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Meaning in Life and Why It Matters: (University Center for Human Values Series) Hardcover – March 21, 2010

ISBN-13: 978-0691145242 ISBN-10: 0691145245

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Product Details

  • Series: University Center for Human Values Series
  • Hardcover: 168 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press (March 21, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691145245
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691145242
  • Product Dimensions: 0.9 x 5.7 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #727,658 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"Given the unfortunate (but arguably necessary) divorce of psychology from philosophy more than a century ago, books like Meaning in Life and Why It Matters, which allow for dialogue between these disciplines, are a much-needed and much-welcomed development. . . . Wolf's essay is a psychologically sophisticated philosophical argument on the structure, reality, and importance of meaningfulness in life. Its psychological sophistication lies not in her mastery of any particular empirical literature but rather in her attentiveness to normal, everyday intuitions and feelings."--Russell D. Kosits, PsycCRITIQUES

From the Inside Flap

"Susan Wolf's picture of what makes life meaningful is at once powerful and down to earth, deeply argued but unpretentious. Part of Wolf's persuasive force comes from her stylish prose and cool treatment of profound concerns. This book is absorbing and a pleasure to read."--Kieran Setiya, University of Pittsburgh

"Susan Wolf is one of the clearest, most thoughtful, and most incisively elegant writers in contemporary ethics. She has an uncanny knack for putting her finger on important points and expressing them in ways that capture the imagination. In this book, she develops her ideas about meaningfulness in life with considerable subtlety, creating a work of genuine depth and importance."--John Martin Fischer, University of California, Riverside


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31 of 40 people found the following review helpful By Let's Compare Options TOP 500 REVIEWER on September 11, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Wolf's premise is that meaning in life comes from a combination of a passionate involvement in what you love subjectively, and an objective worthiness in what you're loving and chasing. It is an odd book from the standpoint that Wolf is a wonderful, funny, deep writer, yet she lets a few far less talented "contributors" support and criticize her position in about 30 pages of the 130 total in the book. That's philosophy for you, if you can't prove, try to convince. I'd rather have seen 30 more pages of HER wonderful analysis!

The book is an important contribution to the Psych/Philosophy interface, although Wolf is quick to point out that the book isn't intended to have practical value ("As will be seen, however, what I have to say will be of little or no practical use."- p. 3). Like most of this book, that's an overly humble understatement, the book has a LOT of practical value in thinking about why we're happy and fulfilled and why we're not. Perhaps, as an intelligent academic, she doesn't want to lower the objective value or her work to "self help", like the "silly book on sale at the cashier's desk at Barnes and Noble" (her quote) purporting to relate meaning in life to loving your passion, doing what you love and loving what you do. She is on thin ice as a philosopher daring to consider what a lot of common folk value, in her discussion of meaning. Even so, she trash talks smoking dope and Sudoku, so how far behind can chess be? Be worried, be very worried.

If you have a religious or spiritual view, you probably won't like this very much.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Nan Chen on January 30, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The question of meaning in life has only been tackled by a select few philosophers in history, usually indirectly (such as asking what values are and how they ought to be structured). This is surprising. It is an interesting question and important. If there is no point in living life, no real meaning, why ought we keep living?

Wolf does a good job of explicating this problem and defends her conception with clarity and rigor in this work which happens to be some lectures she gave on the topic plus a critical response section by some colleagues and a section that is a rejoinder by Wolf to these criticisms. I think she is mostly right but there are some problems.

Wolf's thesis is that meaning in life come at the conjunction of "subjective attraction" meeting "objective attractiveness". That is, she thinks that there are two basic components of meaningful life activities. She calls her view the fitting fulfillment view. "Meaning" as used in this context means when one gets fulfillment (and she gives a list of all the specific subjective states this may mean) from doing or loving something that is worthy of love and attention. The worthy part is the objective aspect. Something has to be objectively worthy for the activity or thing to be a contributor of meaning to one's life. Here she is less clear on what indicates worthiness but Wolf offers interesting suggestions. She suggests that what accurately indicates worth is an activity that all of us discover through contributing our own perspectives in an continuous dialogue to see why it is objectively worthy. All sorts of activities may be deemed as such.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Those interesting in Meaning in Life or Meaning of Life issues will find this book interesting and enlightening. For years, I have been helping people who are searching for meaning and have concluded that many people do not need an objective meaning as suggested by the author or even a purpose to live for in order to construct a meaningful life. Most people do, however, need to have processes and activities that they love. It is interesting that people often equate loved activities with meaningful activities. Gerald
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By Jerald A. Burton MD on September 20, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
There is such depth to this book and it helps to solidify many tenets I have adopted in my life.
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2 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Armando Brons on September 16, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
For those readers who like to highlight some texts in the kindle books they download, please be advised that in the specific case of this book, the highlights marked in the Kindle edition do not show up on the kindle page where the highlights are usually revised.
Armando Brons,
Caracas, venezuela
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