06 May 2007

The Meaning of Life

Terrence Eagleton, a Marxist literary theorist, has written a new book on what, for those who've followed his career, is an unexpected subject.

The Meaning of Life.


Some of the reviews seem to regard the book as a sort of Gilbert's Outline (excuse the former law student's allusion) of the major philosophical/religious efforts to answer the ultimate question.

Actually, there are two ultimate questions, which are psychologically intertwined although logically distinct: why is there something rather than nothing? is the metaphysical question. Why (if at all) does it matter how I live my life, is a foundational/ethical question.

Let us say, for purposes of discussion that the answer to the first question is that it is just a fluke that there is something rather than nothing. Furthermore, the somethingness came into existence and will pass out of existence. Nothingness preceded it forever, nothingness will follow it, after the universe ends in a "Big Crunch," a singularity that amounts to the Big Bang run backwards.

If we gave that kind of answer to the first of those questions, wouldn't we find it difficult to give any sort of answer other than "it doesn't matter at all" to the second question.

Certainly, at the moment of the Big Crunch it won't matter how Christopher Faille or Terrence Eagleton have led their lives. So does it follow that it doesn't matter now?

Those are the questions with which, as I understand it, Eagleton is grappling. Good for him.

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Knowledge is warranted belief -- it is the body of belief that we build up because, while living in this world, we've developed good reasons for believing it. What we know, then, is what works -- and it is, necessarily, what has worked for us, each of us individually, as a first approximation. For my other blog, on the struggles for control in the corporate suites, see www.proxypartisans.blogspot.com.