chapter  14
18 Pages

Meaning in Life in Context

WithSamantha J. Heintzelman

This chapter examines meaning in life from an embedded perspective, highlighting the important roles of one’s social connections, cultural worldviews, and environmental stability for the experience of meaning in life. First, I briefly review contemporary thought regarding the nature of meaning in life, with a focus on those aspects of a meaningful life that are situated within the external world. Then, I examine the roles of social relationships, coherence, and cultural worldviews as central features of one’s external world that are important for the experience of meaning in life. Lastly, I discuss the meaning-as-information framework, which examines the adaptive function of meaning in life as a feeling state that provides information about the structure of one’s local environment to facilitate optimal functioning within that situation. Building from this evidence, I argue that it is necessary for examinations of meaning in life to extend beyond the individual and include considerations of a person’s external, and often social, world in which this experience is embedded.