Life and meaning

Ratio 18 (2):125–137 (2005)
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This paper addresses an apparent tension between a familiar claim about meaning in general, to the effect that the meaning of anything owes to its place, ultimately, within a ‘form of life’, and a claim, also familiar, about the meaning of human life itself, to the effect that this must be something ‘beyond the human’. How can life itself be meaningful if meaning is a matter of a relationship to life? After elaborating and briefly defending these two claims, two ways of amending and thereby reconciling them are considered and rejected. These ways involve either spiriting away the issue of life's meaning or encouraging unwelcome metaphysical views. The author then argues that, rather than remove the tension between the two claims, each should be viewed as expressing an aspect of a delicate metaphysical position. This position is distinguished from ones, like transcendental idealism and constructivism, with which it might be confused, and is then related to Daoist and Zen thought and to the later philosophy of Heidegger. Crucial to the position is the proposal that the ‘beyond the human’ which enables life to be meaningful is both ineffable and ‘intimate’ with life itself.



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David Cooper
Durham University

Citations of this work

New developments in the meaning of life.Thaddeus Metz - 2007 - Philosophy Compass 2 (2):196–217.
Divine Ineffability.Guy Bennett-Hunter - 2015 - Philosophy Compass 10 (7):489-500.
Reconsidering Meaning in Life: A Philosophical Dialogue with Thaddeus Metz.Masahiro Morioka (ed.) - 2015 - Journal of Philosophy of Life, Waseda University.

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References found in this work

Philosophical explanations.Robert Nozick - 1981 - Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.
A survey of metaphysics.E. Jonathan Lowe - 2002 - Oxford: Oxford University Press.
On the Meaning of Life.John Cottingham - 2002 - New York: Routledge.

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