Mick Cooper: What is the Meaning of Life?

Mick Cooper 2014 RoehamptonExcellence Reporter: Prof. Cooper, what is the meaning of life?

Mick Cooper: I don’t think there is one. At least, not one that is universal and generic for all human kind.

That is one of the great paradoxes of human existence: that we come into the world with a deep — perhaps instinctual — desire to find meaning and purpose, but there is nothing out there that is given. Nothing that is solid, defined, and permanent – that gives a definitive answer to the question of what our meaning is.  We can act towards specific meanings – we act towards meanings all the time – but the assumption that these meanings have some intrinsic, given value is, I think, illusory. It’s impermanent, temporary, socially constructed – when we strip it all away, as many existentialists have argued, there’s nothing there.

How do we deal with that? We strive, struggle, hold on to temporary meanings like a person in a vast ocean clinging on to a buoy. And that can certainly be enough to help us lead a meaningful, satisfying and fulfilling life. Perhaps one day someone will be able to answer the question of meaning that means we have finally arrived on dry land. I would love to see that day. But, for now, I think we are still a very long way off.


~Mick Cooper, Professor of Counseling Psychology.
Mick is an internationally recognised authority in the field of counselling and psychotherapy and a chartered psychologist. Mick is author of a range of texts on humanistic, existential and relational approaches to therapy, and co-developed the pluralistic approach with Professor John McLeod. Mick is Director of the Centre for Social and psychological Transformation (CREST) at the University of Roehampton.

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