A Subjectivist Account of Life’s Meaning


  • Frans Svensson Umeå University, Sweden




Desire-based theory, Objectivist theories, Hybrid theories, Subjectivist theories, Mental-state theories


In this paper, I propose and defend a particular desire-based theory of what makes a person’s life meaningful. Desire-based theories avoid the problems facing other theories of meaning in life: in contrast to objectivist theories (both consequentialist and non-consequentialist ones), they succeed in providing a necessary link between what makes a person’s life meaningful and the person’s own set of attitudes or concerns; in contrast to hybrid theories (or subjectivist theories with a value requirement), they avoid the elitism or exclusivism inherent in the former; and in contrast to mental-state theories, they avoid the problem of not taking the state of the world properly into account when determining whether someone’s life is meaningful. However, meaningfulness does not plausibly depend on the satisfaction of just any desires—perhaps especially not on the satisfaction of desires that we experience as alien to ourselves. I therefore suggest that the meaning in your life depends on the extent to which your categorical desires (i.e. those desires that are partly constitutive of your practical identity) are satisfied or fulfilled. In the final section of the paper, I respond to at least four possible objections to this view.


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How to Cite

Svensson, F. (2017) “A Subjectivist Account of Life’s Meaning”, De Ethica, 4(3), pp. 45–66. doi: 10.3384/de-ethica.2001-8819.174345.