Several philosophers, both in Buddhist and Western philosophy, claim that the self does not exist. The no-self view may, at first glance, appear to be a reason to believe that life is meaningless. In the present article, I argue indirectly in favor of the no-self view by showing that it does not entail that life is meaningless. I then examine Buddhism and argue, further, that the no-self view may even be construed as partially grounding an account of the (...)meaning of life. (shrink)
Suppose we are about to enter an era of increasing technological unemployment. What implications does this have for society? Two distinct ethical/social issues would seem to arise. The first is one of distributive justice: how will the efficiency gains from automated labour be distributed through society? The second is one of personal fulfillment and meaning: if people no longer have to work, what will they do with their lives? In this article, I set aside the first issue and focus (...) on the second. In doing so, I make three arguments. First, I argue that there are good reasons to embrace non-work and that these reasons become more compelling in an era of technological unemployment. Second, I argue that the technological advances that make widespread technological unemployment possible could still threaten or undermine human flourishing and meaning, especially if they do not remain confined to the economic sphere. And third, I argue that this threat could be contained if we adopt an integrative approach to our relationship with technology. In advancing these arguments, I draw on three distinct literatures: the literature on technological unemployment and workplace automation; the antiwork critique—which I argue gives reasons to embrace technological unemployment; and the philosophical debate about the conditions for meaning in life—which I argue gives reasons for concern. (shrink)
We raise various puzzles about the relationship between God and the meaning of life. These difficulties suggest that, even if we assume that God exists, and even if God’s existence would entail that our lives have meaning, God is not and could not be the source of the meaning of life. We conclude by discussing implications of our arguments: these claims can be used in a novel argument for atheism; these claims undermine an extant argument (...) for God’s existence; and they suggest that atheism is consistent with our lives having meaning. (shrink)
I defend the theory that one's life is meaningful to the extent that one promotes the good. Call this the good cause account (GCA) of the meaning of life. It holds that the good effects that count towards the meaning of one's life need not be intentional. Nor must one be aware of the effects. Nor does it matter whether the same good would have resulted if one had not existed. What matters is that one (...) is causally responsible for the good. I argue that the best theory of the meaning of life should clearly distinguish between subjective fulfillment and objective meaningfulness. The GCA respects the distinction. And it is superior to its leading rivals in the recent literature, most notably those of Erik Wielenberg and Susan Wolf. (shrink)
The aim of this paper is to propose a new approach to the question of meaning in life by criticizing Thaddeus Metz’s objectivist theory in his book Meaning in Life: An Analytic Study. I propose the concept of “the heart of meaning in life,” which alone can answer the question, “Alas, does my life like this have any meaning at all?” and I demonstrate that “the heart of meaning in life” (...) cannot be compared, in principle, with other people’s meaning in life. The answer to the question of “the heart of meaning in life” ought to have two values, yes-or-no, and there is no ambiguous gray zone between them. I believe that this concept constitutes the very central content of meaning in life. (shrink)
A lengthy reply to several critical discussions of _Meaning in Life: An Analytic Study_ appearing in the _Journal of Philosophy of Life_. The contributors are from a variety of philosophical traditions, including the Anglo-American, Continental and East Asian (especially Buddhist and Japanese) ones.
This study focuses on the experimental and philosophical analysis of the meaning of life in death situation, according to Wittgenstein’s way of life and sayings during the war. The method of extraction and analysis of information is grounded theory. For this purpose, Wittgenstein’s writings such as his letters and memories, and other’s texts about his life and his internal moods were analyzed. After analyzing the collected information and categorizing them in frames of open codes, axial codes, (...) etc. we recognized that Wittgenstein's point of view in death situation was supernatural God-centered. By reading Tolstoy gospel and Dostoyevsky's works, Wittgenstein has reached a kind of religious awakening in that period of his life. But before and after the war period he had a naturalistic point of view toward the meaning of life, in which moral values are in the core. (shrink)
The emergent new science of synthetic biology is challenging entrenched distinctions between, amongst others, life and non-life, the natural and the artificial, the evolved and the designed, and even the material and the informational. Whenever such culturally sanctioned boundaries are breached, researchers are inevitably accused of playing God or treading in Frankenstein’s footsteps. Bioethicists, theologians and editors of scientific journals feel obliged to provide an authoritative answer to the ambiguous question of the ‘meaning’ of life, both (...) as a scientific definition and as an explication with wider existential connotations. This article analyses the arguments mooted in the emerging societal debates on synthetic biology and the way its practitioners respond to criticism, mostly by assuming a defiant posture or professing humility. It explores the relationship between the ‘playing God’ theme and the Frankenstein motif and examines the doctrinal status of the ‘playing God’ argument. One particularly interesting finding is that liberal theologians generally deny the religious character of the ‘playing God’ argument—a response which fits in with the curious fact that this argument is used mainly by secular organizations. Synthetic biology, it is therefore maintained, does not offend so much the God of the Bible as a deified Nature. While syntheses of artificial life forms cause some vague uneasiness that life may lose its special meaning, most concerns turn out to be narrowly anthropocentric. As long as synthetic biology creates only new microbial life and does not directly affect human life, it will in all likelihood be considered acceptable. (shrink)
When people suffer they always suffer as a whole human being. The emotional, cognitive and spiritual suffering of human beings cannot be completely separated from all other kinds of suffering, such as from harmful natural, ecological, political, economic and social conditions. In reality they interact with each other and influence each other. Human beings do not only suffer from somatic illnesses, physical pain, and the lack of decent opportunities to satisfy their basic vital, social and emotional needs. They also suffer (...) when they are not able to experience and grasp any meaning of life even if such suffering is not quite as obvious as most forms of physical, social and emotional suffering. Suffering from the lack for the sense of the meaning of life is a special form of emotional, cognitive, and spiritual suffering. Although all human beings share the same basic human need for some meaning of life, the fulfilment of this need is highly individual and personal. Although all forms of human suffering can be a challenge to the meaning of life, the personal conditions of suffering usually are a stronger challenge for the meaning of life. Among the personal conditions of human suffering, the Grenzsituationen cannot be cancelled or raised at all, but only accepted and coped with as existential aspects of the conditio humana. According to Karl Jaspers these are: death, suffering, struggling, guilt, and failing. The challenge for human beings to cope with these Grenzsituationen is a way to move from the mere Being-there to true human Existence. (shrink)
Through the examination of the lives of several immortal beings, this paper defends a version of Moritz Schlick’s claim that the meaning of life is play. More precisely: a person’s life has meaning to the extent it there are things in it that the person values intrinsically rather than merely instrumentally and above a certain threshold of intensity. This is a subjectivist account of meaning in life. I defend subjectivism about meaning in (...) class='Hi'>life from common objections by understanding statements about life’s meaning in quasi-realist terms. (shrink)
This article defends a conception of philosophy popular outside the discipline but unpopular within it: that philosophy is unified by a concern with the meaning of life. First, it argues against exceptionalist theses according to which philosophy is unique among academic disciplines in not being united by a distinctive subject matter. It then presents a positive account, showing that the issue of the meaning of life is uniquely able to reveal unity between the practical and theoretical (...) concerns of philosophy, while meeting a range of desiderata for a typical specification of subject matter. After showing how recent analytic work on “the meaning of life” has conflated the traditional question with issues of social meaningfulness, it offers an explanation of why the traditional question has become marginalised in philosophy. The reasons are not good, however, so it concludes that philosophy should embrace its popular image. (shrink)
According to Susan Wolf's hybrid view about meaning in life, a life is meaningful in virtue of subjective attraction to objectively valuable pursuits. Recently, several philosophers have presented counterexamples to the subjective element in Wolf's view. We argue that these examples are not clearly successful and present a modified version which is even stronger in the face of them. Finally, we offer some positive reasons for accepting a subjective condition on a meaningful life.
In parts of his Notebooks, Tractatus and in “Lecture on Ethics”, Wittgenstein advanced a new approach to the problems of the meaning of life. It was developed as a reaction to the explorations on this theme by Bertrand Russell. Wittgenstein’s objective was to treat it with a higher degree of exactness. The present paper shows that he reached exactness by treating themes of philosophical anthropology using the formal method of topology.
The present paper examines the concept of the meaning of life in the Soren Kierkegaard’s view. Kierkegaard sees the concept of "meaning" as "end" and believes in "biology" as the supreme biologist. Based on evidence from his works, he believes that the end is not to be discovered in biology, but it is creatable. There are three witnesses to this: first, the end is, in Kierkegaard''''''''s view, paradoxical, and paradox is not real, but mental. Secondly, Christianity, in (...) his opinion, is anxious, not religious, and religion is unreasonable, and in relation to the mind not connected with the outside, and third, that he does not consider God as an active being, but rather the existence of anxiety, The mind and mind of man. Kierkegaard''''''''s predictions in this evidence include ontological non-reality, individualism, and faith. An analysis of these three presumptions suggests that Kierkegaard believed in the supposition of meaning in life. (shrink)
When it comes to a question as notoriously unclear as “What is the meaning of life?” clarifying the question and its conceptual setting is a necessary step before attempting to answer the question. The analysis of the concept of “the meaning of life” is a twofold task; “the meaning” and “life” both need to be examined. In this paper, I primarily focus on “the meaning”. I argue that, although there is much disagreement and (...) confusion in the literature about the meaning of “the meaning” as it is applied to life, there is one most plausible interpretation of this notion. In the end, even though I do not answer the question of the meaning of life, I propose an account of what a correct answer to the question is supposed to look like, based on my original function analysis of “the meaning.”. (shrink)
Much more than just an anthology, this survey of humanity's search for the meaning of life includes the latest contributions to the debate, a judicious selection of key canonical essays, and insightful commentary by internationally respected philosophers. Cutting-edge viewpoint features the most recent contributions to the debate Extensive general introduction offers unprecedented context Leading contemporary philosophers provide insightful introductions to each section.
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. (shrink)
Naturalist theories of the meaning of life are sometimes criticised for not setting the bar high enough for what counts as a meaningful life. Tolstoy’s version of this criticism is that Naturalist theories do not describe really meaningful lives because they do not require that we connect our finite lives with the infinite. Another criticism of Naturalist theories is that they cannot adequately resolve the Absurd—the vast difference between how meaningful our actions and lives appear from subjective (...) and objective viewpoints. This article proposes a novel view, Optimistic Naturalism, in order to refute these criticisms. Optimistic Naturalism is the view that scientific and technological advancement might allow us to lead Truly Meaningful lives in a purely physical universe by enabling our actions, which we find meaningful partly because they might have particular infinite consequences, to actually have infinite consequences for life. The central tenets of Optimistic Naturalism are Infinite Consequence and Scientific Optimism. By explaining how the correct connection of the subjective and objective meaning of actions can result in True Meaning, Infinite Consequence provides a theoretical blueprint for resolving the Absurd. Scientific Optimism provides reason to think that it is possible to follow that blueprint in a purely physical universe. Therefore, when taken together, these two principles provide relatively plausible reasons to think that at least one kind of Naturalist theory can connect the finite with the infinite in a meaningful way and resolve the Absurd. (shrink)
There is an apparent tension between two familiar platitudes about the meaning of life: (i) that 'meaning' in this context means 'value', and (ii) that such meaning might be ineffable. I suggest a way of trying to bring these two claims together by focusing on an ideal of a meaningful life that fuses both the axiological and semantic senses of 'significant'. This in turn allows for the possibility that the full significance of a life (...) might be ineffable not because its axiological significance is ineffable, but because its semantic significance is ineffable in virtue of the signification relation itself being unsignifiable. I then explore to what degree this claim about signification can be adequately defended. (shrink)
The low commitment and meaning of life can be caused by many, but they potentially occur because people in an institution do not know what they get from their work other than just money; people become unhappy with their work, then get bored and uncomfortable at work, apathetic, and ultimately unproductive. An institution that implements workplace spirituality will make people feel connected and meaningful at work. The purpose of this study is to explain how the values of WS (...) can increase staff’s commitment and meaning of life at the institutions. The results of this study indicate that the WS can increase the commitment and meaning of the life of employees in the institution's through several things. First, the value which can increase work commitment is value of togetherness, responsibility, justice, trust, sincerity, integrity, innovative, and professional. Second, the meaning of work for them is a moral call, a form of gratitude, fulfillment, worship, self-actualization, the command of Allahswt, and doing the main duty. Third, the efforts made by the staff are: to build a working atmosphere with workplace culture and climate, improve the quality of institutions by making research and recruiting qualified lecturers,conducting useful activities, adding infrastructure to support activities, friendly communication, social media as means of socialization, religious or coaching and motivation training, oblige Zuhur prayers in congregation, and cooperate with others. Fourth, the impact of workplace spirituality for employees is to feel proud of their institution, to feel comfortable and to have intimacy, to have well self-actualization, to be more productive in their work, to maintain altitude, leadership that refers to the pattern of politics alone will decrease the quality of the institution, mutual visit and sharing information or giving advise, positive activities coloring each institution, and adding enthusiasm to work. (shrink)
I begin by introducing the standoff between the transculturalist aim of moving beyond cultural inheritances, and the worry that this project is itself a product of cultural inheritances. I argue that this is rooted in concerns about the meaning of life, and in particular, the prospect of nihilism. I then distinguish two diametrically opposed humanistic responses to nihilism, post-Nietzschean rejections of objective truth, and the moral objectivism favoured by some analytic philosophers, claiming that both attempt, in different ways, (...) to break down the distinction between description and evaluation. I argue that the evaluative sense of a “meaningful life” favoured by moral objectivists cannot track objective meaningfulness in human lives, and that there are manifest dangers to treating social meaning judgements as a secular substitute for the meaning of life. I then conclude that the problems of the post-Nietzscheans and moral objectivists can be avoided, and the transculturalist standoff alleviated, if we recognise that nihilism is descriptive, and maintain a principled distinction between description and evaluation. (shrink)
The perceived meaning of life significantly affects the quality of human life. It is of particular significance in borderline situations. One of such situations is the birth of an intellectually disabled child. The article presents the results of the study concerning the perceived meaning of life in the case of parents who bring up a child with limited intellectual abilities. The study included 87 mothers and 65 fathers bringing up an intellectually disabled child. In the (...) studied cases, parents perceived their life as highly meaningful. The results indicated that the perceived meaning of life in the case of parents of intellectually disabled children was related with: suffering experienced by the parents as a result of a limited intellectual ability of their daughter/son, the manner of performing their parental role and the sense of parental identity. (shrink)
Risalat-al-Tayr is the symbolic story of the fall of the soul/intellect from the heavenly world, its being captivated in the mundane world, and its effort for liberation and eternal unification with intellectus agens. There are many symbols in the story including bird, hunter, trap, homesickness, journey, captivity, mountain etc. In this treatise, Avicenna proposes a supernaturalistic theory of the meaning of life, according to which the life will be meaningful only if a person discovers an essential goal (...) in her life and tries to reach it. It is necessary for the goal to be actually valuable and for the person to be actually successful in achieving that goal. The only choice for such a goal is God. For Avicenna, the meaning of life is tied to immortality of the soul, existence of God, the epistemic ability of intellect, and the possibility of human evolution to the extent that she will be eternally unified with intellectus agens. (shrink)
Aristotle is the first philosopher on record to subject the meaning of life to systematic philosophical examination: he approaches the issue from logical, psychological, biological, and anthropological perspectives in some of the central passages in the Corpus Aristotelicum and, it turns out, in some fragments from his (lost) early popular work the Protrepticus (Exhortation to Philosophy). From an Aristotelian perspective, in asking about life’s “meaning”, we may be asking either a theoretical question about the definition of (...) the term life (and this either generically or with specific reference to human life), or a practical question about the final end or purpose of life (or human life). Aristotle carefully considered both questions, and in his view answering the theoretical question is the key to answering the practical question. In brief, his theoretical view is that humans are distinguished from all other living things, and thus defined by their ability to use reason; thus his practical view is that the end or purpose of human existence is intellectual activity, especially doing philosophy. (shrink)
According to subjectivist views about a meaningful life, one's life is meaningful in virtue of desire satisfaction or feelings of fulfilment. Standard counterexamples consist of satisfaction found through trivial or immoral tasks. In response to such examples, many philosophers require that the tasks one is devoted to are objectively valuable, or have objectively valuable consequences. I argue that the counterexamples to subjectivism do not require objective value for meaning in life. I also consider other reasons for (...) thinking that meaning in life requires objective value and raise doubts about their strength. Finally, I argue that beauty is not plausibly objective, but that it seems important for meaning. This puts pressure on the objectivist to explain why objectivity matters in the case of other values. (shrink)
According to the agency objection to life extension, being constrained as an agent adds to the meaningfulness of human life. Life extension removes constraints, and thus it deprives life of meaning. In the paper, I concede that constrained agency contributes to the mean- ingfulness of human life, but reject the agency objection to life extension in its current form. Even in an extended life, decision-making remains constrained, and many obstacles to the fulfilment (...) of an agent’s goals are preserved. Agents with longer lives are also presented with new chal- lenges: for instance, it might be harder for them to avoid chronic boredom, and sustain their motivation to act in the pursuit of their goals. Although objections from agency and boredom are often used in combination to support the view that a much longer life is likely to bring misery or become meaningless, I argue that the acceptance of the boredom objection under- mines the persuasiveness of the agency objection. (shrink)
According to the pure part-life view the meaning in our lives is always borne by particular parts of our lives. The aim of this paper is to show that Thaddeus Metz’s rejection of this view is too quick. Given that meaning is a value that often depends on relational rather than intrinsic properties a pure part-life view can accommodate many of the intuitions that move Metz towards a mixed view. According to this mixed view some (...) class='Hi'>meaning is borne by parts of our lives and some by our lives as a whole. The arguments in this paper suggest, however, that even if a pure part-life view is to be rejected, a mixed view that incorporates a whole-life aspect is not going to be any more plausible. (shrink)
What is the meaning of life? In the post-modern, post-religious scientific world, this question is becoming a preoccupation. But it also has a long history: many major figures in philosophy had something to say on the subject, as Julian Young so vividly illustrates in this thought-provoking book. Part One of the book presents an historical overview of philosophers from Plato to Hegel and Marx who have believed in some sort of meaning of life, either in some (...) supposed 'other' world or in the future of this world. Part Two looks at what happened when the traditional structures that provided life with meaning ceased to be believed. With nothing to take their place, these structures gave way to the threat of nihilism, to the appearance that life is meaningless. Julian Young looks at the responses to this threat in the work of Nietzsche, Heidegger, Sartre, Camus, Foucault and Derrida. This compelling and highly engaging exploration of fundamental values will captivate anyone who's ever asked themselves where life's meaning really lies. It also makes a perfect historical introduction to philosophy. (shrink)
In this comment-response Mikael Lindfelt makes some suggestions to how one could develop the argument for witnessing as experiencing meaningfulness in life as put forward by Nicole Note and Emilie Van Deale. While being positive to the main phenomenological approach, and especially the dialectical relational aspect of the phenomenological argument, Lindfelt uses Alain Badiou’s talk of Event in trying both to develop the phenomenological argument and to point out some idealistic tendencies in the line of the argument. Lindfelt suggests (...) that the aspect of uniqueness in the relational experience of the other should be taken to more radically than suggested by Note and Van Deale. By pointing out the dialectical fragility of the Event of witnessing Lindfelt is arguing for that the concept of respect could be more utilized in arguing for the experience of meaning seen as a gift. (shrink)
The article analyses whether it is correct to extrapolate the concept of "meaning in life" developed by Thaddeus Metz to the doctrines of ancient philosophers, including Thomas Aquinas. Is Metz’ concept of "purposes" that make "human life" meaningful analogous to Aquinas’ concept of "ultimate goal of man"? Significant points of Metz’ conception of "meaning in life" in our article are described and compared with Aquinas’ conception of "ultimate goal of man." As it turns out, these (...) conceptions are only superficially similar. In fact, they are profoundly different: (1) Aquinas is talking about the "goal of man", which implies objective teleology incompatible with Metz’ "naturalism", and is not talking about "meaning in life" (and even "purpose of life"); (2) "ultimate goal of man", for Aquinas, is intended to provide salvation and eternal life for man, not to make life "significant" in this world. -/- Thus, Metz and Thomas not only use different terminology, but also address different problems. They deal with different questions, not just give different answers to the same question (about the "meaning in life"). Metz’s extrapolation may be correct, when viewed as a kind of rational reconstruction. However, Metz does not make appropriate reservations and groundlessly unifies heterogeneous problems. The article shows that more historically oriented methodology avoids impropriety in the exercise of rational reconstruction of "meaning in life" in the field of ancient and medieval philosophies. (shrink)
IntroductionIn a recent article in this journal, Joshua W. Seachris (2012) argues that the distinction I make between perspectives and standards in sub specie aeternitatis arguments for the meaninglessness of life does not hold for a salient component of the sub specie aeternitatis perspective: the ontological-normative component. In this article I suggest that Seachris’s argument is problematic in a number of ways and ought to be rejected.BackgroundVarious authors, such as Albert Camus (1969, p. 78), Nicholas Rescher (1990, p. 153) (...) and Simon Blackburn (2001, p. 79), have argued that when lives are considered as a part of very large temporal or spatial contexts, they are realized to be meaningless. Considered in the context of a million years, whatever one chooses or achieves in a life or even the fact that one has existed seems unimportant: the world would be the same in a million years whether or not we had existed and whatever we might or might not have done. Our effect on the world. (shrink)
The phrase "the meaning of life" for many seems a quaint notion fit for satirical mauling by Monty Python or Douglas Adams. But in this spirited, stimulating, and quirky enquiry, famed critic Terry Eagleton takes a serious if often amusing look at the question and offers his own surprising answer. Eagleton first examines how centuries of thinkers and writers--from Marx and Schopenhauer to Shakespeare, Sartre, and Beckett--have responded to the ultimate question of meaning. He suggests, however, that (...) it is only in modern times that the question has become problematic. But instead of tackling it head-on, many of us cope with the feelings of meaninglessness in our lives by filling them with everything from football to sex, Kabbala, Scientology, "New Age softheadedness," or fundamentalism. On the other hand, Eagleton notes, many educated people believe that life is an evolutionary accident that has no intrinsic meaning. If our lives have meaning, it is something with which we manage to invest them, not something with which they come ready made. Eagleton probes this view of meaning as a kind of private enterprise, and concludes that it fails to holds up. He argues instead that the meaning of life is not a solution to a problem, but a matter of living in a certain way. It is not metaphysical but ethical. It is not something separate from life, but what makes it worth living--that is, a certain quality, depth, abundance and intensity of life. Here then is a brilliant discussion of the problem of meaning by a leading thinker, who writes with a light and often irreverent touch, but with a very serious end in mind. "If you were to ask what provides some meaning in life nowadays for a great many people, especially men, you could do worse than reply 'football.' Not many of them perhaps would be willing to admit as much; but sport stands in for all those noble causes--religious faith, national sovereignty, personal honor, ethnic identity--for which, over the centuries, people have been prepared to go to their deaths. It is sport, not religion, which is now the opium of the people.". (shrink)
Human life is absurd because it is too short relative to reasonable human purposes. In contrast to our absurd relationship to time, our relationship to space is not absurd. Although our lives are way too short for reasonable human purposes, we are adapted to our size and the space we have to live in relative to the space of the universe and relative to reasonable human purposes. Because the human lifespan is so short as to render human life (...) absurd, human life is also meaningless because absurdity presents an obstacle to meaningfulness. (shrink)
This chapter critically discusses the most salient positions about life’s meaning advanced by Koheleth, the presumed author of Ecclesiastes, a book from the Hebrew Bible. Koheleth famously argues that ‘life is futility’ (or ‘vanity’) for a variety of reasons, with this chapter focusing on the three that are most recurrent in the text and have been particularly influential in the Western tradition of philosophy. These are considerations about: the mortality of humankind, the undeserved allocations of benefits and (...) burdens we receive, and the inability to control our fate. (shrink)
What is the meaning of life? It is a question that has intrigued the great philosophers--and has been hilariously lampooned by Monty Python. Indeed, the whole idea strikes many of us as vaguely pompous, a little absurd. Is there one profound and mysterious meaning to life, a single ultimate purpose behind human existence? In What's It All About?, Julian Baggini says no, there is no single meaning. Instead, Baggini argues meaning can be found in (...) a variety of ways, in this life. He succinctly breaks down six answers people commonly suggest when considering what life is all about--helping others, serving humanity, being happy, becoming successful, enjoying each day as if it were your last, and "freeing your mind." By reducing the vague, mysterious question of meaning to a series of more specific (if thoroughly unmysterious) questions about what gives life purpose and value, he shows that the quest for meaning can be personal, empowering, and uplifting. If the meaning of life is not a mystery, if leading meaningful lives is within the power of us all, then we can look around us and see the many ways in which life can have purpose. We can see the value of happiness while accepting it is not everything. We can see the value of success, without interpreting that too narrowly. We can see the value of seizing the day as well as helping others lead meaningful lives. We can recognize the value of love, as perhaps the most powerful motivator of all. Illustrating his argument with the thoughts of many of the great philosophers and examples drawn from everyday life, Baggini convincingly shows that the search for meaning is personal and within the power of each of us to find. (shrink)
Human beings have the unique ability to consciously reflect on the nature of the self. But reflection has its costs. We can ask what the self is, but as David Hume pointed out, the self, once reflected upon, may be nowhere to be found. The favored view is that we are material beings living in the material world. But if so, a host of destabilizing questions surface. If persons are just a sophisticated sort of animal, then what sense is there (...) to the idea that we are free agents who control our own destinies? What makes the life of any animal, even one as sophisticated as Homo sapiens, worth anything? What place is there in a material world for God? And if there is no place for a God, then what hold can morality possibly have on us--why isn't everything allowed? Flanagan's collection of essays takes on these questions and more. He continues the old philosophical project of reconciling a scientific view of ourselves with a view of ourselves as agents of free will and meaning-makers. But to this project he brings the latest insights of neuroscience, cognitive science, and psychiatry, exploring topics such as whether the conscious mind can be explained scientifically, whether dreams are self-expressive or just noise, the moral socialization of children, and the nature of psychological phenomena such as multiple personality disorder and false memory syndrome. What emerges from these explorations is a liberating vision which can make sense of the self, agency, character transformation, and the value and worth of human life. Flanagan concludes that nothing about a scientific view of persons must lead to nihilism. (shrink)
A critical overview of some central work on the meta-ethical question of what the question of life's meaning means, as appearing in Joshua Seachris, ed., Exploring the Meaning of Life: An Anthology and Guide. It discusses contributions from Paul Edwards, R. W. Hepburn, Robert Nozick, Garrett Thomson, Arjan Markus and Thaddeus Metz.
The phrase "the meaning of life" for many seems a quaint notion fit for satirical mauling by Monty Python or Douglas Adams. But in this spirited Very Short Introduction, famed critic Terry Eagleton takes a serious if often amusing look at the question and offers his own surprising answer. Eagleton first examines how centuries of thinkers and writers--from Marx and Schopenhauer to Shakespeare, Sartre, and Beckett--have responded to the ultimate question of meaning. He suggests, however, that it (...) is only in modern times that the question has become problematic. But instead of tackling it head-on, many of us cope with the feelings of meaninglessness in our lives by filling them with everything from football to sex, Kabbala, Scientology, "New Age softheadedness," or fundamentalism. On the other hand, Eagleton notes, many educated people believe that life is an evolutionary accident that has no intrinsic meaning. If our lives have meaning, it is something with which we manage to invest them, not something with which they come ready made. Eagleton probes this view of meaning as a kind of private enterprise, and concludes that it fails to holds up. He argues instead that the meaning of life is not a solution to a problem, but a matter of living in a certain way. It is not metaphysical but ethical. It is not something separate from life, but what makes it worth living--that is, a certain quality, depth, abundance and intensity of life. Here then is a brilliant discussion of the problem of meaning by a leading thinker, who writes with a light and often irreverent touch, but with a very serious end in mind. (shrink)
This article is intended to contribute to the discussion on the meaning of volunteering by investigating voluntary work from the viewpoint of volunteers active in Swedish civil society organizations.Meaning refers both to the cognitive meaning of concepts and to the perceived meaning in life. The aim to uncover the predicates that people attribute to the concept is an attempt to anatomize volunteering as a social construct. Five predicates emerged and they make up the phenomenological structure (...) of volunteering. By contextualizing this structure in contemporary Swedish society, it is demonstrated that the conceptual meaning of volunteering has significance for its existential meaning. The volunteers say that their authenticity is confirmed through the voluntary work since they are making themselves manifest in public. Following Hannah Arendt, the reasons for this is that authenticity demands that the volunteers conduct their actions in a public realm where their actions acquire an intrinsic value as neither coerced nor instrumental. (shrink)
The point of psychotherapy has occasionally been associated with talk of ‘life’s meaning’. However, the literature on meaning in life written by contemporary philosophers has yet to be systematically applied to literature on the point of psychotherapy. My broad aim in this chapter is to indicate some plausible ways to merge these two tracks of material that have run in parallel up to now. More specifically, my hunch is that the connection between meaning as philosophers (...) understand it and therapy as psychotherapists ought to practice it is much closer than is suggested by the field of existential psychotherapy, which expressly addresses the topic of life’s meaning and appeals to ideas from classic philosophers such Søren Kierkegaard, Martin Heidegger, and the like. I instead proffer the claim that psychodynamic and humanistic therapy, clinical psychology, and counselling psychology as such, not a particular branch of them, are best understood as enterprises in search of meaning in life, in the way many present-day philosophers understand this phrase. In this chapter, I spell out what I mean by this bold hypothesis and provide some good reason to take it seriously. (shrink)
Derk Pereboom’s Free Will, Agency, and Meaning in Life provides the most lively and comprehensive defense of free will skepticism in the literature. It contains a reworked and expanded version of the view he first developed in Living without Free Will. Important objections to the early book are answered, some slight modifications are introduced, and the overall account is significantly embellished—for example, Pereboom proposes a new account of rational deliberation consistent with the belief that one’s actions are causally (...) determined and develops a forward-looking theory of moral responsibility con- sistent with free will skepticism. A significant contribution to the field, Free Will, Agency, and Meaning in Life is destined to become a classic and is essential reading for anyone interested in free will and moral responsibility. (shrink)
With a new preface by the authorWhat is meaning in life? Does anything really matter? How can a life achieve lasting significance? How can we explain the human propensity to struggle for ideals? How is meaning related to contentment, happiness, joy? Is meaning something we discover, or do we create it? What is the nature of value, and what are its sources in human experience? Can there be a meaning in life without religious (...) faith? What is the meaning of death? Is life worth living? What would enable us to have a love of life?"Meaning in life," writes philosopher Irving Singer, "and the meaning in our own lives, results from creative efforts on our part. It is not a prior reality awaiting our discovery. Though we talk about a 'search' for meaning, what we are seeking is primarily a mode of creativity that will make our lives meaningful." In The Creation of Value, the first volume of his Meaning in Life trilogy, Singer studies the nature of imagination, idealization, and love in the context of humanity's attempt to define itself through the pursuit of meanings and values that it creates. Singer confronts life's most troubling problems: the meaning of death, the presence of anxiety in daily existence, the conditions needed for us to have a life worth living, and the possibility of a love of life in others as well as in ourselves.Irving Singer Library. (shrink)
In this chapter, I critically explore John Cottingham's most powerful argument for the thesis that the existence of God is necessary for meaning in life. This is the argument that life would be meaningless without an invariant morality, which could come only from God. After demonstrating that Cottingham's God-based ethic can avoid not only many traditional Euthyphro meta-ethical concerns, but also objections at the normative level, I consider whether it can entail the unique respect in which morality (...) is normative, and, upon considering various ways to develop the view, I conclude that it can. However, I then raise another objection that I maintain cannot be replied to satisfactorily. The objection is that, if we had conclusive evidence for a God-based meta-ethic, then our evidence for the existence of God and of wrongness would be comparable, but they are not, either for Cottingham or for readers more generally. That is, I argue that it is incoherent to claim to know that wrongness is a function of God, given that one knows that wrongness exists, but does not know that God does. I also present an alternative, naturalist meta-ethic that avoids this incoherence, fits better with our extant metaphysical knowledge, and grounds an invariant moral system. (shrink)
A lengthy reply to 13 critical discussions of _Meaning in Life: An Analytic Study_ collected in an e-book and reprinted from the _Journal of Philosophy of Life_. The contributors are from a variety of philosophical traditions, including the Anglo-American, Continental and East Asian (especially Buddhist and Japanese) ones.
Feng Youlanâs Xin Shixun æ°ä¸è® (New Treatise on the Way of Life) written in the late 1930s differed from traditional moral teachings because it focused on nonmoral life lessons and how to virtuously pursue success. It advanced an interpretation of traditional virtues as life lessons for young people, so that these virtues could transform an individual life in modern society. Thereby the morals of ancient sages could transfer to the modern, individual, and morality. The problem is (...) just how the ideals of traditional Chinese culture have adjusted themselves to modern society. Following the phrase after-virtue , this effort can be called a pursuit of after-sage. (shrink)
Hermeneutics approaches the meaning of life quite uniquely: it grasps the intrinsic intelligibility of life by employing a universal concept of meaning, applicable to all phenomena. While other conceptions identify the meaning of life with values or scopes, hermeneutics starts from a grass-roots work on the meanings that are embedded at every level of reality. In this paper, I analyze this approach, especially focusing on Husserl, Heidegger, and Gadamer. First, I outline Husserl’s philosophy of (...)meaning as developed in response to the crisis of meaning. Second, I discuss Heidegger’s concept of meaning and his understanding of life as self-movement. Third, I analyze Gadamer’s concept of common sense and his idea of hermeneutic mediation that conveys the meaning of life itself. (shrink)