The Meaning of Life and Death

As this year (finally) comes to an end, it's expected we get a little philosophical. What's the point of it all?

The meaning of life and death: ten classic thinkers on the ultimate question

Hauskeller, Michael. Bloomsbury Academic, 2020
236p bibl, 9781350073630 $90.00, 9781350073647 $26.95, 9781350073661

Despite this book’s somber title, Hauskeller (Univ. of Liverpool, UK) offers a lively and readable discussion of ten leading thinkers’ views on the meaning (or lack thereof) of life and death. Hauskeller devotes a chapter to each of his subjects—Arthur Schopenhauer, Søren Kierkegaard, Herman Melville, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Leo Tolstoy, Friedrich Nietzsche, William James, Marcel Proust, Ludwig Wittgenstein, and Albert Camus—quoting important passages from each philosopher’s work (and providing clear references to the original texts). Hauskeller illuminates each individual’s’ viewpoints and contextualizes the development of those ideas in terms of the historical period and, in some cases, the individual’s particular life circumstances. Well written, richly informative, and deeply meaningful, this volume will be an excellent primer for anyone seeking a clear and concise understanding of these thinkers’ ideas on the meaning of life and death. The volume is remarkable for demonstrating that when it came to trying to understand the essential questions of life, little changed over the 200 years this book covers, a span of time that embraces the industrial revolution.

Summing Up: Highly recommended. Lower-division undergraduates through faculty; general readers.
Reviewer: W. Feigelman, emeritus, Nassau Community College
Subject: Humanities – Philosophy
Choice Issue: May 2020