How to Live a Meaningful Life

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How to Live a Meaningful Life. Tolstoy, Taylor, Frankfurt, Wolf, Rosenberg. 1. TOLSTOY . Subjective elements. Objective elements. God exists God personally relates to humans God commands certain behavior. Belief in God Desire for union Commitment to religious way of life. 2. TAYLOR. - PowerPoint PPT Presentation


How to Live a Meaningful Life

How to Live a Meaningful LifeTolstoy, Taylor, Frankfurt, Wolf, RosenbergBelief in GodDesire for unionCommitment to religious way of lifeSubjective elementsObjective elementsGod existsGod personally relates to humansGod commands certain behavior

1. TOLSTOY Loving whatever we do doesnt matter what it is This just makes life subjectively meaningfulFor example, Sisyphus with drug injectedSubjective elementsObjective elementsNONE*

* Because none of our activities has a significant and lasting result2. TAYLORMore complicated than TaylorCARE (ch. 1)LOVE (ch. 2)SELF-LOVE (ch. 3)Subjective elementsObjective elements NONE*

* See p. 263. FRANKFURTFrankfurt on CARE (ch. 1)CARING = wanting X wanting to want X identifying with wanting X

MEANING (p. 23)

Frankfurt on LOVE (ch. 2)LOVE = disinterested concern no ulterior motive personal, particular x takes interests of y as his own involuntary not based on intrinsic value gives us sense of intrinsic value & ultimate ends

MEANING (p. 65-6)

Frankfurt on SELF-LOVE (ch. 3)LOVE FOR OTHERx loves y and x ydisinterested concern no ulterior motive personal, particular x takes interests of y as his own involuntary

SELF LOVEx loves y and x = y

Same logic?Frankfurt (ch. 3)LOVE FOR OTHERSx loves y and x y x takes interests of y as his own

I love SamSam loves Jay-ZI love Jay-Z

Does this make sense?Do you love whatever the people you love love?

SELF LOVEx loves y and x = y x takes interests of y as his own (and x = y)I love myselfI love Bob DylanI love Bob Dylan*

*Empty and redundant?Lessons:Must love other things first to love myselfSelf-love = wholeheartednessFrankfurt on SELF-LOVE (ch. 3)SELF LOVEI love Bob DylanI love myselfI love Bob Dylan I love other things I love them in a wholehearted, undivided way

MEANING (p. 99)

CARE wanting x, wanting to want x, identificationLOVE personal concern for others that gives us sense of their intrinsic value and gives us ultimate endsSELF-LOVE wholehearted investment in our interests, whatever they are

Subjective elementsObjective elementsNONE*FRANKFURT ON MEANINGFulfillment Subjective elementsObjective elements but it must be fitting

meaning arises from loving objects worthy of love and engaging with them in positive ways. (p. 8)

meaning arises when subjective attraction meets objective worth. (p. 9)

4. WOLFThe objective conditionthe project or activity must possess a value whose source comes from outside of oneselfwhose value, in other words, is in part independent of ones own attitude to it (p. 37)Value must be received by others too (p. 43)Fails condition: Sisyphus, eating, dieting, working outValue must be perceived by others too (p. 43)Fails condition: Sisyphus, goldfish fanatic

Henrietta Lacks

Missing subjective fulfillment but not objective worthMissing objective worth but not subjective fulfillment Eating contest champion

If your life lacks meaning, it could be for two different reasons

Wolf: why does meaning matter?The standard view of morality & self interest:

MORALITY CAN CONFLICT WITH SELF-INTERESTkeeping a promise vs. going to a moviegiving to charity vs. buying a new TV

In cases of conflict, morality is overriding(Kant, Utilitarians)Wolfs View MORALITY can conflict with SELF-INTEREST

pursuing good lifemere inclinations, urges, desires

meaning other aspects (subjective fulfillment plus objective worth)

In a morality vs. meaning conflict, meaning sometimes trumps morality. Morality not always overriding.

See also: Nietzsche, Frankfurt, Hurka

Example. Suppose Jon is trying to decide whether to help Sandy victims or run unofficial NYC marathon. Running has more meaning to him than helping.MORALITYMEANING

Objections, commentsJohn Koethe (poet & philosopher) When should we say an artist has fulfilled the objective worth condition?Does the artist have to be successful?Whats his answer?

Objections, commentsRobert Adams (philosopher) Subjective element = just love, not feeling of fulfillment (which implies success). One of the things about positive meaning in life is that one can have it even when ones hopes and projects are not fulfilled and one does not feel good. (p. 78) His example?Her objective condition is really intersubjective not objectiveOther points in Adams?Objections, comments Nomy Arpaly (philosopher) Subjective fulfillment is enough. Goldfish nut (if there are any at all) doesnt show need for objective worthproblem is that he is deluded about the nature of goldfish or intellectually limited. www.marryyourpet.comAre we ever motivated by desire for meaning? Doesnt morality have some sort of privileged status?What else?Objections, commentsJonathan Haidt (psychologist)No such thing as objective worthSubjective fulfillment involves vital engagement and hive psychologyWe dont find subjective fulfillment from being goldfish nuts, eating contests, lawnmower racing, etc.What else?How to live a meaningful lifePurely subjective viewsTaylorFrankfurtSubjective/objective viewsTolstoy (religious)Wolf (unreligious)Living in accordance with purpose of the universe Subjective elementsObjective elementsUniverse has a purpose that we can help fulfill

Does the universe have such a purpose?Can we tell what it is?If the universe has a purpose, must there be a supreme being?


5. ANOTHER S/O VIEW NONE Subjective elementsObjective elements NONE

6. ROSENBERGNONE Life is completely meaninglessno fulfillment, no objective worth. But dont worry, it doesnt matter!

Coming next week.Rosenbergs 8 pointsLifes persistent questions have scientific answers. Scientism is my label for what any one who takes science seriously should believeAll the facts about fundamental particles fix all of the other facts. We should trust physics to be scientisms metaphysicsRosenbergs 8 pointsThe are no purposesin biology, in human affairs, and in human thought processesNo cosmic purposeNo purpose of human existenceI have no purposes, no goals*Wipes out both subjective & objective elements of meaning!

* See 6 & 7 tooRosenbergs 8 pointsDarwinian evolution is the inevitable result of 2nd Law of Thermodynamics (law of increased entropydisorder, chaos)Rosenbergs 8 pointsNo objective moralityEither [a] our core morality is an adaptation because it is the right core morality or [b] its the right core morality because its an adaptation, or [c] its not right, but only feels right to us.

Can anyone think of another possibility [d]?

Rosenbergs 8 pointsWe dont understand our own minds or brains. The mind is no more a purpose-driven system than anything else in nature.The brain doesnt have beliefs, wants, thoughts, hopes; there is no meaning of any sort; there is no self, soul, agent, person.

Rosenbergs 8 pointsHistory has no shape or meaning were not going anywhere NONE Subjective elementsObjective elements NONE

6. ROSENBERGNONE Taylor, Frankfurt, Wolf all wrong about subjective elements.

Wolf, Tolstoy wrong about objective elements


NONE Subjective elementsObjective elements NONE

6. ROSENBERGNONE How can we defend the subjective elements from Rosenbergs attack?

How can we defend the objective elements?

For more on the subjective elements, see Is Life Meaningless? slides 25-41