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Meanings of Life Revised ed. Edition

4 out of 5 stars 5 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0898625318
ISBN-10: 0898625319
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Editorial Reviews


"Roy Baumeister writes conceptually exact, richly factual, and continuously delightful books on deep subjects, and this is his best." --Roger Brown, Ph.D.

"The topic is, of course, tremendous. We feel giddily nervous on even entertaining it, and so usually take it for granted or leave it to Monty Python. Fortunately, this volume has now arrived, bringing with it a far-reaching analysis of how life's meaning impinges on social life. It is rare to find such a broad array of intriguing and subtle hypotheses derived from a single theme, and even more rare to find such wide-ranging awareness of history and culture in contemporary social psychology." --Daniel M. Wegner, Ph.D.

"The book encourages the reader to struggle with hard questions that have no objective answers." --Jerry Bruce, Sam Houston State, Huntsville, Texas

"A scholarly and intriguing review of research and thought on finding meaningfulness in life. Laypeople and psychologists alike will find it a fascinating read. "--Contemporary Psychology
(Contemporary Psychology 1992-09-27)

About the Author

Baumeister received his PhD in experimental social psychology from Princeton University in 1978. Since then, his research career has taken him to the University of California at Berkeley, to the University of Texas at Austin, to the Max-Planck-Institute in Munich, Germany, and to Case Western Reserve University, where in 1992 he was awarded the Elsie B. Smith Professorship in Liberal Arts. The recipient of an American Psychological Association award for his first book, he has authored over 100 publications and numerous articles in professional journals and scholarly volumes.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 426 pages
  • Publisher: The Guilford Press; Revised ed. edition (September 25, 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0898625319
  • ISBN-13: 978-0898625318
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #687,885 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Wyote VINE VOICE on November 19, 2005
Format: Paperback
This book is not an attempt to tell us what the "meanings of life" are, just what we think they are: it's psychology, not philosophy. An interesting aspect of the book is the explorations of ways that we sometimes find our "meanings" inadequate.

Baumeister begins with a definition of meaning which I consider simply confused, but then my background is in philosophy. Fortunately, his definition is irrelevant to the rest of the book.

He suggests that the need for meaning can be (more or less arbitrarily, as he admits) considered under four aspects: purpose, value, efficacy, and self-worth.

Purpose is roughly equal to goals, although especially goals that (appear to) transcend arbitrary individual choice. We usually prefer to be working towards some goals that we imagine will be very fulfilling. As Baumeister explores, we usually find achieving these goals fulfilling for a brief time only, before we conceive some new goal, some new future state that we imagine will be satisfying. Or occasionally we get disappointed with our general life-project, endure a period of depression or uncertainty, and find a new direction.

This analysis is spot-on, and leads me to suggest that we consider more satisfying alternatives to ambition; for instance, gratitude. Czikszentmihalyi's work on "flow" would also be interesting to explore.

Instead, Baumeister gives an interesting analysis of religious ideals of fulfillment in the afterlife, pointing out that since we never get any news from the afterlife, these never prove disappointing, unlike ideals of fulfillment in this life. Therefore, people may find religious goals meaningful to the very end, while secular goals may prove disappointing.
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By A Customer on November 30, 1997
Format: Paperback
Read this book for a tutorial class called "Construction and Maintenance of the Self". Baumeister conveys his theoritical perspective on the meaning of the self (and its implications on the meanings of life)in a highly accessible and convincing manner. He argues from the perspective that the self is a social construct and that in the West, the meanings that have been put into the construction and maintenance of this self have created a burden on the individual. The stress associated with maintaining this concept of self can be used to explain why people engage in behaviors such as alcholism and sado-masochism. I highly recommend this book, especially if you are interested in concepts of the self and its relation to (what Baumeister would not consider) self-disruptive behaviors.
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Format: Paperback
I found this book at a local university bookstore for medical students, being used as a primary text for its psychiatric core curriucla. I can see easily why it was chosen. It is written with academic rigor based in the social sciences but often reads like a self-help book. In a critical way, it is both. As a textbook, it reads with vigor and analycity of the behavioral sciences and analytic philosophy, and as a self-help book, it reads like a serious, intelligent discussion of the scientific bases for meanings in one's life.
The book is clearly interdisciplinary, and is suitable for college-level coursework in the fields of philosophy, pyschology, and sociology. The author begins by forming four existential criteria for evaluating the meanings of life (note the plurality): (1) Purpose, (2) Value, (3) Efficacy (or Control), and (4) Self Worth. Based on these logical and practical foundations, Baumeister analyzes a plethora of life events and enculturation: Work, Family, Religion, Sex, Love, Happiness, Death, and many varients on these central themes. The book's singular achievement is the revelation or apotheosis of the "self" as a modern predicament vis-a-vis its historical antecedents.
It succeeds in formulating a high-level of discussion without ambiguity or confusion; it is remarkable for its clarity. The average page contains about seven references to other authorities that provide simultaneously the careful research that has been undertaken to provide this comprehensive overview, while offering the student/reader the resources to pursue additional tangents on their own. The bibliography is better than average, omitting some significant contributors I would have liked to have seen interwoven into the over-arching examination.
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Format: Paperback
Roy F. Baumeister
Meanings of Life

(New York: Gilford Press, 1991) 426 pages
(ISBN: 0-89862-763-X; hardcover)
(ISBN: 0-89862-531-9; paperback)
(Library of Congress call number: BF778.B32 1991)

This is a book of social science
rather than psychology or philosophy.
Baumeister seeks to describe how people
actually seek to make their lives meaningful
rather than to explain what he believes the meaning of life to be.
In everyday life people do behave in ways that demonstrate
their basic assumed meanings in life:
work, love, religion, & parenthood.

We human beings are goal-seeking creatures.
Our goals usually come from the cultures around us.
And our families or some larger groups
support us in pursuing these meanings.

Meanings in life seem largely interchangeable.
For example, a woman might pursue work-related goals for a few years
and then shift to become a full-time mother.
If one meaning fails, people frequently turn to another.
If people become disillusioned with one religion, they try another.

We pursue both short-term goals and longer-term values.
Our short-term projects might be parts of a larger scheme of meaning.
And some people hope for an ultimate meaning in life.
This has often taken some religious form,
such as belief in another life after death.
But Baumeister says that there are no ultimate meanings.
Therefore we must be content with the relative meanings
we can achieve here and now.

In past generations, honest toil was considered a valid goal in itself.
Now work is more utilitarian: It must at least produce income.
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