Journal of Philosophy of Life

An international peer-reviewed open access journal dedicated to the philosophy of life, death, and nature, supported by the Research Institute for Environmental Philosophy and Philosophical Anthropology, Osaka Prefecture University


Home > List of Articles > This article

Meaningful and More Meaningful
: A Modest Measure

Peter Baumann

Journal of Philosophy of Life Vol.5, No.3 (October 2015):33-49



We often describe lives (or parts of lives) as meaningful or as not meaningful. It is also common to characterize them as more or less meaningful. Some lives, we tend to think, are more meaningful than others. But how then can one compare lives with respect to how much meaning they contain? Can one? This paper argues that (i) only a notion of rough equality can be used when comparing different lives with respect to their meaning, and that (ii) the relation of being more meaningful is not transitive. It follows that all attempts to rank different lives in terms of meaning can at best lead to partially indeterminate and incomplete rankings. One should also give up on the idea of “maximizing” meaning. I will use Thaddeus Metz’s important recent book Meaning in Life. An Analytic Study as a foil for my discussion.

[PDF] [Repository] Open Access