The meaning of life sub specie aeternitatis

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Several philosophers have argued that if we examine our lives in context of the cosmos at large, sub specie aeternitatis, we cannot escape life's meaninglessness. To see our lives as meaningful, we have to shun the point of view of the cosmos and consider our lives only in the narrower context of the here and now. I argue that this view is incorrect: life can be seen as meaningful also sub specie aeternitatis. While criticizing arguments by, among others, Simon Blackburn, Nicholas Rescher, and Thomas Nagel, I show that what determines assessments of the meaning of a life are the standards of meaningfulness one endorses rather than the size of the context in which that life is assessed. Employing non-demanding standards of meaningfulness to assess a life is compatible with examining it in the context of the cosmos at large. That is also the case if we accept Nagel's claim that to examine a life sub specie aeternitatis is to examine it externally, impersonally and objectively: life can be evaluated as meaningful also when under these perspectives if the standards of meaningfulness we adopt are not overly challenging. Nor does the contingency of our existence, realized sub specie aeternitatis, render our life meaningless. Contrary to a commonly accepted view, then, examining our lives sub specie aeternitatis does not necessitate that we see them as meaningless.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)727-734
Number of pages8
JournalAustralasian Journal of Philosophy
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2011

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Philosophy


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