'Philosophers have an infuriating habit of analysing questions rather than answering them', writes Terry Eagleton, who, in these pages, asks the most important question any of us ever ask, and attempts to answer it.
So what is the meaning of life? In this witty, spirited, and stimulating inquiry, Eagleton shows how centuries of thinkers - from Shakespeare and Schopenhauer to Marx, Sartre and Beckett - have tackled the question. Refusing to settle for the bland and boring, Eagleton reveals with a mixture of humour and intellectual rigour how the question has become particularly problematic in modern times. Instead of addressing it head-on, we take refuge from the feelings of 'meaninglessness' in our lives
by filling them with a multitude of different things: from football and sex, to New Age religions and fundamentalism.
'Many of the readers of this book are likely to be as sceptical of the phrase "the meaning of life" as they are of Santa Claus', he writes. But Eagleton contends that in a world where we need to find common meanings, it is important that we set about answering the question of all questions; and, in conclusion, he suggests his own answer.
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Terry Eagleton is John Edward Taylor Professor of English at the University of Manchester. His recent publications include Holy Terror (2005); The English Novel: An Introduction (2004); After Theory (2003); Sweet Violence: The Idea of the Tragic (2002); The Idea of Culture (2000); The Illusions of Postmodernism (1996); and Literary Theory: An Introduction (2nd edition, 1996).
Preface ; 1. Questions and Answers ; 2. The Problem of Meaning ; 3. The Eclipse of Meaning ; 4. Is Life What You Make It? ; Further reading