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I understand that the view from everywhere is a nihilistic problem for philosophers like Nagel (who denies it has authority in question about 'meaning' and life). Our projects just have no meaning when we consider the enormity of the universe and time, or even just all human life.

This survey closes by discussing the most well-known rationale for nihilism, namely, Thomas Nagel's (1986) invocation of the external standpoint that purportedly reveals our lives to be unimportant (see also Hanfling 1987, 22–24; Benatar 2006, 60–92; cf. Dworkin 2000, ch. 6). According to Nagel, we are capable of comprehending the world from a variety of standpoints that are either internal or external. The most internal perspective would be a particular human being's desire at a given instant, with a somewhat less internal perspective being one's interests over a life-time, and an even less internal perspective being the interests of one's family or community. In contrast, the most external perspective, an encompassing standpoint utterly independent of one's particularity, would be, to use Henry Sidgwick's phrase, the “point of view of the universe,” that is, the standpoint that considers the interests of all sentient beings at all times and in all places. When one takes up this most external standpoint and views one's finite—and even downright puny—impact on the world, little of one's life appears to matter. What one does in a certain society on Earth over an approximately 75 years just does not amount to much, when considering the billions of years and likely trillions of beings that are a part of space-time.

I'm interested in arguments for meaningfulness being immune to this view because meaning is objective.

Suppose we were to agree that, while I, or you, am alive life is meaningful for me, or you. Can we nevertheless say that this meaningfulness exists when we're dead and nothing, outside us and to the same degree, even as that meaning changes form and slips into the past and (apparent) triviality?

Specifically, what would our metaphysics of meaning have to look like for meaning to exist as such outside the subject?

May as well add an example. I spent my life looking for the cure to cancer, and while not completely successful, contributed to the advance of cancer research. My life was meaningful, and I died quite pleased with my efforts. In time, innovation after innovation occurs, until no-one dies from cancer anymore, and my work is credited too. Some of the people that undertook the treatments I worked on contributed to society or raised children. However, no legacy is forever, and in a mere blink of the universe's eye, civilization collapses and humanity is destroyed, leaving no trace of my accomplishments, and no-one to benefit from them anymore, only the wreckage of our world.

I want to argue that a meaningful life is for its actor, but not just for them, that it exists outside their life, subsisting exactly the same through its mutations into its unrecognizable triviality.


If talk about meaning in life is not by definition talk about happiness or rightness, then what is it about? There is as yet no consensus in the field. One answer is that a meaningful life is one that by definition has achieved choice-worthy purposes (Nielsen 1964) or involves satisfaction upon having done so (Hepburn 1965; Wohlgennant 1981). However, for such an analysis to clearly demarcate meaningfulness from happiness, it would be useful to modify it to indicate which purposes are germane to the former. On this score, some suggest that conceptual candidates for grounding meaning are purposes that not only have a positive value, but also render a life coherent (Markus 2003), make it intelligible (Thomson 2003, 8–13), or transcend animal nature (Levy 2005).

What if meaningful lives have effects (curing cancer) that are in some sense coherent (it "gave meaning" to what I thought about my life and work), and that coherence is an objective quality in the sense of existing independent of our experience of meaning and what we believe it to be (my work is meaningful even if I died cursing my life)?

I do not know the name for this view in bold. But, I would guess at that making meaning "ontologically" (it exists outside life), just not "ontically" (it is a quality of life), independent of life.

Does any philosophy of 'meaning' claim that sort of objectivity (especially with my other definitions of 'meaning'), and use it to say that the view from the universe is authoritative but does not render life vacuously meaningful?