Meaning in Life: The Harmony of Nature and Spirit

MIT Press
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An acclaimed philosopher suggests that the art of living well employs the same principles as those that exist in all artistic creativity.

This final book in Irving Singer's Meaning in Life trilogy studies the interaction between nature and the values that define human spirituality. It examines the ways in which we overcome the suffering in life by resolving our sense of being divided between them. Singer suggests that the accord between nature and spirit arises from an art of life that affords meaning, happiness, and love by employing the same principles as those that exist in all artistic achievements. It is through the meaningfulness created by imagination and idealization, Singer says, that we make life worth living.

This human art form, Singer writes, enables us to unite our selfish interests with our compassionate and loving inclinations. We thereby effect a vital harmonization within which the naturalistic values of ethics, aesthetics, and religion can find their legitimate place. The good life, as envisioned by Singer, includes the love of persons, things, and ideals so intricately intermeshed that the meaning in one contributes to the meaningfulness of the other two. The result is a kind of happiness that we all desire.

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About the author

Irving Singer was Professor of Philosophy at MIT. He was the author of the trilogies The Nature of Love and Meaning in Life, Philosophy of Love: A Partial Summing-Up, Mozart and Beethoven: The Concept of Love in Their Operas, all published by the MIT Press, and many other books.

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Additional Information

Publisher
MIT Press
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Published on
Dec 30, 2009
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Pages
242
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ISBN
9780262266444
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Language
English
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Genres
Philosophy / Criticism
Philosophy / General
Philosophy / History & Surveys / Medieval
Philosophy / Movements / Humanism
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This content is DRM protected.
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The author of the classic philosophical treatment of love reflects on the trajectory, over decades, of his thoughts on love and other topics.

In 1984, Irving Singer published the first volume of what would become a classic and much acclaimed trilogy on love. Trained as an analytical philosopher, Singer first approached his subject with the tools of current philosophical methodology. Dissatisfied by the initial results (finding the chapters he had written “just dreary and unproductive of anything”), he turned to the history of ideas in philosophy and the arts for inspiration. He discovered an immensity of speculation and artistic practice that reached wholly beyond the parameters he had been trained to consider truly philosophical. In his three-volume work The Nature of Love, Singer tried to make sense of this historical progression within a framework that reflected his precise distinction-making and analytical background. In this new book, he maps the trajectory of his thinking on love. It is a “partial” summing-up of a lifework: partial because it expresses the author's still unfolding views, because it is a recapitulation of many published pages, because love—like any subject of that magnitude—resists a neatly comprehensive, all-inclusive formulation. Adopting an informal, even conversational, tone, Singer discusses, among other topics, the history of romantic love, the Platonic ideal, courtly and nineteenth-century Romantic love; the nature of passion; the concept of merging (and his critique of it); ideas about love in Freud, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, Dewey, Santayana, Sartre, and other writers; and love in relation to democracy, existentialism, creativity, and the possible future of scientific investigation. Singer's writing on love embodies what he has learned as a contemporary philosopher, studying other authors in the field and “trying to get a little further.” This book continues his trailblazing explorations.

The final volume of Singer's trilogy discusses ideas about love in the work of writers ranging from Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, and Tolstoy to Freud, Proust, D. H. Lawrence, Shaw, and others in the contemporary world.

Irving Singer's trilogy The Nature of Love has been called "majestic" (New York Times Book Review), "monumental" (Boston Globe), "one of the major works of philosophy in our century" (Nous), "wise and magisterial" (Times Literary Supplement), and a "masterpiece of critical thinking [that] is a timely, eloquent, and scrupulous account of what, after all, still makes the world go round" (Christian Science Monitor).

In the third volume, Singer examines the pervasive dialectic between optimistic idealism and pessimistic realism in modern thinking about the nature of love. He begins by discussing "anti-Romantic Romantics" (focusing on Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, and Tolstoy), influential nineteenth-century thinkers whose views illustrate much of the ambiguity and self-contradiction that permeate thinking about love in the last hundred years. He offers detailed studies of Freud, Proust, Shaw, D. H. Lawrence, and Santayana, and he maps the ideas about love in Continental existentialism, particularly those of Sartre and de Beauvoir. Singer finally envisages a future of cooperation between pluralistic humanists and empirical scientists. This last volume of Singer's trilogy does not pretend to offer the final word on the subject, any more than do most of the philosophers he discusses, but his masterful work can take its place beside their earlier investigations into these vast and complex questions.

The author of the classic philosophical treatment of love reflects on the trajectory, over decades, of his thoughts on love and other topics.

In 1984, Irving Singer published the first volume of what would become a classic and much acclaimed trilogy on love. Trained as an analytical philosopher, Singer first approached his subject with the tools of current philosophical methodology. Dissatisfied by the initial results (finding the chapters he had written “just dreary and unproductive of anything”), he turned to the history of ideas in philosophy and the arts for inspiration. He discovered an immensity of speculation and artistic practice that reached wholly beyond the parameters he had been trained to consider truly philosophical. In his three-volume work The Nature of Love, Singer tried to make sense of this historical progression within a framework that reflected his precise distinction-making and analytical background. In this new book, he maps the trajectory of his thinking on love. It is a “partial” summing-up of a lifework: partial because it expresses the author's still unfolding views, because it is a recapitulation of many published pages, because love—like any subject of that magnitude—resists a neatly comprehensive, all-inclusive formulation. Adopting an informal, even conversational, tone, Singer discusses, among other topics, the history of romantic love, the Platonic ideal, courtly and nineteenth-century Romantic love; the nature of passion; the concept of merging (and his critique of it); ideas about love in Freud, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, Dewey, Santayana, Sartre, and other writers; and love in relation to democracy, existentialism, creativity, and the possible future of scientific investigation. Singer's writing on love embodies what he has learned as a contemporary philosopher, studying other authors in the field and “trying to get a little further.” This book continues his trailblazing explorations.

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