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The Meanings of Lives by Susan Wolf Essay (Critical Writing)


Although the idea of searching for the meaning of life does not seem original enough, the difference between the common meaning of life and the essence of life for each and every individual is worth discussing. In her work The Meanings of Lives, Susan Wolf raises a peculiar question of whether a life has a grandeur general meaning or its purpose is individual for every single person; moreover, the author specifies that, without the latter, the former cannot exist. However, the idea that the purpose of an individual’s life is a part and parcel of a general concept can be questioned, since the meaning of an individual’s life can be incredibly versatile.

According to the author, the general concept of life must have a certain purpose, otherwise people’s lives are completely meaningless and useless: “But how can individual lives have meaning if life as a whole has none?” (Wolf 3). On the one hand, there is a grain of truth in what the author is trying to convey. Indeed, if considering the purpose of living for each creature as a part of a whole, it becomes obvious that unless the latter has the meaning, its components have no sense. On the other hand, the lives of people can be viewed as separate elements, the frames within people set their own laws and set their own goals, thus, determining the meaning of their lives.

Supposing, life as a generic notion has no meaning whatsoever; in this case, according to Wolf’s logical conclusions, an individual cannot find a reason to exist. However, if the given supposition were correct, people all over the world would have no reason to continue their life track and, hence, would lose interest in their own existence. Meanwhile, it is clear that, despite numerous challenges which the humankind has been facing over the past few decades, e.g. global warming, financial crises, etc., people still partake actively in the everyday life. Moreover, people are obviously capable of finding reasons for existing. For example, such phenomenon as religion emerged at the dawn of times, creating the ultimate reason for people to live.

Considering the problem from another angle, one must check another aspect of relations between the general meaning of life and a personal one. In case there is general meaning of life, e.g., the fate or any other life track blazed by the Providence, God, etc., it should help people obtain their individual sense of living. However, the given postulate presupposes that there should be no desperate people at all in the entire world, which is practically impossible.

Therefore, the meaning of an individual’s life does not necessarily depend on the general Meaning of Life; moreover, these are two quite different elements which at certain points can be even opposed to each other. Once finding their own reason to strive for living, people do not need to search for the general idea of Life anymore, which, on the one hand, somehow downgrades the entire philosophic idea of being, yet on the other hand, provides a good foil for the further personality development. Thus, despite Wolf asserts that an individual meaning of life depends on the general concept, there are cases when individuals can find their own reasons to exist without searching for the global ones.

Works Cited

Wolf, Susan. The Meanings of Lives. n.d. PDF file.

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IvyPanda. (2020, July 17). The Meanings of Lives by Susan Wolf. Retrieved from https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-meanings-of-lives-by-susan-wolf/

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"The Meanings of Lives by Susan Wolf." IvyPanda, 17 July 2020, ivypanda.com/essays/the-meanings-of-lives-by-susan-wolf/.

1. IvyPanda. "The Meanings of Lives by Susan Wolf." July 17, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-meanings-of-lives-by-susan-wolf/.


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IvyPanda. "The Meanings of Lives by Susan Wolf." July 17, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-meanings-of-lives-by-susan-wolf/.

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IvyPanda. 2020. "The Meanings of Lives by Susan Wolf." July 17, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-meanings-of-lives-by-susan-wolf/.

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IvyPanda. (2020) 'The Meanings of Lives by Susan Wolf'. 17 July.

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