Exploring the Meaning of Life An Anthology and Guide

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  • Edition: 1st
  • Format: Paperback
  • Copyright: 2012-09-04
  • Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell

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Supplemental Materials

What is included with this book?


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

Author Biography

Joshua W. Seachris (PhD, University of Oklahoma) is Adjunct Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Wake Forest University in North Carolina, as well as Grant Administrator for The Character Project, which aims to map the contours of the human character by funding key research in philosophy, psychology and theology. He is the author of peer-reviewed articles on a range of topics in philosophy, including the problem of evil, Confucius and virtue, the meaning of life, and death. His work has appeared in the International Journal for Philosophy of Religion, Asian Philosophy, Philo, Religious Studies, and the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

With Section Introductions by:

John Cottingham (DPhil, Oxford University) is Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at the University of Reading, Professorial Research Fellow at Heythrop College, University of London, and an Honorary Fellow of St John's College, Oxford. His recent titles include On the Meaning of Life (Routledge, 2003), The Spiritual Dimension (Cambridge University Press, 2005), Cartesian Reflections (Oxford University Press, 2008), and Why Believe? (Continuum, 2009). He is editor of the international philosophical journal Ratio.

John Martin Fischer (PhD, Cornell University) is Distinguished Professor and Chair of the Department of Philosophy at the University of California, Riverside, where he has held a University of California President's Chair (2006–10). He is the editor of The Metaphysics of Death (Stanford University Press, 1993), and many of his articles on death, immortality, and the meaning of life are collected in his Our Stories: Essays on Life, Death, and Free Will (Oxford University Press, 2011).

Thaddeus Metz (PhD, Cornell University) is Research Professor of Philosophy at the University of Johannesburg, South Africa. His work on developing and evaluating theoretical approaches to what makes a life meaningful has appeared in such journals as American Philosophical Quarterly, Ethics, Ratio, Religious Studies, and Utilitas. His book, Meaning in Life: An Analytic Study, will be published by Oxford University Press in 2012.

Garrett Thomson (DPhil, Oxford University) teaches philosophy at the College of Wooster in Wooster, Ohio, where he holds the Compton Chair. He is the author of several books, including On Kant (Wadsworth, 2003), On the Meaning of Life  (Wadsworth 2002), Una Introducción a la Práctica de la Filosofía (PanAmericana, 2002), Bacon to Kant (Waveland Press, 2001), On Leibniz (Wadsworth, 2001), and Needs (Routledge, 1987). With Daniel Kolak, he co-edited the six volumes of the Longman Standard History of Philosophy (Longman's Press, 2006). He is chief executive officer of the Guerrand-Hermès Foundation for Peace.

Erik J. Wielenberg (PhD, University of Massachusetts-Amherst) is Associate Professor of Philosophy at DePauw University in Greencastle, Indiana. He is the author of Value and Virtue in a Godless Universe (Cambridge University Press, 2005) and God and the Reach of Reason (Cambridge University Press, 2007). 

Table of Contents

Notes on Contributors viii

Preface x

Personal Acknowledgments xii

Acknowledgments xiii

General Introduction 1
Joshua W. Seachris

Section I Understanding the Question of Life's Meaning 21

Introduction 23
Thaddeus Metz

1.1 Why 29
Paul Edwards

1.2 Untangling the Questions 40
Garrett Thomson

1.3 Questions about the Meaning of Life 48
R. W. Hepburn

1.4 Philosophy and the Meaning of Life 62
Robert Nozick

1.5 The Concept of a Meaningful Life 79
Thaddeus Metz

1.6 Assessing Views of Life: A Subjective Affair? 95
Arjan Markus

Section II What Does God Have to Do with the Meaning of Life? 113

Introduction 115
John Cottingham

2.1 Ecclesiastes 121

2.2 On Living in an Atomic Age 133
C. S. Lewis

2.3 Is the Existence of God Relevant to the Meaning of Life? 138
Jeffrey Gordon

2.4 The Absurdity of Life without God 153
William Lane Craig

2.5 Is Nature Enough? 173
John Haught

2.6 Religion and Value: The Problem of Heteronomy 183
John Cottingham

2.7 Could God's Purpose Be the Source of Life's Meaning? 200
Thaddeus Metz

Section III The Loss of Meaning in a World Without God: Pessimistic Naturalism 219

Introduction 221
Garrett Thomson

3.1 On the Vanity of Existence 227
Arthur Schopenhauer

3.2 A Free Man's Worship 230
Bertrand Russell

3.3 The Absurd 236
Thomas Nagel

3.4 Why Coming into Existence Is Always a Harm 245
David Benatar

3.5 Secular Philosophy and the Religious Temperament 262
Thomas Nagel

Section IV Finding Meaning in a World Without God: Optimistic Naturalism 275

Introduction 277
Erik J. Wielenberg

4.1 The Human World 282
John Kekes

4.2 Time and Life's Meaning 296
Richard Taylor

4.3 The Meanings of Lives 304
Susan Wolf

4.4 Intrinsic Value and Meaningful Life 319
Robert Audi

4.5 God and the Meaning of Life 335
Erik J. Wielenberg

4.6 The Varieties of Non-Religious Experience 353
Richard Norman

4.7 Emergent Religious Principles 367
Ursula Goodenough

Section V The Meaning of Life and the Way Life Ends: Death, Futility, and Hope 371

Introduction 373
John Martin Fischer

5.1 A Confession 380
Leo Tolstoy

5.2 Annihilation 388
Steven Luper-Foy

5.3 Why Immortality Is Not So Bad 404
John Martin Fischer

5.4 The Immortality Requirement for Life’s Meaning 416
Thaddeus Metz

5.5 Human Extinction and the Value of Our Efforts 428
Brooke Alan Trisel

5.6 Free Will, Death, and Immortality: The Role of Narrative 445
John Martin Fischer

5.7 Death, Futility, and the Proleptic Power of Narrative Ending 461
Joshua W. Seachris

5.8 Divine Hiddenness, Death, and Meaning 481
Paul K. Moser

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