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On the Meaning of Life (Thinking in Action) Paperback – December 28, 2002


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Editorial Reviews

Review

'Cottingham summarises arguments about morality, evolution ... with clarity.' - Steven Poole, The Guardian

'Students are often disappointed with contemporary philosophy for not engaging with the big questions. They would not be disappointed with this book...The strength of this book lies in the way it handles a mass of philosophical, scientific, literary and religious thought.' - Church Times

'Elegantly written and accessible...Readers will appreciate Cottingham's clarity and his willingness to enter some difficult and complex areas of debate.' - The Philosophers' Magazine

'Lucid and provocative, rich with references and ideas . . . Cottingham takes things remarkably far for our day and age.' - International Philosophical Quarterly

'I strongly recommend this book to philosophers, theologians and educated readers. It is a distillation of much experience, scholarship and reflection and it is rare to find so much contained in so few pages. Whatever else I read in the coming months this will be one of my books of the year.' - John Haldane, The Tablet

'[An] admirable, concise and lucid book.' - Reviews in Religion and Theology

'If Cottingham is brusque he can also be invigorating, and he focuses very effectively on the most fertile question in the so-called philosophy of life: that the precariousness of human life and happiness is exactly what makes our life interesting.' - Jonathan Ree, Times Literary Supplement

About the Author

John Cottingham is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Reading. His many well known books include Descartes (1986), The Rationalists(1988) and most recently Philosophy and the Good Life (1998), and his work has been translated into many languages.
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Product Details

  • Series: Thinking in Action
  • Paperback: 144 pages
  • Publisher: Routledge; First Thus Used edition (December 28, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9814383597
  • ISBN-13: 978-0415248006
  • ASIN: 0415248000
  • Product Dimensions: 7.9 x 5.1 x 0.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #878,416 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

21 of 26 people found the following review helpful By ewomack TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on June 21, 2004
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Say the word "philosophy" and most people conjure up images of old dusty sages leaning on Corinthian columns and rhapsodizing about "the meaning of it all". That's the 'romantic' view (if it can be called that). Anyone who has spent time in the philosophy departments of academic institutions knows better. You won't see any togas, and few, if any, people discussing "life philosophy" or "the meaning of life". Perhaps a course on ethics might include a section on "the value of life" or on "leading an ethical life", but probably not on "the meaning of life." Asking a career-minded philosophy professor "so when do we get to 'the meaning of it all?'" will likely yield a brusque lecture on the harsh, Hobbesian realities of academia, or at least a blank stare. Of course questions and issues concerning "the meaning of life" infuse philosophic discourse of all kinds, but not in a blatantly obvious way. Academia can only focus on minute details of such tidal wave issues. Ater all, analytic epistemology still hasn't explained satisfactorily how or why we know what we know (and who knows if it ever will or can), much less why "we're here".
Regardless of everything above, this book takes on the intimidating topic of "the meaning of it all". It does so in about 100 pages, so the issue of scope creeps in. How could anyone decide what to include or exclude from such a discussion? Not to mention how anyone could even conceive of covering "the meaning of it all" in this amount of space. Taking this into account, the author does a good job of keeping the discussion focused and forming an argument around "the meaning of it all". Of course anyone could querulously quibble the details of this book to dust. Many doubtless have and will.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By C. Doyle on July 16, 2007
Format: Paperback
I was surprised to find these negative reviews. Cottingham is indeed a secular humanist, however he sees belief in God as a good way to attain meaning, and supports this with several of his own ideas. This may not go over well with atheists and agnostics though, since, in his mind, that kind of life-style doesn't make much sense when you consider life in the cosmos...
In any event I think the best benefit of this book is the range of ideas covered in so few pages; he does it in a coherent and open manner. I didn't think he came off as completely disregarding the secular lifestyle but I do think he has an opinion which he does not refuse to express. This book is worth reading because it covers a wide range of issues such as science, morality, evolution, sociology, religion, etc. to attempt to explore the idea of what we mean by meaning and how we seek to acheive it.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By not me VINE VOICE on October 1, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
"On the Meaning of Life" is a concise, interesting, and clearly-written book about a deep issue. The argument unfolds in three main steps:

-- The meaning of life cannot be found in the undertaking of lifelong projects. For one thing, our projects can be immoral. For another, our vulnerability and finitude means that many of our projects go awry. All of our projects end in nothing when we die.

-- Instead, the meaning of life must be found in a life oriented towards the objective values of truth, morality, and love. There is nothing about the modern scientific worldview that is inconsistent with this orientation.

-- Religious practice keeps us focused on objective values. It sustains our hope, and helps us to live in conformity with the things that matter. Creeds are of secondary importance. The key thing is spirtuality.

In a book of this length, the argument is inevitably suggestive rather than conclusive, but I liked the book a lot. And it can be read in 3 or 4 hours!
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