What's the Point if We're All Going to Die? Pessimism, Moderation, and the Reality of the Past

Journal of Philosophy of Life 14 (1):14-34 (2024)
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Pessimists sometimes declare that death makes everything we do pointless or meaningless. In this essay, I consider the motivations for this worry about our collective mortality. I then examine some common responses to this worry that emphasize moderating our standards or changing our goals. Given some limitations of the “moderating our standards” response, I suggest that Viktor Frankl’s view about the permanence of the past offers a different and perhaps better way of responding to the worry that death renders our lives meaningless. After outlining his view, its implications, and the view of time it assumes, I consider and respond to some possible objections to Frankl’s view. If Frankl is right, death cannot make life meaningless or pointless because meaning is attained within life, and when we die our completed lives endure as part of the past.

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Matthew Pianalto
Eastern Kentucky University


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