On the Meaning of Life by John Cottingham

On the Meaning of Life

John Cottingham
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Details

  • ISBN
    9780415248006 / 0415248000
  • Title On the Meaning of Life
  • Author John Cottingham
  • Category Philosophy
  • Format
    Paperback
  • Year 2002
  • Pages 144
  • Publisher
    Routledge
  • Imprint Routledge
  • Edition
    1st
  • Language English
  • Dimensions 130mm x 13mm x 202mm

Annotation

The question "What is the meaning of life?“ is one of the most fascinating, oldest and most difficult questions human beings have ever posed themselves. Often linked to the religious issue of whether we are part of a larger, divine scheme, even in an increasingly secularized culture it remains a question to which we are ineluctably and powerfully drawn.
In this acute and thoughtful book, John Cottingham asks why the question vexes us so much and assesses some of the most influential attempts to explain it.
John Cottingham examines the view, widely held within science, especially since Darwin, that the cosmos is devoid of value and meaning. He asks what is involved in the ”disenchantment“ of the natural world by science, and argues that, properly understood, modern cosmology and evolutionary theory need not foreclose the possibility of ultimate meaning. He reflects on the paradox that the very impermanence and fragility of the human condition may lend support to the quest for a ”spiritual" dimension of meaning.
Drawing on the history of philosophy, he also ponders the costs of insisting that any path to meaning must be a narrowly rational one, and he argues that our human need for meaning may properly be approached by drawing on shared traditions of practice, such as social ceremonies and rites of passage, whose value cannot be analyzed in purely intellectual terms.

Publisher Description

The question 'What is the meaning of life?' is one of the most fascinating, oldest and most difficult questions human beings have ever posed themselves. In an increasingly secularized culture, it remains a question to which we are ineluctably and powerfully drawn. In this acute and thoughtful book, John Cottingham assesses some of the most influential attempts to explain it, ranging from the bleak existentialist view to the religious demand that human beings amount to something more than Pascal's 'imbecile worms of the earth'. He asks what is involved in the 'disenchantment' of the natural world by science, and argues that, properly understood, modern cosmology and evolutionary theory need not foreclose the possibility of ultimate meaning. He also reflects on the paradox that the very impermanence and fragility of the human condition may lend support to the quest for a 'spiritual' dimension of meaning. Drawing skilfully on a wealth of thinkers, writers and scientists from Augustine, Descartes, Freud and Camus, to Spinoza, Pascal, Darwin, and Wittgenstein, On the Meaning of Life breathes new vitality into one of the very biggest questions.

Review
"" On the Meaning of Life would serve well as a textbook for units of lower-level philosophy courses on this issue; general readers would also profit from it. It is concise and clear, and would provide an excellent starting point for discussion with students.."-Jason Kawall, Colgate University

Author Biography

John Cottingham is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Reading. His many publications include: Western Philosophy: an anthology (Blackwell, 1996), Philosophy and the Good Life (Cambridge, 1998) and On the Meaning of Life (Routledge, 2003).

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On the Meaning of Life

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