It's a Wonderful Life: Pottersville and the Meaning of Life

Film and Philosophy 16 (1):15-33 (2012)
It’s a Wonderful Life (Capra, 1946) presents a plausible theory of the meaning of life: One's life is meaningful to the extent that it promotes the good. Although this theory is credible, the movie suggests a problematic refinement in the Pottersville sequence. George's waking nightmare asks us to compare the actual world with a world where he did not exist. It tells us that we are only responsible for the good that would not exist had we not existed. I argue that this is a bad test. It fails when there are redundant causes.
Keywords meaning of life  Richard Taylor  Erik Wielenberg  Susan Wolf  It's a Wonderful Life  philosophy in film  well-being
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