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Can Only Human Lives Be Meaningful?

Thomas, Joshua Lewis (2018). Can Only Human Lives Be Meaningful? Philosophical Papers, 47(2) pp. 265–297.

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Duncan Purves and Nicolas Delon have argued that one’s life will be meaningful to the extent that one contributes to valuable states of affairs and this contribution is a result of one’s intentional actions. They then argue, contrary to some theorists’ intuitions, that non-human animals are capable of fulfilling these requirements, and that this finding might entail important things for the animal ethics movement. In this paper, I also argue that things besides human beings can have meaningful existences, but I disagree with Purves and Delon’s theory of meaning, and some of the practical implications they suggest arise from their conclusion. Specifically, I argue that Purves and Delon are wrong to suggest that intentional agency is necessary for one’s life to be meaningful; contributing to valuable states of affairs can be sufficient by itself. Purves and Delon’s objection to such a claim is that it would allow even inanimate objects’ existences to count as meaningful. However, while I accept this consequence, I argue that it only seems counterintuitive because of two false beliefs they appear to hold: that some X cannot have a meaningful existence without that meaning (a) making X better off or (b) giving X reasons for pride.

Item Type: Journal Item
Copyright Holders: 2018 The Editorial Board, Philosophical Papers
ISSN: 0556-8641
Academic Unit/School: Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS) > Social Sciences and Global Studies > Philosophy
Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS) > Social Sciences and Global Studies
Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS)
Item ID: 58792
Depositing User: Joshua Thomas
Date Deposited: 25 Jan 2019 14:33
Last Modified: 31 Dec 2019 08:52
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