In day-to-day decision making, we are motivated by one of two factors: our own personal interests or general morality. Susan Wolf, author of Meaning in Life and Why It Matters, believes that there is a third factor that influences our decisions. Wolf says that sometimes we are motivated solely out of love for for the objects that we think are worthy of love. Wolf says that these actions are what give life meaning. In a recent segment on BBC World Service The Forum, Susan Wolf along with philosopher Alain de Botton and novelist Alexandre Mitchell discusses the meaning in life.
Listen to the interview here.
Book Description: Most people, including philosophers, tend to classify human motives as falling into one of two categories: the egoistic or the altruistic, the self-interested or the moral. According to Susan Wolf, however, much of what motivates us does not comfortably fit into this scheme. Often we act neither for our own sake nor out of duty or an impersonal concern for the world. Rather, we act out of love for objects that we rightly perceive as worthy of love–and it is these actions that give meaning to our lives. Wolf makes a compelling case that, along with happiness and morality, this kind of meaningfulness constitutes a distinctive dimension of a good life. Written in a lively and engaging style, and full of provocative examples, Meaning in Life and Why It Matters is a profound and original reflection on a subject of permanent human concern.
Susan Wolf is the Edna J. Koury Professor of Philosophy at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. She is the author of Freedom within Reason.