion, virtue then is the stratum of a meaningful life, which also is the key to happiness. Virtue is a lived dimension of morality where one gathers personal motives, feelings, and dispositions for a consistent lived expression of a vision. As Kidder notes, in the life of a doctor, no less than in the life of religious believers, virtues can be acquired if the basic vision is kept alive and if effort is expended to conduct one’s life in light of concrete models supplied by the vision. It makes as much sense in medicine as it does in religion to make a place for ethics in the sense of personal being, alongside an ethics of rules and principles, as well as intellectual illumination. However, in neither case according to Kidder can the effort to acquire virtue be disconnected from an original vision, that of leading a meaningful life. Virtues actually structure character because they are orientations of character in the sense of balanced, rational patterns of choosing, feeling, and acting in accordance with ideals and standards of goodness, communicated by a vision. The meaningful life is one that contributes to good behavior, good people, and even good societies. For this meaningful life to be attained there must be virtuous acts, to contribute to both good of others and the good of the acting person by creating a readiness and orientation to right action. As virtue is developed in every aspect of human living, it provides one with a practical moral wisdom for leading a meaningful life. Conversely, according to Seligman, a meaningful life cannot be attained as a permanent state, but as a continuous development of an individual’s strengths and values. It is a life of continuous development or growth. A person is normally in a process of development, and one naturally has a given capacity for his/er using own innate character traits. In my opinion then, a meaningful life is attainable and humanity has capacities that are necessary for this form of the good life. Noteworthy then, positive psychology, Kidder, and Seligman explicitly both defend and revitalize the Aristotelian model with its emphasis on acting from both self-benefiting as well as other-benefiting virtues. They also emphasize that when the individual functions best, one has a good experience of life. The good life is thus not a fixed state, but for Seligman it is a life in striving toward the realization of one’s true positive human potentials in ever better ways. ORDER PLAGIARISM FREE PAPER


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