Greater Means Yet Less Meaning


Aristotle, in his Nichomachean Ethics, examines eudaimonia (happiness or flourishing) as the end or purpose of human life. He does this at first through a series of negatives: Happiness is not…

  1. Pursuit of Pleasure because even animals can experience pleasure and we are looking for what is the end of human life.
  2. Pursuit of Honor from others precisely because it is given and taken away at the whim of others, and we are looking for something that should be self-sustaining.
  3. Pursuit of Money because all monetary forms are merely a means to an end, and we are after all looking for the end or target of human life.

Finally, Aristotle hits on the notion that eudaimonia must be virtuous activity in accord with reason, or the pursuit of knowledge and wisdom: philosophy. Insofar as having money allows us a certain amount of leisure, we need the means of monetary or credit exchange to help give us time to think and to contemplate, time in which we can pursue knowledge and wisdom. But when the means becomes the end or the leisure that obtained becomes filled with seeking pleasure or honor or fame, then you have the busyness of a life in wealthy nations.

And then you have the reason why the wealthiest societies have an over abundance of financial means and a dearth of ability to be happy or flourish, a greater absence of meaning in life.

This study shows how in poorer nations, religiosity adds more meaning to the lives of those who have less means. This correlates with the search for greater knowledge and wisdom about why we are here and how e should live.

Using Gallup World Poll data, we examined the role of societal wealth for meaning in life across 132 nations. Although life satisfaction was substantially higher in wealthy nations than in poor nations, meaning in life was higher in poor nations than in wealthy nations. In part, meaning in life was higher in poor nations because people in those nations were more religious. The mediating role of religiosity remained significant after we controlled for potential third variables, such as education, fertility rate, and individualism. As Frankl (1963) stated in Man’s Search for Meaning, it appears that meaning can be attained even under objectively dire living conditions, and religiosity plays an important role in this search.

via Residents of Poor Nations Have a Greater Sense of Meaning in Life Than Residents of Wealthy Nations.

3 comments

  1. Really enjoyed this post…somewhere, we’ve gotten things a bit screwed up. Never truer words spoken: “you have the reason why the wealthiest societies have an over abundance of financial means and a dearth of ability to be happy or flourish, a greater absence of meaning in life.” Nothing quite like a simple, happy life.

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