The Meaning of Life: A Very Short Introduction

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OUP Oxford, Apr 24, 2008 - Philosophy - 128 pages
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We have all wondered about the meaning of life. But is there an answer? And do we even really know what we're asking? Terry Eagleton takes a stimulating and quirky look at this most compelling of questions: at the answers explored in philosophy and literature; at the crisis of meaning in modern times; and suggests his own solution to how we might rediscover meaning in our lives.
 

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The meaning of life

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What do we mean when we ask, "What is the meaning of life?" Eagleton (cultural theory, Univ. of Manchester;Literary Theory: An Introduction ) skirmishes wittily with philosophers who want to know if ... Read full review

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The "Meaning of Life" is one of those age-old questions that people of all walks of life have been pondering for at least as long as we know that people have been pondering anything. There have been many approaches to this question, and the three most prominent ones have come from philosophy, theology/religion, and literature. In this very short introduction Terry Eagelton sets out to explore all those approaches to this perennial big question. Even thought his approach is not strictly speaking philosophical, the preponderance of ideas about the meaning of life have been taken from various philosophers. Eagelton is very good at problematizing the whole "What is the meaning of life?" question. At the surface it appears like any other question to which we can give an objective answer (like "How far is Bloomington from Indianapolis?"), but at closer inspection almost every single word in that question can be very ambiguous. Eagleton's approach is to explore those ambiguities, and show how they had been addressed by other thinkers and writers. The book has a feel and style of a very long polemical essay, and an overall a very enjoyable one at that. My only big objection to it is that no attempts have been made to incorporate any of the ideas about the meaning of life, human happiness and personal integrity that have come out of the modern Psychological research. It has been known for quite a while that creating a coherent narrative of one's life is an essential part of the psychological theories of self. Other than that, the book is extremely well written and despite some grim ideas and passages an overall enjoyable and worthwhile read. 

Contents

1 Questions and answers
1
2 The problem of meaning
33
3 The eclipse of meaning
56
4 Is life what you make it?
78

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About the author (2008)

Terry Eagleton is John Edward Taylor Professor of English at the University of Manchester. His recent publications include Holy Terror (2005); The English Novel: An Introduction (2004); After Theory (2003); Sweet Violence: The Idea of the Tragic (2002); The Idea of Culture (2000); The Illusions of Postmodernism (1996); and Literary Theory: An Introduction (1996).

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