Philosophies 6 (92):92 (2021)

The question of meaning in life has enjoyed renewed attention in analytic discourse over the last few decades. Despite the apparently “existential” quality of this topic, existential philosophy has had little impact on this re-energized conversation. This paper draws on Kierkegaard’s _The Sickness unto Death_ in order to challenge the objectivist theory of meaning in life. According to that theory, a meaningful life is one replete with objective goods. Kierkegaard, however, exposits four forms of the spiritual sickness he calls despair that are compatible with the possession of objective goods. If this account is convincing, it poses a challenge to the objectivist view, suggesting that a subjective contribution is also necessary to fully account for meaning in life. By a process of negative inference, this paper concludes by sketching out what this subjective contribution might look like and suggests the term “authenticity” in order to capture this subjective element of a meaningful life.
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