Interviewer: Are there specific things that are fundamentally necessary for a meaningful life? Some may suggest that experiencing love, or living for a certain minimum amount of time, or having a social life, are bedrock essentials for achieving meaningfulness. Do you think this is true? Are there any universals here?
Patrick: I have given this question a lot of thought and have come up with a fairly short answer as the scope of the question is potentially so huge. I am sure it would be possible to build up a list of necessary conditions for living a meaningful life, but I will just go for an opinion instead! I think that if you die without having ever loved something more than yourself, you have not lived a meaningful life. Insofar as the call to transcend the self lies at the heart of all the world’s religions, I would suggest that this is a universal (which is not to say that religious belief is the only way to achieve this). It would also seem to be the crucial reason that religions will never fade away in the face of scientific arguments. Truth in the narrow scientific sense is just not that important to most people; rather I sense that for many people (including philosophers) truth in the more Heideggerian sense of bringing something out of concealment is the crucial feeling that guides their lives. This is an emotional truth, resulting from adopting a certain attitude to the world that leads to an experience of inner transformation. It seems crucially connected to a sense of meaning in one’s life, and religions seem to have developed the best tools for encouraging and explaining such experiences.