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Lecture 10


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PHIL 1100
Henry Jackman

PHIL 1100 LECTURE NOTES – FALL TOPIC 12: Tolstoy Perplexity about the Point of it All - “Before attending to my … estate, to my son’s education, or to the writing of a book, I ought to know why I should do that. So long as I did not know why, I could not do anything. I could not live. (p.1) o Things that used to serve as final answers or motives to him now need justifications, and he is surprised that he cannot find any justification for it. Example: why have a family at all? Why make money at all? o Since final justifications of doing things aren’t right anymore, makes one wonder what the point of doing anything is - “Sooner or later there would come diseases and death … all my affairs, no matter what they might be, would sooner or later be forgotten, and I myself should not exist. So why should I worry about all these things? How could a man fail to see that and live, that was surprising!” (p.2) o Sooner or later, anyone who ever knew him will die too – he will not exist and none of his effects will exist, so why should you worry about things? - This worry caused a serious crisis for Tolstoy, leaving only five ways to respond to things not having any point Five Options 1. Living in Ignorance o Be ignorant of the fact that things aren’t important o State that you can’t go back to once you start questioning things at the crisis point 2. Pursuing pleasure [often a short term solution] o Live in a pleasurable way to push deeper worries away 3. Committing suicide o If life does have no point, natural response is to end your life 4. Living Aimlessly [hard to maintain and not that satisfying] o If it doesn’t have any point, you can just live or die, so you can ultimately just float around as if nothing matters – life a pointless, aimless life – don’t try to do anything 5. Faith o Gloom that comes from big picture is a product of a naturalistic, materialistic view of the world – the view that science gives to us o Faith gets around that Faith and the Meaning of Life - Moved from despair to faith by studying peasants and serfs that were on his property o Noticed that none of them were worried about their meaning of life, being quite certain that their life had a point, never worrying about idea of suicide - “the rational knowledge brought me to the recognition that life was meaningless – my life stopped, and I wanted to destroy myself. … I saw that people (peasants) lived and asserted that they knew the meaning of life … As to other people, so even to me, did faith give the meaning of life and the possibility of living. (p.5) o Attributes this to the peasants who have a strong religious faith that convinces them that life has meaning - “My situation was a terrible one. I knew that I should not find anything on the path of rational knowledge but the negation of life, and there, in faith, nothing but the negation of reason, which was still more impossible than the negation of life. (p.4) o In faith it’s the only way to keep on living, but it seems unreasonable, and for a lot of people giving up reason is very tough o Thinking life is meaningful even though science tells you it’s not is very difficult, and faith would seem as if it’s making things up, not giving you real knowledge - “outside of the rational knowledge… all living humanity had a certain other irrational knowledge, faith, which made it possible to live. (p.5) - “Faith is the power of life. if a man lives he believes in something. If he did not believe that he ought to live for some purpose, he would not live… Without faith one cannot live. (p. 5) o Thinks even if people are not explicit about it, pretending they could give a rational explanation for why their life has a point, but there is no rational explanation. But, there is a faith beyond it that all of us have that we need to tap into that makes life livable o What he thinks gives life a point is a primitive Christianity - “the life of our circle – of the rich and the learned – not only disgusted me, but even lost all its meaning. All our acts, reflections, sciences, arts… was mere pampering of the appetites and … no meaning could be found in it; but the life of all the working masses, of all humanity, which created life, presented itself to me in its real significance. (p.6) o What used to drive his life isn’t important to him anymore o Life of peasant more meaningful than life he was living  Primitive life is a simple, pious life, which we should be living  a kind of life that “produces” life  basic production gives life meaning, while different, it holds up through the scrutiny he had before – a meaning solely based on faith, without a rational justification. The fact that this faith is necessary to live doesn’t make it true TOPIC 13: James The Sick Soul “Healthy Minds” & “Sick Souls” - “The … healthy-minded live habitually on the sunny side of their misery-line, the depressed and melancholy live beyond it… There are men who seem to have started in life with a bottle or two of champagne inscribed to the
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