The Fundamental Question Every Human Asks Essay

1906 Words Nov 29th, 2016 8 Pages
The fundamental question every human asks is “What is the meaning of life?” Scientific, philosophical, and religious inquiries and perspectives have been offered by the greatest thinkers of Ancient times to the most esteemed men of modern times in an attempt to answer this age-old question. Indeed, all men attempt to answer this question during their lifetime whether or not they are specifically or intentionally doing so. Two such commentaries that unintentionally address the meaning of life come to mind: Samuel Johnson’s A History of Rasselas and Ralph Waldo Emerson’s “Self-Reliance”. Even though answering the question about “the meaning of life” is not explicitly stated in these writings, upon closer review of the works of these two English literary scholars, one finds expansive and thought provoking answers to this question. One discovers that the two authors have similar ideas on the primary role of knowledge in the meaning of life; however, they differ in specifics, including the role of knowledge acquired from books, the virtue of solitude and need for social conformity.
Samuel Johnson, an acclaimed contributor to modern English literature, wrote the little-known novel, A History of Rasselas. Styled as a parable, it was published in 1759 and was immensely popular from the first. The book, originally titled The Choice of Life, sought to push the reader to contemplate the purpose and meaning of life. The novel begins with Rasselas and his siblings, the children of the…

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