Intention?

Here is an interesting essay. Now, there is a lot here one could take issue with as this writer does. But, what interests me is that the writer clearly thinks it would be “better” if existence were not “accidental, purposeless, and doomed.” But why think such? If such is exactly what existence is, then why hope for something different? Or better, why would that “hope” or longing even exist? Clearly it does. This, in and of itself, should give any atheist pause. How is it we have longings, hopes, and desires, for something than doesn’t exist and, as such, can never be fulfilled? Even if one tried to explain these longings, desires, and hopes (the same with morality) as arising from evolutionary forces, it still doesn’t explain why we would be programmed to believe in or long for illusions. Even if one then proposes that we can “create” meaning and purpose and such—it only confirms they are illusionary. Santa Claus is a “creation” of the mind—meaning he does not exist—and the same would then go for meaning, purpose, and such things as morality. If we’ve created such out of thin air, then we would be, of all creatures and life, the most to be pitied. This is the problem the writer is missing. He doesn’t want the world to be accidental, purposeless, or doomed and he also doesn’t want to equate any such desire with God, which always means the most entertaining theories will then be proposed and none with any more evidence than proposing God. All this demonstrates is that, again, none of this has anything to do with the “evidence” but the way one is willing to “interpret” the evidence. All he knows is that he doesn’t want to go where naturalism will logically take someone, which is nihilism—that much he knows.

I find it very interesting that many atheists/humanists do not want the world (existence) to be what they claim it must be. How odd.

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6 Responses to Intention?

  1. Burk Braun says:

    Hi, Darrell-

    Very interesting. We want to eat ice cream all day too. Is that an “interesting” desire, indicative of some reality that is way better and more hopeful than the one we are actually in?

    Might it be possible for humans to have multifaceted desires and interests that are not all requited and don't each “point” to some better place? And of those things we desire, like meaning and hope, haven't we shown plenty of resources for creating these on our own, including the various arts of religion? Indeed, some religions are exercises in challenging our capacity for hope, masochistically grinding our little-ness in the dust and mire. These seem to provide meaning, which shows that on the scale of desires, meaning may be more important than hope!

    “Even if one tried to explain these longings, desires, and hopes (the same with morality) as arising from evolutionary forces, it still doesn’t explain why we would be programmed to believe in or long for illusions.”

    This would indeed explain why we would be programmed to believe in and long for illusions.. evolution sets up our programming. The quest for meaning is particularly relevant and easy to explain, since personal nihilism leads to suicide. So we (are programmed to) find things to care about, and cherish the things we care about, even going so far as to clothe them in fabulous narratives, super-being ancestors, beautiful and eternal raptures, etc. and so forth. These narratives are both harmless if they don't impinge on reality (e.g. finding, killing, and eating game, perhaps) and beneficial if they motivate individuals and groups to press on with the business of life.

    I know it is asking alot to maintain the illusions of meaning and hope while knowing their ultimate nature and emptiness. But that is just the way it is, and I agree that coming up with more or less absurd stories to provide a veneer of “believability” to the whole apparatus is not helpful.

    For may part, I am enjoying learning a few seasonal carols on piano!

    Happy Santa Clausmas!

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  2. Darrell says:

    Hello Burk,

    “This would indeed explain why we would be programmed to believe in and long for illusions.. evolution sets up our programming. The quest for meaning is particularly relevant and easy to explain, since personal nihilism leads to suicide…”

    “I know it is asking a lot to maintain the illusions of meaning and hope while knowing their ultimate nature and emptiness. But that is just the way it is…”

    Which leads, to, ummmm…nihilism. Ahem.

    All one need do is juxtapose the two statements you make to recognize the absurdity inherent in atheism and they encapsulate the very problem I noted and the one the writer missed.

    Burk, you are welcome to maintain your illusions. Most of us would rather be real.

    I wish you and yours a very Merry Christmas. A single birth and flowing from that event is meaning, purpose, and the end is life, not doom or death. Indeed those are the very things that compelled the writing of such songs and they occupy even the time of those who do not believe. Such is the power inherent in the narrative.

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  3. Burk Braun says:

    Well, as you say, hope shouldn't trump reality, so if we need hope, we have to manufacture it, and if we want truth, we should know we are manufacturing it.

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  4. Darrell says:

    “Well, as you say, hope shouldn't trump reality, so if we need hope, we have to manufacture it, and if we want truth, we should know we are manufacturing it.”

    A very good description of nihilism. The realization that there is no true meaning, purpose, or hope only the illusion of such as our imaginations do their manufacturing. Evolution, it would appear, has programmed us to fool ourselves (how trustworthy and reliable!). And now that the jig is up (as you say, we know the “truth” now)…well…nihilism. You’ve said it perfectly. The Will to Power. Nietzsche. The 20th Century. Very good.

    And yet, as noted in the journal article, he cannot accept this. He disagrees with you. He thinks there is true hope, purpose, and meaning because of his theory of some pre-programmed purpose and life—something outside our willful imaginations.

    Imagine a truth (existence is meaningless, purposeless, and doomed) that requires one to believe a lie (that there is meaning, purpose, and hope) to live and thrive. That is what you offer us. Tell me again why people aren’t breaking down the door to join atheist societies? At least the nihilist is honest.

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  5. Burk Braun says:

    It is a fascinating issue- the existential dilemma which reality presents us with.

    I guess what I would say is that there is no shame in understanding the contrived nature of human meaning, just as there is no shame in understanding the process of digestion and mechanisms of taste even as we spend so much effort in creating the evanescent pleasures of good food.

    We are capable of dealing with both sides of reality- of enjoying meaning that naturally arises from our headlong life-involved pursuits, as well as the philosophical (perhaps Stoic, though I guess Epicurean is a closer match) appreciation of our just being players on the stage of life, with a limited run.

    So I guess I am saying that we can do without these narratives of ultimate meaning, insofar as they are false, even as we value a great deal else much closer to home which is sufficient to build a good life and a good communal life as well.

    If one of these narratives of ultimate meaning were true, then that of course would be a different story…

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  6. Burk Braun says:

    … but in order for such a story to logically supply ultimate meaning, one would have to know the narrative is true to a very high degree. Speculation hardly allows ultimate meaning to be conferred. Which is sort of a catch-22 for religious narratives, none of which provide that kind of certainty.

    So even if we don't disparage the various attempts at meaning-myths-naratives out of psychological and other grounds, but rather regard them agnostically, they simply can't carry the load they propose to carry, unless we are supplying a very large responsive dose of belief/faith/suspension of disbelief.

    I guess that is the whole idea, but it hardly has anything to do with philosophy or clear thinking, rather with psychological prop and crutch-making. That is why I regard Eric's project in particular, and that of philosopher-cum-theologians as so deeply invalid and compromising of intellectual standards.

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