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Saturday, April 27, 2013

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Bill,

One minor correction regarding your reference to Adam's paper (for those interested to search it). The Journal is "International Journal for Philosophy of Religion" 51: Issue 2, pp. 71-81.

If you search by "International Journal of the Philosophy of Religion" you won't find it easily or not at all.

Thank you Bill for your insights on this incredibly important philosophical problem/question. Your series of posts on this has facilitated me with a great deal to think upon and hopefully in the near future I can post the conclusions of my thoughts on this in this comments section.

Bill,

I agree with much of your post. However, according to my understanding of the term ‘subjectively appropriable’, I am not presently convinced by limb C. I offer a working definition of the term below.

Here is how I would begin to navigate the impasse. Please forgive the long post - I wish I could make it shorter. It seems to me that the following three statements are true:

1) The process of subjectively appropriating a non-subjective meaning of life is gradual and by degree. 2) The process ranges from a general degree of awareness, intention and appropriation to a specific degree thereof. 3) A general degree of awareness, intention and appropriation of a non-subjective meaning of human life is available to all.

1) The process of subjectively appropriating a non-subjective meaning of life is gradual and by degree.

A working definition of the term ‘subjectively appropriable’: To subjectively appropriate a meaning is to take that meaning into one’s mind, reflect upon it, form intentions about it, and put it into action in one’s life. This happens in three steps: a) mental, b) volitional, and c) practical. The mental step is a matter of awareness, the volitional step of forming intentions based on awareness, and the practical step of applying the product of awareness and intention to life. Each step happens gradually.

In short, awareness, intention, and application happen gradually and by degree. The process of subjectively appropriating a non-subjective meaning of life is a matter of awareness, intention, and application. As such, the process is gradual and by degree.

2) The process ranges from a general degree of awareness, intention and appropriation to a specific degree thereof.

First, one recognizes that there is an objective meaning. This first step gets one in range, so to speak. Once in range, one starts with a general degree of awareness, intention and appropriation of the meaning of life and moves toward an increasingly specific degree thereof. This movement happens by continued reflection, intention, and application.

3) A general degree of understanding, intention and appropriation of a non-subjective meaning of human life is available to all.

Virtually everyone can and does recognize that there is an objective meaning of human life. We do this in a “vital and pragmatic way”, as you wrote. But what is the meaning? The general meaning might be stated as ‘living in conformity with truth and reality’. Everyone understands and practices a basic conformity to reality, though not with the same level of awareness, clarity, and consistent application. I am not claiming that understanding reality is an easy matter (quite to the contrary!), but only that everyone understands and practices a basic conformity to reality.

With the above in mind, I think that ‘living in conformity with reality’ is a non-subjective meaning that is subjectively appropriable by all. This meaning is general but not vacuous. Though lacking specific content, the meaning is worthy of human beings as such, and it is recognizable by all as being the same for all. Moreover, it is such that no rational being is excluded from partaking in it; the awareness and application of it contributes to human flourishing; and recognizing it enables one to begin thinking carefully about specific meaning. Perhaps those with sufficient leisure, education, and ability progress further toward specificity, but everyone can and does subjectively appropriate - at a fundamental level - that life in conformity to reality is the foundation of human meaning.

I’d be interested in your thoughts.

Your discussion of limb C seems to have the underlying assumption that the search for meaning terminates at death. If everyone has just one shot at this earthly existence, then indeed it is hard to reject C. However, if some variant of reincarnation is the case, then the search for meaning is no longer restricted to one particular individual life, and will carry on even afterwards by means of another life. If such a possibility is entertained, then one may hope (cosmic optimism!) that over the course of many lives, an objective meaning will eventually be subjectively appropriable by all.

Awais,

That is a good suggestion and may be a way of solving the problem. My very stringent knowability condition on the appropriability of meaning makes it impossible for most of us to appropriate the meaning of life in one lifetime. But if there are multiple lifetimes then one can hope that mere belief that there is an objective meaning might transform itself into knowledge that there is one.

Or if God exists, then one hope that after death one will come to know what we can only believe in this life. It may be -- and this is what I really think -- that the only way to subjectively appropriate the objective meaning of life in this life is by faith and hope. Just as we cannot live well (or at all) in this life without hope, we must hope beyond this life, and indeed to live well in this life.

Bill and Awais,

I agree with you about faith and hope. Does the “ought implies can” principle obtain here?

An objective and universal meaning/purpose of human life seems to imply that all human beings ought to subjectively appropriate the meaning/purpose. But to say that all ought to subjectively appropriate the meaning/purpose seems to imply that all can do so. Perhaps hope and faith in God and immortality is the key whereby we can begin to do what we ought.

Elliot,

Your comments are very good. I apologize for not responding, but I am busy with other things. Maybe later. All the best to you.

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