An Individualist Theory of Meaning

Journal of Value Inquiry 57 (1):41-58 (2021)
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According to some critics of liberal individualism, it is fundamentally problematic that individualists focus on rights instead of community and on decision-making processes instead of substantial goods. Among other things, it is claimed that liberal individualism therefore fails to provide meaning to people’s lives. The view has recently gained momentum as it has been incorporated in novel conservative and nationalist arguments. This article presents an individualist theory of meaning in response to a recent nationalist reiteration of the critique. The theory is that a continuous pursuit of self-endorsement by a perfected, liberal, version of oneself provides purpose and direction in life. This allows the individual to be the ultimate arbiter in meaning-building matters, as the theory locates meaning in the individual’s decision-making processes rather than in factors external to her. The theory acknowledges the interdependence of human beings but remains loyal to the view that the value of the individual generally trumps competing values, such as that of the collective.

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Jesper Ahlin Marceta
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