Saturday, October 17, 2009

Problems/Solutions: Shot Through With Mystery

“The real question of life after death isn’t whether or not it exists, but even if it does what problem this really solves.”

-Ludwig Wittgenstein

Basically, as terrifying as the Void can seem in our lowest moments, the notion of an afterlife (everyone one that’s been proposed) really doesn’t change anything in terms of ultimate purpose and meaning, ethics, or even basic psychological stability or eudaimonic flourishing (to crib the language of Aristotle/Owen Flanagan). In other words we find another egregiously false dichotomy chugging along on the fuel of self-deception and its parental, doctrinal religious/supernatural delusions—the false dichotomy which boils down to “If we don’t live eternally all hope is dissolved, all genuine meaning vanquished, all basis for ethics and refinements of all stripes simply lost to the winds of inevitable mortality”, etc. It is clear that this dichotomy can be jettisoned, and joyously so. A true (“spiritual”) affirmation of life is extremely possible and has been actualized in the face of oblivion. It’s really not the lazy person’s route though. And many are lazy in relevant ways.

"Man is manifestly not the measure of all things. This universe is shot through with mystery. The very fact of its being, and of our own, is a mystery absolute, and the only miracle worthy of the name. The consciousness that animates us is itself central to this mystery and ground for any experience we may wish to call “spiritual.” No myth needs to be embraced for us to commune with the profundity of our circumstance. No personal God need be worshipped for us to live in awe at the beauty and immensity of creation. No tribal fictions need be rehearsed for us to realize, one fine day, that we do, in fact, love our neighbors, that our happiness is inextricable from their own, and that our interdependence demands that people everywhere be given the opportunity to flourish. The days of our religious identities are clearly numbered. Whether the days of civilization itself are numbered would seem to depend, rather too much, on how soon we realize this."

-Sam Harris

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