The Meaningful and the Worthwhile: Clarifying the Relationships

Philosophical Forum 43 (4):435-448 (2012)
Abstract
The question I seek to answer is what the relationship is between judgments of people’s lives as meaningful, on the one hand, and as worth living, on the other. Several in the analytic and Continental literature, including the likes of Albert Camus and Ludwig Wittgenstein, and more recently, Robert Solomon and Julian Baggini, have maintained that the two words mean the same thing, in that they have the same referents or even the same sense. My primary aim is to refute such a position, and instead to provide conclusive reason to believe that, while a meaningful life shares many properties with a worthwhile one, they are not one and the same thing. Differentiating the meaningful from the worthwhile is essential for making accurate and complete appraisals of the value of people’s lives; they are distinct aspects of a good life, with both being necessary for the best one.
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