A Significant Life: Human Meaning In A Silent Universe

Paperback | August 24, 2016

byTodd May

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What makes for a good life, or a beautiful one, or, perhaps most important, a meaningful one? Throughout history most of us have looked to our faith, our relationships, or our deeds for the answer. But in A Significant Life, philosopher Todd May offers an exhilarating new way of thinking about these questions, one deeply attuned to life as it actually is: a work in progress, a journey—and often a narrative. Offering moving accounts of his own life and memories alongside rich engagements with philosophers from Aristotle to Heidegger, he shows us where to find the significance of our lives: in the way we live them. 

May starts by looking at the fundamental fact that life unfolds over time, and as it does so, it begins to develop certain qualities, certain themes. Our lives can be marked by intensity, curiosity, perseverance, or many other qualities that become guiding narrative values. These values lend meanings to our lives that are distinct from—but also interact with—the universal values we are taught to cultivate, such as goodness or happiness. Offering a fascinating examination of a broad range of figures—from music icon Jimi Hendrix to civil rights leader Fannie Lou Hamer, from cyclist Lance Armstrong to The Portrait of a Lady’s Ralph Touchett to Claus von Stauffenberg, a German officer who tried to assassinate Hitler—May shows that narrative values offer a rich variety of criteria by which to assess a life, specific to each of us and yet widely available. They offer us a way of reading ourselves, who we are, and who we might like to be.  

Clearly and eloquently written, A Significant Life is a recognition and a comfort, a celebration of the deeply human narrative impulse by which we make—even if we don’t realize it—meaning for ourselves. It offers a refreshing way to think of an age-old question, of quite simply, what makes a life worth living. 


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What makes for a good life, or a beautiful one, or, perhaps most important, a meaningful one? Throughout history most of us have looked to our faith, our relationships, or our deeds for the answer. But in A Significant Life, philosopher Todd May offers an exhilarating new way of thinking about these questions, one deeply attuned to lif...

Todd May is Class of 1941 Memorial Professor of the Humanities at Clemson University. He is the author of many books, including Friendship in an Age of Economics, Contemporary Movements and the Thought of Jacques Rancière, and Death. 

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:240 pages, 8.5 × 5.5 × 0.9 inPublished:August 24, 2016Publisher:University Of Chicago PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:022642104X

ISBN - 13:9780226421049

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Table of Contents

Contents
Introduction
Chapter One: A Meaningful Life?
Chapter Two: Is Happiness Enough?
Chapter Three: Narrative Values
Chapter Four: Meaningful Lives, Good Lives, Beautiful Lives
Chapter Five: Justifying Ourselves to Ourselves
Conclusion: Not Everything, But Something
Suggestions for Further Reading
Acknowledgments
Endnotes
Index

Editorial Reviews

“This is an engaging, beautifully written book that grabs the reader from the first page—something one cannot often say about a philosophy book. More important, May has given us a wise, humane reflection on one of the central questions of philosophy—what makes for a meaningful life? While accessible to a broad audience, A Significant Life also makes a significant contribution to the scholarly literature. I highly recommend it.”