O'Connor, Stephen (2007)
Ph.D. thesis, University of Birmingham.
I defend the claim that some things genuinely matter to human beings. This involves overcoming a series of arguments which suggest that the things that matter to us are arbitrary. These arguments arise out of Nagel’s claim (in Mortal Questions) that life is absurd. The thesis also discusses different senses in which life can be said to have meaning. I put religious accounts of the meaning of life to one side. Instead, I focus on outlining how someone can experience their own life (and the world) as meaningful. My main aim is to show that some things genuinely matter. I argue that some things genuinely matter from the perspective of the individual in virtue of the fact that they can become conscious of their own needs. So, there are facts about human nature (we are self-consciousness and have needs) that, taken together, show that some things genuinely matter to us (non-arbitrarily). These include our vital needs, our happiness and positive relationships with others. I argue that these things matter to us not simply in virtue of the fact that we happen to think that they matter (although this is certainly true). Rather, they genuinely matter to us given our nature.
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