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The meaning of life as an object of psychological research

Why does a person live? What is the meaning of his life? These questions are always exciting. The desire to realize one’s purpose, to realize how to live, how to make plans for the future, what goals to follow, is inherent in man. Everyone who poses these questions for himself is faced with the difficult problem of understanding his life. Being a global problem, the meaning of life relative to a particular person becomes a psychological problem, since deep contradictions of the human psyche that need to be resolved come to the surface of reality. The psychologist’s task is to use the potential of a person to help him understand himself, to decide, to make the only and unique choice that will give him the opportunity to make sense. The problem of the meaning of life is associated with the problems of the individual, and therefore, the meaning of life can act as an object of psychological research, provided that it is considered as an education in the structure of the personality. Comprehension of life is one of the criteria for the development of the personality orientation and its formation. This problem is very important in connection with the increased need for knowledge in practical psychology, pedagogy, and psychotherapy.

The relevance of the problem of the meaning of life does not require evidence. The history of the development of the spiritual culture of mankind is permeated by the search for the meaning of life. This problem is eternal, as it is repeated at every turn of history, in the minds of anyone who thinks about life. The peculiarity of the problem of the meaning of life is found, in particular, in the fact that, being one of the earliest philosophical and ethical problems, it remains of constant importance, changing its meaningful and emotional coloring depending on the specifics of a particular historical background and the characteristics of the individual who is trying to find its solution . But the eternal "youth" of this problem should not overshadow its real age from us. That is, scientific analysis should be based not only on the study of the modern context of the meaning of human life, but also on the reconstruction of historical experience.

The problem of the meaning of life cannot be solved without regard to all that is commonly called the problem of personality. This was clear to many philosophers, however, we find the first deepest awareness of this connection in the ethics of I. Kant. Kant himself saw the super-task of his philosophy in explaining the phenomenon of man and believed that the essential difference of man fits in everything that forms a personality. The fact that a person can own ideas about his own “I” infinitely elevates him above all other creatures that live on Earth (Kant, 1966, p. 357). According to Kant, the meaning of life is not outside, but inside a person, he is immanent in personality. The factor that forms the meaning of life is an idea that takes the form of an ethical law, a duty that is brought to a full understanding of the highest good, internally experienced by a person as spiritually elevated.

In the context of the study of the problem of the meaning of life in Kant’s philosophy, the following points are of interest: 1) the meaning of life, as the philosopher claims, does not exist by itself, as some attribute of reality in general, it is in the individual’s awareness of his human existence, and this is a manifestation of the personality person; 2) it is human meaning that gives an individual in life situations a guideline for voluntary self-submission to an ethical law that raises a person above his own nature. The condition and spiritual form of such exaltation of a person over himself is his awareness of his place in the world (Kant, 1966, p. 11).

I.G. Fichte saw the meaning of life in the individual reaching complete agreement with himself, in his activity, in making a person a free intelligent creature. Fichte’s understanding of the meaning of life is based on the concept of human nature, according to which every animal is what it is, and only man is nothing at first, but what he should be, he can become and become himself through his own freedom. Fichte’s statement is known: “I can only be what I will do myself” (Moskalenko, Sergeants, 1989, p. 13), that is, the meaning of life consists in the development of a person adequate to his own nature, as well as in the full formation of the personality. But this process involves activity, and activity that is not closed to the individual: having improved, the personality improves the world.

M.M. Rubinstein in his study “On the Meaning of Life”, published in 1927, estimates it as an “interesting and instructive” attempt to capture the fullness of reality and solve the problem of the meaning of life in Hegel's philosophical system, which is a dialectical unity of three lines of development: human cognition and its logic; forms of being of the world; a number of values ​​that are endlessly enriched. That is why every single being can be understood as a link in the chain of the triune world process, and thus its meaning can be determined. However, in this system the individual, individual, personal is sacrificed to the general, integral system, the absolute.

The conclusion from a brief analysis of the three philosophical teachings on the meaning of life is that it is impossible to talk about this concept without regard to the person, since there is always someone and someone who has the conscious meaning of life. However, being a personality phenomenon, the meaning of life in its essence, content is something supra-individual, connecting the life of an individual with a system that subordinates him to himself - but subordinates in such a way that this “subjugation” becomes his own attribute of the personality and reveals its freedom. The meaning of life is also recognized by man and is formed on a certain worldview (philosophical or religious) basis and therefore is a kind of integration of the value system that function in a particular society.

Without further touching on the philosophical and ethical aspect, let us dwell on the characterization of the meaning of life as a “special psychological reality” (V.E.
Chudnovsky). In Soviet psychology, few have addressed the problem of the meaning of life, but their works deserve special attention and analysis. So, S.L. Rubinstein (1973, p. 348) in his book “Man and the World” wrote that “the meaning of each person’s life is determined only in relation to the content of his whole life with other people. All questions that affect the worldview, the answer to which determines how a person lives and in what to look for the meaning of life ... coincide in one question - about the nature of a person and his place in the world ”(Rubinstein, 1973, p. 382). Explaining the psychological phenomena, S.L. Rubinstein emphasizes that “a person acts as a united set of internal conditions that are refracted through all external influences” (ibid., P. 242). Moreover, the meaning of a person’s life as a phenomenon develops thanks to the manifestation of these “internal conditions” in the external world.

K.A. In her work on life strategy, Abulkhanova-Slavskaya defines the meaning of life as “the value and at the same time the experience of this value by a person in the process of its development, appropriation or implementation” (1991, p. 72-73). Unlike motives, which are considered in psychology as an expression of needs, the meaning of life should be understood not only as a desire for something, not only as a future goal, which is determined by a motive, but also as an experience that takes place in the process of realization of a given motive. K.A. Abulkhanova-Slavskaya emphasizes that “the meaning of life is a psychological means of experiencing life in the process of its implementation” (ibid., P. 73).

Therefore, achieving specific goals in life, a person does not lose meaning, but, on the contrary, strengthens it, experiences and becomes convinced of it: “The meaning of life is the ability of the subject to experience the value of the life manifestations of his individuality, his“ I ”, his personality. The subject’s ability to experience the value of life, to be satisfied with it, makes up its meaning ”(ibid.). On the one hand, as K.A. notes Abulkhanova-Slavskaya, the meaning of life expresses the aspirations of the individual, her needs, and on the other, confirms her real achievements, her real ability to express herself in life forms. Thus, the meaning of life is not only the future, not only the prospect, but also a measure of a person’s accomplishment, an assessment of one’s own achievements according to criteria important for a person.

According to the concept of the act, which was developed by V.A. Romenets (1990), the phenomenon of the meaning of life should be attributed to the aftereffect of the act. An act as an explanatory principle of psychology is recognized as more satisfactory than a reflex or action precisely because it can be extended to complex phenomena of the semantic sphere of the personality without reducing the special content of the latter. V.A. Romenets, defending the virtues of the action mechanism as a logical and historical-psychological cell of the history of world psychology, showed that the act is a mediating link between the psyche and its objective correlate (the world, other people), between the psyche and the body, and also between the structural components of the psychic. The act is a way of self-determination of human behavior based on self-knowledge and self-creation and is associated with the formation of the meaning of life. A man cognizes himself, carrying out an act and analyzing its consequences, creates himself, consolidating the meaning of life. The manifestations of the meaning of life can be considered specific attitudes that are embodied by a person in his actions. In the historical and psychological works of V.A. Romance disclosed the logical structure of the act of mechanism, which is associated with its historical structure, the emphasis that each cultural era made on one of its elements.

Elements of the logical structure of an act are the situation, motivation, action and aftereffect. The formation of the meaning of a person’s life occurs at the stage of aftereffect, which is a consequence of reflection on the action, and the latter, in turn, embodies the results of the motivational processing of situational certainty.

The aftereffect is characterized by the actualization of self-knowledge on the basis of the act and the self-creation of a person through the consolidation of the meaning of life. In the act aftereffect, a special type of internal activity is carried out, which is characterized by the cognition and creation of new mental substructures, which can be defined as the process of finding the meaning of life.

In turn, the process of finding the meaning of life by a person is extremely complicated. And the content of this process is determined by the characteristics of the social environment, upbringing, individual needs and desires, which may not be realized (level of individual unconscious), “social heredity” (“generic” or “collective”), etc. To make education effective, all these factors must be considered.

Thus, the meaning of life as an object of psychological research in the structure of personality should be considered from various angles, suggesting also the improvement, deepening of various functions of the individual (cognitive, social, biological) in the process of personality formation. As far as all these processes are interconnected, the meaning of the life of an emerging or already formed personality is so complete and significant.
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The meaning of life as an object of psychological research

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