About this topic
Summary This broad-ranging category covers philosophical explorations of the old question of the meaning of life as well as the more recent rephrasing of the question as that of meaning in life or meaningfulness. Questions range from the idea of a purpose to life, existence or the universe, to the idea that lives can be more or less meaningful. Other questions explored include the relation between meaning and happiness, meaning and morality, meaning in a secular age, meaning in a naturalistic world, and the conditions of meaningfulness.
Key works — Classics: Camus 1957; Frankl 1985; Nagel 1971; Nagel 1986; Nozick 1981; Nozick 1989; Singer 1996; Taylor 1970 — Recent work: Metz 2013; Wielenberg 2005; Wolf 2010; Wolf 2015; Wolf 1997; Wolf 1997
Introductions — Collections/Readers: Benatar 2010; Klemke & Cahn 2007; Seachris 2012 — Philosophical introductions/histories: Baggini 2005; Cottingham 2003; Metz 2021; Young 2003
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618 found
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1 — 50 / 618
  1. Mental Evolution and the Universal Meaning of Life.Gregor Flock - manuscript
    Is a universal meaning of life (MoL) possible? In this paper I argue for an affirmative answer: Starting out from the MoL's initial definition as "the active and successful pursuit of the ultimate end in life (UEiL)" and another initial definition of the UEiL, I first introduce four UEiL and MoL categories. In the context of their discussion, I add the elements of non-physical relation and universal scope to the definitions of UEiL and MoL (sect. 2). After those more general (...)
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  2. Welfare, Meaning, and Worth.Aaron Smuts - manuscript
    The central thesis of this book is that there is more to what makes a life worth living than welfare. I argue that the notion of worth captures matters of importance that no plausible theory of welfare can account for. Worth is best thought of as a higher-level kind of value. I defend an objective list theory (OLT) of worth¬—lives worth living are net high in various objective goods. Not only do I defend an list of some of the goods, (...)
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  3. A Life Worth Living.Aaron Smuts - manuscript
    Theories of well-being tell us what makes a life good for the one who lives it. But there is more to what makes a life worth living than just well-being. We care about the worth of our lives, and we are right to do so. I defend an objective list theory of the worth of a life: The most worthwhile lives are those high in various objective goods. These principally include welfare and meaning. By distinguishing between worth and welfare, we (...)
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  4. On the Road to Meaning.Attila Tanyi - manuscript
    The paper offers a philosophically infused analysis of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. The main idea is that McCarthy’s novel is primarily a statement on the meaning of life. Once this idea is argued for and endorsed, by using a parallel between The Road and a 19th century Hungarian dramatic poem, The Tragedy of Man, the paper goes on to argue that the most plausible – although admittedly not the only possible – interpretation of The Road is that it advocates a (...)
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  5. The Pleasures of Tranquillity.Alex Voorhoeve - manuscript
    Epicurus posited that the best life involves the greatest pleasures. He also argued that it involves attaining tranquillity. Many commentators have expressed scepticism that these two claims are compatible. For, they argue, Epicurus’ tranquil life is so austere that it is hard to see how it could be maximally pleasurable. Here, I offer an Epicurean account of the pleasures of tranquillity. I also consider different ways of valuing lives from a hedonistic point of view. Benthamite hedonists value lives by the (...)
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  6. Constituents of Meaningful Life According to J. Cottingham.Amir Abbas Alizamani & Mehdi Ghaforiyan - forthcoming - Philosophical Investigations.
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  7. The Rationality of Suicide and the Meaningfulness of Life.Michael Cholbi - forthcoming - In Iddo Landau (ed.), Oxford Handbook of Meaning in Life.
    A wide body of psychological research corroborates the claim that whether one’s life is (or will be) meaningful appears relevant to whether it is rational to continue living. This article advances conceptions of life’s meaningfulness and of suicidal choice with an eye to ascertaining how the former might provide justificatory reasons relevant to the latter. Drawing upon the recent theory of meaningfulness defended by Cheshire Calhoun, the decision to engage in suicide can be understood as a choice related to life’s (...)
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  8. In Defense of the Post-Work Future: Withdrawal and the Ludic Life.John Danaher - forthcoming - In Michael Cholbi & Michael Weber (eds.), The Future of Work, Technology, and Basic Income. New York: Routledge. pp. 99-116.
    A basic income might be able to correct for the income related losses of unemployment, but what about the meaning/purpose related losses? For better or worse, many people derive meaning and fulfillment from the jobs they do; if their jobs are taken away, they lose this source of meaning. If we are about the enter an era of rampant job loss as a result of advances in technology, is there a danger that it will also be an era of rampant (...)
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  9. Virtual Reality and the Meaning of Life.John Danaher - forthcoming - In Oxford Handbook on Meaning in Life.
    It is commonly assumed that a virtual life would be less meaningful (perhaps even meaningless). As virtual reality technologies develop and become more integrated into our everyday lives, this poses a challenge for those that care about meaning in life. In this chapter, it is argued that the common assumption about meaninglessness and virtuality is mistaken. After clarifying the distinction between two different visions of virtual reality, four arguments are presented for thinking that meaning is possible in virtual reality. Following (...)
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  10. Permanent Value.Christopher Frugé - forthcoming - Journal of the American Philosophical Association.
    Temporal nihilism is the view that our lives won’t matter after we die. According to the standard interpretation, this is because our lives won’t make a permanent difference. Many who consider the view thus reject it by denying that our lives need to have an eternal impact. However, in this paper, I develop a different formulation of temporal nihilism revolving around the persistence of personal value itself. According to this stronger version, we do not have personal value after death, so (...)
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  11. What is This Thing Called the Meaning of Life?Stewart Goetz & Joshua W. Seachris - forthcoming - London, UK: Routledge.
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  12. The Self and the Ontic Trust: Toward Technologies of Care and Meaning.Tim Gorichanaz - forthcoming - Journal of Information, Communication and Ethics in Society 17 (3).
    Purpose – Contemporary technology has been implicated in the rise of perfectionism, a personality trait that is associated with depression, suicide and other ills. is paper explores how technology can be developed to promote an alternative to perfectionism, which is a self- constructionist ethic. Design/methodology/approach – is paper takes the form of a philosophical discussion. A conceptual framework is developed by connecting the literature on perfectionism and personal meaning with discussions in information ethics on the self, the ontic trust and (...)
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  13. Moral Identity Predicts the Development of Presence of Meaning During Emerging Adulthood.Hyemin Han, Indrawati Liauw & Ashley Floyd Kuntz - forthcoming - Emerging Adulthood.
    We examined change over time in the relationship between moral identity and presence of meaning during early adulthood. Moral identity refers to a sense of morality and moral values that are central to one’s identity. Presence of meaning refers to the belief that one’s existence has meaning, purpose, and value. Participants responded to questions on moral identity and presence of meaning in their senior year of high school and two years after. Mixed effects model analyses were used to examine how (...)
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  14. The Experience of Meaning.Antti Kauppinen - forthcoming - In Iddo Landau (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Meaning in Life.
    Recently, psychologists have started to distinguish between three kinds of experience of meaning. Drawing on philosophical as well as empirical literature, I argue that the experience of one’s own life making sense involves a sense of narrative justification, so that not just any kind of intelligibility suffices; the experience of purpose includes enthusiastic future-directed motivation against the background of a global sort of hopefulness, or the resonance of what one does right now with one’s values; and finally, the experience of (...)
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  15. Against Seizing the Day.Antti Kauppinen - forthcoming - Oxford Studies in Normative Ethics 11.
    On a widely accepted view, what gives meaning to our lives is success in valuable ground projects. However, philosophers like Kieran Setiya have recently challenged the value of such orientation towards the future, and argued that meaningful living is instead a matter of engaging in atelic activities that are complete in themselves at each moment. This chapter argues that insofar as what is at issue is meaningfulness in its primary existential sense, strongly atelic activities do not suffice for meaning. Instead, (...)
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  16. Does the Lack of Cosmic Meaning Make Our Lives Bad?Thaddeus Metz - forthcoming - Journal of Value Inquiry.
    This article is part of a special issue devoted to David Benatar’s anti-natalism. There are places in his oeuvre where he contends that, while our lives might be able to exhibit some terrestrial or human meaning, that is not enough to make them worth creating, which would require a cosmic meaning that is unavailable to us. There are those who maintain, in reply to Benatar, that some of our lives do have a cosmic meaning, but I grant Benatar here that (...)
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  17. Judaism’s Distinct Perspectives on the Meaning of Life.Thaddeus Metz - forthcoming - Journal of Jewish Ethics.
    In contemporary Anglo-American philosophy, there has been substantial debate between religious and secular theorists about what would make life meaningful, with a large majority of the religious philosophers having drawn on Christianity. In this article, in contrast, I draw on Judaism, with the aims of articulating characteristically Jewish approaches to life's meaning, which is a kind of intellectual history, and of providing some support for them relative to familiar Christian and Islamic approaches (salient in the Tanakh, the New Testament, and (...)
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  18. The Concept of Life's Meaning.Thaddeus Metz - forthcoming - In Iddo Landau (ed.), Oxford Handbook on Meaning in Life. Oxford University Press.
    I critically discuss views about what at least analytic philosophers have in mind when reflecting on what makes life meaningful. I first demonstrate that there has been a standard view of that, according to which meaningfulness centrally involves the actions of human persons, ones that exhibit a high desirability characteristically present in ‘the good, the true, and the beautiful’ and absent from the cases of Sisyphus or the Experience Machine. Then, I address five challenges to the standard view that have (...)
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  19. What Makes Life Meaningful? A Debate.Thaddeus Metz & Joshua Seachris - forthcoming - Routledge.
    A debate between Thaddeus Metz and Joshua Seachris on what makes life meaningful, with emphasis on the potential relevance of God, immortality, narrative and achievements.
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  20. Die Pest in Zeiten von Corona – Philosophie und Literatur bei Albert Camus.Nicola Mößner - forthcoming - Philokles.
  21. Meaning and Anti-Meaning in Life.Sven Nyholm & Stephen M. Campbell - forthcoming - In Iddo Landau (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Meaning in Life. Oxford University Press.
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  22. Camus' Challenge: The Question of Suicide (Is Life Worth Living).Kathleen O'Dwyer - forthcoming - Journal of Humanistic Psychology.
    In the opening essay of The Myth of Sisyphus and Other Essays, Camus states that ‘There is but one truly serious philosophical problem, and that is suicide. Judging whether life is or is not worth living amounts to answering the fundamental question of philosophy’ (Camus, 2005: 1). He argues that all the other questions of philosophy, dealing with truth, knowledge, ethics, science, language and so on, are necessarily secondary to this question: ‘I therefore conclude that the meaning of life is (...)
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  23. The Ordinary Concept of a Meaningful Life: The Role of Subjective and Objective Factors in Third-Person Attributions of Meaning.Michael Prinzing, Julian De Freitas & Barbara Fredrickson - forthcoming - Journal of Positive Psychology.
    The desire for a meaningful life is ubiquitous, yet the ordinary concept of a meaningful life is poorly understood. Across six experiments (total N = 2,539), we investigated whether third-person attributions of meaning depend on the psychological states an agent experiences (feelings of interest, engagement, and fulfillment), or on the objective conditions of their life (e.g., their effects on others). Studies 1a–b found that laypeople think subjective and objective factors contribute independently to the meaningfulness of a person’s life. Studies 2a–b (...)
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  24. The Significance of Future Generations.Roman Altshuler - 2021 - In Michael Cholbi & Travis Timmerman (eds.), Exploring the Philosophy of Death and Dying: Classic and Contemporary Perspectives. Routledge. pp. 191-199.
    We find meaning and value in our lives by engaging in everyday projects. But, according to a recent argument by Samuel Scheffler, this value doesn’t depend merely on what the projects are about. In many cases, it depends also on the future generations that will replace us. By imagining the imminent extinction of humanity soon after our own deaths, we can recognize both that much of our current valuing depends on a background confidence in the ongoing survival of humanity and (...)
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  25. Death in Mind: Life, Meaning and Mortality.Kathy Behrendt - 2021 - In Travis Timmerman & Michael Cholbi (eds.), Exploring the Philosophy of Death and Dying: Classic and Contemporary Perspectives. New York, USA: Routledge. pp. 245-252.
    Does thinking about our death help or hinder us? I will approach this question by looking at which portions of a life can bear meaning, i.e. whether meaning is local (something that attaches to parts of a life taken in isolation from one another) or global (resulting from the combination of, or interrelations among, events in life as a whole). I present two versions of the “part life” view of meaning and two versions of the “whole life” view. I show (...)
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  26. Doing Valuable Time. [REVIEW]Antti Kauppinen - 2021 - Philosophical Review 130 (1):154-158.
    This is a book review of Cheshire Calhoun's 2018 book, Doing Valuable Time.
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  27. The Meaning of Life (Second Revised Edition).Thaddeus Metz - 2021 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
    A 10,000+ word critical overview of analytic philosophy devoted to life's meaning, with some focus on books and more recent works.
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  28. Meaning in Life Through the Good, the True, and the Beautiful.Thaddeus Metz - 2021 - In Mark Oppenheimer & Jason Werbeloff (eds.), Conversations about the Meaning of Life. Obsidian Worlds Publishing. pp. 42-79.
    An interview about core aspects of my views about meaning in life, with some contrasts drawn between mine and those of David Benatar. Accessible to a generally educated audience.
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  29. Supernaturalist Analytic Existentialism: Critical Notice of Clifford Williams’ Religion and the Meaning of Life.Thaddeus Metz - 2021 - International Journal for Philosophy of Religion 89 (2):189-198.
    In this critical notice of Clifford Williams’ Religion and the meaning of life, I focus on his argumentation in favour of the moderate supernaturalist position that, while a meaningful life would be possible in a purely physical world, a much greater meaning would be possible only in a world with God and an eternal afterlife spent close to God. I begin by expounding and evaluating Williams’ views of the physical sources of meaning, providing reason to doubt both that he has (...)
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  30. خدا،روح و معنای زندگی.Thaddeus Metz - 2021 - Negahehandisheh.
    Persian translation by Ashkan M. Roshan of _God, Soul and the Meaning of Life_.
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  31. The Meaning of “Life’s Meaning”.Michael Prinzing - 2021 - Philosophers' Imprint 21 (3):1-14.
    Life’s meaning is a deeply important yet perplexing topic. It is often unclear what people are talking about when they talk about life having “meaning”. This paper attempts to clarify things by articulating a schema for understanding claims about meaning. It defends a theory according to which X means Y iff Y is a correct interpretation of X—i.e., if Y is a correct answer to an interpretive question, Z. I argue that this (perhaps surprising) claim has impressive explanatory power. Applying (...)
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  32. A Thousand Pleasures Are Not Worth a Single Pain: The Compensation Argument for Schopenhauer's Pessimism.Byron Simmons - 2021 - European Journal of Philosophy 29 (1):120-136.
    Pessimism is, roughly, the view that life is not worth living. In chapter 46 of the second volume of The World as Will and Representation, Arthur Schopenhauer provides an oft-neglected argument for this view. The argument is that a life is worth living only if it does not contain any uncompensated evils; but since all our lives happen to contain such evils, none of them are worth living. The now standard interpretation of this argument (endorsed by Kuno Fischer and Christopher (...)
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  33. Melancholic Joy: On Life Worth Living.Brian Treanor - 2021 - London, UK: Bloomsbury.
    See the external link on this entry for a "widget" supplied by Bloomsbury, which will give you access to the first chapter. -/- Today, we find ourselves surrounded by numerous reasons to despair, from loneliness, suffering and death at an individual level to societal alienation, oppression, sectarian conflict and war. No honest assessment of life can take place without facing up to these facts and it is not surprising that more and more people are beginning to suspect that the human (...)
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  34. Review of T.J. Mawson's Monotheism and the Meaning of LIfe. [REVIEW]Brian C. Barnett - 2020 - Religious Studies Review 46 (2):215.
    This review provides a brief summary and analysis of T.J. Mawson's monograph, Monotheism and the Meaning of Life (part of the Cambridge Elements series, edited by Chad Meister and Paul Moser).
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  35. Seeing Clearly: A Buddhist Guide to Life.Nicolas Bommarito - 2020 - New York, USA: Oxford University Press.
    Many of us, even on our happiest days, struggle to quiet the constant buzz of anxiety in the background of our minds. All kinds of worries--worries about losing people and things, worries about how we seem to others--keep us from peace of mind. Distracted or misled by our preoccupations, misconceptions, and, most of all, our obsession with ourselves, we don't see the world clearly--we don't see the world as it really is. In our search for happiness and the good life, (...)
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  36. The Meaning of Animal Labour.Nicolas Delon - 2020 - In Charlotte Blattner, Kendra Coulter & Will Kymlicka (eds.), Animal Labour: A New Frontier of Interspecies Justice? Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 160-180.
    Proponents of humane or traditional husbandry, in contrast to factory farming, often argue that maintaining meaningful relationships with animals entails working with them. Accordingly, they argue that animal liberation is misguided, since it appears to entail erasing our relationships to animals and depriving both us and them of valuable opportunities to live together. This chapter offers a critical examination of defense of animal husbandry based on the value of labour, in particular the view that farm animals could be seen as (...)
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  37. A Critique of Humoristic Absurdism. Problematizing the Legitimacy of a Humoristic Disposition Toward the Absurd.Thom Hamer - 2020 - Utrecht: Utrecht University.
    To what extent can humorism be a legitimate disposition toward the Absurd? The Absurd is born from the insurmountable contradiction between one’s ceaseless striving and the absence of an ultimate resolution – or, as I prefer to call it, the ‘dissolution of resolution’. Humoristic Absurdism is the commitment to a pattern of humorous responses to the Absurd, which regard this absurd condition, as well as its manifestation in absurd situations, as a comical phenomenon. Although the humoristic disposition seems promising, by (...)
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  38. The Wildman’s Dilemma: Is the Question ‘What is the Meaning of Life?’ Harmful?Timb Hoswell - 2020 - Heythrop Journal 61 (4):633-641.
    Is the very question ‘what is the meaning of life?’ harmful? Humans often fight and go to war over various answers offered by religions, prophets, gurus, economists and philosophers. Could the question of seeking a ‘life meaning’ be dangerous? This paper considers existential strains of philosophy in Ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles, through the lens of Kierkegaard, Dostoyevsky, Albert Camus and Plato’s Allegory of the Chariot in order to argue that Western philosophy needs to ask whether the question of a (...)
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  39. A Meaning to Life. By Michael Ruse. Pp. Ix, 149, NY, Oxford University Press, 2019, $14.49. [REVIEW]Timb D. Hoswell - 2020 - Heythrop Journal 61 (2):357-358.
    Does human life have any meaning? Does the question even make sense today? For centuries, the question of the meaning or purpose of human life was assumed by scholars and theologians to have a religious answer: life has meaning because humans were made in the image of a good god. In the 19th century, however, Charles Darwin's theory of evolution changed everything-and the human organism was seen to be more machine than spirit. Ever since, with the rise of science and (...)
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  40. Two Arguments for the Badness and Meaninglessness of Life.Iddo Landau - 2020 - Journal of Value Inquiry 54 (3):429-442.
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  41. The Deep Error of Political Libertarianism: Self-Ownership, Choice, and What’s Really Valuable in Life.Dan Lowe - 2020 - Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy 23 (6):683-705.
    Contemporary versions of natural rights libertarianism trace their locus classicus to Robert Nozick’s Anarchy, State, and Utopia. But although there have been many criticisms of the version of political libertarianism put forward by Nozick, many of these fail objections to meet basic methodological desiderata. Thus, Nozick’s libertarianism deserves to be re-examined. In this paper I develop a new argument which meets these desiderata. Specifically, I argue that the libertarian conception of self-ownership, the view’s foundation, implies what I call the Asymmetrical (...)
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  42. The Worthwhileness of Meaningful Lives.David Matheson - 2020 - Philosophia 48 (1):313-324.
    The M → W thesis that a meaningful life must be a worthwhile life follows from an appealing approach to the axiology of life. Yet one of the most prominent voices in the recent philosophy of life literature, Thaddeus Metz, has raised multiple objections to that thesis. With a view to preserving the appeal of the axiological approach from which it follows, I here defend the M → W thesis from Metz’s objections. My defense yields some interesting insights about both (...)
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  43. African Theories of Meaning in Life: A Critical Assessment.Thaddeus Metz - 2020 - South African Journal of Philosophy 39 (2):113-126.
    In this article, I expound and assess two theories of meaning in life informed by the indigenous sub-Saharan African philosophical tradition. According to one principle, a life is more meaningful, the more it promotes community with other human persons. According to the other principle, a life is more meaningful, the more it promotes vitality in oneself and others. I argue that, at least upon some refinement, both of these African conceptions of meaning merit global consideration from philosophers, but that the (...)
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  44. Meaning in Life in Spite of Death.Thaddeus Metz - 2020 - In Michael Cholbi & Travis Timmerman (eds.), Exploring the Philosophy of Death and Dying: Classic and Contemporary Perspectives. Routledge. pp. 253-261.
    In this chapter the author critically explores answers to the question of how immortality would affect the meaningfulness of a person’s life, understood roughly as a life that merits esteem, achieves purposes much more valuable than pleasure, or makes for a good life-story. The author expounds three arguments for thinking that life would be meaningless if it were mortal, and provides objections to them. He then offers a reason for thinking that a mortal life could be meaningful, and responds to (...)
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  45. Life, Meaning Of.Thaddeus Metz - 2020 - In Elinor Mason & Tim Crane (eds.), Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Routledge.
    A 4000 word critical overview of recent Anglo-American philosophical books devoted to life's meaning. Online only.
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  46. The Meaning of Life and Death: Ten Classic Thinkers on the Ultimate Question, Michael Hauskeller, 2020. London, Bloomsbury Academic. Xv + 236 Pp. £ 45.50 (Hb) £ 13.99. [REVIEW]Lantz Fleming Miller - 2020 - Journal of Applied Philosophy 37 (4):681-683.
    This book is at once incisive and exploratory, interpretive and historic scholarship. It appeals to both general and specialized readers. It uniquely takes a common philosophical theme, the meaning of life, and traces it through many philosophers’ and novelists' works. Sometimes the theme is buried and implicit, and offers a plausible distillation of each author's view. The result is a title that may sound like a self-help book’s—except the contents expand in manifold directions rather than narrow to easy advice. The (...)
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  47. Luddites, Labor, and Meaningful Lives: Would a World Without Work Really Be Best?Jeff Noonan - 2020 - Journal of Social Philosophy 51 (3):441-456.
    Journal of Social Philosophy, EarlyView.
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  48. What Is the Question to Which Anti-Natalism Is the Answer?Nicholas Smyth - 2020 - Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 23 (1):1-17.
    The ethics of biological procreation has received a great deal of attention in recent years. Yet, as I show in this paper, much of what has come to be called procreative ethics is conducted in a strangely abstract, impersonal mode, one which stands little chance of speaking to the practical perspectives of any prospective parent. In short, the field appears to be flirting with a strange sort of practical irrelevance, wherein its verdicts are answers to questions that no-one is asking. (...)
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  49. Grenzwesen Mensch. Zur systematischen Aktualität von Georg Simmels Kulturphilosophie.Johannes Steizinger - 2020 - Zeitschrift für Kulturphilosophie 14 (2):123–136.
    This paper examines Georg Simmel’s philosophy of culture in relation to anthropological debates, developing a historical and a systematic argument: First, I show that Simmel’s approach can be read as a response to the anthropological challenge of modernity. Second, I demonstrate that Simmel’s theory of culture can be brought to bear on current anthropological debates. Focusing on his concept of cultivation, I argue that Simmel advances a transformative concept of humanity that considers both the biological nature of humans and the (...)
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  50. On the Benefits of Philosophy as a Way of Life in a General Introductory Course.Jake Wright - 2020 - Metaphilosophy 51 (2-3):435-454.
    Philosophy as a way of life (PWOL) places investigations of value, meaning, and the good life at the center of philosophical investigation, especially of one’s own life. I argue PWOL is compatible with general introductory philosophy courses, further arguing that PWOL-based general introductions have several philosophical and pedagogical benefits. These include the ease with which high impact practices, situated skill development, and students’ ability to ‘think like a disciplinarian’ may be incorporated into such courses, relative to more traditional introductory courses, (...)
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