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Meaning in Life and Why It Matters:…
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Meaning in Life and Why It Matters: (University Center for Human Values…

by Susan Wolf

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This book presents an argument for the importance of meaning in our lives. That is meaning in the sense that we act out of love for objects that we value. In valuing these objects we identify them as worthy of our love and therefore our attention and concern. This is posed as an alternative to theories that advocate the primacy of egoism or altruism as the motivating force in such choices. I encountered this book while reading Jonathan Haidt's discussion of the moral principles of different people in his interesting book The Righteous Mind. Susan Wolf has succeeded in reflecting on the nature of meaning in life in a way that I found much more satisfying.

Susan Wolf discusses a variety of views about the source of meaning in life. One popular one is the argument that fulfillment from the pursuit of one's passion provides meaning for your life. The author comments that "the view is inadequate . . . If , as the Fulfillment View suggests, the only thing that matters is the subjective quality of one's life, then it shouldn't matter, in our assessments of possible lives, which activities give rise to that quality." (pp 15-16)
This view is rejected as too subjective in that it allows for a multiplicity of questionable paths through life and in doing so does not ensure that one's desires for his life are met in spite of the pursuit of a particular passion.

After discussing other views and returning to the argument for fulfillment through attention to that which one loves or values the author concludes with an extended defense of the need for meaningfulness. Most importantly this requires the identification of "objective values". The book concludes with four commentaries on Wolf's thesis and a response to these commentaries from the author. The result is a thought-provoking and engaging presentation of the nature of and importance for meaningfulness in one's life. ( )
  jwhenderson | Aug 6, 2017 |
Meaning in Life and Why It Matters by Susan Wolf was first published in 2012. The author takes an academic approach on the subject which at times can become quite a bit tedious in nature. However, with that said, the approach weeds out many more simplistic answers to the question "What is the meaning of life?", e.g. happiness, whatever you want it to be, etc. That said, Susan makes a number of great arguments throughout the book. Read more in our full review.

In short, if you are looking for an academic book on the subject, the meaning of life, this will be a good, but tedious read.
added by endev42 | editendev42 (Apr 30, 2017)
 
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0691145245, Hardcover)

Most people, including philosophers, tend to classify human motives as falling into one of two categories: the egoistic or the altruistic, the self-interested or the moral. According to Susan Wolf, however, much of what motivates us does not comfortably fit into this scheme. Often we act neither for our own sake nor out of duty or an impersonal concern for the world. Rather, we act out of love for objects that we rightly perceive as worthy of love--and it is these actions that give meaning to our lives. Wolf makes a compelling case that, along with happiness and morality, this kind of meaningfulness constitutes a distinctive dimension of a good life. Written in a lively and engaging style, and full of provocative examples, Meaning in Life and Why It Matters is a profound and original reflection on a subject of permanent human concern.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:18:57 -0400)

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