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An accessible history of the idea of purpose in Western thought, from ancient Greece to the present Can we live without the idea of purpose? Should we even try to? Kant thought we were stuck with it, and even Darwin, who profoundly shook the idea, was unable to kill it. Indeed, purpose seems to be making a comeback today, as both religious advocates of intelligent design and some prominent secular philosophers argue that any explanation of life without the idea of purpose is missing something essential. On Purpose explores the history of purpose in philosophical, religious, scientific, and historical thought, from ancient Greece to the present. Accessibly written and filled with literary and other examples, the book traces how Platonic, Aristotelian, and Kantian ideas of purpose continue to shape Western thought. Along the way, it also takes up tough questions about the purpose of life—and whether it’s possible to have meaning without purpose.