The meaning of life? “a matter of living life in a certain way”

Happiness and all that jazz

The meaning of life is thus not “what you make of it”. It is not a passing pleasure, which humans share with animals. Indeed it is not even an answer to a question, but rather “a matter of living life in a certain way”. It is an ethical construct and involves treating others as you want them to treat you, caring for those close to you, helping strangers, thinking long term.

The meaning of life to Eagleton is like a jazz band, individuals engaged on a collective endeavour in pursuit of happiness through the mutuality of love.

Nice try. However, Eagleton is only able to provide this answer by narrowing the perspective of the question. The question is not “how shall we live?” It is not just about what lifestyle we should pursue, although that would certainly be part of the answer.

Think of Tom Hanks’ character is the movie Cast Away; scared and alone on a desert island, not knowing whether he will ever rejoin civilisation. What meaning does Eagleton’s bastardised answer of ethics provide Mr Hanks? Answer: nothing.


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