On the Meaning of Life
John Cottingham

Meaning of Life

‘Lucid and provocative, rich with references and ideas . . . Cottingham takes things remarkably far for our day and age.’
(Bernard Prusak, Boston University; in
International Philosophical Quarterly.)

‘Students are often disappointed with contemporary philosophy for not engaging with the “big questions”. They would not be disappointed with this book . . . The strength of the book lies in the way it handles a mass of philosophical, scientific, literary and religious thought’
(Professor Paul Badham, University of Wales, Lampeter, in
Church Times.)

‘Elegantly written and accessible . . . Readers will appreciate Cottingham’s clarity and his willingness to enter some difficult and complex areas of debate.’
The Philosophers’ Magazine)

‘Written with wonderful lucidity . . . Cottingham gets to the “cosmic or religious” questions with such tact and subtlety that (I imagine) an agnostic or atheist reader would still be following him . . . an excellent book.’
(Fergus Kerr, Blackfriars, Oxford.)

‘I strongly recommend this book to philosophers, theologians and educated readers. It is a distillation of much experience, scholarship and reflection and it is rare to find so much contained in so few pages. Whatever else I read in the coming months this will be one of my books of the year.’
(John Haldane,
The Tablet.)

‘Invigorating . . . focuses very effectively on the most fertile paradox in the . . . philosophy of life: that the “precariousness of human life and happiness” is exactly what makes our existence interesting.’
(Jonathan Rée,
Times Literary Supplement.)

‘One of the most satisfying characteristics of Cottingham’s book is its even-handedness . . . The arguments are assessed with rigour, clarity and fairness and no questions are avoided or short-circuited . . . This is an honest and refreshing book of equal use both to the uncommitted scholar of religion and to the believer.’
(Stephen Platten,
Reviews in Religion and Theology.)

London: Routledge, 2003. ISBN 0-415-24800-0


The Question
The Question that Won’t Go Away
Science and Meaning
Something rather than Nothing
A Religious Question?
Meaning after God
Man, the Measure of All Things?
Variety, Meaning and Evaluation
What Meaningfulness Implies
Meaning and Morality
Humanity and Openness

The Barrier to Meaning
The Void
The Challenge of Modernity
The Shadow of Darin
Science, Religion and Meaning
Evolution and ‘Blind’ Forces
The ‘Nastiness’ of the Evolutionary Mechanism
Matter and Surplus Suffering
The Character of the Cosmos

Meaning, Vulnerability and Hope
Morality and Achievement
Futility and Fragility
Religion and the Buoyancy of the Good
Vulnerability and Finitude
Spirituality and Inner Change
Doctrine and Praxis
From Praxis to Faith
Coda: Intimations of Meaning