Quinn “The Meaning of Life According to Christianity” (And some Anselm, Pascal and Aquinas)
Anselm’s Argument (The Ontological Argument) • (1) God exists in the understanding but not in reality. (Supposition) • (2) Existence in reality is greater than existence in the understanding alone. (Premise) • (3) God’s existence in reality is conceivable. (Premise) • (4) If God did exist in reality, then he would be greater than he is (from (1) and (2)). • (5) It is conceivable that there be a being greater than God is (from (3) and (4)). • (6) It is conceivable that there be a being greater than the being than which nothing • greater can be conceived ((5), by the definition of “God”). • But surely • (7) It is false that it is conceivable that there be a being greater than the being than • which none greater can be conceived. • Since (6) and (7) contradict each other, we may conclude that • (8) It is false that God exists in the understanding but not in reality. • Thus, if God exists in the understanding, he also exists in reality. Since even the fool (or • rational atheist) will allow that God exists in the understanding, God exists in reality. • From the definition of God as “that than which nothing greater can be conceived,” it • follows by logical necessity that God exists.
The Argument from Causality/First Cause Argument • There is an efficient cause for everything; nothing can be the efficient cause of itself. • It is not possible to regress to infinity in efficient causes. • To take away the cause is to take away the effect. • If there be no first cause then there will be no others. • Therefore, a First Cause exists (and this is God).
Some objections to the first cause argument • (1) There could be an uncaused first cause. (E.g., matter could be the first cause of the big bang it could have just been there.) • (2) The first cause might not be God. • (3) Maybe an infinite regress is as reasonable as God
The Argument from Design (Also called: The teleological argument) • All living things have a purpose. • It is highly unlikely that all these things that have design and purpose could have been created by accident. • They must have an intelligent creator. • The intelligent creator was God (an omnipotent, omniscient, eternal, immutable and perfectly good being). • [A watch has to have a watchmaker.]
Objection to the argument from design • The strongest objection is evolution. That explains why things have functions/design/purpose. It is possible for random chance to create things with a purpose given a certain set of circumstances. • (Another is that a lot of nature isn’t that well-designed.)
The ontological argument • (The other arguments depend on empirical a posteriori facts—the way things are. This argument is purely conceptual/a priori.) • --By definition, God is a being than which none greater can be imagined. • --A being that necessarily exists in reality is greater than a being that does not necessarily exist. • --Thus, by definition, if God exists as an idea in the mind but does not necessarily exist in reality, then we can imagine something that is greater than God. • --But we cannot imagine something that is greater than God. • --Thus, if God exists in the mind as an idea, then God necessarily exists in reality. • --God exists in the mind as an idea. • --Therefore, God necessarily exists in reality.
Questions about Quinn • 1) What is axiological meaning about? • (2) What is teleological meaning about? • (3) Do we need both these forms of meaning? • (4) How would imitating Christ give meaning to a person's life? • (5) What does "the narrative of salvation history" do for meaning? (p. 39) • (6) What can the Christian say to Nagel? (p. 39) • (7) Is the meaning from Christianity the only meaning, according to Quinn?
Axiological and Teleological Meaning • AM: Meaning achieved through (1) positive intrinsic value (the life is good for its own sake or one experiences things that are good for their own sakes?) • (2) On the whole good for the person who leads it • TM: Meaning achieved in a life that is good if it has some (1) Significant (to the person) achievable purpose and (2) The striving for the purpose is “performed with zest.” [The person really wants to do it and finds it satisfying.] • Complete meaning=you have both.
Christian views • One way something can have meaning is to refer to something else—to be about something else. E.g., a narrative has meaning. • A human life can be a narrative that has meaning. • Christianity cares about history. It has meaningful narratives. The story of Jesus is such a meaningful narrative for Christians.
How does the story of Jesus give meaning to a Christian life • The Jesus story could be seen as a portrait of Jesus. This can be ‘a paradigm’ for believers to follow. • Thomas a Kempis wrote The Imitation of Christ. • Anti-Climacus: Your life has to be as much like Jesus’s as possible. You have to suffer. You have to endure evil to do good. You have to be looked down on by people like Jesus was.
How does this give meaning? • Because it gives a teleological meaning: There is a purpose. • But there’s a problem with axiological meaning because some of the lives “appear not to be good on the whole for those who lead them.” (38) E..g, if you suffered and died like Jesus. The axiological meaning depends on an afterlife—you experience the good after you die (if you are a martyr, etc.).
A second way Christianity can give meaning • There is a “cosmic metanarrative of salvation history.” (38) • God loves humans, God sent his only son to save humanity and so this shows that humans are important to God. • Christians are supposed to “align themselves with these purposes.” (39) • What about people that don’t? Two options (1) Judas, e.g., goes to hell. Or (2) Judas eventually turns to God (the universalist assumption where everyone is eventually saved).
Nagel: Life lacks significance • If you had an objective, detached view (like God has) you’d feel only a mild interest in the sufferings of humans. • Quinn: The incarnation/sacrifice of God is a sign to Christians this isn’t God’s perspective. Humans matter to God.
Christians need humility • They shouldn’t over exaggerate the importance of human life in the cosmos. • They shouldn’t be so sure they are right about everything. • They should be open to the idea that other religions or non-religious worldviews have reasonable stories to tell about meaning. • They might think they have the best story but should approach it with “fear and trembling” rather than too much security and arrogance. (40)