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


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.

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  1. So suggest the comprehensive surveys of the English-speaking philosophical literature on life’s meaning in Seachris (2011); Mawson (2013); and Metz (2013a).

  2. Such as Nagel (1987: 94-97); Levy (2005); and Mintoff (2008).

  3. For a fresh and thorough discussion of aspect-seeing in the context of life’s meaning, see Hosseini (2015: 47-66).

  4. For these and similar examples, see Metz (2013b: 5, 29, 30, 191–193, 201, 210, 221).

  5. Alternately, the relational theorist might try to grant that the cases are ones of meaning, but appeal to the concept of an intrapersonal relationship (cf. Metz 2013b: 29–30).

  6. One criticism that has already been made is to accept that meaning is relational, but to deny that a condition must obtain its meaning from another meaningful condition. Nozick himself ultimately maintains that a condition could obtain meaning insofar as it is related to something finally valuable that is not meaningful (1981: 610; see also Thomson 2003: 25–26). Indeed, in later work Nozick says, ‘The regress of meaning is stopped by reaching something with a kind of worth other than meaning—namely, reaching something of value’ (1989: 168).

  7. Cooper likewise suspects that it is ‘inevitable’ that one will, or that one ‘must’, regress on meaningful conditions (2003: 126–127), and also claims that if one regresses thoroughly, then one ‘must’ reach the ineffable (2003: 136, 140).


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Metz, T. Is Life’s Meaning Ultimately Unthinkable?: Guy Bennett-Hunter on the Ineffable. Philosophia 44, 1247–1256 (2016).

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  • God
  • Ineffability
  • Meaning of life
  • Philosophy of religion
  • Religious existentialism