, Volume 47, Issue 4, pp 1069–1086 | Cite as

Can Life Be Meaningful without Free Will?

  • Drew ChastainEmail author


If we lack deep free agency, like that supposed by metaphysical libertarianism, should we view life as meaningless, pointless, or not worth living? Here I present a new argument in support of meaning-compatibilism, or the view that life can indeed be meaningful without our having deep free agency. I show that this argument secures meaning-compatibilism more effectively than an argument provided by Derk Pereboom. In the process, we learn that Susan Wolf’s hybrid theory of meaning in life is not equipped to handle the question of meaning-compatibilism, which a broader approach to meaning in life should help us to grasp. On the alternative approach I present, judgments about meaning in life involve a sensitivity to whether giving up on life, or “agency defeat”, is justified. I argue that, so long as we are able to exist in reality, giving up on life is difficult to justify, and even without deep free agency, we do indeed exist in reality.


Free will Meaning in life Compatibilism Susan Wolf Derk Pereboom 



I’d like to thank Benjamin Bayer, Jason Berntsen, Bruce Brower, Tim Chastain, Everett Fulmer, Leonard Kahn, Joel MacClellan, and anonymous reviewers for very helpful comments on earlier drafts of this paper.


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© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyLoyola University New OrleansNew OrleansUSA

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