International Journal of Existential Positive Psychology

Meaning and Individual Temperament

Ronald de Sousa, Ph.D

Emeritus Professor, Department of Philosophy, University of Toronto


Questions about the meaning of life elicit deep-seated disagreements driven by temperamental polarities, which in turn define fundamental attitudes, notably toward three questions: (1) How should we live in time? (2) Where does meaning come from? And (3) is there intrinsic value to suffering? Attitudes toward these questions come in two main packages I call ‘Heavy’ and ‘Light’. In a polemical spirit, I sketch in this article some arguments in defense of the Light package. The temperaments associated with each package are more or less likely, in extreme circumstances, to engender behavior one might label as heroism or as terrorism. The main difference is that a hero, but not a terrorist, might espouse the Light package and have a sense of irony.

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