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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Perfectionism and Vulgarianism About a Meaningful Life

David Matheson

Journal of Philosophy of Life Vol.14, No.1 (March 2024):1-13




As a troubling evaluative error, perfectionism involves demanding of the merely good what ought only to be demanded of the outstanding. Iddo Landau has recently charged many philosophers of life with such perfectionism about a meaningful life. Here I argue that although Landau’s charge is unlikely to persuade those who adhere to a superlative concept of a meaningful life in the first place, there is nevertheless an important lesson for them to learn from that charge: to avoid perfectionism about what they will regard as good but not meaningful lives, they must constantly be vigilant to appreciate the value of such lives. I go on to consider whether the required vigilance is a reason to abandon the superlative concept in favor of a nonsuperlative one. I argue that it is not, because a similar sort of vigilance, to avoid a contrasting but equally troubling error that I call “vulgarianism,” would be required even upon such abandonment.

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