Thursday, July 8, 2010

Meaning in, not of, life

Philosophy Bites has posted an interview with Susan Wolf on meaning in life.

According to Wolf, meaning in life has the following properties:
- It is distinct from the meaning of life.
- It is but one aspect of the good life.
- It is distinct from happiness or morality.
- It has both a subjective and an objective component.

The last point is especially weak. Wolf tries to distinguish her definition of meaning in life from that of the existentialists. A life that is only subjectively meaningful but not objectively meaningful can be said to be authentic but not meaningful. However, she doesn't succeed at describing the criteria by which a life can be judged to be objectively meaningful. For example, she says that a life engaged in solving Sudoku puzzles is objectively less meaningful than one engaged in competitive sport.

Wolf does, however, describe some plausible features of a meaningful life. First, it is characterized by excellence. Second, it has a social or communal aspect to it. These are two features that are useful for me to keep in mind as I pursue a more meaningful job (let alone life).

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