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Consequentialism about Meaning in Life

Utilitas 27 (4):445-459 (2015)

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  1. Objectivism, Hybridism, and Meaning in Life: Reply to Evers and van Smeden.Iddo Landau - 2017 - Southern Journal of Philosophy 55 (3):306-313.
    In a recent article in this journal, Daan Evers and Gerlinde Emma van Smeden () defend Wolf's hybridism against objectivist counterexamples advanced by Metz, Smuts, and Bramble. They also offer their own new hybridism, which they take to be even less vulnerable to such counterexamples. In this paper, I argue that Evers and van Smeden's defense of their and Wolf's hybridizing from objectivist counterexamples is problematic and that they do not, in fact, succeed in meeting the challenge the objectivist counterexamples (...)
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  • Work is Meaningful if There are Good Reasons to do it: A Revisionary Conceptual Analysis of ‘Meaningful Work’.Jens Jørund Tyssedal - 2022 - Journal of Business Ethics 185 (3):533-544.
    Meaningful work is an important ideal, but it seems hard to give an adequate account of meaningful work. In this article, I conduct a revisionary conceptual analysis of ‘meaningful work’, i.e. a conceptual analysis that aims at finding a better and more useful way to use this term. I argue for a distinction between cases where work itself is meaningful and cases where other sources of meaning are found at work. The term ‘meaningful work’ is most useful for the former (...)
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  • Non-Repeatable Hedonism Is False.Travis Timmerman & Felipe Pereira - 2019 - Ergo: An Open Access Journal of Philosophy 6:697-705.
    In a series of recent papers, Ben Bramble defends a version of hedonism which holds that purely repetitious pleasures add no value to one’s life (i.e. Non-Repeatable Hedonism). In this paper, we pose a dilemma for Non-Repeatable Hedonism. We argue that it is either committed both to a deeply implausible asymmetry between how pleasures and pains affect a person’s well-being and to deeply implausible claims about how to maximize well-being, or is committed to the claim that a life of eternal (...)
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  • Constraint-Free Meaning, Fearing Death, and Temporal Bias.Travis Timmerman - 2022 - The Journal of Ethics 26 (3):377-393.
    This paper focuses on three distinct issues in Fischer’s Death, Immortality, and Meaning in Life, viz. meaning in life, fearing death, and asymmetrical attitudes between our prenatal and postmortem non-existence. I first raise the possibility that life’s total meaning can be negative and argue that immoral or harmful acts are plausibly meaning-detracting acts, which could make the lives of historically impactful evil dictators anti-meaningful. After that, I review Fischer’s two necessary conditions for meaning in life and argue against each. In (...)
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  • Meaningfulness as Sensefulness.Joshua Lewis Thomas - 2019 - Philosophia 47 (5):1555-1577.
    It is only in the last few decades that analytic philosophers in particular have begun to pay any serious attention to the topic of life’s meaning. Such philosophers, however, do not usually attempt to answer or analyse the traditional question ‘What is the meaning of life?’, but rather the subtly different question ‘What makes a life meaningful?’ and it is generally assumed that the latter can be discussed independently of the former. Nevertheless, this paper will argue that the two questions (...)
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  • Moral Monsters, Significance, and Meaning in Life.Chad Mason Stevenson - forthcoming - Journal of Value Inquiry:1-18.
    Can a moral monster - a person whose life is characterised by immoral actions - live a meaningful life? Pre-theoretical intuitions appear divided. For some, moral monsters can't live a meaningful life because they were immoral, while for others they did because morality is irrelevant. So what is the relationship between morality and meaning? This article contends that both sides are partially correct but for the wrong reasons: moral monsters don’t live meaningful lives, but morality is irrelevant for meaning. First, (...)
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  • Anything Can Be Meaningful.Chad Mason Stevenson - 2022 - Philosophical Papers 51 (3):427-455.
    It is widely held that for a life to be conferred meaning it requires the appropriate type of agency. Call this the agency requirement. The agency requirement is primarily motivated in the philosophical literature by the assumption that there is a widespread pre-theoretical intuition that humans have the capacity for meaning whereas animals do not; and that difference must come down to their agency or lack thereof. This paper aims to undercut the motivation for the agency requirement by arguing our (...)
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  • Contribution, Replaceability and the Meaning of Our Lives.Saul Smilansky - 2021 - Theoria 87 (6):1481-1496.
    I explore some surprising results concerning positive individual contributions, focusing on those made in one's job or in the position one holds. The replaceability of most people on the job or in positions of influence threatens our common sense notion of contribution. Two concepts of contribution are distinguished, and help to limit the sense of paradox, but do not completely eliminate it. The ideal of making a contribution that would not be done were one not to do it is seen (...)
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  • Remorse and the Ledger Theory of Meaning.Lucas Scripter - forthcoming - Philosophy:1-22.
    A common idea about assessing meaning in life is that one draws up a list of those various positive values that one has achieved and subtracts from it one's negative deeds in life. The resulting balance is the meaningfulness of one's existence. I call this the ledger theory. Drawing on the work of Raimond Gaita and Julian Barnes's novel The Sense of an Ending, I argue for a phenomenology of remorse that gives us reason to reject the ledger theory. Even (...)
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  • Meaning and beauty.Lucas Scripter - 2022 - Ratio 36 (1):51-63.
    What place do experiences of beauty have in a meaningful life? A marginal one, at best, it would seem, if one looks at the current literature in analytic philosophy. Treatments of beauty within so-called “analytic existentialism” tend to suffer from four limitations: beauty is neglected, reduced to artistic production, saddled to theology, or taken as a mere application of a broader theoretical framework. These discussions fail to engage with the rich tradition of philosophical aesthetics. In this essay, I begin by (...)
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  • Meaning in Life and the Vocation of Teaching.Lucas Scripter - 2023 - Studies in Philosophy and Education 42 (5):541-558.
    What can one person teach another about living meaningfully? Recent discussions about the relationship between education and finding meaning in life have tended to focus on institutional and curricular matters and, as a consequence, have sidelined the importance of the vocation of teaching. Drawing on Raimond Gaita’s philosophy of education, I suggest that his view of the love of a subject embodied in and demonstrated by teachers illuminates both the nature of leading a meaningful life as well as an important (...)
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  • How to Resist Bramble's Arguments against Temporal Well-being?Tatjana Visak - 2021 - Res Philosophica 98 (1):141-148.
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  • Meaning in the lives of humans and other animals.Duncan Purves & Nicolas Delon - 2018 - Philosophical Studies 175 (2):317-338.
    This paper argues that contemporary philosophical literature on meaning in life has important implications for the debate about our obligations to non-human animals. If animal lives can be meaningful, then practices including factory farming and animal research might be morally worse than ethicists have thought. We argue for two theses about meaning in life: that the best account of meaningful lives must take intentional action to be necessary for meaning—an individual’s life has meaning if and only if the individual acts (...)
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  • “Would my life still be meaningful?”: Intersubjectivism and changing meaning in life.Vincenzo Politi - 2019 - Human Affairs 29 (4):462-469.
    Susan Wolf maintains that the meaningfulness of a life arises when someone acts upon the subjective desire of doing something objectively valuable. This amounts to a hybrid view, which contains both subjectivist and objectivist elements. Wolf’s tentative definition of what is objectively valuable amounts to what, in this article, we define as ‘intersubjectivism’. As it will be argued, however, intersubjectivism poses a number of problems, which are exacerbated in contemporary society and which shed a new light on the problem of (...)
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  • The Meaning of Life, Equality and Eternity.Ingmar Persson & Julian Savulescu - 2019 - The Journal of Ethics 23 (2):223-238.
    We present an analysis of a notion of the meaning of life, according to which our lives have meaning if we spend them intentionally producing what has value for ourselves or others. In this sense our lives can have meaning even if a science-inspired view of the world is correct, and they are only transient phenomena in a vast universe. Our lives are more or less meaningful in this sense due to the difference in value for ourselves and others we (...)
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  • Meaningful Work and Achievement in Increasingly Automated Workplaces.W. Jared Parmer - forthcoming - The Journal of Ethics:1-25.
    As automating technologies are increasingly integrated into workplaces, one concern is that many of the human workers who remain will be relegated to more dull and less positively impactful work. This paper considers two rival theories of meaningful work that might be used to evaluate particular implementations of automation. The first is achievementism, which says that work that culminates in achievements to workers’ credit is especially meaningful; the other is the practice view, which says that work that takes the form (...)
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  • Meaning in Life and Becoming More Fulfilled.W. Jared Parmer - 2021 - Journal of Ethics and Social Philosophy 20 (1).
    Subjectivism about meaning in life remains a viable option, despite its relative unpopularity. Two arguments against it in the literature, the first by Susan Wolf and the second by Aaron Smuts and Antti Kauppinen, fail. Pace Wolf, lives devoted to activities of no objective value need not be pointless, unproductive, and futile, and so not prima facie meaningless; and, pace Smuts and Kauppinen, subjectivism is compatible with people being mistaken about how meaningful their own lives are. This paper elaborates a (...)
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  • Meaning and Anti-Meaning in Life and What Happens After We Die.Sven Nyholm - 2021 - Royal Institute of Philosophy Supplement 90:11-31.
    The absence of meaningfulness in life is meaninglessness. But what is the polar opposite of meaningfulness? In recent and ongoing work together with Stephen Campbell and Marcello di Paola respectively, I have explored what we dub ‘anti-meaning’: the negative counterpart of positive meaning in life. Here, I relate this idea of ‘anti-meaningful’ actions, activities, and projects to the topic of death, and in particular the deaths or suffering of those who will live after our own deaths. Connecting this idea of (...)
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  • Meaning in Life in AI Ethics—Some Trends and Perspectives.Sven Nyholm & Markus Rüther - 2023 - Philosophy and Technology 36 (2):1-24.
    In this paper, we discuss the relation between recent philosophical discussions about meaning in life (from authors like Susan Wolf, Thaddeus Metz, and others) and the ethics of artificial intelligence (AI). Our goal is twofold, namely, to argue that considering the axiological category of meaningfulness can enrich AI ethics, on the one hand, and to portray and evaluate the small, but growing literature that already exists on the relation between meaning in life and AI ethics, on the other hand. We (...)
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  • Is Meaning in Life Constituted by Value or Intelligibility?Iddo Landau - 2021 - Philosophical Papers 50 (1-2):211-234.
    Several authors have recently argued that intelligibility, rather than value, constitutes life’s meaning. In this paper I criticize the intelligibility view by offering examples of cases in which i...
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  • Externalism, internalism, and meaningful lives.Iddo Landau - 2021 - Ratio 34 (2):137-146.
    This paper argues that participants in the subjectivism/objectivism/hybridism debate, a central issue in recent meaning in life research, conflate two different distinctions marked by the terms objective and subjective, one having to do with the question of whether life's meaningfulness depends on factors internal or external to the agent, the other having to do with the question of whether there is any ‘absolute’ as opposed to ‘relative’ truth about the first question. The paper then argues that a distinctive type of (...)
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  • Viktor Frankl und die gegenwärtige philosophische Sinndiskussion: Ein Beitrag zur Theorie des sinnvollen Lebens in Psychotherapie, Psychiatrie und Philosophie.Roland Kipke - 2018 - Zeitschrift für Praktische Philosophie 5 (2):243-282.
    Das sinnvolle Leben ist nicht nur in der gegenwärtigen Philosophie wieder verstärkt ein Thema, sondern auch in Psychiatrie und Psychotherapie. Bereits seit langer Zeit jedoch spielt es eine zentrale Rolle in der Existenzanalyse und Logotherapie, die der Psychiater Viktor E. Frankl entwickelt hat. Frankls eigenständige Sinntheorie wird in der gegenwärtigen philosophischen Sinndebatte allerdings weitestgehend ignoriert. Das Ziel dieses Artikels ist es, diesen Zustand zu beenden und die heutige philosophische Sinndebatte mit Frankl ins Gespräch zu bringen. Einerseits geht es darum, Frankls (...)
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  • Die Sinntheorie der Menschenwürde. Auf dem Weg zu einem neuen und integrativen Ansatz.Roland Kipke - 2020 - Zeitschrift für Praktische Philosophie 7 (2):91-118.
    The central role of human dignity in ethics and law stands in striking contrast to the disagreement regarding the meaning and normative content of this concept. Each competing theory of human dignity also has serious problems. Against the background of this situation, the meaning-oriented theory of human dignity suggests a new understanding that can integrate a number of conceptions of human dignity and resolve their theoretical problems. According to this new theory, respect for human dignity consists in respect for human (...)
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  • The Ordinary Meaningful Life.Joshua Glasgow - 2023 - Journal of the American Philosophical Association 9 (3):408-425.
    It is widely thought that we have good reason to try to be important. Being important or doing significant things is supposed to add value to our lives. In particular, it is supposed to make our lives exceptionally meaningful. This essay develops an alternative view. After exploring what importance is and how it might relate to meaning in life, a series of cases are presented to validate the perspective that being important adds no meaning to our lives. The meaningful life (...)
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  • Meaning in Life: In Defense of the Hybrid View.Daan Evers & Gerlinde Emma van Smeden - 2016 - Southern Journal of Philosophy 54 (3):355-371.
    According to Susan Wolf's hybrid view about meaning in life, a life is meaningful in virtue of subjective attraction to objectively valuable pursuits. Recently, several philosophers have presented counterexamples to the subjective element in Wolf's view. We argue that these examples are not clearly successful and present a modified version which is even stronger in the face of them. Finally, we offer some positive reasons for accepting a subjective condition on a meaningful life.
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  • Climate Change and Anti-Meaning.Marcello Di Paola & Sven Nyholm - 2023 - Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 26 (5):709-724.
    In this paper, we propose meaningfulness as one important evaluative criterion in individual climate ethics and suggest that most of our greenhouse gas emitting actions, behaviours, and lives are the opposite of meaningful: anti-meaningful. We explain why such actions etc. score negatively on three important dimensions of the meaningfulness scale, which we call the agential, narrative, and generative dimensions. We suggest that thinking about individual climate ethics also in terms of (anti-) meaningfulness illuminates important aspects of our troubled ethical involvement (...)
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  • Anti-Meaning and Why It Matters.Stephen M. Campbell & Sven Nyholm - 2015 - Journal of the American Philosophical Association 1 (4): 694-711.
    It is widely recognized that lives and activities can be meaningful or meaningless, but few have appreciated that they can also be anti-meaningful. Anti-meaning is the polar opposite of meaning. Our purpose in this essay is to examine the nature and importance of this new and unfamiliar topic. In the first part, we sketch four theories of anti-meaning that correspond to leading theories of meaning. In the second part, we argue that anti-meaning has significance not only for our attempts to (...)
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  • Meaning, will to meaning, and Frankl’s existential psychiatry.Richard Bailey - forthcoming - Philosophical Psychology.
    ABSTRACT Recent decades have witnessed a growing interest in the topic of a meaningful life among philosophers, psychologists, and the general public. Yet despite this interest, the thinker who is perhaps most closely associated with meaning and mental health, the Austrian psychiatrist Viktor Frankl, has been largely overlooked by academic researchers. This article offers some redress to this situation by exploring the status of his central idea, the Will to Meaning, by locating it within contemporary philosophical discussions of Meaning in (...)
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  • Suicide as Protest.Antti Kauppinen - forthcoming - In Michael Cholbi & Paolo Stellino (eds.), Oxford Handbook of the Philosophy of Suicide. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
    While suicide is typically associated with personal despair, people do sometimes kill themselves in the hope or expectation that their death will advance a political cause by way of its impact on the conscience of others, or in extreme cases simply as an expression of protest against a status quo felt to be unjust. Paradigm cases of such protest suicide may be public acts of self-immolation. This chapter distinguishes between instrumental and expressive protest suicide, examines the possible motivations behind them, (...)
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  • Neutrality, Partiality, and Meaning in Life.Thaddeus Metz - 2017 - De Ethica 4 (3):7-25.
    Discussion of whether values and norms are neutral or not has mainly appeared in works on the nature of prudential rationality and morality. Little systematic has yet appeared in the up and coming field of the meaning of life. What are the respects in which the value of meaningfulness is neutral or, in contrast, partial, relational, or ‘biased’? In this article, I focus strictly on answering this question. First, I aim to identify the salient, and perhaps exhaustive, respects in which (...)
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  • Meaning in Life and the Nature of Time.Ned Markosian - forthcoming - In The Oxford Handbook of Meaning in Life. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
    Many of the leading accounts of what makes a life meaningful are goal-based theories, according to which it is the pursuit of some specific goal (such as love for things that are worthy of love) that gives meaning to our lives. In this chapter I consider how these goal-based theories of meaning in life interact with the two main theories of the nature of time that have been defended in the recent metaphysics literature, namely, The Dynamic Theory of Time and (...)
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  • La ricerca di un senso nella vita, la prospettiva morale e i limiti di una concezione sentimentalista.Stefano Bacin - 2017 - Etica E Politica 19 (2):287-304.
    I discuss Eugenio Lecaldano’s view of the search for meaning in life as presented in "Sul senso della vita" (Bologna, il Mulino, 2016), focusing on three issues. First, I suggest that an accurate account should accommodate both a prospective and a retrospective mode of the reflection on meaning in one’s own life. Second, I argue that Lecaldano’s distinction between meaningfulness and morality is underdetermined in two respects: (a) because a more flexible view of morality is able to integrate a consideration (...)
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  • Meaning in Life and the Metaphysics of Value.Daan Evers - 2017 - De Ethica 4 (3):27-44.
    According to subjectivist views about a meaningful life, one's life is meaningful in virtue of desire satisfaction or feelings of fulfilment. Standard counterexamples consist of satisfaction found through trivial or immoral tasks. In response to such examples, many philosophers require that the tasks one is devoted to are objectively valuable, or have objectively valuable consequences. I argue that the counterexamples to subjectivism do not require objective value for meaning in life. I also consider other reasons for thinking that meaning in (...)
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