What’s It All About: Meaning of Life by Julian Baggini

What's It All About

What’s It All About: Philosophy and the Meaning of Life by Julian Baggini is a secular and non-hubristic inquiry into the question of the meaning of life.

Baggini presupposes that we can’t know if religion is true and that there is no secret answer to the question of the meaning of life, for were there such an answer we would probably have discovered it by now. Baggini begins by looking at some of the proposed answers.

Baggini proceeds to investigate six ways (helping others, serving humanity, being happy, becoming successful, enjoying each day, and freeing your mind) that might provide life with meaning.

He concludes that all of them may be part of a good or meaningful life, but they aren’t all of it. They don’t guarantee that our lives are meaningful because, of any of them, we can still ask: is such a life meaningful?

The book concludes that the meaning of life is available to all, not only to the guardians who claim a monopoly on it. His view challenges the power of those who would control us and gives us the responsibility of determining meaning for ourselves.

But knowing about the meaning of life doesn’t provide a recipe for living it. It is hard to live meaningfully, it is an ongoing project, and one is never finished with the task.

What I Liked

For a philosophy book, it’s very readable and approachable. There’s no jargon or heavy theory, even though he draws directly from several established rigorous schools of philosophy and psychology. The book also walks a good line in not passing judgement on forms of meaning derived from religion.

What I Did Not Like

Not a whole lot – though I think it’s worth reading in a “big batch” of books on a similar topic so it can be “in conversation” with other authors. Reading this book on its own would have left me wanting a bit more.

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