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.
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).
Preface Chapter 1 The Question The question that won't go away Science and Meaning Something rather than nothing A Religious question? Meaning after God Man the Measure of All things? Variety, MEaning and Evaluation What Meaningfulness implies Meaning and Morality Humanity and Openess Chapter 2 The Barrier to Meaning The Void The Challenge of Modernity The Shadow of Darwin Science, Religion and Meaning Evolution and 'Blind' Forces The 'Nastiness' of the Evolutionary Mechanism Matter and Surplus Suffering The Character of the Cosmos Chapter 3 Meaning, Vulnerability and Hope Morality and Achievement Futility and Fragility Religion and the Buoyancy of the Good Vulnerability and Finitude Spirituality and Inner Change Doctrine and Praxis From Praxis to FAith Coda: Intimations of Meaning
"" 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
ON THE MEANING OF LIFE
Thinking in Action
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University of Reading, UK University of Reading University of Reading