, Volume 44, Issue 4, pp 1247–1256 | Cite as

Is Life’s Meaning Ultimately Unthinkable?: Guy Bennett-Hunter on the Ineffable

  • Thaddeus MetzEmail author


In this critical notice of Guy Bennett-Hunter’s Ineffability and Religious Experience, I focus on claims he makes about what makes a life meaningful. According to Bennett-Hunter, for human life to be meaningful it must obtain its meaning from what is beyond the human and is ineffable, which constitutes an ultimate kind of meaning. I spell out Bennett-Hunter’s rationale for making this claim, raise some objections to it, and in their wake articulate an alternative conception of ultimate meaning.


God Ineffability Meaning of life Philosophy of religion Religious existentialism 


  1. Affolter, J. (2007). Human nature as God’s purpose. Religious Studies, 43, 443–455.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Baggini, J. (2004). What’s it all about?: Philosophy and the meaning of life. London: Granta Books.Google Scholar
  3. Bennett-Hunter, G. (2014). Ineffability and religious experience. London: Pickering & Chatto (Publishers) Ltd.Google Scholar
  4. Bond, E. J. (1983). Reason and value. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  5. Cooper, D. (2003). Meaning. Durham: Acumen Publishing.Google Scholar
  6. Hosseini, R. (2015). Wittgenstein and meaning in life. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Kant, I. (1787). Critique of pure reason, 2nd edn. A. Wood and P. Guyer (Trans.). New York: Cambridge University Press, 1999.Google Scholar
  8. Korsgaard, C. (1996). Creating the kingdom of ends. New York: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Levy, N. (2005). Downshifting and meaning in life. Ratio, 18, 176–189.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Markus, A. (2003). Assessing views of life: a subjective affair? Religious Studies, 39, 125–143.Google Scholar
  11. Mawson, T. J. (2013). Recent work on the meaning of life and philosophy of religion. Philosophy Compass, 8, 1138–1146.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. May, T. (2015). A significant life: Human meaning in a silent universe. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Metz, T. (2002). Recent work on the meaning of life. Ethics, 112, 781–814.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Metz, T. (2013a). The meaning of life, rev. edn. In E. Zalta (Ed.) Stanford encyclopedia of philosophy.
  15. Metz, T. (2013b). Meaning in life: An analytic study. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Mintoff, J. (2008). Transcending absurdity. Ratio, 21, 64–84.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Nagel, T. (1987). What does it all mean? New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  18. Nozick, R. (1981). Philosophical explanations. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  19. Nozick, R. (1989). The examined life. New York: Simon & Schuster.Google Scholar
  20. Seachris, J. (2009). The meaning of life as narrative: a new proposal for interpreting philosophy’s ‘primary’ question. Philo, 12, 5–23.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Seachris, J. (2011). Meaning of life: Contemporary analytic perspectives. In J. Fieser & B. Dowden (Eds.) Internet encyclopedia of philosophy.
  22. Taylor, R. (1985). Ethics, faith, and reason. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall Inc..Google Scholar
  23. Thomas, L. (2005). Morality and a meaningful life. Philosophical Papers, 34, 405–427.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Thomson, G. (2003). On the meaning of life. South Melbourne: Wadsworth.Google Scholar
  25. Waghorn, N. (2014). Nothingness and the meaning of life: Philosophical approaches to ultimate meaning through nothing and reflexivity. London: Bloomsbury.Google Scholar
  26. Wong, W. (2008). Meaningfulness and identities. Ethical Theory and Moral Practice, 11, 123–148.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of JohannesburgJohannesburgSouth Africa

Personalised recommendations