What is the meaning of life?

When we ask ourselves “what is the meaning of life/world?” It is similar to asking the question, “what is the meaning of such-and-such-word?”

We do not understand what the word means. It is a collection of letters and sounds that has no meaning for us; it is something meaningless. By asking, “what is the meaning of the word ‘apple’?” We are not looking at the word itself, but rather for what it signifies. The word itself is a signifier that points toward something signified. Without this connection, words and meanings are lost to us.

In such a way, words always point towards something else. They do not point to themselves. I may say ‘apple,’ and everyone understands what an apple is. But suppose a non-English speaker is given this word. What is he to do with it? Nothing, for he cannot make the connection between the signifier and the signified.

So as we ask ourselves, “what is the meaning of life/world?” If a question can be put at all, then it can also be answered (The Analytic, Tractatus 6.5).

In the general sense of the question, as one may pose it during some crisis in their life, the question cannot be answered or it may be answered in various ways, which is not an answer at all, for the true question to be asked is, “what is the meaning of my life?”viz. “What are my goals and ends?”

However for the philosopher to ask the question specifically, “what is the meaning of life?” we must look at it in an analytical way as we would look at the question, “what is the meaning of the word ‘apple?'” As we find that words point away from themselves to something signified, for what is signified is their meaning, so too then do we find that by asking what is the meaning of life/world, we cannot find the answer within it but rather outside of it.

viz. We are treating the meaning of the life and the world as a symbol of something signified. But to what do they point to?


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