Tolstoy, Death and the Meaning of Life

Roy W. Perretta1

a1 University of Otago

Questions about the meaning of life have traditionally been regarded as being of particular concern to philosophers. It is sometimes complained that contemporary analytic philosophy fails to address such questions, but there do exist illuminating recent discussions of these questions by analytic philosophers.1 Perhaps what lurks behind the complaint is a feeling that these discussions are insufficiently close to actual living situations and hence often seem rather thin and bland compared with the vivid portrayals of such situations in autobiography or fiction. I therefore want to focus on two works by Tolstoy—one autobiographical, one fictional—and try to see what philosophical lessons can be learned from them, particularly with regard to questions about the relation of death to the meaning of life.