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Hard-wired to seek meaning?

14 July, 2007

Are we hard-wired to seek meaning in our lives?

Jesse Bering of the Department of Psychology, University of Arkansas, posits that:

“the capacity to attribute meaning to personal experiences may rest on a specialized cognitive system enabling this form of causal reasoning.

This system may be distinct from those underlying other forms of causal reasoning such as a ‘‘theory of mind’’ system in the behavioral domain, a folk physics system in the physical domain, and a folk biology system in the biological domain.

A fourth, existential domain, an abstract ontological frame within which the subjective, narrative self is envisioned to be contained, may have driven the construction of an intuitive capacity in humans that encourages them to search for the underlying purpose or reason for having had certain life experiences.

This system likely has specific, definable operational rules that are responsible for activating such explanatory searches. In addition, it appears anchored to a general intentionality system that promotes the attribution of teleological purpose and higher-order mental states to an abstract agency that is envisioned to cause events and personal experiences.”

From: Towards a cognitive theory of existential meaning in New Ideas in Psychology 21 (2003) 101–120)

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One Comment leave one →
  1. 15 July, 2007 2:09 pm

    This is hard going. I came across the concept of antenarrative which seems related to where this article is headed. The intuitive capacity Bering is talking about would be the feeling that something is right or likely which then provokes the creation of reason or narrative to fit the feeling. I think I recommended DeBono? Fuzzy thinking would be an example. A spiritual theory of mind would probably cover this without looking for another domain – say folk wisdom in the behavioral domain. LOL. The idea that reason’s too hard basket uses teleological argument when pressed for a solution is fair, this would also fit with folk wisdom or cultural tradition, and give us some common theory of mind. Things on the edge of our understanding can be very powerful. The transition from symbols and archetypes to narrative seems to me to be around this same area of thought. Sweet Dreams!

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