Baier, K. (1957) ‘The Meaning of Life’, in E.D.
Klemke (ed.) The Meaning of Life, New York: Oxford University Press, 1981, 81–117.
(Delivered originally as the inaugural lecture at the Australian National University in Canberra, this article defends the view that meaning in life is compatible with a secular worldview.)
Camus, A. (1943) Le Mythe de Sisyphe, Paris: Gallimard; expanded edition, 1945; extended edition trans.
O’Brien, ‘The Myth of Sisyphus’, in The Myth of Sisyphus and Other Essays, New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1955, 1–102.
(Classic discussion of the absurdity of the human condition and the proper response to it – defiance.)
Feinberg, J. (1992) ‘Absurd Self-Fulfillment’, in Freedom and Fulfillment, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
(Especially clear and accessible discussion of the idea of absurdity and of the kind of fulfilment that is possible in spite of it.)
Klemke, E.D. (1981) The Meaning of Life, New York: Oxford University Press.
(Anthology containing religious and secular accounts of the meaning of life, including portions of the Baier, Camus, Nagel, Taylor and Tolstoi pieces listed here.)
Nagel, T. (1971) ‘The Absurd’, Journal of Philosophy
68 (20): 716–727; repr. in E.D.
Klemke (ed.) The Meaning of Life, New York: Oxford University Press, 1981, 151–161.
(Analyses absurdity as the clash between pretension and reality and advocates irony as the proper response.)
Nozick, R. (1981) Philosophical Explanations, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, ch. 6.
(Wide-ranging exploration of the idea of a meaning to life, analysing meaning as the transcending of limits in a wider context of value.)
Schopenhauer, A. (1851) ‘On the Sufferings of the World’, trans.
Saunders, in R.
Taylor (ed.) The Will to Live: Selected Writings of Arthur Schopenhauer, New York: Ungar, 1967.
(Presents a deeply pessimistic view about the misery and meaninglessness of human life, advocating suicide as a proper response. See also ‘On the Vanity and Suffering of Life’ and ‘The Vanity of Existence’ in this volume.)
Taylor, R. (1970) Good and Evil, New York: Macmillan, ch. 18.
(Argues that what makes life meaningful is subjects’ attachments to the activities that occupy them.)
Tolstoi, L. (1886) Smert’ Ivana Il’icha, trans.
Maude, The Death of Ivan Il’ich, New York: New American Library, 1960.
(Vivid description of the sense that, in the face of death, one’s life is meaningless.)
Tolstoi, L. (1884) Ispoved, trans.
Maude, A Confession, in A Confession, The Gospel in Brief and What I Believe, London: Oxford University Press, 1971.
(Autobiographical account of being struck by the need to understand the meaning of life, and of finding the only acceptable answer in faith in God.)
Wiggins, D. (1976) ‘Truth, Invention, and the Meaning of Life’, Proceedings of the British Academy, 62: 331–378; repr. in G.
Sayre-McCord (ed.) Essays on Moral Realism, Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1988, 127–165.
(Argues against a purely subjective account of meaning, in favour of a nonsubjective but anthropocentric analysis of value – difficult reading.)
Wolf, S. (1997) ‘Happiness and Meaning: Two Aspects of the Good Life’, Social Philosophy & Policy
14 (1): 207–225.
(Expounds the view that meaningfulness in life arises from active and subjectively fulfilling engagement in projects of objective worth.)