Life, meaning of

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-L044-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved December 05, 2023, from

References and further reading

  • 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. J. 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. T.B. 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. A. 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. A. 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.)

Citing this article:
Wolf, Susan. Bibliography. Life, meaning of, 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-L044-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2023 Routledge.

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