1st Edition

The Meaning of Life and the Great Philosophers

ISBN 9781138220959
Published May 2, 2018 by Routledge
314 Pages

USD $46.95

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Book Description

The Meaning of Life and the Great Philosophers reveals how great philosophers of the past sought to answer the question of the meaning of life. This edited collection includes thirty-five chapters which each focus on a major philosophical figure, from Confucius to Rorty, and that imaginatively engage with the topic from their perspective. This volume also contains a Postscript on the historical origins and original significance of the phrase ‘the meaning of life’.

Written by leading experts in the field, such as A.C. Grayling, Thaddeus Metz and John Cottingham, this unique and engaging book explores the relevance of the history of philosophy to contemporary debates. It will prove essential reading for students and scholars studying the history of philosophy, philosophy of religion, ethics, metaphysics or comparative philosophy.

Table of Contents


Notes on Contributors


  1. Confucius
  2. Joshua Seachris and Richard Kim

  3. The Buddha
  4. Mark Siderits

  5. Vyāsa
  6. Arindam Chakrabarti

  7. Socrates
  8. A.C. Grayling

  9. Plato
  10. David Skrbina

  11. Diogenes
  12. Will Desmond

  13. Zhuangzi
  14. David E. Cooper

  15. Aristotle
  16. Monte Ransome Johnson

  17. Epicurus
  18. Catherine Wilson

  19. Koheleth
  20. Thaddeus Metz

  21. Epictetus
  22. A.A. Long

  23. Sextus Empiricus
  24. Svavar Hrafn Svavarsson

  25. Avicenna
  26. Nader El-Bizri

  27. Maimonides
  28. Alfred L. Ivry

  29. Aquinas
  30. Edward Feser

  31. Montaigne
  32. Stephen Leach

  33. Descartes
  34. John Cottingham

  35. Spinoza
  36. Genevieve Lloyd

  37. Kant
  38. Terry F. Godlove

  39. Schopenhauer
  40. Robert Wicks

  41. Kierkegaard
  42. Mark Bernier

  43. Marx
  44. Amy E. Wendling

  45. Mill
  46. Frans Svensson

  47. Nietzsche
  48. Raymond Angelo Belliotti

  49. Ortega
  50. Pedro Blas González

  51. Wittgenstein
  52. Reza Hosseini

  53. Heidegger
  54. Wendell O’Brien


  55. Sartre
  56. Joseph S. Catalano

  57. Beauvoir
  58. Jonathan Webber

  59. Weil
  60. Lissa McCullough

  61. Ayer
  62. James Tartaglia

  63. Camus
  64. William McBride

  65. Murdoch
  66. Bridget Clarke

  67. Fanon
  68. Samuel Imbo

  69. Rorty

Alan Malachowski

Postscript: The Blue Flower















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Stephen Leach is Honorary Senior Fellow at Keele University, UK. He is the author of The Foundations of History: Collingwood's Analysis of Historical Explanation (2009).

James Tartaglia is Professor of Metaphysical Philosophy at Keele University, UK. He is the author of Philosophy in a Meaningless Life (2016).



"The overall aim of this volume is to produce an accessible volume on the MoL that is targeted at the general reader. It certainly achieves that. Each chapter is, as expected, authoritative, well-written and they largely tackle the challenge of dealing with such a complex topic rather well throughout; each contributor manages to write in a way that reflects their individual style with lucidity and succinctness. … [D]efinitely one for the bookshelf and certainly an enjoyable read." - Eri Mountbatten-O’Malley, Metapsychology Online Reviews

"... [A] methodologically diverse source book of philosophers' views on the meaning of life. ... This collection is perhaps most valuable as an exploration of the difficulties faced in recasting historical ideas to think about a modern (and postmodern) problem. Summing Up: Recommended. Lower- and upper-division undergraduates; graduate students." - D. A. Forbes, CHOICE

"Here is a unique collection of essays providing an overview of how major philosophers of the past approached the meaning of life. The volume is a valuable resource for both scholars and general readers." - Steven M. Cahn, City University of New York Graduate Center, USA

"Ranging over not merely European, but also Indian, Chinese and Muslim thought, this collection of high-quality chapters is the most comprehensive discussion of the meaning-of-life question to date." - Julian Young, Wake Forest University, USA

"This comprehensive volume offers a rich panoply of ways of approaching the question of meaning of life from Ancient times to the present and also from a wide range of perspectives. This book is a valuable handbook for anybody who has a genuine interest in the meaning of life as well as for students and scholars in philosophy and psychology. I believe it will be a very useful tool for classroom discussions in history of philosophy, ethics, metaphysics, comparative philosophy or philosophical counseling." - Kamuran Elbeyoğlu, Toros University, Turkey