Journal of Philosophy of Life

An international peer-reviewed open access journal dedicated to the philosophy of life, death, and nature, supported by the Project of Philosophy and Contemporary Society, Advanced Research Center for Human Sciences, Waseda University


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Theorizing About Meaning in Life

Cheshire Calhoun

Journal of Philosophy of Life Vol.12, No.1 (November 2022):1-20




Theories of meaning in life surprisingly often provoke deep dissatisfaction. Deep dissatisfaction is not a matter of finding a theory merely inadequate but of thinking that it has altogether missed the target and is, really, a theory of something else such as excellent, admirable, significant, authentic, worthwhile, or happy lives. My main projects are to explain why deep dissatisfactions are likely to arise in this domain of theorizing. I explore the question of whether ‘meaningfulness’ is an essentially contested concept, the absence of success conditions for theories of meaningfulness that ethical theories have, what makes conceptions of meaningfulness conceptions of the same concept, and the importance of attending to the underlying justificatory concerns that motivate our interest in making correct judgments about what lives and activities are meaningful.

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