I won’t pretend this list is anywhere near approaching exhaustive, but for those with any interest in the philosophical study of the meaning of life (and narrative identity theory, a closely related pocket of inquiry, I’d submit), these readings can give you a decent introduction to the various questions, positions, and arguments in play, and what’s more valuable, the orientation you’d need to pursue this topic further yourself.
- David Benatar, ed., Life, Death, & Meaning: Key Philosophical Readings on the Big Questions (Rowan&Littlefield, 2010).
- Oswald Handling, ed., Life and Meaning: A Philosophical Reader (Wiley-Blackwell, 1991)
- Stanley Hauerwas, and L. Gregory Jones, eds., Why Narrative? Readings in Narrative Theology (Eerdmans, 1989).
- Daniel Hutto, ed., Narrative and Understanding Persons (Cambridge UnivPr, 2007).
- E.D. Klemke and S. M. Cahn, eds., The Meaning of Life: A Reader, 3rd Ed. (Oxford UnivPr, 2007).
- Catriona Mackenzie and Kim Atkins, eds., Practical Identity and Narrative Agency (Routledge, 2008).
- Joshua Seachris, ed., Exploring the Meaning of Life: An Anthology and Guide (Wiley-Blackwell, 2012).
- Julian Baggini, What’s it all about? Philosophy and the Meaning of Life (Oxford UnivPr, 2007).
- John Cottingham, On the Meaning of Life (Routledge, 2002).
- John J. Davenport, Narrative Identity, Autonomy, and Mortality: From Frankfurt and MacIntyre to Kierkegaard (Routledge, 2012).
- Terry Eagleton, The Meaning of Life: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford UnivPr, 2008).
- Paul John Eakin, How our Lives Become Stories: Making Selves (Cornell UnivPr, 1999).
- Peter Goldie, The Mess Inside: Narrative, Emotion and the Mind (Oxford UnivPr, 2012).
- Garry L. Hagberg, Describing Ourselves: Wittgenstein and Autobiographical Consciousness (Oxford UnivPr, 2008).
- Alan Jacobs, Looking Before and After: Testimony and the Christian Life (Eerdmans, 2008).
- Dan MacAdams, The Stories We Live By (Guilford, 1997).
- Todd May, A Significant Life: Human Meaning in a Silent Universe (UChicago Pr, 2015).
- Thaddeus Metz, Meaning in Life (Oxford UnivPr, 2014).
- Anthony Rudd, Self, Value, and Narrative: A Kierkegaardian Approach (Oxford UnivPr, 2012).
- Marya Schechtman, The Constitution of Selves (Cornell UnivPr, 1996).
- Susan Wolf, Meaning in Life and Why it Matters (Princeton UnivPr, 2010).
Chapters and Articles
- J. Bruner. “Life as Narrative.” Social Research 54/1 (1987): 11-32.
- Daniel Dennett. “Why Everyone is a Novelist.” Times Literary Supplement (Sept 1988): 16-22.
- A. C. Grayling. “The Meaning of Life.” In Thinking of Answers: Questions in the Philosophy of Everyday Life (Walker&Company, 2010), 325-328.
- Gilbert Meilaender. “A Complete Life.” First Things (Jan 2012)
- Stephen Mulhall. “Theology and Narrative: the Self, the Novel, the Bible.” International Journal for Philosophy of Religion 69/1 (2011): 29-43.
- Thomas Nagel. “The Meaning of Life.” In What Does it all Mean? A Very Short Introduction to Philosophy (Oxford UnivPr, 1987), ch. 10.
- Robert Nozick. “Philosophy and the Meaning of Life.” In Philosophical Explanations (Belknap, 1983): 571-650.
- Marya Schechtman. “The Narrative Self.” The Oxford Handbook of the Self (Oxford UnivPr, 2011), ch. 17.
- Galen Strawson. “Against Narrativity.” Ratio 17/4 (2004): 428-52.
- J. David Velleman. “The Self as Narrator.” In Self to Self: Selected Essays (Cambridge UnivPr, 2006), ch. 9.
- Bernard Williams. “Life as Narrative.” European Journal of Philosophy 17/2 (2007): 305-314.