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    Founded   April  2000



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The Meaning of Life

ed. by E.D. Klemke

ISBN: 019512703X



A great anthology of essays that attempt to tackle one of the "great questions" that has faced man since his arrival on Earth; what is the meaning of life--why are we here ? 


Professor Klemke, presents us with three avenues of explanation; God as an answer; a non-theistic answer; and questioning the crux of the question itself.  Essays by Tolstoy, Reinhold Neibuhr and David Swenson present God as the answer to man's existence and purpose. 


Whereas Bertrand Russell, Huxley, Camus, Thomas Nagel, Paul Edwards, Richard Taylor, Kurt Baier, and Klemke pose alternatives that span existentialism, rationalism, humanism,  each arriving at a nontheistic alternative.


In the final group of essays by Kai Nielsen, Paul Edwards, R.M. Hare, and W.D. Joske, they each examine the nature of the question itself: is the question a legitimate one ?


A truly excellent compilation of essays that are sure to engage you.


"On the highly particularized problems of giving meaning to an individual life, philosophy may not have much to say: but it is certainly concerned with what seems to be general threats to meaningfulness arising out of the  human situation as such.  For the non theist, the chief threat may well appear to come from the realization of mortality.  The relation between meaning and mortality is, as we have noted, a focus of attention in current discussions.  On the other side are writers (Tolstoy is again among them--as Flew brings out) who in some contexts virtually identify the question of meaningfulness with the question of immortality: deny immortality and you necessarily deny meaningfulness.  This account plainly distorts the logic of the question about the meaning of life, not least by reducing its complexity to a single issue of fact." (R.W. Hepburn, p. 217) 


"If we see people as naked apes, we cannot but be cynical concerning the superstructure of justification associated with many of the most memorable human enterprises.  Once we accept that many of our political and military endeavors are the working out of a primitive instinct of territoriality, we can no longer regard as fully meaningful the gloss of reasoning and argument which men use in an attempt to show that their undertakings are reasonable.  The words of debate become mere persiflage; the talk a mere epiphenomenon of creatures ignorant of the true springs of their actions.  We begin to undermine our faith in the capacity of human beings to know the truth, discover what causes what, and learn, through self-examination, about the integrity of their own motives." (W.D. Joske p. 257)




Walden / Civil Disobedience

by: Henry David Thoreau

ISBN: 0395051134


"I have never felt lonesome, or in the least oppressed by a sense of solitude, but once, and that was a few weeks after I came to the woods, when for an hour, I doubted if the near neighborhood of man was not essential to a serene and healthy life... I never found the companion that was so companionable as solitude...  What everybody echoes or in silence passes by as true today may turn out to be falsehood tomorrow... What a man thinks of himself, that it is which determines, or rather indicates, his fate... The mass of men live lives of quiet desperation...things do not change, we change...  However mean your life is, meet it and live it; do not shun it and call it hard names... it looks poorest when you are richest. The fault finder will find faults even in paradise.  Love your life, poor as it is."   from Walden


"The only obligation which I have a right to assume is to do at any time what I think right... a corporation has no conscience; but a corporation of conscientious men is a corporation with a conscience... Unjust laws exist: shall we be content to obey them, or shall we endeavor to amend them, until we have succeeded, or shall we transgress them at once ?"

from Civil Disobedience


Walden reflects a two year period spent in the woods of Walden Pond in Concord Massachusetts, an area preserved in Thoreau's memory to this day.  Thoreau's writing is biographical.  A graduate of Harvard who communed with nature and in like manner came to discover his true self by exploring thoughts on topics related to the individual's role in society. Although Civil Disobedience is an important essay, his subsequent 'Resistance to Civil Government' warrants closer study.  This subsequent essay influenced Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. by winning them over to a strategy of non-violent civil disobedience as the path to changing unjust laws. 




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