The Death of God and the Meaning of Life
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What is the meaning of life? In today's secular, post-religious scientific world, this question has become a serious preoccupation. But it also has a long history: many major philosophers have thought deeply about it, as Julian Young so vividly illustrates in this thought-provoking second edition of The Death of God and the Meaning of Life.
Three new chapters explore Søren Kierkegaard’s attempts to preserve a Christian answer to the question of the meaning of life, Karl Marx's attempt to translate this answer into naturalistic and atheistic terms, and Sigmund Freud’s deep pessimism about the possibility of any version of such an answer. Part 1 presents an historical overview of philosophers from Plato to Marx who have believed in a meaning of life, either in some supposed ‘other’ world or in the future of this world. Part 2 assesses what happened when the traditional structures that give life meaning began to erode. With nothing to take their place, these structures gave way to the threat of nihilism, to the appearance that life is meaningless. Young looks at the responses to this threat in chapters on Nietzsche, Heidegger, Sartre, Camus, Foucault and Derrida.
Fully revised and updated throughout, this highly engaging exploration of fundamental issues will captivate anyone who’s ever asked themselves where life’s meaning (if there is one) really lies. It also makes a perfect historical introduction to philosophy, particularly to the continental tradition.
New Zealand wines) we would still suffer. As with all living things, the essence of human existence is will. As human beings, what we are is ‘objectified’ (i.e. physiologically expressed) will: ‘teeth, gullet and intestinal canal are objectified hunger, the genitals objectified sexual impulse; grasping hands and nimble feet correspond to the more indirect strivings of the will’ (WR I p. 108). Since will is our essence, what we do – all of the time 36 SCHOPENHAUER save when we are
background information. The great articulator of the Platonic–Christian view of the self in the modern era was the French philosopher-mathematician René Descartes (1596–1650). According to Descartes, the essential self is a ‘thinking thing’ or mind that is temporarily housed in a body – rather like a pea in a pod. (An invisible pea in a mechanical pod – like Newton, Descartes took the physical world to be a giant machine, to function according to mechanical laws that are univer- sal and
the mad were no longer respected, as they had been dur- ing the Middle Ages, as those coming from the alternative ‘world of the irrational and bear[ing] its stigmata’ (FR p. 136). Initially, the motive for the construction of asylums was to clear the streets of the idle and unproductive, though in times of economic boom the asy- lums provided a source of cheap labour (FR pp. 124–39). In the nineteenth century there was a move to abolish chains and bars. But that merely meant that the means
natural science constitutes the totality of what there is. To escape the claustrophobic illusion of completeness, to realise what Derrida calls our ‘non-knowledge’, opens us up to the infinite wonder of things and is, therefore, no doubt, spiritually improving. 193 DERRIDA Yet Derrida claims more than this for deconstruction. He claims that it is ‘political’, ‘transgressive’ and ‘dangerous’ (FP p. 95). There must, therefore, be more to deconstruction than we have yet discovered. I
natural and human activity looked, then, the way it is shown in Figure 15.1. The question remains, however, as to why the Greeks saw their own technological activity as – when conducted in a proper manner – continuous in the above way with nature’s own creative activity. 199 LATER HEIDEGGER Figure 15.1 Why did the Greeks understand their own ‘building’, understood in the widest sense of the word, as continuous with, and a completion of, nature’s own ‘building’? The model for poiesis is