Friday, August 20, 2010

Episode 6 - The Absurd

The sixth episode of the podcast is available for download here. In this episode, I compare and contrast the views of Thomas Nagel and William Lane Craig on the absurdity of life. Prepare to embrace absurdity with a little bit of irony.

Apparently, the practice of hat-tipping is part of accepted internet etiquette. I therefore duly doff my cap in the direction of Steve Maitzen who gave me the idea for this one.

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  1. John D,
    while listening to this great episode I started wondering what if we live in a deterministic Universe and thus, there are no alternatives to our desires and actions. Things couldn't have been any other way. How would this affect our seriousness about the mundane when we take the detached view?

  2. Hi sorry for the delay, I've been away.

    I guess there are a couple of things to be said.

    First, I don't think that Nagel has a causal or deterministic sense of "could have been otherwise" in mind when he's talking about the seeming arbitrariness of life's purposes. I would say he's talking about the fact that nothing we do seems above question or challenge (perhaps this is more about logical possibility).

    Let's say it turns out that we and the universe we live in are an elaborate (deterministic) computer program being played out on the computer of some super-intelligent being. If we were to discover this one day, how would we think about the meaning of our lives? I take it that Nagel is saying (i) even though it's deterministic we can still ask whether this determined program was worthwhile; (ii) the mere fact that we were part of some plan by a super-intelligent being does not seem to satisfy our longing for meaning.

    Of course, it should also be noted that determinism can be used to support some bad arguments against the possibility of meaning in life. First, the mere fact that a purpose is determined does not by itself make it meaningless. Second, the mere fact that our choices are determined does not make it the case that those choices don't make a difference. That would be to confuse fatalism with determinism.