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    Seachris, Joshua W. 2013. The Sub Specie Aeternitatis Perspective and Normative Evaluations of Life’s Meaningfulness: A Closer Look. Ethical Theory and Moral Practice, Vol. 16, Issue. 3, p. 605.


The good, the true, and the beautiful: toward a unified account of great meaning in life

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  • Published online: 08 November 2010

Three of the great sources of meaning in life are the good, the true, and the beautiful, and I aim to make headway on the grand Enlightenment project of ascertaining what, if anything, they have in common. Concretely, if we take a (stereotypical) Mother Teresa, Mandela, Darwin, Einstein, Dostoyevsky, and Picasso, what might they share that makes it apt to deem their lives to have truly mattered? I provide reason to doubt two influential answers, noting a common flaw that supernaturalism and consequentialism share. I instead develop their most plausible rival, a naturalist and non-consequentialist account of what enables moral achievement, intellectual reflection, and aesthetic creation to confer great meaning on a person's life, namely, the idea that they do so insofar as a person transcends an aspect of herself in some substantial way. I criticize several self-transcendence theories that contemporary philosophers have advanced, before presenting a new self-transcendence view and defending it as the most promising.

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Neil Levy ‘Downshifting and meaning in life’, Ratio, 18 (2005), 176189

David White ‘Toward a theory of profundity in music’, Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, 50 (1992), 2334

Jerrold Levinson ‘Musical profundity misplaced’, Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, 50 (1992), 5860

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Religious Studies
  • ISSN: 0034-4125
  • EISSN: 1469-901X
  • URL: /core/journals/religious-studies
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