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The Meaning of Life: A Very Short Introduction | [Terry Eagleton]

The Meaning of Life: A Very Short Introduction

The phrase "the meaning of life" for many seems a quaint notion fit for satirical mauling by Monty Python or Douglas Adams. But in this spirited Very Short Introduction, famed critic Terry Eagleton takes a serious if often amusing look at the question and offers his own surprising answer.
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Publisher's Summary

The phrase "the meaning of life" for many seems a quaint notion, fit for satirical mauling by Monty Python or Douglas Adams. But in this spirited Very Short Introduction, famed critic Terry Eagleton takes a serious if often amusing look at the question and offers his own surprising answer.

Eagleton first examines how centuries of thinkers and writers - from Marx and Schopenhauer to Shakespeare, Sartre, and Beckett - have responded to the ultimate question of meaning. He suggests, however, that it is only in modern times that the question has become problematic.

But instead of tackling it head-on, many of us cope with the feelings of meaninglessness in our lives by filling them with everything from football to sex, Kabbala, Scientology, "New Age softheadedness" or fundamentalism. On the other hand, Eagleton notes, many educated people believe that life is an evolutionary accident that has no intrinsic meaning. If our lives have meaning, it is something with which we manage to invest them, not something with which they come ready made.

Eagleton probes this view of meaning as a kind of private enterprise, and concludes that it fails to holds up. He argues instead that the meaning of life is not a solution to a problem, but a matter of living in a certain way. It is not metaphysical but ethical. It is not something separate from life, but what makes it worth living - that is, a certain quality, depth, abundance and intensity of life.

Here then is a brilliant discussion of the problem of meaning by a leading thinker, who writes with a light and often irreverent touch, but with a very serious end in mind.

In a hurry? Listen to more Very Short Introductions.

©2008 Oxford University Press; (P)2009 Audible, Inc.

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  • Stephen
    Rowlands Gill,, United Kingdom
    7/8/12
    Overall
    "You do the hokey, cokey and....."

    After encountering Terry Eagleton’s literary criticism through the various bookshelves of Modernism and his commentary on most of the central characters of English literature and following his more recent employment law case study and well-deserved spat with Martin Amis in the press, it was great to be able to sit down to a one volume ‘history of everything according to Terry Eagleton.’

    The meaning of life, we learn is intrinsically bound up with what it is to be Terry Eagleton. All of the main pointers can be picked up from the works of Friedrich Nietzsche, T.S. Eliot and, of course, James Joyce and Joseph Conrad - not forgetting Thomas Hardy and Aristotle, of course.

    Less a tours de force, not the Tour de France more Tourist England, the focus never leaves our shores. What might life mean in China or Japan, India or Australia? Whilst fully acknowledging the limitations that our language and grammar place on the way in which life is shaped and the meanings that we take from what goes around around us, what goes on around us is reduced to what has gone on around Terry.

    The redeeming feature is, of course, that Life on Planet Eagleton is quite fascinating in and of itself. The interplay between Roman Catholicism and the Marxist dialectic and notions of ideology are given full vent in this short book. In true literary criticism fashion, Eagleton pulls it all together at the end - what we have is the full, varied and very satisfying meaning of ‘a life‘ with just enough room for life to go on around it.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Mr
    london, United Kingdom
    12/23/12
    Overall
    "Mr Eagleton is the path. no honest, swear, he is!!"

    Fantastically concise little snippet of the absurdities we let control our actions. Come on, look at yourself in the mirror after listening to this, we really are ridiculous!!!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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