Meaningfulness and Time

Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 84 (2):345-377 (2012)
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(Pdf updated to final, slightly revised version of November 2010) Almost everyone would prefer to lead a meaningful life. But what is meaning in life and what makes a life meaningful? I argue, first, for a new analysis of the concept of meaningfulness in terms of the appropriateness of feelings of fulfilment and admiration. Second, I argue that while the best current conceptions of meaningfulness, such as Susan Wolf’s view that in a meaningful life ‘subjective attraction meets objective attractiveness’, do a fairly good job capturing meaningfulness at a time, we need an account that makes sense of the intimate connection between meaningfulness and having a direction in one’s life. According to the Teleological View I propose, what makes a single chapter of a life most meaningful is success in reaching central, objectively valuable goals as a result of exercising essential human capacities. Life as a whole is most meaningful when past efforts increase the success of future goal-setting, goal-seeking, and goal-reaching, so that the life forms a coherent whole without being dedicated to a single aim. Since coherence in this sense is a holistic property of a life, global prudential value is not a function of local prudential values. I suggest that just as pleasure is the final good of human beings as subjects of experience, meaningfulness is the final good of human beings as active agents.

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Antti Kauppinen
University of Helsinki

Citations of this work

Consequentialism about Meaning in Life.Ben Bramble - 2015 - Utilitas 27 (4):445-459.
Meaning and Happiness.Antti Kauppinen - 2013 - Philosophical Topics 41 (1):161-185.
Meaning in the lives of humans and other animals.Duncan Purves & Nicolas Delon - 2018 - Philosophical Studies 175 (2):317-338.
The Significance of a Life’s Shape.Dale Dorsey - 2015 - Ethics 125 (2):303-330.

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References found in this work

The meaning of life.John Kekes - 2000 - Midwest Studies in Philosophy 24 (1):17–34.

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