Given the positive feedback this book received in the press, I might have started reading with too high expectations. Anyway, when finished, I did not experience any significant gain of insights, rather I felt disappointed by the lack of own propositions of the author, new thoughts on the subject. While own philsophic considerations fell short, there was way too much diccussion of semiotic type.
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3,4 von 5 Sternen
Richard B. Schwartz
5,0 von 5 SternenA Superb Book; One of TE's Best.
2. Juni 2018 - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
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I have read a significant number of Terry Eagleton's books; this is one of the best. It is one of the best because he combines his extensive erudition with his capacity for fairness and objectivity. That is not to say that he does not have firm opinions and firm leanings, but he is not an ideologue. His wisdom consists in his ability to remain above the fray and offer a series of possibilities, some of which conflict with the views of our less-objective, dominant culture. In other words, he sees modernism, post-structuralism, postmodernism and cultural Marxism for what they are. He offers fair summaries but he also exposes warts and shortsightedness.
Despite some of the comments that have been made concerning this book, he does offer his own answers to the core question and those answers are superb. They are essentially Wittgenstein's answers. Given the weight but problematic nature of the question itself, he begins within the spirit of analytic philosophy and probes the very nature and the very viability of the question itself. First we must know what it is that we are trying to talk about.
He then proceeds through a number of historical answers, including Aristotle's and Aquinas'. Since the historic erosion of faith has made the question more compelling and more common in contemporary times, he spends a lot of time on the nineteenth century. He ends with Wittgenstein. I don't want to spoil his conclusion but I will provide something of its flavor.
From the TRACTATUS: "We feel that even if all possible scientific questions be answered, then problems of life have still not been touched at all. Of course there is then no question left, and just this is the answer. The solution of the problem of life is seen in the vanishing of this problem" (p. 162).
As TE puts it, "It was just that language could not represent the world as a whole. But though the value and meaning of the world as a whole could not be stated, they could nevertheless be shown. And one negative way of showing them was to show what philosophy could not say" (pp. 163-4).
TE then goes on to speak about what this means. He does so in analogies and they are trenchant, resonant, encouraging and satisfying.
The book contains a helpful list of materials 'for further reading'. As always with TE, the writing is lucid, genial and weighty (but conveyed with a light touch rather than a heavy hand). The book really does offer some answers to the questions which it posits.
Indeed as the previous reviewer said, the book is witty. And, despite all the bad news this book recognizes Life is a miracle and a comedy. One has to know a bit about philosophy to understand it, but, just as I did when I read Professor Eagleton's memoir "The Gatekeep", this was about the joy of life and the possibiity of goodness even with all the very obvious suffering, pain and injustice. A very hopeful book. Debunks a lot of heavy lifting.
15. September 2012 - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
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The book is short, 175 pages. So, one would think that the author would get on with it and get to the point attempting to be made. You'd be as mistaken as I. At page 135, he writes "So far, we have looked more at meaning than life." Unfortunately, that statement is too true. The book should have been titled "The meaning of meaning, ad nauseam."
The writing style is haphazard and difficult. There's too much hot air and overstatement of the obvious. The much touted humor escaped me and I would not recommend this rag to anyone.
I gave this two stars because of the effort he put into the book. The reason I disliked the book is that he glosses over the fact that most people find meaning in life, and the ways that they find that meaning. Instead, he focuses on philosophy and modernism, which purports that there is no meaning. He doesn't favor religion so it is not favored in his book. There is no meaning of life in the book except that we might talk about how there is no meaning. It was a sad and misdirected effort, but it isn't Mr. Eagleton's fault, it's the fault of our culture, which seems to feel the same way he does.
5,0 von 5 SternenWay more than bovine contentment...
30. September 2007 - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format: Gebundene Ausgabe
"What's the meaning of life?" has become a sort of in-joke amongst academic philosophers. Particularly in the analytic west, supersaturated with logic and science, questions concerning "grand narratives," of which "life" could be one, have gone the way of Hegelian dialectics and causa sui. In the early twentieth century, positivists and "the linguistic turn" ground such bugbears into impotent stumps. A few brave professional philosophers, such as Thomas Nagel, have attempted to weave the question into their work, but overall the field retains an icy silence towards the ultimate question. Regardless of this mass abandonment within universities, the question just won't go away. To survive, it has gone underground, whining like a lost puppy, and seethes beneath nearly everything we do. Ignoring it won't make it go away, so the question has found new pioneers to obsess. It found a happy medium in Terry Eagleton, whose work balances philosophy, literary and cultural theory, and history. Though a professional academic, Eagleton is not a philosopher. He thus brings a daisy fresh perspective to the question often associated with "philosophy" itself.
The query of course doesn't have an answer, but most "meaning of life" books usually have a go at it regardless. At least, that seems one of the expectations, realistic or unrealistic, behind flapping the pages of a book with such an ominous title. An honest book would comprise of one page embossed with a question mark. Amusing, but not marketable. Regardless of the challenge, Eagleton does give a sort of an answer; as much an answer as anyone can give. And, though disputable, it does makes sense.
Before giving his "answer," Eagleton, in the spirit of linguistic philosophy, rips and tears at the ligaments of the question itself and then pulls it apart to examine the bits. Chapter one, "Questions and Answers," provides a vast desultory survey of reactions to the grammar and form of the inquiry itself. For example, is "what is the meaning of life?" similar to "What is the capital of Albania" or to "what is the taste of geometry?" Does the form of the question itself deceive us (or "bewitch" us, as Wittgenstein would say) into thinking that it has a definite answer? Is the question valid? Eagleton compares it to another stultifying interrogative: "why are there beings rather than nothing?" Maybe that translates simply as "wow!" Numerous options get examined, such as "maybe we're not supposed to know the meaning of life" or "maybe we'll never know it even though there is an answer." The chapter then transitions, via similar unanswerable moral and political questions, into a survey of modernity and culture. People in the 12th century would not flick a lash at the question. They would answer "God." In a similar fashion, postmodernists would unflinchingly answer "culture." By contrast, many people in the 21st century, those not of the postmodern bend, have come to accept that human existence is contingent. So, Eagleton argues, we construct meaning for ourselves and meaning has appropriated multifarious dimensions: sport, religion, entertainment, etc. We essentially have grabbed on to anything we can get our hands on.
Chapter Two, "The Problem of Meaning," looks at the challenges to "meaning" beginning with a dizzyingly recursive discussion of the meaning of "meaning." Hint: it's a difficult word to nail down. Moving through Kantian "purposiveness without purpose" to "unintended meanings" Eagleton lands within the dank optimist-shattering brain of Arthur Schopenhauer. His conception of the selfish but pointless "Will" could wilt a field of happy flowers. To emphasize the point, the book includes a ghoulish portrait of the man himself. Sometimes appearances aren't deceptive.
"The Eclipse of Meaning," Chapter Three, talks about a time when meaning pervaded everyday life. Early moderns could remember such a time, so the gradual disintegration of it seemed like a horrific crisis. Eagleton uses Samuel Beckett and his play "Waiting for Godot" as exemplary modern with a dash of postmodernity. By chapter's end the distinction between "inherent" and "ascribed" meanings becomes clear, as well as the notion that we can't completely make ourselves since we are, fundamentally, wild animals with certain determining characteristics.
The discussion transitions to "life" in Chapter Four, "Is Life What you Make it?" So what could serve as a baseline for "meaning?" With a little help from his friends Aristotle, Nietzsche, and Freud, Eagleton arrives at a notion of meaning that includes the enabling of unselfish human flourishing. Eagleton eschews purely individualist characterizations, such as Julian Baggini's and John Cottinghams's. He instead derives a more social meaning akin to a jazz band. Here everyone has individual free expression within a totality that determines the structure of the piece. Throw in a touch of compassion (akin to agape) and Eagleton creates a life philosophy that seems meaningful, beautiful, realistic, but nonetheless Utopian. At the very least it can provide an inspiring signpost or goal. In the end, Eagleton argues that humans thrive together. We're free within physically determined bounds and we can decide what happens within those bounds.
This tiny book packs quite a discussion. Though under 200 pages it nonetheless feels exhaustive. It takes the view that life is an accidental, not a planned or intentional, phenomenon. "God" comes up, but only in historical or analytical contexts. Thus, God does not live at the center of meaning in this book. Consider it a fully modern non-theistic approach to the question. Those open to such interpretations will find much to ruminate on and possibly some solace in the face of what seems like modern meaninglessness. Along the way Eagleton makes numerous comments about capitalism, fundamentalism, current politics, and mass culture. "The Meaning of Life" is no sterile work of formalism detached and disinterested from what most of us know as "life." Though by no means definitive, it will provide much food for thought about our strange and prickly material predicament. And yes, he does mention Monty Python.