This page features a collection of the best resources on the meaning of life. Just to be clear, there is no single best resource on the meaning of life. The best one will depend on your preferred learning style and the amount of time you want to spend learning about it.
To get started, simply choose one of the links below:
If you want a comprehensive overview:
- Read the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy article on The Meaning of Life. However, you should keep in mind that the Stanford Encyclopedia in often quite technical and this article may be difficult for beginners. It’s also quite long at around 9000 words. Here’s a short excerpt that introduces the idea:
“Many major historical figures in philosophy have provided an answer to the question of what, if anything, makes life meaningful, although they typically have not put it in these terms. Consider, for instance, Aristotle on the human function, Aquinas on the beatific vision, and Kant on the highest good. While these concepts have some bearing on happiness and morality, they are straightforwardly construed as accounts of which final ends a person ought to realize in order to have a life that matters. Despite the venerable pedigree, it is only in the last 50 years or so that something approaching a distinct field on the meaning of life has been established in Anglo-American philosophy, and it is only in the last 30 years that debate with real depth has appeared. Concomitant with the demise of positivism and of utilitarianism in the post-war era has been the rise of analytical enquiry into non-hedonistic conceptions of value, including conceptions of meaning in life, grounded on relatively uncontroversial (but not certain or universally shared) judgments of cases, often called “intuitions.” English-speaking philosophers can be expected to continue to find life’s meaning of interest as they increasingly realize that it is a distinct topic that admits of rational enquiry to no less a degree than more familiar ethical categories such as well-being, virtuous character, and right action. . . .”
If you’re looking for a somewhat shorter and more engaging introduction:
- Read Thaddeus Metz’s article: Happiness and Meaning in Life: The Sweet Spot Where They Meet [900 words]
If you’d prefer a video introduction:
If you prefer audio and podcasts:
Unfortunately, there’s only so much you can learn by using free online resources. If you want to learn more, check out this list of the Best Books on the Meaning of Life
For more introductory philosophy resources and reading lists check out this collection of Resources and Reading Lists.