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Narrative and Meaning in Life

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image of Journal of Moral Philosophy

Many theorists have argued that the meaningfulness of a life is related in some way to the narrative or story that can be told about that life. Relationists claim that a life gains in meaning when a particular set of “narrative relations” obtain between the events that constitute it. Recountists claim that it is the telling of a story about those relations, not the relations themselves, that confers meaning. After identifying problems with existing versions of both of these positions, this paper introduces a new and more satisfying variant of Recountism, centered on the old-fashioned idea that a meaningful life is, in part, an intelligible one. I argue that personal narration does play a role in a meaningful life and that my “Fitting Story” account provides the best explanation of how and why that is so.

Affiliations: 1: Associate Professor of Philosophy, Wellesley College, Wellesley MA hdebres@wellesley.edu

10.1163/17455243-20170008
/content/journals/10.1163/17455243-20170008
dcterms_title,pub_keyword,dcterms_description,pub_author
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Many theorists have argued that the meaningfulness of a life is related in some way to the narrative or story that can be told about that life. Relationists claim that a life gains in meaning when a particular set of “narrative relations” obtain between the events that constitute it. Recountists claim that it is the telling of a story about those relations, not the relations themselves, that confers meaning. After identifying problems with existing versions of both of these positions, this paper introduces a new and more satisfying variant of Recountism, centered on the old-fashioned idea that a meaningful life is, in part, an intelligible one. I argue that personal narration does play a role in a meaningful life and that my “Fitting Story” account provides the best explanation of how and why that is so.

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/content/journals/10.1163/17455243-20170008
2018-10-11
2018-11-16

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