Dr. H.C. Hiller
November 8th, 2012
Define and describe the three viewpoints on the meaning of life presented in our text. Throughout the book there has been three viewpoints presented on the meaning of life. The first meaning of life that was presented in our text is the theistic answer. Philosophers such as Leo Tolstoy, David F. Swenson, Louis P. Pojman, Emil L. Fackhenheim, and Philip L. Quinn all discuss this viewpoint of the theistic answer. The meaning of theistic answer and what these philosophers discus is that the meaning of life is found in the existence of God. In this view, in order to have meaning in your life or have a purpose, you must have god in your life. The second view point that was presented in the text is the nontheistic alternative. In this part of the book we see philosophers such as Arthur Schopenhauer, Bertrand Russell, Moritz Schlick, Albert Camus, Kurt Baier, Paul Edwards, Richard Taylor, Thomas Nagel, Joel Feinberg, and E. D. Klemke present. These philosophers discus the nontheistic or humanistic alternative and they deny that one must have God in their life or believe in the existence of God in order to know the meaning of life. This view of thinking also believes that there is no objective meaning to life and also there is no purpose to it. The third viewpoint on the meaning of life presented in out text is the approach that questions the meaningfulness of the question. Such philosophers that have this view of thinking are: A.J. Ayer, Kai Nielsen, John Wisdom, Robert Nozick, Susan Wolf, Steven M. Cahn and John Kekes. This approach takes on the question of the meaning of life as peculiar or as ambiguous. Some think in terms of meaning, purpose and value that it turns out to be cognitively meaningless. However, there are others who reject this view and have an opposing view.
1) Describe how Leo Tolstoy’s biographical narrative both supports Schopenhauer’s and Camus’ understanding of the meaninglessness of life and how it challenges and transcends this view. Leo Tolstoy’s biographical narrative supports Camus’ understanding of the meaningless of life by first admitting that he did not know how to live or what to do with his life. The significance of life had lost all meaning to him and he terms this as “an arrest of life”. Leo expresses a sense of “beingness towards death” supporting the meaning that Camus’ had stated: “the midpoint of life curve”. Leo Tolstoy expresses Camus’s sense of being “undermined”: “I felt that I had been standing on had given way, that I had no foundation to stand on, that that which I lived by no longer existed and that I had nothing to live by” (Tolstoy, 8). The reader can also see that Leo predates Camus’s sense of the meaninglessness: “...my life is a stupid mean trick played on me by somebody” (Tolstoy, 8). Even though Tolstoy had wealth, power and a loving family, he was unable to find any sensible meaning to a single act or to his whole life. Likewise, Schopenhauer’s answer to the meaning of life was that “life has no meaning, it is an evil” (Tolstoy, 13). At first Leo thought that science had given him a positive answer because he had gone through his life feeling that his life had no meaning, and that it was evil because death was awaiting him. But when Leo analyzed the matter, he found that “the answer was not a positive one, but that it was only my feeling which expressed it as such” (Tolstoy, 13). Leo found that instead of saying that Schopenhauer’s answer was a positive one, it is rather a question that cannot be solved by it, and that for philosophy the solution remains insoluble. Leo challenges and transcends both Schopenhauer’s and Camus’ understanding of the meaningless of life. When he looked around the enormous masses of deceased and living men who were simple and not wealthy, he then understood that life has meaning. He found that they lived their...