ISSN 2227-7242 (Print), ISSN 2304-9685 (Online)

Антропологічні виміри філософських досліджень, 2020, Вип. 17

Anthropological Measurements of Philosophical Research, 2020, NO 17


UDC 141.3


1*Vasyl’ Stus Donetsk National University (Vinnytsia, Ukraine), e-mail,
ORCID 0000-0003-3097-7974
2*Vinnytsia Mykhailo Kotsiubynskyi State Pedagogical University (Vinnytsia, Ukraine),
e-mail, ORCID 0000-0002-0157-4642



Purpose. The paper considered the explication of the concept of "Sinn des Lebens" within the framework of Western philosophy and psychology of the ХІХ-ХХІ centuries. On the basis of this, the role of this concept in contemporary theoretical discussions and psychological and psychotherapeutic practices is understood. Theoretical basis. The authors believe that understanding the concept of "Sinn des Lebens" is possible only based on the synthesis of modern analytical philosophy methods with the methodological guidelines of modern psychology, in particular logotherapy. Originality. The authors have proved that the problem of "meaning of life" is not an "eternal problem" of philosophy, but arises only in the early nineteenth century as a reflection on European secularization and widespread individualistic values and becomes extremely relevant gaining different interpretations at the beginning of the twentieth century based on the crisis of the sensory values of modern man. Conclusions. The concept of "Sinn des Lebens" originated in the philosophy of the German Romantics and gained philosophical significance only in the works by Schopenhauer, Kierkegaard and Nietzsche. Russian philosophy and literature (especially L. Tolstoy) give priority to the meaning of life in ethical and anthropological studies, focusing on its religious intentions. Analytical philosophy and existentialism appear to be diametrically opposed to the life-purpose anthropological problems, but they attempt to solve this problem by understanding the absurdity of human existence and language from different angles of view. The most reasonable concept of meaning in psychology can be considered Frankls logotherapy, which, despite certain drawbacks, remains the most significant in modern Western psychology. Modern philosophical studies on the problems of the meaning of life, despite their prudent analyticity and systematic nature, have not found credible criteria and means of human life self-reflection yet and have further incentives to develop their methodological and philosophical considerations. However, the diversity of interpretations of the concept of "meaning of life" that exists in modern scientific literature needs further reflection.

Keywords: Sinn des Lebens; meaning of life; significance; meaninglessness; analytical philosophy; existentialism; absurdity; psychoanalysis; logotherapy; existential frustration; supernaturalism; naturalism; nihilism


One of the most important and fundamental problems of philosophy is the problem of understanding the meaning of life. Its formulation and definite solutions are sought in the book of Ecclesiastes and Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics, and in the ancient Egyptian "Songs of the Harpist" and "Confessions" by Augustine Aurelius. Meanwhile, the very expression "meaning of life (Sinn des Lebens)" appeared relatively recently: only in the middle of the nineteenth century, and gained its popularity only in the last century, and it would be futile work to search for it in ancient manuscripts.

The emergence of the philosophical and later psychological reflection of the "meaning of life" is associated with the loss of that meaning by people in life itself. According to modern Ukrainian scientists O. Bazaluk and T. Blazhevych (2015), at the beginning of the XXI century there was a fundamentally new understanding of the essence of man. But the past twentieth century, with its radical individualization and increasing human role on the one hand and the anti-human practice of wars, concentration camps and systematic human rights violations by totalitarian regimes on the other, contributed to the actualization of the meaning of human life. At the beginning of the 21st century we have a mass influx of philosophical, psychological, religious and paranoid popular literature on this subject in all countries of the world. Recent publications include М. Morioka (2015), Р. Watson (2014), T. Eagleton and T. Metz (2013, 2019). At the same time, a rather contradictory situation has arisen about the problem itself: some researchers consider it a pseudoproblem and ironically refer to it as a topic "for crazy people or comedians", while others emphasize that it is the most fundamental problem of philosophy and psychology. Ukrainian researcher L. Safonik (2016), believes that "reflections on the meaning of life are fundamental in the creative inheritance of most thinkers of the past and present". We would rather share the opinion of another domestic researcher, Elvira Chukhray (2015), who thinks that the "problem of the 'meaning of life'… is not an 'eternal' problem, but solely the generation of the post-Enlightenment era". However, in her article, this opinion is not sufficiently substantiated, fragmented and unfortunately not widely spread among the Ukrainian philosophical community.


The paper considered the explication of the concept of "Sinn des Lebens" within the framework of Western philosophy and psychology of ХІХ-ХХІ centuries. On the basis of this, the role of this concept in contemporary theoretical discussions and psychological and psychotherapeutic practices is understood.

Statement of basic materials

The meaning of life was considered a pseudo-problem in traditional and Christian anthropological thought. Aristotle and Epicurus, Thomas Aquinas and Baruch Spinoza wrote about "the purpose of life", "the good life", "living in unity with God", "living in harmony with nature", etc. Augustus’ "sensus vitae luadare Dei" prevailed in it, despite deep reflections and existential anguish (Michel Montaigne, Blaise Pascal and others).

For the first time, the term "meaning of life (Sinn des Lebens)" was introduced at the end of the eighteenth century by the German romantics Novalis and Friedrich Schlegel. Romanticism, trying to grasp the mysteries of life on the basis of mystical sensory experiences, calls for a return to the immediate naturalness of sensuality, an appeal to poetry, which should become the voice of the universal, its divine mystery and immersion. They contrast the everyday "phenomenon of life" with its deep "sense" and "spirit". Based on this contrast, F. Schlegel (2014) writes, in particular, about the "meaning and orientation of inner life". However, the romance concept of "meaning of life" does not acquire conceptual definition, but has the character of intellectual artistic intuition.

It acquires a greater conceptual load from Arthur Schopenhauer, who speaks directly of the "meaning and purpose of life" (der Sinn und Zweck des Lebens). Unlike romantics who have sought to find a deep-seated "meaning of life", it offers a more radical concept of peace and life that is devoid of any meaning. Schopenhauer, in his main work, The World as Will and Imagination (Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung), however, in the second volume, published in 1844, speaks of a "sense of life" that has not an intellectual but mostly a moral dimension. In particular, he writes:

Erwägen wir, nach außen blickend, daß ho bios brachys, hê de technê makra (vita brevis, ars longa), und betrachten, wie die größten und schönsten Geister, oft wann sie kaum den Gipfel ihrer Lei stungsfähigkeit erreicht haben, imgleichen große Gelehrte, wann sie eben erst zu einer gründlichen Einsicht ihrer Wissenschaft gelangt sind, vom Tode hinweggerafft werden; so bestätigt uns auch Dieses, daß der Sinn und Zweck des Lebens kein intellektualer, sonderneinmoralischer ist. (Schopenhauer, 2009)

But Schopenhauer’s use of the concept of "meaning of life" was rather episodic, although his sensological reflections on life had a great influence on F. Nietzsche, as the latter has repeatedly mentioned in his earlier works.

The meaning of life as a problem is gaining momentum in the context of the emergence of the latest European anthropology, related primarily to S. Kierkegaard’s pre-existentialism and Nietzsche’s philosophy. In one of his first works, "Enten-eller (Either/Or)" (1843), Kierkegaard probably proclaims the meaninglessness of human life for the first time in European philosophy and raises the problem of its meaning. In particular, he makes the following statement:

What is the meaning of life? – People, in fact, can be divided into two classes: those who work in order to live and those who do not need to. But not in the work of the first-class people the meaning of life! Assuming this, a colossal contradiction will emerge: the constant extraction of conditions will answer the question of the meaning of what is stipulated by it! The life of another class, too, has no meaning other than consuming ready conditions. To say that the meaning of life in death is again a contradiction. (authors’ transl.) (Kierkegaard, 1992)

The problem of the meaning of life was solved by Kierkegaard on the basis of a kind of Christian absurdity, incomprehensible and unacceptable to most contemporaries. It is true to note that during his short life, the Danish thinker was known except for a small circle of Copenhagen friends or opponents, his literary and philosophical works never found his admirers either at home or abroad. The first who really "made" Kierkegaard an outstanding thinker was Danish critic and writer Georg Brandes. Brandes wrote a separate monograph on Kierkegaard (1877) in which he calls his half-forgotten fellow countryman the greatest Scandinavian thinker. It is in his letter of 1888 that he specifically draws Nietzsche’s attention to Kierkegaard’s philosophy.

The Nietzschean "Gott starb: nun wollen wir – daß der Übermensch lebe" – has become the cornerstone of modern anthropology. It is in the context of the proclaimed "death of God" and the loss of confidence in the moral foundations that have prevailed in the European mind for more than one and a half millennia that the painful search for new "meanings" begins, including the lost meaning along with the secularization of the "meaning of life". Particularly acute problem "Sinn des Lebens" was posed by Nietzsche in the infamous work "The Anti-Christ" (1888). In accusing the Apostle Paul of misinterpreting the "good news" of Christ, he writes that the Apostle, by his faith in the immortality of the soul and by giving values only to the other, distorted the sense of true life. When the meaning of life is seen not in life itself, – the thinker noted, – but in the "otherworldly", in the void, it means that life is deprived of any meaning at all. He believed that Paul, with the "logical cynicism of the rabbi", led him to embody the idea: "To live in this way, so that there is no point to life any more, this now becomes the 'meaning' of life…" (Nietzsche, 1999).

Indeed, the conceptualization of this concept is not related to Kierkegaard and Nietzsche, but to the academic "philosophy of life" of Wilhelm Dilthey. He makes the "Leben" category the central category of his philosophy. He regards Leben as an interaction of living beings, localized in the spatial-temporal organization of processes. In them, the interconnection of life processes can be grasped only by the category of "value", namely the value of the individual components of life for understanding the whole, in the same way that any stage in human life becomes understandable only when its dependence on everyone else is understood. Value (Bedeutung) is an all-encompassing category that embraces life and its meaning. Dilthey argues that understanding the whole meaning of life arises from the meaning of individual events in the process of life. That is, the meaning of life according to Dilthey is the totality of the meanings that we attach to individual experiences, giving them a common meaning (Sinn). Dilthey (1954) writes: "And just as words are linked in a sentence to understand them, this is how the meaning of life emerges from the interplay of experiences". Yet, in the philosophy of Dilthey we do not find a clear distinction between the concepts of "meaning (Sinn)" and "meaning (Bedeutung)", which are sometimes correlated as a whole and a part, sometimes considered synonymous.

The problem of the meaning of life, which is formulated in the German philosophical tradition, as well as in the Russian one, largely derived from it, acquires a kind of literary and philosophical embodiment. In a pointed form, it was first put by its great Russian writer Lev Tolstoy in his anti-Church Confession (1879–1880, published in 1884). Carefully searching for the meaning of life, the great thinker, together with Schopenhauer, comes to the thought of the absence of any meaning in a person who knows about his mortality and identifies four ways out of this situation (the path of seeming ignorance, epicureanism, strength and energy and "weakness"). But it was the fourth time that Tolstoy opened up the possibility of overcoming sensory loss. He finds this meaning in faith: and he writes: "Looking around on the whole of mankind I saw that people live and declare that they know the meaning of life. I looked at myself – I had lived as long as I knew a meaning of life. To other people, to me, the meaning of life and the possibility of life was given to me by faith" Tolstoy (1983) criticizes the Russian Orthodox Church for its wickedness and servility to the imperial power. His faith is based on a new understanding of the Gospel, non-violence and love for all people. It is this kind of faith that can give meaning to life for the modern man. However, as Tolstoy argued, "the essence of every faith consists in its giving life a meaning which death does not destroy".

The preaching of Leo Tolstoy provoked a rapid and ambiguous reaction in the Russian cultural and intellectual society of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and drew attention to the problem of the meaning of life in Russian philosophy. In particular, from religious and philosophical positions, Vladimir Solovyov ("The Justification of the Good", 1897), Evgenii Troubetzkoy ("The Meaning of Life", 1918) and Semyon Frank ("The Meaning of Life", 1925) try to solve it. Particularly interesting is the latest work written by Frank in the context of emigration based on an understanding of the tragic experience of the revolution and the civil war in Russia. On the basis of the bitter lessons of the beginning of the Bolshevik experiment, he strongly opposes the identification of the "meaning of life" for the purpose of life, especially such as the worship to some higher ideal. According to Frank, it is meaningless to have a life devoted to future generations or a certain idea. The meaning of a person’s life, "found through joint participation in a great common cause that should save the world, is unfounded", he writes (authors’ transl.) (Frank, 1994). Moreover, a person who aims to change the world profoundly takes possession of sinful pride, a person ready for the purpose of realizing "good" intentions to destroy the world. The true meaning of life, the Russian religious philosopher sees in believing in God and love for man, and the condition to acquire it – in "inner religious activity, struggle with oneself" (Frank, 1994).

Russian philosophical thought also had a profound effect on 20th-century European philosophy. In particular, it is known that the recognized classic of analytical philosophy Ludwig Wittgenstein admired the teachings of L. Tolstoy. He once wrote in his diary: «"Confession" (referring to the work of Tolstoy – V. P. & Е. P.) must be part of your new life». Indeed, Wittgenstein in his Blue Book pays much attention to Tolstoy’s reasoning for finding the meaning of life. Based on his previous statements in the Logico-Philosophical Treatise ("The solution of the problem of life is seen in the vanishing of the problem"), he considers these searches hopeless, but they cannot be ignored. In her latest post-mortem work, Wittgenstein goes further and argues that the meaning of a word depends on the context, that is, its use in language. The meaning of life, therefore, is in life itself, that is, it lives in the heart of life itself. However, towards the end of his life, he leans into the theological version and writes in his diaries "The meaning of life, i.e. the meaning of the world, we can call God" and "To believe in God means to see that life has a meaning" (Wittgenstein, 1960).

However, not all analysts who consider themselves to be followers of Wittgenstein share these views. Moreover, his teachers and associates, the founders of this philosophical tradition, Bertrand Russell and George Moore did not share his religious beliefs, inclining to agnosticism. The problem of the meaning of life has almost disappeared from the columns of analytical journals and monographs until the very end of the last century. For Willard Quine, John Austin, or John Sorl, the very question is meaningless. It is only in the late 1990s that analytic philosophy is experiencing a real renaissance of this problem, which we will analyse below.

Over the course of almost a hundred years of suppression of the life meaning problem in English philosophy, it has become the object of much speculation by existentialism, philosophical anthropology, psychoanalysis, and more. In particular, the existentialism with the mouth of one of its classics, Albert Camus, declared it the main problem of philosophy. His work The Myth of Sisyphus begins with the words: "There is but one truly serious philosophical problem, and that is suicide. Judging whether life is or is not worth living amounts to answering the fundamental question of philosophy" (Camus, 1955). The question of "sens de la vie" becomes a kind of signature of French existential philosophy.

In the article "A Century of Fear" for his magazine "Combat" Albert Camus (2006) with the beginning of the Cold War in 1948 wrote that "The seventeenth century was the century of mathematics, the eighteenth that of the physical sciences, and the nineteenth that of biology. Our twentieth century is the century of fear". Indeed, the twentieth century was not only a time of great scientific and technical achievements, the acquisition of some prosperity in most countries, but also of two world wars, the domination of totalitarian regimes, repression and concentration camps. To overcome fears of the average person (as well as to successfully manipulate the "masses") the most popular science is psychology. That is, the twentieth century, by analogy with Camus, can be called a century of psychology. And the "eternal" problem of philosophy on the meaning of human life quite rightly goes to the psychological nomenclature.

Although at the dawn of its development, in the early psychoanalysis of the positivist-minded Sigmund Freud, it had rather a skeptical evaluation. In one of his letters to his student Princess Marie Bonaparte, he wrote: "… when one constantly thinks of the meaning of life, he is ill. Philosophy about the meaning of life is only a favorable form of sublimation" (authors’ transl.) (Freud, 2000). In a treatise by "Das Unbehagen in der Kultur (Civilization and Its Discontents)", published in 1930, the patriarch of psychoanalysis tries to solve (more precisely, eliminate) this problem more academically and diligently. In particular, he writes: "Once again, only religion can answer the question of the purpose of life. One can hardly be wrong in concluding that the idea of life having a meaning stands and falls with the religious system…" (Freud, 2002).

Thus, like the philosopher-analysts, Freud simply eliminates the problem of the meaning (purpose) of life from consideration, as it simply does not make sense outside of religious beliefs, he tries to replace it with the problem of the purpose of life that ordinary people pose to themselves, the question what they demand from life and what they want to achieve in it. Freud’s answer is entirely in the spirit of utilitarianism by Jeremy Bentham, who is known to have believed that man is governed by two rulers: pleasure and pain. Freud believed that most people strive after happiness in their life, which "aims, on the one hand, at an absence of pain and displeasure, and, on the other, at the experiencing of strong feelings of pleasure". In the narrow sense, happiness is the maximum pleasure.

Thus, the views of classical psychoanalysis on the problem of the meaning of life had nothing fundamentally new and were fully embedded in its causal scheme of determination of the human psyche. An alternative to these views was the ideas of Alfred Adler, the founder of the Second Vienna Psychoanalytic School. In his later (1929-1934) work, he puts forward his conception of the meaning of life, the basis of which is already a teleological model of human behavior. ("The psychic life of man is determined by his goal"). A special place in the development of this issue is the book "Der Sinn des Lebens (The Meaning of Life)", written in the United States, but published before pre-Anschluss Austria in 1933. It can be seen as a kind of answer in the polemics with Freud.

Adler distinguishes between the individual meaning of life and that which is recognized by the community (Sinne des Gemeinschaftsgefühls verlangt). The individual meaning of life is the key to understanding the whole personality. A. Adler connects the individual meaning or opinion (Meinung) with the individual solution to three global problems: work, friendship, and love, and what solution to them a person finds. At the same time, he believed that each person finds his or her own solution to these problems, and therefore his or her own unique meaning of life. At the same time, recognizing the uniqueness of the meanings of the lives of individuals and the right to exist for everyone, he believes that not all of them are true or genuine. The psychological criterion of "truthfulness" is their generality for a particular community (Gemeinschaft). On the contrary, deviant persons have only limited meanings that lock themselves into them. Adler (1973) writes: "Meaning is only possible in communication: a word which meant something to one person only would really be meaningless. It is the same with our aims and actions; their only meaning is their meaning for others. (Gemeinschaft)".

Adler’s dynamic-teleological approach to the problem of the meaning of life is in line with the tradition of natural-science evolutionist thinking. He regards the sense of community as innate, and the ideal brotherhood of all mankind is "the ultimate result of evolution" (Adler, 1973). Unlike logotherapy (which we will look at later), Adler understanding is focused primarily on the social embodiment of meaning, on the pragmatic value of "mental health", which is limited to practical life goals and does not take into account the fundamental orientation of the meanings of human self-esteem. According to Adler, the person primarily strives for the main goal – perfection. Overcoming an innate sense of inferiority, they create the meaning of life.

Adler’s understanding of religion is associated with the "concretization of the idea of perfection", that is, God is not really existing, He is only the idea, the supreme and most perfect idea of humanity. As an idea of perfection, God responds to man’s innate desire for perfection and his deep yearning for it, and leads man to this cherished purpose. The utopian goal of achieving a "sense of community" has messianic features: "There is every reason to expect that after a long time, humanity will go to a new level, and the power of a sense of community will overcome all external obstacles. Then it will also be easy for a person to express his sense of community as well as to breathe" (authors’ transl.) (Adler, 1973).

Adler did not live to see the Holocaust, especially since he had already lived in the United States in 1926, so he did not have to see the utopia of his own ideas about the common sense of life for all mankind. As for Victor Frankl, the founder of logotherapy (the so-called Third Vienna Psychoanalytic School), he had to suffer his idea of the meaning of life in the terrible physical and psychological conditions of the Third Reich death camps.

It is in concentration camp situations where all the personalities were unmasked and all the dangerous and meaningless boldly acted in their sinister and inexorable disclosure, people for the most part turn into half-dead machines that lose any desire except purely physiological ones. Only the desire to pursue a goal that would make sense of their existence helped the prisoners survive.

In his most famous book, "… trotzdem Ja zum Leben sagen: Ein Psychologe erlebt das Konzentrationslager (Yes to Life in Spite of Everything: a psychologist’s experiences of the concentration camp)" Frankl describes his experience of being in inhumane conditions of existence. The second part of the book sets out the basics of his teaching, later called logotherapy. According to a Viennese scientist, the former prisoner of Auschwitz, Dachau and Teresenstadt, the driving force behind all human existence, his motivation and purpose, is to search for some meaning of life, as well as its further realization.

Later in his rather brief but conceptual work, "The Will to Meaning", Frankl (1962) proclaims his famous formula: "The loss of the meaning of life is a major problem in modern society, all other problems are merely derivatives of it" (authors’ transl.). This loss is the main cause of the development of depression, alcoholism, drug addiction and increased aggression both in the individual and in society as a whole. He calls it an "existential vacuum" and aims to overcome it.

Frankl believed that the center of personality is a person’s innate motivation to find the meaning of his life. Even when a person commits suicide, they believe in the meaning, if not of life, of death. It is the life, not a man, that raises the question of its own meaning. Making some sense is a definite imperative that needs to be realized. The psychologist asserts the plurality of senses of existence: "Everyone has his own specific vocation or mission in life to carry out a concrete assignment which demands fulfillment. Therein he cannot be replaced, nor can his life be repeated. Thus, everyone’s task is as unique as is his specific opportunity to implement it". Therefore, "man should not ask what the meaning of life is, but rather he must recognize that it is he who is asked" (Frankl, 1962).

Frankl’s logotherapy techniques should help those who have become frustrated in their lives without having sustainable life priorities and beliefs. His followers have created treatment courses that are based on finding and giving patients a sense of their existence. The attitudes of logotherapists to religion are interesting. Logotherapy is in no way a religion, it can be practiced by psychologists of different beliefs. But logotherapy should respect patients’ religious meanings. At the same time, it is necessary to differentiate between the functions of a doctor and a priest. "Although the purpose of psychotherapy is spiritual healing, religion is the salvation of the soul". Frankl, who was respectful of all religious traditions, was convinced that in the future, everyone would have their own religion based on their own dialogue with God.

Finally, Frankl, along with the notion of "meaning", introduces a new concept of "super-meaning". For Frankl, the super-meaning will be forever beyond our comprehension, since we are all mortal. He writes:

This ultimate meaning necessarily exceeds and surpasses the finite intellectual capacities of man; in logotherapy, we speak in this context of a super-meaning. What is demanded of man is not, as some existential philosophers teach, to endure the meaninglessness of life, but rather to bear his incapacity to grasp its unconditional meaningfulness in rational terms. Logos is deeper than logic. (Frankl, 1962)

The idea that there is a "super -meaning" – the ultimate meaning of life – even if we cannot fully understand it, seems to allow us to assert that the meanings we find in our own lives are an actual part of reality and not a product our own ideas.

The Frankl’s doctrine of the meaning of life can be considered the most influential in the humanistic direction of Western psychology. Along with logotherapy, it includes such popular schools as existential psychology (J. Bugental, R. May), personal psychology (G. Allport transpersonal psychology (later A. Maslow, S. Groff), client-centered therapy (K. Rogers) and many others. In almost all of these conceptual approaches, the problem of the meaning of life takes one of the leading places.

Sensitive issues remain the focus of contemporary logotherapy representatives, who are mostly associated with the Victor Frankl Logotherapy Institutes, located around the world, with their main location in Vienna. The Logotherapy community holds regular conferences and congresses, one of the latest was held in Moscow in August 2018. One of the most interesting was the speech of Professor Dr. Carl Becker from Japan. In it, he emphasized that

Victor Frankl’s idea that the search for meaning for a person is a priority over sexual attraction or the desire for power, goes beyond the psychotherapeutic concepts of Freud and Adler. However, with superfluous simplification, such a search for meaning may fail to result in a prioritized focus on itself or grow in the event of raising one’s self in nationalist / populist ideas to even more destructive prejudices. Victor warned of such dangers, but in our time of widespread consumerism/ populism/ nationalism, we must again pay tribute to values that lie beyond personal "psychological well-being". (Becker, 2018)

At the same time, the problem of the meaning of life at the end of the 20st – the beginning of the 21st centuries had already transcended humanistic psychology and again became the subject of controversy in various philosophical directions. Peter Watson (2014) in his book "The Age of Nothing. How We Have Sought to Live Since the Death of God" pointing to the actualization of this problem at the beginning of the new millennium, specifies ten English-language philosophical books published only in 2000-2010. They present different perspectives on this problem. Thus, the British neo-Marxist Terry Eagleton believes that the statement of the problem of the meaning of life has a number of other questions and therefore it is best to leave it alone, so as not to give a chance for religious-fundamentalist and mystical-occult interpretations of it. At the same time, the American philosopher Robert C. Solomon calls the "meaning of life" the big question, which is the most difficult to answer, the most relevant and at the same time the most unclear. Herewith, it can be rationally understood by the means of modern analytical philosophy.

South African philosopher Thaddeus Metz sums up the first results of the life purpose philosophical disputes. He wrote the article The Meaning of Life in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, a number of articles on the subject, and several monographs. In declaring his affiliation with the analytical philosophy, he first of all tries to find out the essence of the concept of "meaning of life". He distinguishes between meaning of life (MofL) and meaning in life (MinL). MofL is global or cosmic in scope and often intertwined with ideas such as God, transcendence, religion. MinL is focused on personal meaning; the meaning of our individual lives as situated in a web of human effort and relationships, human anxieties and problems. Metz believes that MofL and MinL are closely related, although "full of meaning", "meaningful", etc., is always just a "human person’s life" for Metz.

He asks the question: "Is there a sense of life at all and what defines it?" Depending on the answer to it, all philosophical views are divided into naturalism, if the answer to the first question is affirmative and anti-naturalism (nihilism), if the answer is negative. In the first case, we ask the question about the basis of our answer or what determines the meaning of life. If the source is of a "supernatural" origin – Metz speaks of Supernaturalism with its two varieties: God-Centered Views or Soul-Centered Views. If it is created by humans, we can speak of Naturalism with its three varieties: objective naturalism, subjective naturalism and hybrid naturalism. In the first case, the meaning of life is universal, in the second it is purely personal, in the third it combines these two features. Metz proclaims himself an advocate of objective naturalism. His beliefs are based on the common sense of people who firmly believe in the existence of "meaning in life" even in the absence of any supernatural guarantors. It is on this belief in the "rational human nature" that the concept of the meaning of life is based as a source of meaning.

Metz’s views have been criticized by representatives of various philosophical movements, especially by his critic, the Japanese thinker Masahiro Morioka, who believes that each person acquires his or her own meaning of life in life if it is lived honestly and sincerely. Questions about the "meaning of life" arise only when a person despairs of the purpose of his own existence and loses value in life. The Japanese thinker affirms the value of every life and human right to have his or her own meaning in life and proclaims the "a solipsistic and affirmation-based approach to meaning in life" (Morioka, 2015). In our opinion, this approach is in the highest degree in line with the principles of modern bioethics, which proclaims the value of human life as the higher value, the well-known Schweitzer’s "reverence for life". Therefore the diversity of interpretations of the concept of "meaning of life", which exists in modern philosophy and psychology, needs further reflection.


The authors argue that the problem of "meaning of life" is not an "eternal problem" of philosophy, but arises only in the early nineteenth century as a reflection on European secularization and widespread individualistic values and becomes relevant gaining different interpretations at the beginning of the twentieth century based on the crisis of the sensory values of modern man.


1. The concept of "Sinn des Lebens" originated in the philosophy of the German Romantics and gained philosophical significance only in the works of Schopenhauer, Kierkegaard and Nietzsche.

2. Russian philosophy and literature (especially L. Tolstoy) give priority to the meaning of life in ethical and anthropological studies, focusing on its religious intentions.

3. Analytical philosophy and existentialism appear to be diametrically opposed to the meaning of life-anthropological problems, but they attempt to solve this problem by understanding the absurdity of human existence and language from different angles of view.

4. Frankls logotherapy is the most reasonable concept of meaning in psychology, which, despite certain drawbacks, remains the most significant in modern Western psychology.

5. Modern philosophical studies on the problems of the meaning of life, despite their prudent analyticity and systematic nature, have not found credible criteria and means of human life self-reflection yet and have further incentives to develop their methodological and philosophical considerations.

However, the diversity of interpretations of the concept of "meaning of life" that exists in modern scientific literature needs further reflection.


Adler, A. (1973). Der Sinn des Lebens. Frankfurt am Main: Fischer Taschenbucn Verlag. (in English)

Bazaluk, O., & Blazhevych, T. (2015). Modern Basics of the Philosophy of Education. Future Human Image, 2(5), 93-100. (in Russian)

Becker, C. (2018). Dangers and Directions in the Future of World Logotherapy. The Future of Logotherapy: 4th International Congress on Logotherapy & Existential Analysis, August 28-September 1, 2018, Moscow, 6-9. (in English)

Camus, A. (1955). The Myth of Sisyphus and Other Essays. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. (in English)

Camus, A. (2006). Neither Victims nor Executioners: The Century of Fear. In Camus at Combat. Writing 1944-1947 (pp. 257-260). Prinston University Press. (in English)

Chukhray, E. (2015). The Ultimate Purpose of Life and the Meaning in Life: History of Philosophy and Limits of Rational Reconstruction. Sententiae, 32(1), 143-157. DOI: 10.22240/sent32.01.143 (in Ukrainian)

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1*Донецький національний університет імені Василя Стуса (Вінниця, Україна), ел. пошта,
ORCID 0000-0003-3097-7974

2*Вінницький державний педагогічний університет імені Михайла Коцюбинського (Вінниця, Україна),
ел. пошта, ORCID 0000-0002-0157-4642



Мета. Головною метою статті є експлікація концепту "сенс життя" в межах західної філософії та психології ХІХ – початку ХХІ сторіччя. На підставі цього здійснюється осмислення ролі цього поняття в сучасних теоретичних дискусіях та психологічних та психотерапевтичних практиках. Теоретичний базис. Автори вважають, що розуміння концепту "Sinn des Lebens" можливо лише на основі синтезу методів сучасної аналітичної філософії з методологічними настановами сучасної психології, зокрема логотерапії. Наукова новизна. Авторами доведено, що, проблема "сенсу життя" не є "вічною проблемою" філософії, а виникає лише на початку ХІХ сторіччя як рефлексія на європейську секуляризацію та широке розповсюдження індивідуалістичних цінностей та набуває надзвичайної актуальності та різних інтерпретацій на початку ХХІ сторіччя на підставі кризи сенсожиттєвих цінностей сучасної людини. Висновки. Концепт "Sinn des Lebens" виникає в філософії німецьких романтиків та набуває філософської значущості лише в творах Шопенгавера, К’єркегора та Ніцше. Російська філософія та література (особливо Л. Толстой) надають проблемі сенсу життя пріоритетного значення в етико-антропологічних студіях, зосереджуючи увагу на її релігійних інтенціях. Аналітична філософія та екзистенціалізм видаються діаметрально протилежними позиціями щодо смисложиттєвих антропологічних проблем, проте вони намагаються вирішити цю проблему шляхом осмислення абсурдності людського існування та мови під різними кутами зору. Найбільш обґрунтованою концепцією сенсу в психології може вважатися логотерапія Франкла, яка, не зважаючи на певні вади, залишається найбільш вагомою і в сучасній західній психології. Сучасні філософські студії щодо проблем сенсу життя, незважаючи на вдавану аналітичність і систематичність, ще не знайшли надійних критеріїв та засобів людського життєвого самоосмислення й мають подальші стимули для розвитку своїх методологічних та світоглядних міркувань. Втім, розмаїття інтерпретацій концепту "сенс життя", яке існує в сучасній науковій літературі, потребує подальшого осмислення.

Ключові слова: Sinn des Lebens; сенс життя; значення; безсенсовність; аналітична філософія; екзистенціалізм; абсурд; психоаналіз; логотерапія; екзистенційна фрустрація; супернатуралізм; натуралізм; нігілізм

В. Ю. Попов1*, Е. В. Попова2*

1*Донецкий национальный университет имени Василия Стуса (Винница, Украина), эл. почта,
ORCID 0000-0003-3097-7974
2*Винницкий государственный педагогический университет имени Михаила Коцюбинского (Винница, Украина),
эл. почта, ORCID 0000-0002-0157-4642



Цель. Главной целью статьи является экспликация концепта "смысл жизни" в рамках западной философии и психологии ХІХ – начала XXI века. На основании этого осуществляется осмысление роли этого понятия в современных теоретических дискуссиях и психологических и психотерапевтических практиках. Теоретический базис. Авторы считают, что понимание концепта "Sinn des Lebens" возможно только на основе синтеза методов современной аналитической философии с методологическими установками современной психологии, в частности логотерапии. Научная новизна. Авторами доказано, что проблема "смысла жизни" не является "вечной проблемой" философии, а возникает лишь в начале XIX века как рефлексия на европейскую секуляризацию и широкое распространение индивидуалистических ценностей и приобретает чрезвычайную актуальность и различные интерпретации в начале XXI века на основании кризиса смысложизненных ценностей современного человека. Выводы. Концепт "Sinn des Lebens" возникает в философии немецких романтиков и приобретает философскую значимость только в произведениях Шопенгауэра, Кьеркегора и Ницше. Русская философия и литература (особенно Л. Толстой) придают проблеме смысла жизни приоритетное значение в этико-антропологических исследованиях, сосредоточивая внимание на ее религиозных интенциях. Аналитическая философия и экзистенциализм выдаются диаметрально противоположными позициями по смысложизненным антропологическим проблемам, однако они пытаются решить эту проблему путем осмысления абсурдности человеческого существования и языка под разными углами зрения. Наиболее обоснованной концепцией смысла в психологии может считаться логотерапия Франкла, которая, несмотря на определенные недостатки, остается наиболее весомой и в современной западной психологии. Современные философские исследования по проблемам смысла жизни, несмотря на кажущуюся аналитичность и систематичность, еще не нашли надежных критериев и средств человеческого жизненного осмысления и имеют дальнейшие стимулы для развития своих методологических и мировоззренческих соображений. Впрочем, разнообразие интерпретаций концепта "смысл жизни", которое существует в современной научной литературе, требует дальнейшего осмысления.

Ключевые слова: Sinn des Lebens; смысл жизни; значение; бессмысленность; аналитическая философия; экзистенциализм; абсурд; психоанализ; логотерапия; экзистенциальная фрустрация; супернатурализм; натурализм; нигилизм

Received: 04.11.2019

Accepted: 12.05.2020

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doi: 10.15802/ampr.v0i17.206716
V. Y. Popov, Е. V. Popova, 2020

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.