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Survival, freedom, urge and the absolute: on an antinomy in the subject

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There is no God in Heaven, and there is no Hell below;

So says the Great Professor, of all there is to know.

- Leonard Cohen, “Almost like the Blues”

Abstract

This article argues against scientistic arguments of the redundancy of religious belief structures due to the explicability of the physical world, as exemplified here by a discussion of the “popular science” of Richard Dawkins and Lawrence Krauss. It is claimed that the root of belief in “sense” is in animation, rather than in cosmological creation myths. The paper displays that the ideal of the absolute is linguistically signified by the termini “survival” and “freedom” in human understanding. However, it does not appear through human understanding as an illusion stemming from the illegitimate inference of a pantheistic spirit or prime mover. Instead, human reason builds an analytical understanding upon a fundamental instinct, which long predates human-level consciousness. Approaching the subject’s role in the physical world, the article displays that animation itself, as the primal form of awareness and agency, is the urge to overcome an inherent antagonism in the structure of being. It is argued that the cosmological argument is mirrored by an argument that has no strict theoretical cogency, but is likewise irreducible and irrefutable by science. Science investigates the object empirically but has limited explanatory capabilities when it comes to subjective being.

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Notes

  1. As Krauss writes elsewhere: “Quantum mechanics blurs the distinction between something and nothing” (Krauss, 2017, 214).

  2. In a way, it is the same argument that Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman put forward in their 1990 novel Good Omens when they argued that nothing can last forever, not even nothingness, and therefore there is something. Gaiman and Pratchett were possibly less serious about their argument than Krauss.

  3. One should not overstate the importance of memes in Dawkins’ scheme. Being cultural products, they seem to be somewhat suspect to Dawkins. He wrote in the notes to the 20th anniversary edition of the book: “The first ten chapters of The Selfish Gene had concentrated exclusively on one kind of replicator, the gene. In discussing memes in the final chapter, I was making a point for replicators in general, and to show that genes were not the only members of that important class. Whether the milieu of human culture really does have what it takes to get some form of Darwinism going, I am not sure. But in any case that question is subsidiary to my concern” (Dawkins, 2016, 424).

  4. The point here is that all real objects are unique and thus different from (or more than) the abstracta that the observer takes them to be. Heidegger, of course, is a difficult author. I personally found Shaviro’s chapter on Heidegger helpful. See Shaviro (2014).

  5. Information and its connection to entropy is another highly controversial topic. However, two approaches that highlight the functional and thus subjective character of information can be found in Sharov (2010) and Cannizzaro (2013).

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Correspondence to Jan-Boje Frauen.

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Frauen, JB. Survival, freedom, urge and the absolute: on an antinomy in the subject. Int J Philos Relig 91, 63–85 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11153-021-09812-z

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