Identity and Meaning: Contrasts of Existentialist and Essentialist Perspectives

  • Alan S. Waterman, PhD The College of New Jersey


At first glance, the tasks of establishing a sense of personal identity and finding meaning in life would appear to be quite closely related. Both appear to be ways of addressing some of life’s paramount questions: “Who am I?” and “What should I be doing with my life?” Yet until quite recently, the development of psychological theory and empirical research on the two concepts proceeded largely independently. To understand the parallel but independent histories of identity and meaning, it is helpful to examine not only their respective definitions, but the manner in which they were introduced into the field and the differences in their underlying philosophical foundations. It is my hope that through a better understanding of the nature and histories of the two constructs, a more effective coordination and integration can be achieved.

Jul 1, 2014
How to Cite
WATERMAN, Alan S.. Identity and Meaning: Contrasts of Existentialist and Essentialist Perspectives. International Journal of Existential Positive Psychology, [S.l.], v. 5, n. 1, p. 12, july 2014. ISSN 1708-1696. Available at: <>. Date accessed: 24 feb. 2020.