The Power of Meaning: The Quest for an Existential Roadmap

Panel Discussion October 10, 2017

“The will to meaning” — a term coined by the influential Viennese psychiatrist Viktor Frankl — has long been recognized as a basic motivating drive of human behavior. Indeed, some 4,000 years ago the first great work of human literature, The Epic of Gilgamesh, chronicled its hero’s quest to discover how he should live knowing that he will inevitably die. And though our lives have been transformed in countless ways since that epic, the basic question still remains: Where can we turn to find the story of our lives, an existential roadmap that explains where we have come from, why we are here, and where we are headed? Must each of us discover meaning within the context of our individual lives, or are there universal sources of meaning that we can all access? Is there any relationship between living a meaningful life, and the quality of our health and well-being? And how can we find meaning in the face of adversity and suffering? Neurologist Jay Lombard, philosophers Massimo Pigliucci and Michael Ruse, and author Emily Esfahani Smith join forces to shed light on these perennial questions from their respective disciplines.


  • Steve Paulson Journalist and Executive Producer, TTBOOK
  • Jay Lombard Neurologist and Co-Founder of Genomind
  • Massimo Pigliucci Professor of Philosophy, City College of New York
  • Michael Ruse Professor Philosophy, Florida State University
  • Emily Esfahani Smith Author, Speaker & Journalist


  • Tuesday, October 10, 2017
  • 7:00 pm - 8:30 pm
  • The New York Academy of Sciences
    7 World Trade Center, 250 Greenwich Street, 40th Floor


This volume brings together leading scientists and scholars to explore the meaning and purpose of our existence through an array of interdisciplinary perspectives.

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About This Series

This event is part of The Will to Meaning: Seeking the “Why” of Our Existence series, which brings together leading scientists and scholars to explore the question of the meaning and purpose of our existence through an array of interdisciplinary perspectives ranging from neuroscience and positive psychology to evolutionary biology and astrophysics.



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