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The meaning of life. The issue: Does human life have a purpose? Three views 1. The pessimistic or nihilistic As expressed by Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) A critique of this position: R. M. Hare. The meaning of life. 2. The secular or humanistic Albert Camus (1913-1960)

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The meaning of life
The meaning of life

  • The issue: Does human life have a purpose?

    • Three views

      • 1. The pessimistic or nihilistic

        • As expressed by Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900)

        • A critique of this position: R. M. Hare

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  • 2. The secular or humanistic

    • Albert Camus (1913-1960)

  • 3. The metaphysical or religious

    • Teilhard de Chardin (1881-1955)

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    • 1. Friedrich Nietzsche’s (1844-1900) expression of nihilism

      • In the military, 1868

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    The meaning of life

    • From The Gay Science (Die fröhliche Wissenschaft, 1882)

      • The theme of the death of God & the resulting disorientation & experience of nothingness (meaninglessness).

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    • “Have you not heard of that madman who lit a lantern in the bright morning hours, ran to the market place, and cried incessantly, ‘I seek God! I seek God!’ . . . ‘Whither is God’ he cried. ‘I shall tell you. We have killed him--you and I. All of us are his murderers. [more]

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    • But how have we done this? How were we able to drink up the sea? Who gave us the sponge to wipe away the entire horizen? What did we do when we unchained this earth from its sun? Whither is it moving now? Whither are we moving now? Away from all suns? Are we now plunging continually?

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    • Backward, sideward, forward, in all directions? Is there any up or down left? Are we not straying as through an infinite nothing? . . . God is dead. . . . And we have killed him. . . . Is not the greatness of this deed too great for us? Must not we ourselves become gods simply to seem worthy of it?’” (from The Gay Science, 1882)

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    • What kind of a statement is Nietzsche’s declaration of the death of God?

      • Metaphysical?

      • Cultural?

    • For Nietzsche, one can overcome the meaninglessness brought about by the death of God by an act of will--a superhuman effort of will.

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    • R.M. Hare’s critique of the nihilist view on the meaning of life

      • The story of a Swiss boy

        • Read Camus’s L’Etranger

        • Rien, rien n’avait d’importance

          • Hare’s diagnosis: “Something matters” is an expression of concern about something.

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    • Now can a person be completely unconcerned about everything?

    • Hare: No

      • Human beings are always concerned about something; humans cannot be completely unconcerned about everything

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    • Thus if someone says “nothing matters,” they are

      • either uttering nonsense

      • or they are psychologically disturbed & ought to seek counseling

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    The meaning of life

    • 2. Albert’s Camus’ (1913-1960) humanism

      • Camus in 1944, at age 31

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    The meaning of life

    • Camus & his wife, Francine, December 1957, Stolkholm. Reception on the occasion of the Nobel prize.

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    The meaning of life

    • From The Myth of Sisyphus (1942)

    • Life is absurd but this absurdity can be overcome. How?

      • The answer in The Myth

        • Problem: Is the struggle to overcome absurdity enough? Struggle for what?

      • The answer in The Plague (1947)

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    The meaning of life

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    The meaning of life

    • The general answer of the humanist approach to the meaning of life:

      • We make meaning for our lives through our choices.

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    • 3. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin’s (1881-1955) religious answer

      • Background

        • The momentousness of the theory of evolution

        • The Law of Complexity-Consciousness

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    • The theory of spheres (realms)






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    • The directionality of evolution -- toward the Omega Point = God

  • “Reflections on Happiness” (1943)

    • Three attitudes toward life and three kinds of happiness

      • pessimist - tranquility

      • hedonist - pleasure

      • enthusiast - growth

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    • How can we choose between these?

      • Evolution provides a clue

      • The examples of the Curie’s, the Arctic & Antarctic explorers

    • The route to the third form of happiness

      • A combination of fitting into the flow of evolution and helping bring it about

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    • The 3 rules of happiness

    • 1. Fight against following the least line of resistance

    • 2. Pursue the proper form of love--namely, giving ourselves to others

    • 3. Turn the ultimate interest of our lives to the advancement of the world we live in

    • For Chardin, this coincides with the Christian vision.

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