(Roughly) Daily

“Nature, Mr Allnut, is what we were put in the world to rise above”*…

 

Questions about what matters, and why, and what exists in the world, are quintessentially philosophical. The answers to many of these questions are informed by how we conceive of ourselves. How has what is often described as the ‘Copernican revolution’ effected by Charles Darwin changed our self-conception? One particularly surprising feature of evolutionary biology is that it lends significant support to existentialism…

Philosopher Ronnie de Souza suggests that ethics cannot be based on human nature because, as evolutionary biology tells us, there is no such thing: “Natural-born existentialists.”

[Photo above: “Children play on Omaha beach in Normandy, France, 1947,” by David Seymour/Magnum Photos. International Center of Photography]

* Katherine Hepburn to Humphrey Bogart in African Queen

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As we sidle up to Sartre, we might spare a thought for Baruch (or Benedict) de Spinoza, the Dutch philosopher whose rationalism and determinism put him in opposition to Descartes and helped lay the foundation for The Enlightenment, and whose pantheistic views led to his excommunication from the Jewish community in Amsterdam; he died on this date in 1677.

As men’s habits of mind differ, so that some more readily embrace one form of faith, some another, for what moves one to pray may move another to scoff, I conclude … that everyone should be free to choose for himself the foundations of his creed, and that faith should be judged only by its fruits; each would then obey God freely with his whole heart, while nothing would be publicly honored save justice and charity.

Tractatus Theologico-Politicus, 1670

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Written by LW

February 21, 2018 at 1:01 am

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