Recent Work on the Meaning of 'Life’s Meaning': Should We Change the Philosophical Discourse?

Human Affairs 29 (4):404-414 (2019)
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In this article I critically discuss English-speaking philosophical literature addressing the question of what it essentially means to speak of 'life’s meaning'. Instead of considering what might in fact confer meaning on life, I make two claims about the more abstract, meta-ethical question of how to understand what by definition is involved in making that sort enquiry. One of my claims is that over the past five years there has been a noticeable trend among philosophers to try to change our understanding of what talk of 'life’s meaning' connotes. For example, whereas most philosophers for a long while had held that such talk is about a kind of value possible in the life of human beings, recently some have argued that certain non-human parts of nature can exhibit meaningfulness, which, furthermore, is not necessarily something valuable. The second claim I advance is that there is strong reason to reject this trend, and instead for philosophers to retain the long-standing approach.


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Author's Profile

Thaddeus Metz
Cornell University (PhD)

Citations of this work

African Theories of Meaning in Life: A Critical Assessment.Thaddeus Metz - 2020 - South African Journal of Philosophy 39 (2):113-126.
The Rationality of Suicide and the Meaningfulness of Life.Michael Cholbi - 2022 - In Iddo Landau (ed.), Oxford Handbook of Meaning in Life. Oxford University Press. pp. 445-460.
Temporal textures: Time, meaning, and the good life.Eva Weber-Guskar - 2023 - European Journal of Philosophy 31 (4):1091-1104.
Meaning and beauty.Lucas Scripter - 2022 - Ratio 36 (1):51-63.

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References found in this work

Philosophical explanations.Robert Nozick - 1981 - Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
Meaning in Life: An Analytic Study.Thaddeus Metz - 2013 - New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
Downshifting and meaning in life.Neil Levy - 2005 - Ratio 18 (2):176–189.
Meaning in the lives of humans and other animals.Duncan Purves & Nicolas Delon - 2018 - Philosophical Studies 175 (2):317-338.

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