Meaning and Anti-Meaning in Life and What Happens After We Die

Royal Institute of Philosophy Supplement 90:11-31 (2021)
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Abstract

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 anti-meaning and what happens after our own deaths to recent work by Samuel Scheffler on what he calls ‘the collective afterlife’ and his four reasons to care about future generations, I argue that if we today make choices or have lifestyles that later lead to unnecessarily early deaths and otherwise avoidable suffering of people who will live after we have died, this robs our current choices and lifestyles of some of their meaning, perhaps even making them the opposite of meaningful in the long run.

Author's Profile

Sven Nyholm
Ludwig Maximilians Universität, München

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