The lively controversy among people of diverse backgrounds and beliefs over the meaning of life suggests that philosophers are not alone in their enthusiasm for the issue. Nor are they content to leave the response to such questions entirely in the hands of poets, theologians, and psychologists. The fact is that the controversy itself is much in need of conceptual clarification, coherent articulation of issues and beliefs, and critical appraisal of conflicting viewpoints - all philosophical tasks. Our aim here is to offer a brief discussion of philosophical contributions to this topic. We shall survey the three most prominent views of the meaning of life – pessimism, theism, and humanism – and indicate some of the strengths and weaknesses of each. In doing this, we have summarized many of the arguments and analyses which philosophers have developed elsewhere in great detail.

Note on the Author

David Cheney is Professor of Philosophy. Steven Sanders is Associate Professor of Philosophy.

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