This Independent Study Thesis consists of an introduction, four substantive chapters and conclusion. In the introduction I present a brief overview of my central question of “what if anything makes a human life valuable or meaningful” while also detailing the event the sparked my interest in conducting this study.

The first chapter, “A Moral Theory of Value and Meaning”, introduces intrinsic and instrumental values and how they relate to my project. Following this I lay out the goal and methodology of the paper before introducing my theory of valuable or meaningful lives.

The second chapter, “A Political Theory of Value and Meaning”, uses John Rawls’ political theory to extend my theory. In this chapter I focus on the obligation a society owes to its citizens in respect to living valuable or meaningful lives.

In the third chapter, “A Successful Life Project”, I reexamine the concept of a life project and success. The focus of this chapter is to add stipulations and clarification as to the kinds of life projects there are and how succeeding at the best kind leads to a meaningful life.

The fourth and final chapter, “Citizenship”, builds on the work done in the previous chapters. More specifically, I will be focusing on the question of what under justice do citizens owe each other in respect of living meaningful lives.

In the conclusion I outline my full theory, visit potential objections and also examine the ways to improve my theory in the future.


Evan Riley




Ethics and Political Philosophy


value, meaning in life, meaningful life, valuable life, obligation to society, society obligation to citizens, the meaning of life

Publication Date


Degree Granted

Bachelor of Arts

Document Type

Senior Independent Study Thesis



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