Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Meaning and Immortality

Scientific American blogger and academic psychologist Clay Routledge writes that "To Feel Meaningful Is to Feel Immortal".

My comment: It's nice to know that empirical research confirms what religion and philosophy have been saying for a couple of millennia. 

But is this "feeling" of immortality rationally justifiable or is it merely a useful illusion? When Dr Routledge describes us as "meaning-making animals," he seems to encourage the latter view: that there is no meaning apart from what we "make." 

I find it difficult to imagine being satisfied by a "meaning" that I am conscious of having "made" myself. 

By contrast, the Platonic tradition in philosophy (and similar traditions in Asian thought) give reasons for regarding meaning as a feature of reality--a reality that the feeling of immortality, then, reflects. 

To take this thought seriously, we must of course consider systematically what we mean by "reality"; and this may involve reconsidering the nature of "empirical" investigation. I look forward to the day when "empirical" psychology will have the nerve to consider these questions with an open mind.