Intrinsic Value and a Meaningful Life

  • Robert Audi


I distinguish various ways in which human life may be thought to be meaningful and present an account of what might be called existential meaningfulness. The account is neutral with respect to both theism and naturalism, but each is addressed in several places and the paper's main points are harmonious with certain versions of both. A number of important criteria for existential meaningfulness are examined, and special emphasis is placed on criteria centering on creativity and excellence, on contributing to the well-being of persons, and on human relationships, particularly those pervaded by love. In the light of a conception of intrinsic goodness, the good life is compared with the meaningful life, and the relation between the two notions is explored. I argue that goodness in a life counts towards its meaningfulness and that the goodness of a life is sufficient for an important kind of meaningfulness. I also suggest that the overall notion of rewarding elements in a life—intrinsically good elements that are typically but not necessarily pleasurable—is a significant unifying concept that helps both in understanding existential meaningfulness and in integrating the various kinds of constituents in a life that conduce to its meaningfulness.

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eISSN: 0556-8641