On The Meaning of Life and Narrative Identity Theory

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.



  • 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.

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