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"What is Good": Qoheleth and the Philosophy of Value

PETERSON, JESSE,MARK (2020) "What is Good": Qoheleth and the Philosophy of Value. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

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Author-imposed embargo until 25 September 2023.


The dissertation aims at a comprehensive understanding of Qoheleth’s system of values, his thought as to what is good and bad in the human experience and how these values relate. It utilizes both standard exegetical methods as well as certain strands of contemporary philosophy—including value theory, theory of well-being, meaning of life philosophy, philosophy of death, and philosophy of pleasure—in order to clarify Qoheleth’s concepts and implicit philosophical assumptions. The work proceeds by uncovering and reconstructing the layers of Qoheleth’s value-centered philosophical vision with each consecutive chapter, at each step articulating his views in the terms of contemporary philosophy, as well as comparing Qoheleth’s constructive philosophy to the views of certain contemporary philosophers. My central thesis is that, among the variety of Qoheleth’s themes, his message is unified by the concept of value and he expresses a distinct, coherent vision as to where value is found—and not found—in human lives.

Part I one of the work (Chapters 2 through 4) concerns the negative side of Qoheleth’s values by coming to grips with Qoheleth’s conception and denial of “meaning” in human life. Chapter 2 articulates this notion of meaning, Chapter 3 explores the hindrance it finds in death, and Chapter 4 examines Qoheleth’s concept of time’s cyclicality as a further obstacle to meaning. Part II of the dissertation (Chapters 5 and 6) transitions to the more positive side of Qoheleth’s values, his understanding of “what is good” in human life despite the absence of meaning. The question of the value of existence as such is taken up, as are Qoheleth’s understandings of well-being and enjoyment. The conclusions about the sage’s theme of enjoyment lead to a wider conclusion that, while he denies a certain type of human value in his resistance to the prospect of attaining meaning, Qoheleth does nonetheless subscribe to the possibility of genuine value in the human project.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:Ecclesiastes, Qoheleth, Wisdom literature, Bible and Philosophy, Value Theory
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Theology and Religion, Department of
Thesis Date:2020
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:25 Sep 2020 16:09

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