This book addresses the ‘perennial’ question of the meaning of life from the point of view of a novel interpretation of Aristotle’s teleology. Beginning with the premise that at the core of modernity and modern moral imagination are the entropy of meaning and the sense of meaninglessness, the author critically engages with the work of the post-war existentialists, chiefly that of Albert Camus and Martin Heidegger, to argue that their analyses are unconvincing and that the question of the meaning of being should therefore be approached using different assumptions, based on the notion of flourishing life. From this Aristotelian outlook, Existence, Meaning, Excellence employs Alasdair MacIntyre’s critique of modernity, together with his conceptions of practice and the narrative unity of life and tradition to provide a novel philosophical account of existence, meaning and excellence - an account which is used to contribute to debates (between Kantian and Nietzschean perspectives) on the nature of art and genius, with Mozart’s genius being used by way of illustration.
A fascinating and powerfully argued engagement with existentialist thought that draws on the ‘virtue’ tradition to explore questions of meaning, as well as wider questions within philosophy, this book will appeal to philosophers and social theorists with interests in existentialism, moral philosophy and accounts of ‘the good’ based on the notions of human flourishing.
"What is it about modernity that gives rise to a sense that life is meaningless? And how should we respond philosophically to those afflicted by that sense? Bielskis in this unusually interesting book engages in critical conversations with Schopenhauer, Camus, Habermas, Heidegger, Searle, Aristotle, and others--including me--in order to arrive at answers, answers that are sure to provoke, further disagreement. This is an exciting foray into disputed territory."
Alasdair McIntyre, University of Notre Dame, USA.
"This readable and thought-provoking book explores the responses of some celebrated European thinkers to the claim that we can no longer regard human life as having some kind of intrinsic meaning. Bielskis offers well-judged critical appraisals of the treatments of this theme by philosophers such as Nietzsche, Husserl, Heidegger, Sartre, Camus and Habermas and argues persuasively that neo-Aristotelian philosophy provides a viable answer to the questions they raise. I am happy to recommend the book to anyone with an interest in modern European thought."
Richard Stalley, University of Glasgow, UK.
"Andrius Bielskis, in this highly illuminating book, continues his research in the areas of the critique of liberalism and his further attempt to conceptualize political community and morality in Aristotelian terms. The book is well-written and relevant not only to professional philosophers but also to the general educated public. He engages in the critique of Albert Camus and Martin Heidegger and challenges a large circle of the fans of existentialism which, at least in this part of the world, is rarely questioned. At the same time, political philosophers are provoked to raise forgotten but still relevant questions about the meaningfulness of existence and excellence as the basis for political coexistence"
Agne Alijauskaite, Lithuanian Philosophical Society, 2018.
Preface and Acknowledgements
1. European Modernity in the Light of the History of the Entropy of Meaning: A Philosophical Analysis
2. A Philosophical Critique of Existentialism
3. A Revival of Aristotelian Practical Philosophy: The Case of Alasdair MacIntyre – Practice, Unity of Life, and Tradition
4. Existence, Meaning, Excellence
5. Art as a Structure of Meaning
6. Conclusion: Modernity Reconsidered