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Research theme 2: Meaningful living

We deal with this theme from a normative perspective. Meaningful living is about 'good' living, a life with meaning.  For example, we investigate how people pursue meaning over their life course and how meaning is lost and found through major and minor experiences and through life’s transitions. We explore through an empirical ethics of care how meaning in life changes through life events such as pregnancy and birth, ageing, loss and dying.


Humanism has traditionally attached great importance to finding meaning in life through the arts and in rituals. In line with this tradition, we explore the relationship between meaningful living and the arts and other aesthetic resources, as well as how rituals for birth and death can contribute to meaningful living.


Our research also focuses on situations in which meaningful living is threatened, including situations of moral distress, moral injury and trauma. We ask how meaning is lost and how it can be regained, and how social resilience plays a role in regaining meaning in life. In particular, we investigate how (humanistic) mental health care and other health care practices can contribute to strengthening meaningful lives of individuals, groups and communities. We also look at the role that education can play in this.


You can find more information about Meaningful living as a research theme in our research programme.

Research projects

Examples of research projects within this theme:


  • Perspectives on the death wish of elderly people who are not seriously ill
  • Research into meaningfulness in palliative care
  • Research into the significance of return travel for veterans
  • Trauma & Resilience: Intergenerational Holocaust research from an existential perspective
  • Impact of Covid-19 on Individuals with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities and Caregivers
  • Bildung in vmbo 


More research projects can be found at the chair group pages.