Today in CoPhi we pause to consider eastern perspectives, before proceeding in the balance of the semester to occupy ourselves mainly with Nigel Warburton’s western orientation. The differences are stark, particularly with respect to the dualistic thinking that has so dominated this quadrant and led so many of our predecessors to defend notions like soul-survival and personal immortality. As the late Robert Solomon noted, the eastern (specifically Taoist) soul is more like a drop of water in a stream than like an eternal life-preserver or an “intact bit of eternity in each of us.”
In Atheism we conclude Julian Baggini’s quick overview. Does he give short shrift to the role of “inner conviction” in establishing personal belief? Isn’t subjectivity or temperament an inevitable factor in philosophy (as James said), even though western philosophy’s official view is that it should not be? Or is inner conviction just a mirror of external, local contingencies of birth that we’re not obliged to honor, defer to, or even respect?
Baggini says “atheism is the throwing off of childish illusions and acceptance that we have to make our own way in the world. We have no divine parents who always protect us… [this is] the precondition for meaningful adult lives.” That’s sharply-stated, an echo of Carl Sagan’s milder (but no less portentous) Pale Blue Dot proclamation of “no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.”
In Bioethics we’re on the “Perspectives” chapter that asks whether and how professional healthcare providers should negotiate or accommodate the various framework beliefs of patients. Or their parents. How should physicians treat and care for children whose parents object to medical intervention on religious grounds?
James again: we all have a philosophy that “determines the perspective in [our] several worlds… a more or less dumb sense of what life honestly and deeply means. It is only partly got from books; it is our individual way of just seeing and feeling the total push and pressure of the cosmos.” It’s our task today, and most every day, to notice those perspectives and talk about them. Nice work if you can get it.
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