Summary of Wolf - 'The Meanings of Lives'
Gallow (J. Dmitri)
Source: University of Pittsburg website
Paper - Abstract

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Author’s Introduction

Wolf starts from a different point than Nagel. She begins by asking ‘What do we mean by ‘the meaning of life’?

  1. Ordinary sense of ‘meaning’ don’t make sense. If we ask what a word means, we want to know what it represents, what it stands for. But life doesn’t represent anything. If we say that ‘those dots mean measles’, then we are saying that those dots are evidence for measles. But it doesn’t seem that people are asking about what life gives evidence for when they ask about the meaning of life.
  2. If we take the question ‘What is the meaning of life?’ to be asking ‘What is the purpose behind our existence?’, then Wolf thinks that this question is (too) easily answered. If God (or some other creator) exists, then perhaps God had some reason for creating us; however, if God doesn’t exist, then there is simply no reason that we exist. Note that Nagel thinks that our lives would lack meaning or purpose even if God exists and has some reason for creating us. See section III of The Absurd.
  3. Wolf thinks, however, that even though the question of the meaning of life is easily answered — there is a distinct question of whether or not individual lives are meaningful.


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