In this book Christopher Belshaw draws on earlier work concerning death, identity, animals, immortality, and extinction, and builds a large-scale argument dealing with questions of both value and meaning. Rejecting suggestions that life is sacred or intrinsically valuable, he argues instead that its value varies, and varies considerably, both within and between different kinds of things. So in some cases we might have reason to improve or save a life, while in others that reason will be lacking.
What about starting lives? The book’s central section takes this as its focus, and asks whether we ever have reason to start lives, just for the sake of the one whose life it is. Not only is it denied that there is any such reason, but some sympathy is afforded to the anti-natalist contention that there is always reason against.
The final chapters deal with meaning. There is support here for the sober and familiar view that meaning derives from an enthusiasm for, and some success with, the pursuit of worthwhile projects. Now suppose we are immortal. Or suppose, in contrast, that we face imminent extinction. Would either of these threaten meaning? The claim is made that the force of such threats is often exaggerated.
The Value and Meaning of Life is essential reading for students and researchers in philosophy, ethics, and religion, and will be of interest to all those concerned with how to live, and how to think about the lives of others.
Table of Contents
Introduction: On the Value and Meaning of Life
5. The Asymmetry
Appendix 1: Dworkin and Reconciliation
Appendix 2: The Experience Machine
Appendix 3: How Bad is Death?
Appendix 4: Values and Reasons
Appendix 5: XR/CV.
Christopher Belshaw teaches philosophy at the University of York. He has earlier taught at the Open University, UC Santa Barbara, and Lancaster University. His previous books include Environmental Philosophy, 10 Good Questions about Life and Death, and Annihilation. He has some ideas for a further book.