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The Meaning of Life (Very Short Introductions)

The Meaning of Life (Very Short Introductions) [Kindle Edition]

Terry Eagleton
3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)

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A charming personal voyage round himself, I can only say it left me thoroughly surprised - and delighted. (Simon Jenkins, TLS Books of the Year)

wonders never cease. This is popular philosophy by an amateur in the best sense of the word, a man who clearly loves the stuff and writes plain English...[Eagleton] makes his case well and with a light touch. (Simon Jenkins, The Guardian (Review))

It is a stimulating and often entertaining, if at times rather breathless, Cook's tour around the chief monuments of western philosophy and literature...The Meaning of Life is unusual and refreshing. (John Gray, The Independent)

The book's a little gem. (Suzanne Harrington, Irish Examiner (Cork))

A lively starting point for late-night debate. (John Cornwell, Sunday Times)

Warm intellectual pleasure...meticulous treatment of the subject...It looks like Eagleton got it right. (Mario Pisani, The Financial Times)

His witty eclecticism is perfect for such a lofty subject (Leopold Froehlich, Playboy)

It dazzles...

The name Terry Eagleton...assures us of stimulation, style, sparkling, sometimes acerbic, wit, and wide-ranging erudition. In other words he is eminently readable...[a] commendably pocket-sized book. (Gordon Parsons, Morning Star)

Morning Star, February 12, 2007

"[With his] style, sparkling, sometimes acerbic, wit, and
wide-ranging erudition...[Eagleton] is eminently readable...[a] commendably
pocket-sized book."

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More About the Author

Acclaimed literary scholar and cultural theorist Terry Eagleton is Professor of Cultural Theory at the National University of Ireland, Galway, Professor of English Literature at Lancaster University, and Distinguished Visiting Professor of English Literature at Notre Dame.

Terry Eagleton is the author of many books including The Idea of Culture (2000), Sweet Violence: The Idea of the Tragic (2002), the bestselling text Literary Theory: An Introduction (1983, 1996, 2008), Trouble with Strangers: A Study of Ethics (2009), and the forthcoming On Evil (2010).

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Meaning of Life in a Very Short Introduction 27 Sep 2013
By Robin Friedman TOP 500 REVIEWER
Of the many subjects covered in the Oxford University Press "Very Short Introductions" series, few can be as diffuse and difficult to understand as "The Meaning of Life" as explored in this 2008 volume by Terry Eagleton. Many readers believe that philosophers explore and address the question of "the meaning of life" and are frustrated when the philosophers appear to back away. The question persists in study, among many people whether religious or non-religious, and in popular culture. It is a subject for serious people and for cranks and charlatans. Although his short book shows wide philosophical reading, Eagleton is not a professional philosopher but rather the John Edward Taylor Professor of English at the University of Manchester and a Fellow of the British Academy. He has written many books on literary criticism.

Eagleton takes his subject seriously but writes in an accessible, peppery style with considerable humor and irony. The book shows erudition in its discussion of philosophers and psychologists, but Eagleton is most at home with literature. Discussions of Shakespeare, Conrad, Beckett, Joyce, Sophocles, and others abound in its pages. The philosophers discussed include Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, and Heidegger, among others, but the emphasis among the philosophers considered is on Ludwig Wittgenstein. The short book is loosely organized. Discussion moves back in forth among the chapters from topic to topic and ranges from discussion and formulation of issue to history to consideration of the views of various writers almost in free-flow.

A book on "the meaning of life" must first discuss whether this much-raised question makes sense and if so what kind of sense. Eagleton devotes the larger part of the book to analyzing the question.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars DISTURBING IMAGE OF DESIRED FUTURE 22 Mar 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Contrary to some reviewers, I found this book interesting and enlightening. But is suffers from serious biases concerning human beings and disturbing visions of desired futures.
The author tends to optimistic versions of human nature which are fashionable but lack convincing supportive evidence. Thus, he thinks that the "only ultimate solution to terrorism is political justice" (p. 10). Admitting later that this may not work for fanatic-fundamentalist terrorism, he explains this away stating "this may be to say no more than that the problem has now escalated beyond all feasible resolution." The grounding of extreme violence in deeply held faiths and beliefs with culturally constructed meanings of "justice" is just pushed aside.
Similarly the author seems to assume that most people would reject living in a state of virtual complete happiness because of wishing to "live our lives truthfully" (p. 84). He does not provide any shred of evidence for this view of humanity, and indeed no reliable evidence for or against this image exists. But expressions of self-doubts on such problematic statements are scarce in the book.
Towards the end, the author proceeds to a desirable vision of the future which I cannot but regards as a dystopia. A hint at his vision is provided by his warning against "hubristic projects which bring ourselves and others to grief" (p. 90). He does not specify what projects he has in mind nor does he discriminate between heroic projects advancing humanity and evil ones. What about space travel, for instance?
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11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
By Savita
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
For such a large topic in so few pages it is well-written and entertaining. It poses many of the questions regarding this topic very well and gives some good insights into the various problems posed by the seemingly simple quesion, "What is the meaning of Life?" He even quotes Douglas Adams answer of 42 and goes into why it is funny although I think most of us worked that one out ourselves. What let's the book down is that although the author is well-read (he should be as he's a professor of English) he is only well-read within European culture which makes the whole work Euro-centric leaving out all the major contributions avilable from other great cultures around the world. Add in the fact that there is a general if not overt biase towards Marxist politics and this does leave the book well short of where it could otherwise have gone. The author is also clearly not content with a review of the various possibilities and does treat us to his own "theory" at the end of the book. It isn't an unintelligent approach nor is it completely out of the question as a reasonable response. However, it has no more to credit it than any of the other ideas here, or those left out of the book completely, yet it is given as if it were some kind of summation of those ideas. All in all, if you want a pocket book to read while travelling (that's how I read it) then it is small and a good read but certainly neither comprehensive in its scope nor unbiased in its presentation.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The meaning of it all 5 Jun 2011
By Dr. Bojan Tunguz TOP 500 REVIEWER
The "Meaning of Life" is one of those age-old questions that people of all walks of life have been pondering for at least as long as we know that people have been pondering anything. There have been many approaches to this question, and the three most prominent ones have come from philosophy, theology/religion, and literature. In this very short introduction Terry Eagelton sets out to explore all those approaches to this perennial big question. Even thought his approach is not strictly speaking philosophical, the preponderance of ideas about the meaning of life have been taken from various philosophers. Eagelton is very good at problematizing the whole "What is the meaning of life?" question. At the surface it appears like any other question to which we can give an objective answer (like "How far is Bloomington from Indianapolis?"), but at closer inspection almost every single word in that question can be very ambiguous. Eagleton's approach is to explore those ambiguities, and show how they had been addressed by other thinkers and writers. The book has a feel and style of a very long polemical essay, and an overall a very enjoyable one at that. My only big objection to it is that no attempts have been made to incorporate any of the ideas about the meaning of life, human happiness and personal integrity that have come out of the modern Psychological research. It has been known for quite a while that creating a coherent narrative of one's life is an essential part of the psychological theories of self. Other than that, the book is extremely well written and despite some grim ideas and passages an overall enjoyable and worthwhile read.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars A brief overview
I picked this up on the off chance; it’s not a book that had been on my reading list, it was just a chance encounter. Read more
Published 1 month ago by S. Meadows
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Stuff!
The wonderful Terry Eagleton is in top form in this deceptively short book - short in content, long in providing much thought. Read more
Published 13 months ago by Ellen Lyons
1.0 out of 5 stars File under 'Pseud'
I've read several very good VSI books on philosophical topics. You'd think something like "The Meaning of Life" would be a philosophical topic, but this book is essentially a... Read more
Published on 24 Sep 2011 by oeokosko
4.0 out of 5 stars While standing on one foot...
I recall in one of the Star Trek films that Kirk and Bones were singing the song, `Row, Row, Row Your Boat.' Spock was puzzled at the idea presented in the simple song. Read more
Published on 6 Jan 2011 by Kurt Messick
2.0 out of 5 stars Smoke and Mirrors
Those familiar with Eagleton's work will find nothing here that has not been covered in his other books, and will encounter the same articulate but often glib survey of modern... Read more
Published on 6 Oct 2009 by tuckshop7
5.0 out of 5 stars Thoroughly engaging and beautifully succinct
Terry Eagleton writes in a very readable style conveying complex, deep issues in a way that is very accessible. Read more
Published on 1 Sep 2009 by H Raz
1.0 out of 5 stars A struggle
I tried my utmost to read this book till the end, but found my eyes would glaze over. I barely made it to the end and the experience was not pleasant. Read more
Published on 16 April 2009 by John
5.0 out of 5 stars A decent read
While written as an introduction to 'the meaning of life', this book also attempts to entertain with the odd candid remark and a whistle stop tour of great thinkers' views on the... Read more
Published on 25 Nov 2008 by Tufty
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Popular Highlights

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Tragedy at its most potent is a question without an answer, deliberately depriving us of ideological consolation. &quote;
Highlighted by 28 Kindle users
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—which is to say, a certain quality, depth, abundance, and intensity of life. In this sense, the meaning of life is life itself, seen in a certain way. &quote;
Highlighted by 25 Kindle users
The idea that the world is either given meaning by God, or is utterly random and absurd, is a false antithesis. &quote;
Highlighted by 25 Kindle users

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