Transcending absurdity

Ratio 21 (1):64–84 (2008)
Joe Mintoff
University of Newcastle, Australia
Many of us experience the activities which fill our everyday lives as meaningful, and to do so we must (and do) hold them to be important. However, reflection undercuts this confidence: our activities are aimed at ends which are arbitrary, in that we have reason to regard our taking them so seriously as lacking justification; they are comparatively insignificant; and they leave little of any real permanence. Even though we take our activities seriously, and our everyday lives to be important, on reflection they seem less meaningful than we suppose. Thomas Nagel claims that this discrepancy is inevitable, and thus that our lives are absurd and to be approached with irony. The aim of this paper is to explore whether it is inevitable, and in particular to examine recent formulations (of Peter Singer, Robert Nozick, and others) of the old idea that we can transcend this absurdity by forming attachments less susceptible to being undercut.
Keywords Meaningfulness  Absurdity  Transcendence
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1111/j.1467-9329.2007.00385.x
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

Our Archive

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 35,471
External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

Nicomachean Ethics. Aristotle - 1999 - Courier Dover Publications.
The View From Nowhere.Thomas Nagel - 1986 - Oxford University Press.
Philosophical Explanations.Robert Nozick - 1981 - Harvard University Press.
Reasons and Persons.Derek Parfit - 1984 - Oxford University Press.
Practical Ethics.Peter Singer - 1979 - Cambridge University Press.

View all 22 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

Anti-Meaning and Why It Matters.Stephen M. Campbell & Sven Nyholm - 2015 - Journal of the American Philosophical Association 1 (4): 694-711.
Meaning Without Fulfilment.Kirsten Egerstrom - 2018 - South African Journal of Philosophy 37 (2):193-206.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Moore's Paradoxes and Iterated Belief.John N. Williams - 2007 - Journal of Philosophical Research 32:145-168.
Imagination of the Evil.Jie Shang - 2007 - Frontiers of Philosophy in China 2 (3):412-422.
Absurdity and Spanning.Charles Sayward & Stephen H. Voss - 1972 - Philosophia 2 (3):227-238.
The Absurdity of Life.Steven Luper - 1992 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 52:1-17.
Absurdity as Unary Operator.Sergei P. Odintsov - 2006 - Poznan Studies in the Philosophy of the Sciences and the Humanities 91 (1):225-242.
Wittgensteinian Accounts of Moorean Absurdity.John N. Williams - 1998 - Philosophical Studies 92 (3):283-306.
Reply to Garrett.Andrew Brennan - 1988 - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 31 (1):87 – 92.


Added to PP index

Total downloads
101 ( #62,427 of 2,285,807 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
6 ( #78,672 of 2,285,807 )

How can I increase my downloads?

Monthly downloads

My notes

Sign in to use this feature