The Good, the True and the Beautiful: Toward a Unified Account of Great Meaning in Life

Religious Studies 47 (4):389-409 (2011)
Abstract
Three of the great sources of meaning in life are the good, the true, and the beautiful, and I aim to make headway on the grand Enlightenment project of ascertaining what, if anything, they have in common. Concretely, if we take a (stereotypical) Mother Teresa, Mandela, Darwin, Einstein, Dostoyevsky, and Picasso, what might they share that makes it apt to deem their lives to have truly mattered? I provide reason to doubt two influential answers, noting a common flaw that supernaturalism and consequentialism share. I instead develop their most plausible rival, a naturalist and non-consequentialist account of what enables moral achievement, intellectual reflection, and aesthetic creation to confer great meaning on a person's life, namely, the idea that they do so insofar as a person transcends an aspect of herself in some substantial way. I criticize several self-transcendence theories that contemporary philosophers have advanced, before presenting a new self-transcendence view and defending it as the most promising.
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DOI 10.1017/S0034412510000569
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Alienation, Consequentialism, and the Demands of Morality.Peter Railton - 1984 - Philosophy and Public Affairs 13 (2):134-171.
The Concept of a Meaningful Life.Thaddeus Metz - 2001 - American Philosophical Quarterly 38 (2):137-153.
Downshifting and Meaning in Life.Neil Levy - 2005 - Ratio 18 (2):176–189.
Musical Profundity Misplaced.Jerrold Levinson - 1992 - Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 50 (1):58-60.

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