Skip to main content

Exploring the Meaning of Life: An Anthology and Guide



Exploring the Meaning of Life: An Anthology and Guide


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
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