Optimistic Naturalism: Scientific Advancement and the Meaning of Life
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- Weijers, D. SOPHIA (2014) 53: 1. doi:10.1007/s11841-013-0369-x
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Naturalist theories of the meaning of life are sometimes criticised for not setting the bar high enough for what counts as a meaningful life. Tolstoy’s version of this criticism is that Naturalist theories do not describe really meaningful lives because they do not require that we connect our finite lives with the infinite. Another criticism of Naturalist theories is that they cannot adequately resolve the Absurd—the vast difference between how meaningful our actions and lives appear from subjective and objective viewpoints. This article proposes a novel view, Optimistic Naturalism, in order to refute these criticisms. Optimistic Naturalism is the view that scientific and technological advancement might allow us to lead Truly Meaningful lives in a purely physical universe by enabling our actions, which we find meaningful partly because they might have particular infinite consequences, to actually have infinite consequences for life. The central tenets of Optimistic Naturalism are Infinite Consequence and Scientific Optimism. By explaining how the correct connection of the subjective and objective meaning of actions can result in True Meaning, Infinite Consequence provides a theoretical blueprint for resolving the Absurd. Scientific Optimism provides reason to think that it is possible to follow that blueprint in a purely physical universe. Therefore, when taken together, these two principles provide relatively plausible reasons to think that at least one kind of Naturalist theory can connect the finite with the infinite in a meaningful way and resolve the Absurd.