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Recent Work on the Meaning of Life and Philosophy of Religion



‘The Meaning of Life’ and ‘The Philosophy of Religion’ have meant different things to different people, and so I do well to alert my reader to what these phrases mean to me and thus to the subject area of this review of recent work on their intersection. First, ‘The Meaning of Life’: within the analytic tradition, an idea has gained widespread assent; whatever the vague and enigmatic nature of the phrase ‘the meaning of life’, we may sensibly speak of meaningfulness in a life as a particular, positive, normative feature that some individuals’ lives may well have, and this feature is to be distinguished from, though closely related to, other positive features – satisfaction, wellbeing, virtue and so forth. There has been much work done on these assumptions in recent years. An excellent summary of this work up to its date of publication is given by Thaddeus Metz (in his 2007 a). Many – though by no means all – philosophers retain an instinctive scepticism toward the phrase ‘the meaning of life’ and a reluctance to engage with it, for it seems to connote vague and/or impossible-to-fulfil cosmic expectations. (See Thomson 2003, chapter 11 and Seachris 2009 for attempts to engage with it nonetheless.) But philosophers are not generally now so sceptical about talk of meaningfulness in life and thus not so sceptical about the phrase ‘the meaning of life’ if it is taken to be referring merely to this. And that is how I shall be taking it. Secondly, ‘The Philosophy of Religion’: in the analytic tradition, this has usually been taken to be philosophical reflection on the rational acceptability or otherwise of classical theism and on what God's existence, should He exist, entails ontologically, metaphysically, metaethically and so forth. Therefore, I shall be talking about recent reflection in the analytic tradition on the relationship between the God of classical theism's existence (or lack of it) and meaningfulness (or lack of it) in human lives.