The Meaning of Life, By Terry Eagleton

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The Independent Culture

Eagleton pre-emptively announces on page one that he's not a philosopher, but anyone tackling this subject is de facto a philosopher; the question is, how good? Eagleton indulges in some needlessly laboured analysis of terms, but is less interested in philosophical argument than in sticking it to his enemies, those pesky liberal humanists.

Despite heavy sniping, he can't find much wrong with the liberal view that we construct meaning(s) for our own lives. He stresses the social nature of our identity more than a classical liberal would, but his only alternative to pick-your-own-values liberalism is the idea that a jazz group is "an image of the good life". How society could be arranged along these lines, or what kind of society would best allow such groupings to flourish (er – a liberal state?), he doesn't go into. Aristotle, Heidegger, Wittgenstein, Beckett and Marx are hauled into the witness box, but anyone hoping to learn much about the meaning of life from this crabbed little book will be disappointed.