We use cookies to enhance your experience on our website. By continuing to use our website, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. You can change your cookie settings at any time. Find out more

E-book purchase
Choose a subscription

Downloaded copy on your device does not expire. Includes 4 years of Bookshelf Online.


Where applicable, tax will be added to the above price prior to payment.

E-book purchasing help


The Meaning of Life

Fourth Edition

E.D. Klemke and Steven M. Cahn

Publication Date - June 2017

ISBN: 9780190674199

272 pages
6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches

In Stock

The preeminent anthology on the meaning of life, now expanded to include Asian perspectives and a new "End of Life" section


Featuring twenty-five insightful selections by prominent philosophers, literary figures, and religious thinkers, The Meaning of Life: A Reader, Fourth Edition, serves as an ideal core text for courses on the meaning of life and introduction to philosophy courses where the topic is emphasized. In Part I the articles defend the view that without faith in God, life has no meaning or purpose. In Part II the selections oppose this claim, defending instead a nontheistic, humanistic alternative--that life can have meaning even in the absence of theistic commitment. In Part III the readings address whether the question of the meaning of life is itself meaningful. The fourth edition adds selections reflecting Buddhist and Confucian thought and also features a new Part IV on the end of life, raising issues about how our perspectives on death affect our understanding of the meaning of life.

New to this Edition

  • New selections reflecting Buddhist and Confucian thought expand the discussion to include Asian perspectives
  • A new Part IV, The End of Life, raises issues about how our perspectives on death affect our understanding of the meaning of life

About the Author(s)

The late E.D. Klemke was Professor of Philosophy at Iowa State University, where he taught for more than twenty years.

Steven M. Cahn is Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at the City University of New York Graduate Center. He is the author or editor of more than fifty books. Most recently, he authored Religion Within Reason (2017) and coauthored Happiness and Goodness (2015). Dr. Cahn is the editor of Exploring Ethics, Fourth Edition (OUP, 2016) and The World of Philosophy (OUP, 2016).


"The Meaning of Life is the preeminent anthology of classic and contemporary readings on the meaning of life and the philosophy of death. It offers a rich and profound discussion of some of the most fundamental questions of humanistic inquiry. What was already a stellar collection of essays is now even better in this new edition."--Lawrence Nolan, California State University, Long Beach

"The Meaning of Life, Fourth Edition, includes in one affordable volume all of the most important and influential writings on the meaning of life."--Erik Wielenberg, DePauw University

Table of Contents

    *=New to this Edition
    Preface to the Fourth Edition
    Preface to the Third Edition
    Preface to the Second Edition
    Introduction. The Question of the Meaning of Life, E. D. Klemke
    1. Leo Tolstoy: My Confession
    2. Philip L. Quinn: The Meaning of Life According to Christianity
    3. Emil L. Fackenheim: Judaism and the Meaning of Life
    * 4. Christopher W. Gowans: The Buddha's Message
    * 5. Henry Rosemont, Jr.: The Confucian Way
    6. Arthur Schopenhauer: On the Sufferings of the World
    7. Bertrand Russell: A Free Man's Worship
    8. Moritz Schlick: On the Meaning of Life
    9. Albert Camus: The Myth of Sisyphus
    10. Kurt Baier: The Meaning of Life
    11. Paul Edwards: The Meaning and Value of Life
    12. Richard Taylor: The Meaning of Life
    13. Thomas Nagel: The Absurd
    14. Joel Feinberg: Absurd Self-Fulfillment
    15. E. D. Klemke: Living Without Appeal: An Affirmative Philosophy of Life
    16. John Wisdom: The Meanings of the Questions of Life
    17. Robert Nozick: Philosophy and the Meaning of Life
    18. Susan Wolf: Meaning in Life
    * 19. Christine Vitrano: Meaningful Lives
    * 20. Thomas Nagel: Death
    * 21. Bernard Williams: The Makropulos Case: Reflections on the Tedium of Immortality
    * 22. John Martin Fischer: Why Immortality Is Not So Bad
    * 23. Samuel Scheffler: The Afterlife
    * 24. Harry G. Frankfurt: How the Afterlife Matters
    * 25. Susan Wolf: The Significance of Doomsday
    About the Contributors