1st Edition

What Makes Life Meaningful? A Debate

By Thaddeus Metz, Joshua W. Seachris Copyright 2024
    272 Pages
    by Routledge

    272 Pages
    by Routledge

    Can human life be meaningful? What does talk about life’s meaning even mean? What is God’s role, if any, in a meaningful life? These three questions frame this one-of-a-kind debate between two philosophers who have spent most of their professional lives thinking and writing about the topic of life’s meaning.

    In this wide-ranging scholarly conversation, Professors Thaddeus Metz and Joshua W. Seachris develop and defend their own unique answers to these questions, while responding to each other’s objections in a lively dialog format. Seachris argues that the concept of life’s meaning largely revolves around three interconnected ideas—mattering, purpose, and sense-making; that a meaningful human life involves sufficiently manifesting all three; and that God would importantly enhance the meaningfulness of life on each of these three fronts. Metz instead holds that talk of life’s meaning is about a variety of properties such as meriting pride, transcending one’s animal self, making a contribution, and authoring a life-story. For him, many lives are meaningful insofar as they exercise intelligence in positive, robust, and developmental ways. Finally, Metz argues that God is unnecessary for an objective meaning that suits human nature.

    Metz and Seachris develop and defend their own unique answers to these three questions, while responding to each other’s objections in a dialog format that is accessible to students though—given their new contributions—will be of great interest to scholars as well.

    Key Features

    • Offers an up-to-date scholarly conversation on life’s meaning by two researchers at the forefront of research on the topic.
    • Provides a wide-ranging, yet orderly discussion of the most important issues.
    • Accessible for the student investigating the topic for the first time yet also valuable to the scholar working on life’s meaning.
    • Includes helpful pedagogical features, like:
      - Chapter outlines and introductions;
      - Annotated reading lists for both students and research-level readers;
      - A glossary; and
      - Clear examples, thought experiments, narratives, and cultural references, which enhance the book’s role in thinking about life’s meaning and related topics.

    John Martin Fischer

    Opening Statements

    1. Triadic Meaning and the Benefits of God
    Joshua W. Seachris

    2. Making Life Meaningful Without God or a Soul
    Thaddeus Metz

    First Round of Replies

    3. "Some" Meaning Without God or a Soul: Reply to Metz
    Joshua W. Seachris

    4. Considering the Benefits of God: Reply to Seachris
    Thaddeus Metz

    Second Round of Replies

    5. God Is Still Better News for Meaning: Response to Metz's Reply
    Joshua W. Seachris

    6. Types of Meaning and the Natural as Their Source: Response to Seachris' Reply
    Thaddeus Metz


    Thaddeus Metz is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Pretoria in South Africa, and is often credited for having helped develop life’s meaning as a distinct field in Anglo-American philosophy over the past 20 years. Metz has published more than 300 professional works, including the books Meaning in Life: An Analytic Study (2013) and God, Soul and the Meaning of Life (2019).

    Joshua W. Seachris is Assistant Teaching Professor of Philosophy at the University of Notre Dame, and managing editor of the Journal of Analytic Theology. From 2012–2023, he was Program Director for the Center for Philosophy of Religion at Notre Dame. In addition to his published journal articles, he is the editor of Exploring the Meaning of Life: An Anthology and Guide (2012); co-editor (with Stewart Goetz) of God and Meaning: New Essays (2016); and co-author (with Stewart Goetz) of What Is This Thing Called the Meaning of Life? (2020).

    From the Foreword:
    "This is a compelling and illuminating debate, conducted with a collegial spirit, into some of the most fundamental of human concerns. I found myself agreeing with Seachris, then Metz, then Seachris, then Metz, and so forth.   That’s a sign of a good debate. In the end, I was sure that I had learned a lot, and enjoyed the ride!"
    John Martin Fischer, University of California, Riverside