Wednesday, 9 September 2015

Does atheism have to annihilate philosophy? Sartre, Nietzsche and Kant might disagree.

I recently read this interesting piece by Tom Chivers on BuzzFeed - asking atheists how they find meaning in life

Declaration of interest - I'm an annoying agnostic, not able to make up my mind one way or the other.

I was very dissatisfied with a number of the answers from his interviews. I was also struck by the strength of my feeling about this! It's interesting that I feel so strongly about other people's worldview. So I thought worth examining.

It's quite hard to disagree with people finding meaning in other people close to them but I was left feeling a bit unsatisfied.  Whereupon I got to thinking, hang on, there are some very famous philosophical atheists, atheist philosophers*, what have you, who didn't leave the meaning of life at "oh there isn't any point, that's the point."

We can at least examine our experience - for instance Sartre's painful interaction within the world and the experience of ennui, or perhaps a need to escape the same. Kant's inversion of existence, or understanding that the world needs to resolve itself into our perception, rather than the opposite. And as for Nietzsche - well I guess it can be argued he doesn't believe in anything, but I'd probably rather have that as a coherent body of thought then "I just like people, really".  The latter seems to me, like a bit of a cop out.

These answers trouble me, like they've missed the point. But it's tough, and probably not fair of me to criticise, cos I'm not really sure what the point is myself - I admit I don't like thinking about the meaning of life much, as within the confines of a busy life, there's not much time for philosophical contemplation and I mentally file it for some mythical time when I'll have more time to think about it. Perhaps that's what these people do too.

And it's pretty tough to be asked what the meaning of life is and be able to respond in a paragraph - I'd find it impossible to be honest. I don't understand why you would respond unless I guess, you wanted to prove it is possible to have as simple an answer to life as "It Is God's Will" without having the God bit.

But I guess, that doesn't work for me either. Back to my atheist philosophers then........

P.S. Kant not generally thought of as an atheist, however did question the nature of belief quite considerably so I feel able to lump him in with the other two.

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