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Meaning in Life$
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Thaddeus Metz

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780199599318

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2014

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199599318.001.0001

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Purpose Theory I

Purpose Theory I

Questioning Motivations

(p.77) 5 Purpose Theory I
Meaning in Life

Thaddeus Metz

Oxford University Press

This chapter begins the second part of the book, which addresses supernaturalist theories of meaning in life according to which it consists of engagement with a spiritual realm. The chapter focuses on the most influential form of supernaturalism, the view that meaning in life is constituted by fulfilling God’s purpose. In particular, it addresses the most powerful and interesting argument for this ‘purpose theory’, namely, the meta-ethical rationale, recently articulated with care by John Cottingham, that God’s will alone could ground an objective or universal morality that is necessary for life to make sense. The chapter concludes that while facts about God probably could entail an ethic that applies to all human persons, they would not explain it as well as naturalistic moral realism, and hence that a divine command morality is unlikely to justify purpose theory.

Keywords:   Divine Command Theory, God, John Cottingham, Meta-ethics, Moral Realism, Supernaturalism

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