Philosophy attempts to answer some of the basic but important questions. Daniel Klein, in his book Every Time I Find the Meaning of Life, They Change it, explores what philosophers think on the question “How to live” one’s life. Understanding how to live requires the understanding of what is meaning of life. But philosophers also dwell on the question of what is meaning of meaning. However, Klein, in his book, emphasizes the question of how to live a meaningful life without going what is meaning, or life, or to live.
Before going what philosophers think, we must be clear on the point that not all views are philosophical. “Everything can be philosophized but everything is not philosophy. Similarly, everyone can be a philosopher but not everyone is a philosopher.” Klein mentions that how to live is discussed by many motivational speakers and the so-called gurus etc. But their views are not of our interest. They are not independent thinkers, rather their views are based on different philosophies.
Philosophers views on life
“Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for.” Epicurus (341-270 BC)
“The art of life lies in taking pleasures as they pass, and the keenest pleasure are not intellectual, nor are they always moral.” Aristippus (435-356 BC)
Epicurus was a hedonist philosopher. According to Hedonism, the main purpose of life is the pursuit of pleasure. Pursuing pleasure requires seeking ways to avoid pain. It also gives importance to be in present. Epicurus’s above quote implies that we must not neglect what we have by too much thinking about what we do not have. Also, we should always think of the long-term outcome of what we want to have.
Aristippus’s view is more attractive but also seems somehow dangerous to society. But isn’t he is talking about feeling pleasure in little things rather than in big intellectual thoughts or moral deeds. However, he does not imply that intellect and morality are fruitless but he suggests that we should learn to take pleasure from things that happen every day.
Further, living a good life demands doing good or right. But doing right assumes freedom of will. Free will asserts that everyone is free to choose whatever one wants to. However, there are religions that say that everything is controlled by God’s will. Science says that our actions are determined by the laws of nature. So, are we really free? William James, therefore, asserts that “my first act to free will shall be to believe in free will.”
Philosophers do not give a precise meaning of life but present various positions that may help in finding the meaning of one’s life.