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Hermeneutics and the Meaning of Life…

The Journal of Unification Studies is a forum for committed engagement with Unification theology and practice, published annually by the Unification Theological Seminary.

Its articles address concerns of the theological community and the professional ministry, as well as contemporary social, cultural, political, scientific and economic issues, from a Unificationist perspective.

In addition, the Journal promotes dialogue and understanding by presenting papers from diverse viewpoints that engage Unification theology and practice.

In his article Hermeneutics and the Meaning of Life: A Step toward Unification Hermeneutics,published in the Journal of Unification Studies, 2016,  Dr. Keisuke Noda explores why the meaning of life is such a fundamental subject for the majority of people and why it can be such a challenging matter to explore.

“The meaning of life is one of the most critical questions for the majority of people. Feelings of meaninglessness are an open invitation to despair, addiction, sexual promiscuity, violent behavior, and even blind obedience to manipulative ideologies. Viktor Frankl, a holocaust-surviving psychiatrist, characterized the state of meaninglessness as “existential vacuum” and noted, from a psychiatric perspective, how it can lead one to depression, aggression, addiction, and conformism. [1] Feelings of emptiness can easily lead man to seek gratification through immediate sensuous stimuli or blind conformity to the masses or a manipulative authority. Those substitutive behaviors, however, only lead to further emptiness. It is like filling an empty bottle whose bottom has a big hole. Internal thirst for meaning still remains. The question of the meaning of life is a kind of universal question which has crossed nearly everyone’s mind. In spite of such “cry for meaning,” [2] we cannot easily find the answer.

Why is the question of the meaning of life difficult? One of the main reasons is that the question is entangled with other fundamental questions of philosophy. It is an intersection of questions concerning: the existence of God and afterlife; the nature and existence of human beings; ontological characteristics of the world concerning fate and freedom; ethical questions of justice, good and evil; happiness; and others. None of those questions are easy to answer. Furthermore, the meaning of life has a personal dimension of “why me?” When one is struck by challenging incidents such as tragic accidents, illness, and the loss of beloved ones, one naturally asks, “why me?” In the face of such challenges, it is difficult to discern a definitive answer. Even if you hold certain religious beliefs, you may still raise a theological question concerning the involvement of God in human suffering and evil; the compatibility of the existence of a benevolent and almighty God and the existence of evil is one of the most difficult questions in theology or the philosophy of religion.” continue reading…

Dr. Keisuke Noda is a philosopher with background in phenomenology and hermeneutics. His research interests lie on the intersection between the abstract/conceptual and the concrete/narratives/imagery.