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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Axiological Values Grounded in Basic Motivational Dispositions
: How to Be a Subjectivist about Meaning in Life

Frank Martela

Journal of Philosophy of Life Vol.12, No.1 (November 2022):55-76




Subjectivism as regards meaningfulness has fallen out of fashion due to certain highly counterintuitive implications. The present account aims to revive subjectivism by proposing a distinction between consciously chosen axiological values such as meaningfulness and more implicit proto-values that are part of our human nature. As regards the latter, the present account focuses especially on evolved basic motivational dispositions to seek out certain psychosocial experiences, which have been the subject of much research within empirical psychology. Instead of being connected to fleeting desires, it is argued that meaningfulness should be grounded in one specific basic motivational disposition – the disposition to do good to others – that helps to explain why meaningfulness is typically seen as intuitively appealing and an independent basis of value. Meaningfulness, in this account, isn’t mind independent, but it is still conscious-mind independent, which helps this version of subjectivism to avoid the typical counterarguments against subjectivism, while retaining many qualities typically only associated with objectivism.

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