Up@dawn 2.0

Monday, March 28, 2016

Quiz March 29

1. Secularists can agree with Hamlet, that death is nothing to fear, if they dismiss what possibility?

2. What lies behind the sense of horror at the prospect of non-existence?

3. Meaningful lives do and do not require what?

4. Kitcher wants to resist what temptation?

5. What are the chief sources of pessimism?

6. By what does Kitcher want scriptures to be superseded?


  • Name a thinker who reacted against the outside imposition of meaning, emphasizing autonomy instead.
  • Kitcher thinks we should be committed to what, instead of salvation?
  • What does Kitcher say about a grandfather's joy?
  • What's wrong with the Christian and Muslim afterlife?

  • "What use is Darwin at a funeral?" 96 In fact, isn't there some consolation in the evolutionary hypothesis that individual mortality is inseparable from species evolution? Is there some further sense in which such "gibes... misunderstand the human situation"? 105
  • "Do you feel differently about your absence from different parts of the future?" 97 Are you also increasingly "indifferent" to the future? 98
  • COMMENT: "Mattering to others is what counts in conferring meaning."
  • What's your answer to the "religious challenger" who says bereaved secularists misunderstand the character of the afterlife? 103
  • Does an afterlife without striving nullify our acts and identities? 104
  • Did you have an "epiphany around (age) 16"? 107
  • COMMENT: "Lives matter when they touch others." 108 Presumably the touch should be positive and altruistic, not destructive and selfish. But how do you argue this with a confirmed Randian, for example, who says we should all live only for ourselves? Is there any point in having that argument with an egoist?
  • Does impermanence cancel meaning? 110 Is "lingering" in the memories of those who knew us enough to confer meaning? 111
  • What other "sources of the deepest satisfactions" would you suggest? 119
  • Do you agree that secular humanism faces practical but not intellectual problems in accounting for meaning? 122
  • Why would Charles Taylor or anyone insist that joy is not fully available to secularists? Is this simply prejudice? 127-8
  • Seeing God in all things is transformative, said George Herbert, but isn't it also potentially transformative to see no God? 129
  • Are epiphanies valuable, whatever their causes? 131
  • COMMENT: "Each life that goes badly... should be a stimulus to renewed human effort" and not to belief in "ultimate compensation" in heaven. 136
  • COMMENT: The properly strenuous life is humanist, not religious. 139
  • What's your takeaway from Kitcher's discussion of Shakespeare and Dostoevsky?

God Is a Question, Not an Answer

Near end of Albert Camus’s existentialist novel “The Stranger,” Meursault, the protagonist, is visited by a priest who offers him comfort in the face of his impending execution. Meursault, who has not cared about anything up to this point, wants none of it. He is an atheist in a foxhole. He certainly has not been a strident atheist, but he claims to have no time for the priest and his talk of God. For him, God is not the answer.

Some 70 years later, Kamel Daoud, in his 2013 novel “The Meursault Investigation,” picks up the thread of Camus’s story. In one scene late in that novel, an imam hounds Harun, the brother of the unnamed Arab who was killed in “The Stranger.” In response, Harun gives a litany of his own impieties, culminating in the declaration that “God is a question, not an answer.” Harun’s declaration resonates with me as a teacher and student of philosophy. The question is permanent; answers are temporary. I live in the question.

Any honest atheist must admit that he has his doubts, that occasionally he thinks he might be wrong, that there could be a God after all — if not the God of the Judeo-Christian tradition, then a God of some kind. Nathaniel Hawthorne said of Herman Melville, “He can neither believe, nor be comfortable in his unbelief; and he is too honest and courageous not to try to do one or the other.” Dwelling in a state of doubt, uncertainty and openness about the existence of God marks an honest approach to the question... (continues)
A reply: "Many “honest” atheists, including me, don’t care to consider the question of God at all. Aside from the simple truth that the question does not interest me, the existence of a god or gods would not change the way I live my life, and therefore holds no value to me. I also find it a waste of time and attention to wonder about the unknowable when there are so many interesting and urgent questions with real answers waiting to be revealed..." More responses...
Clearly Calvin hasn't read Scheffler, Kitcher, Dewey, or Russell...


  1. Here is a link to a song that I think sums up these last two chapters. The song is an English translation of Durarara!! second opening. Its relevant not only for its lyrics but also for the anime it comes from,I say this because I feel that Durarara!! could be one of the things that supersedes scripture.

  2. Quiz question: What does Kitcher say immortality decomposes to?

  3. Discussion Question: "Are epiphanies valuable, whatever their causes?"

    I believe their value is dependent of the individual and the epiphany at hand. Everyone defines value differently. Epiphanies may be about simple everyday things or more important life changing situations, but two individuals may have the same epiphany and analyze it differently. That is why I believe that all-in-all, it just depends.

  4. Quiz Question

    What question is the oldest issue of Western philosophy?

  5. Discussion Question

    Do you believe that most people fear death or only its process?

    1. I think most people probably fear the process more than the actual death. The process could either be long or very short. Which is scary because you never know