What is this thing called The Meaning of Life?: 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

What is this thing called The Meaning of Life?

1st Edition

By Stewart Goetz, Joshua W. Seachris


208 pages | 8 B/W Illus.

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pub: 2020-04-24
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What are we asking when we ask, "What is the meaning of life?"? Can there be meaning without God? Is a happy life a meaningful life? Can an immoral life be meaningful? Does our suffering have meaning? Does death threaten meaning?

What is this thing called The Meaning of Life? provides an engaging and stimulating introduction to philosophical thinking about life’s meaning. Goetz and Seachris provide the reader with accessible examples, before looking at the main theoretical approaches to meaning and key philosophers associated with them. Topics covered include:

  • What does the question, "What is the meaning of life?", even mean?
  • Does life have a purpose?
  • What is valuable?
  • Do we matter?
  • Does life (or my life) make any sense?
  • Is there any meaning in suffering?
  • Does death threaten meaning?
  • Would immortality be good or bad news for us?

With boxed summaries of key concepts and noteworthy examples, discussion questions, and suggestions for further reading included within each chapter, this book is the ideal introduction to life’s meaning for philosophy students coming to the subject for the first time.


"Goetz and Seachris have written an outstanding, systematic, engaging book on the meaning of life. There is no better guide to this important area of inquiry, one of great importance both within and outside academic life." - Charles Taliaferro, St. Olaf College, USA

"This is a readable and stimulating introduction to life’s greatest question. It is a text book but not just a text book, for it breaks new ground in being structured around an original and impressively thorough survey of the meaning of meaning. It will appeal to both academics and general readers." - Stephen Leach, Keele University, UK

Table of Contents


1. The meaning of life’s meaning

2. Meaning and purpose

3. Meaning and significance I: Value

4. Meaning and significance II: Mattering

5. Meaning and sense-making

6. Meaning and evil

7. Meaning, death, and immortality.

Appendix I: (One type of) mid- or quarter-life crisis

Appendix II: Buddhism and the Meaning of Life

Glossary of Terms



About the Authors

Stewart Goetz is Professor of Philosophy in the Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies at Ursinus College, USA.

Joshua W. Seachris is Assistant Teaching Professor of Philosophy and Program Director at the Center for Philosophy of Religion, University of Notre Dame, USA.

About the Series

What is this thing called?

The Routledge Philosophy What is this thing called? series of concise textbooks have been designed for use by students coming to a core area of the discipline for the first time. Each volume explores the relevant central questions with clear explanation of complex ideas and engaging contemporary examples. Features to aid study include text boxes, chapter summaries, study questions, further reading and glossaries.

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