Up@dawn 2.0

Friday, February 26, 2016

Quiz Mar1

1. Does deB find Pascal's pessimism depressing?

2. Who are "the most anxious and disappointed people on earth"?

3. How would an e-Wailing Wall be more consoling than the one in Jerusalem?

4. How does deB think God's answer to Job "works"?

5. What does the secular world lack?

6. How does deB suggest we use astronomy and technology to connect to ideas of transcendence?


  • If Pascal's pessimistic rejection of earthly hope is in any way consoling, isn't that because it's tied to his belief in a supernatural afterlife? Can naturalist humanists afford the luxury of spurning hope for the collective natural afterlife? Do you find promise in the prospect of "communion around our dark realities"? 181
  • Is optimism really our greatest flaw? Is it true, in light of Scheffler's thought experiments, that "we do not comprise mankind"? Are we really no better off than "our medieval forebears"? 183
  • Should we strive to adopt the perspective of those who believe in paradise? 185
  • Do pessimists have a greater capacity for joy? 188
  • Can secularists be grateful? (See Daniel Dennett's "Thank Goodness"... YouT)
  • Didn't philosophers (Socrates, the Stoics...) call our attention to the fact that we're "always slowly dying" (189) before religion did?
  • Would you use an electronic wailing wall? 191
  • Does God's answer to Job really work? Should he have been mollified with the divine evasion?
  • Which "cosmic perspective" works better for you, Spinoza's or Sagan's & Tyson's?
  • Comment: "Science is not only compatible with spirituality, it is a profound source of spirituality." Carl Sagan
  • Have you seen Al Gore's optimistic new TED Talk? What do you think of it? What would you say to deB about it, as regards what he calls our "insanely hopeful ambitions for our lives"?


  1. Here is a clip from Gurren Lagann that I find that sums up the pessimism v optimism debate

  2. Quiz question:
    According to deB, in chapter VII, religion is a symbol of what?

  3. Discussion Question - "Do pessimists have a greater capacity for joy?"

    I agree with de Botton in the fact that pessimists have a greater capacity for joy in the same perspective. Personally, I am very pessimistic, because I am constantly thinking about how something will go wrong and never expect anything from anyone, just because I have been surrounded by individuals who are not men/women of their word. However, the appreciation I feel whenever someone does something I would not have expected, it can turn my whole day around. Where as, if someone is an optimist, they are constantly trying to see how everything will work out, and it can create disappoint over time and finally end up just turning them into pessimists themselves, but there's nothing wrong with that, in my opinion. We all need to have the realization that life just kind of sucks at times, so that way we can appreciate the beauty we get to witness or share with others whenever we receive it.

  4. Question for Discussion -

    "Secular arguments are majorly based off of the question of wondering why human beings cannot be more perfect, which was stated on page 186 of the text. Are you in agreeance that humans are merely "imperfect" beings or do you believe that we can continue becoming more and more 'perfect'?"

  5. "Does God's answer to Job really work? Should he have been mollified with the divine evasion?" Response:

    God's answer doesn't work in the actual context of the book of Job. In his explanation, deB misrepresents the story. He says that it "refuses to offer up simple, faith-based answers (189)." However, the story does offer an explanation. God is seemingly influenced by Satan, or at least takes his bet. Thus, God's angry invocations of his own greatness do not come across as invitations to be in awe of our own insignificance, but rather, the story simply portrays God as a sadistic bully.

  6. Quiz Question

    How are museums like churches?

  7. Comment: "Science is not only compatible with spirituality, it is a profound source of spirituality." Carl Sagan

    Similar to Spinoza's outlook, I agree that the stars, the vastness of the universe in which we live, is so extraordinary that we cannot help but procure a sense of wonder from it. This wonder, awe, reverence, whatever you want to call it negotiates its own kind of spirituality. It is, as de Botton asserts, our most direct and distant connection to the transcendent.

  8. "Would you use an electronic wailing wall?"

    No, I don't think that I would. I have close friends that are willing to commiserate with me, and if that fails my medical insurance has psychiatric coverage to pay for counseling.

    From a more practical standpoint, though, I would point out that there is absolutely no way that an electronic wailing wall that broadcasts messages does not get trolled and abused.

  9. "Does God's answer to Job really work? Should he have been mollified with the divine evasion?"

    The idea that God's response is sufficient seems, to me, condescending and overly paternalistic. "Why is this happening to me?" should be a valid question when misfortune occurs, even if there might not be a comprehensible answer. Particularly because in the story of Job, there was an active agent actually causing the misfortune to happen! Beyond that point, I don't like the implication of fatalism inherent in the accepting of an incomprehensible universe causing inexplicable misfortune being something that we need to learn to accept. Progress is hard to come by if people just accept what happens rather than seeking to understand and/or overcome.

  10. "Science is not only compatible with spirituality, it is a profound source of spirituality." Carl Sagan

    Spirituality is tied to concepts such as meaningfulnes or personal growth. I think part of developing one's meaning is having greater knowledge about one's place in the universe.