The Meaning of Life

18.1 Overview: Philosophy and the meaning of Life

  • Understand why people think questions concerning the meaning of human existence are extremely important and relevant.
  • Understand why and how examining the question of life’s meaning is personal.
  • Explain the difference between external and internal meaning.

18.2 Pessimism: Life Has No Meaning

  • Summarize the pessimistic views of Tolstoy, Schopenhauer, and Darrow.
  • Critically examine the case for pessimism and for optimism.
  • Assess Baggini’s charge that pessimists confuse external and internal meaning.

18.3 Optimism: Life Can Have Meaning

  • Explain the religious externalist approach to life’s meaning.
  • Critically examine Tolstoy’s view and his justification for it.
  • Explain why some philosophers think the notion of a God assigning a purpose to humans should be objectionable to believers and nonbelievers alike.
  • Summarize the internalist’s position on life’s meaning and produce an argument for or against it.
  • Devise an argument for the idea that death and the ephemeral nature of human endeavors are irrelevant to the meaningfulness or meaningless of a person’s existence.
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