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The Meaning of Life (Very Short Introductions) [Kindle Edition]

Terry Eagleton
3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)

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Book Description

We have all wondered about the meaning of life. But is there an answer? And do we even really know what we're asking? Terry Eagleton takes a stimulating and quirky look at this most compelling of questions: at the answers explored in philosophy and literature; at the crisis of meaning in modern times; and suggests his own solution to how we might rediscover meaning in our lives.


Editorial Reviews

Review


"This is a brief, ambitious, and satisfying book. As a survivor of the theory wars, Terry Eagleton has emerged as a critic and thinker who will help us theologues ponder not only life's meaning but the next steps we should take as even postmodernism fades into cultural history. If there is a cultural life for us all in the aftermath of the conflict between essentialism and relativism, Eagleton's provocative essay will point the way both to making and discovering its meaning."--Gary R. Hall, Anglican Theological Review


"Eagleton's witty eclecticism is perfect for such a lofty subject, but would it be inappropriate to ask for more?--Leoppold Froelich, Playboy


"The Meaning of Life may be 'lie' relative to how much more a scholar like Mr. Eagleton might have said, but it is still a work that demands close attention from readers who are already well grounded in literature and philosophy."--Mark Grannis, The Washington Times


"The news that Terry Eagleton has tackled the meaning of life in a book of a mere 185 pages shouldn't raise any eyebrows. If anyone can pull it off, it's probably him. Eagleton, unsurprisingly, has written an elegant, literate, cogent consideration of a maddeningly slippery topic, one whose conclusions run contrary to conventional wisdom, especially in this country."--Laura Miller, Salon.com


"Eagleton's is unlike most works on life's meaning, in which writers often invoke theology. Eagleton's notion of love may seem to lead back to theism, but he shows us we can have meaningful lives whatever our theology, and he invites us all to choose. He deserves a place in most collections."--Leslie Armour, Library Journal


"Regardless of whether you agree with him, you'll find yourself challenged by this little book."--Houston Chronicle"


Review


"Eagleton's witty eclecticism is perfect for such a lofty subject, but would it be inappropriate to ask for more?--Leoppold Froelich, Playboy


"The Meaning of Life may be 'lie' relative to how much more a scholar like Mr. Eagleton might have said, but it is still a work that demands close attention from readers who are already well grounded in literature and philosophy."--Mark Grannis, The Washington Times


"This is a brief, ambitious, and satisfying book. As a survivor of the theory wars, Terry Eagleton has emerged as a critic and thinker who will help us theologues ponder not only life's meaning but the next steps we should take as even postmodernism fades into cultural history. If there is a cultural life for us all in the aftermath of the conflict between essentialism and relativism, Eagleton's provocative essay will point the way both to making and discovering its meaning."--Gary R. Hall, Anglican Theological Review


"This is a delightful, entertaining, enlightening, succinct book that actually delivers on its title."--Alexander C. Kafka, Bookslut


"The news that Terry Eagleton has tackled the meaning of life in a book of a mere 185 pages shouldn't raise any eyebrows. If anyone can pull it off, it's probably him. Eagleton, unsurprisingly, has written an elegant, literate, cogent consideration of a maddeningly slippery topic, one whose conclusions run contrary to conventional wisdom, especially in this country."--Laura Miller, Salon.com


"Eagleton's is unlike most works on life's meaning, in which writers often invoke theology. Eagleton's notion of love may seem to lead back to theism, but he shows us we can have meaningful lives whatever our theology, and he invites us all to choose. He deserves a place in most collections."--Leslie Armour, Library Journal


"Regardless of whether you agree with him, you'll find yourself challenged by this little book."--Houston Chronicle"


"Mingling pop philosophy with scholastic scrutiny, The Meaning of Life traipses through a thousand-year history of the Question of meaning before culminating in a Teutonic tour de force."--Rain Taxi Review of Books



Product Details

  • File Size: 1957 KB
  • Print Length: 126 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0199532176
  • Publisher: OUP Oxford (February 22, 2007)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B000S1LWWG
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #192,863 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
67 of 69 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Way more than bovine contentment... September 30, 2007
Format:Hardcover
"What's the meaning of life?" has become a sort of in-joke amongst academic philosophers. Particularly in the analytic west, supersaturated with logic and science, questions concerning "grand narratives," of which "life" could be one, have gone the way of Hegelian dialectics and causa sui. In the early twentieth century, positivists and "the linguistic turn" ground such bugbears into impotent stumps. A few brave professional philosophers, such as Thomas Nagel, have attempted to weave the question
into their work, but overall the field retains an icy silence towards the ultimate question. Regardless of this mass abandonment within universities, the question just won't go away. To survive, it has gone underground, whining like a lost puppy, and seethes beneath nearly everything we do. Ignoring it won't make it go away, so the question has found new pioneers to obsess. It found a happy medium in Terry Eagleton, whose work balances philosophy, literary and cultural theory, and history. Though a professional academic, Eagleton is not a philosopher. He thus brings a daisy fresh perspective to the question often associated with "philosophy" itself.

The query of course doesn't have an answer, but most "meaning of life" books usually have a go at it regardless. At least, that seems one of the expectations, realistic or unrealistic, behind flapping the pages of a book with such an ominous title. An honest book would comprise of one page embossed with a question mark. Amusing, but not marketable. Regardless of the challenge, Eagleton does give a sort of an answer; as much an answer as anyone can give. And, though disputable, it does makes sense.
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34 of 36 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Succinct and stimulating book December 18, 2007
Format:Hardcover
This book has many virtues:

1. It is short. It has 175 pages of text on small pages, and can be read in a long evening.
2. It addresses a central issue in a real world way: what benefit for our daily lives can we gain from a consideration of what life means?
3. The book considers a wide variety of perspectives, including philosophers such as Aristotle, Nietzsche, and Schopenhauer, writers such as Beckett and Shakespeare, and comedians such as Doug Adams and Monty Python.
4. The book comes up with what I at least consider a decent answer: Following Aristotle, the book suggests that we consider the meaning of life to be happiness, but happiness not as the pursuit of pleasure, but as a state of our being that maximizes our use of our full human capacities. However, Eagleton argues that we should go beyond Aristotle in emphasizing that one of the key human capacities that must be developed is the capacity for love and compassion for others. The metaphor is that the well-lived life is like participating in a well-functioning jazz band, that balances individuality and cooperation.
5. The book has some interesting sidepoints. For example, he argues at one point that at least some religious fundamentalism is the flip side of nihilism, in that both viewpoints seem to hold that life and the universe has no inherent meaning, but only whatever meaning God chooses to give it. Eagleton instead proposes that human life can have the inherent meaning of happiness as he defines that term.
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24 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Laugh out Loud June 7, 2007
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Indeed as the previous reviewer said, the book is witty. And, despite all the bad news this book recognizes Life is a miracle and a comedy. One has to know a bit about philosophy to understand it, but, just as I did when I read Professor Eagleton's memoir "The Gatekeep", this was about the joy of life and the possibiity of goodness even with all the very obvious suffering, pain and injustice. A very hopeful book. Debunks a lot of heavy lifting.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very worthwhile insights, but not well organized June 17, 2010
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Reading this book is like listening to a genius who produces a steady stream of insights (sometimes quite profound), but who's unwilling or unable to organize them in a systematic way. This presents a challenge for the reader. In my case, after carefully reading the book (while highlighting), I went right back to the beginning and read it all over again (while taking notes), which is something I've never done before. After my second reading, and a lot of follow-up effort to organize my notes, I feel that I was able to get a handle on the book, and I'll try to summarize my findings in this review.

It seems to me that everything hinges on what we mean by "meaning." Eagleton correctly describes how our unique language ability is what enables us to explore such an abstract question as the meaning of life in the first place, but we have to be careful that we're not misusing language and thereby confusing ourselves. He describes how "meaning" may refer to intention, signifying, or intention to signify. These are useful distinctions, but I don't think they quite hit the nail on the head. Rather, when we say that we want our lives to have meaning, I think that either (a) we want our lives, or elements of our lives, to have importance in an objective and ultimate sense (ie, THE meaning OF life), or (b) we want the personal experience which constitutes our lives, including the structure of that experience as it unfolds across time, to be subjectively satisfying, if not optimal (meaning IN life).

These are two very different things. In the former, we're looking for some sort of ultimate foundation that serves as a source of importance for what we do.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Good book; argues that happiness and love are ultimately life's...
Terence Francis Eagleton (1943 - ) is a British literary theorist widely regarded as Britain's most influential living literary critic. Read more
Published 21 days ago by john messerly
4.0 out of 5 stars Gives depth without self-help bromides
Readable, yet thought-provoking and, most importantly of all, erudite. Eagleton put into words my basic questions that I've had all my life, plus added nuance and depth to them. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Sara Atkins
4.0 out of 5 stars The Meaning of Life in a Very Short Introduction
Of the many subjects covered in the Oxford University Press "Very Short Introductions" series, few can be as diffuse and difficult to understand as "The Meaning of Life" as... Read more
Published 6 months ago by Robin Friedman
2.0 out of 5 stars Repetitive philosophical jargon
The book consists of basically two sections:
The meaning of meaning
and the Meaning of asking what this is all about.
I found it basically useless.
Published 7 months ago by Lloyd Rice
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointingly hung up on semantics
I wanted to like this book. However, I agree with the review stating that a more apt title would be "The Meaning of Meaning". Read more
Published 16 months ago by kmn
1.0 out of 5 stars Don't Waste Your Time
The book is short, 175 pages. So, one would think that the author would get on with it and get to the point attempting to be made. You'd be as mistaken as I. Read more
Published 19 months ago by John Sterner
3.0 out of 5 stars DISTURBING IMAGE OF DESIRED HUMAN FUTURE
Contrary to some reviewers, I found this book interesting and enlightening. But is suffers from serious biases concerning human beings and disturbing visions of desired... Read more
Published on March 22, 2012 by Yehezkel Dror
3.0 out of 5 stars Good, could be better ..
Other reviewers have made excellent presentations of the book's main theses, so I won't elaborate on this. I'll just digress a bit. Read more
Published on October 30, 2011 by Arvan Harvat
5.0 out of 5 stars All Philosopher's are Clowns but wait He's not a philosopher!!
Simply Splendid. Still digesting this in an Aquinan sort of way. I haven't laughed at a book like this since G.K. Chesterton's Orthodoxy. Read more
Published on January 12, 2011 by Thomas
4.0 out of 5 stars While standing on one foot...
I recall in one of the Star Trek films that Kirk and Bones were singing the song, `Row, Row, Row Your Boat.' Spock was puzzled at the idea presented in the simple song. Read more
Published on January 1, 2011 by FrKurt Messick
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More About the Author

Terry Eagleton is John Edward Taylor Professor of English Literature at the University of Manchester. His numerous books include The Meaning of Life, How to Read a Poem, and After Theory.

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