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Optimistic Naturalism: Scientific Advancement and the Meaning of Life Dan Weijers (né Turton) VUW.

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Presentation on theme: "Optimistic Naturalism: Scientific Advancement and the Meaning of Life Dan Weijers (né Turton) VUW."— Presentation transcript:

1 Optimistic Naturalism: Scientific Advancement and the Meaning of Life Dan Weijers (né Turton) VUW

2 The Meaning of Life Confusing, but important question

3

4 The Meaning of Life Confusing, but important question Even analytic philosophers want to live a meaningful life But how to do it?

5 Guidance on How to Live

6 This Talk Optimistic Naturalism: – A theory to satisfy people with certain beliefs: Naturalism & The Infinity Connection – An umbrella theory Refutes a criticism of naturalist theories Resolves Tolstoy’s Dilemma Result for these people: –Their best bet for achieving a truly meaningful life is to help advance science & technology

7 The Main Positions Supernaturalism: –more than a purely physical universe is required for life to be meaningful Naturalism: –a meaningful life is possible in a purely physical universe Nihilism: –life cannot be meaningful

8 Criticism of Naturalism Theories don’t allow for much meaning –E.g. Taylor: Making plans and seeing them through –E.g. Frankfurt: Loving something or someone –E.g. Schlick: Doing lots of things for their own sake Compare to going to heaven

9 Tolstoy’s Criticism Naturalist theories cannot provide a meaningful life because they do not allow for a connection with the infinite

10 Tolstoy’s Dilemma Concurrent belief in: 1)Naturalism 2)The Infinity Connection 3)Naturalist theories do not allow for a meaningful connection with the infinite Tolstoy turned to Supernaturalism –But he shouldn’t have

11 Optimistic Naturalism Naturalism: –meaningful lives are possible in a purely physical universe The Infinity Connection: –a meaningful connection with the infinite is required for a truly meaningful life Scientific Optimism: –continual scientific and technological advancement will allow us to make a meaningful connection with the infinite

12 Naturalism A meaningful life is possible in a purely physical universe Most recent work in this area assumes Naturalism (Metz 2007, p203) Assumed to be plausible

13 The Infinity Connection A meaningful connection with the infinite is required for a truly meaningful life Needs further explanation Assumed to be plausible

14 The Infinity Connection Cont. Connections to infinity are diverse Some make a life more meaningful A few make a life truly meaningful Connections could be meaningful for one or more reasons

15 The Continuum of Meaning Not at all meaningful Extremely meaningful ∞ 0.999… =1 The Infinity Connection: A meaningful connection with the infinite is required for a truly meaningful life

16 Scientific Optimism Continual scientific and technological advancement will allow us to make a meaningful connection with the infinite Needs to be argued for Plausibility of Optimistic Naturalism hinges on it

17 Skepticism about Scientific Optimism Most of the conceivable ways to meaningfully connect to the infinite require that the universe can support life infinitely –Being immortable –Affecting others for infinity Can it?

18 Two Unappealing Options

19 There are Other Theories Kurzweil’s Singularity Eternal Inflation Steady State Universe Prevent aging/damage + time travel?!

20 Kurzweil’s Singularity Law of accelerating returns We’ll create AI, Upload into robots Become very smart Become immortable

21 Humans  AI  AI+  AI++ Assumptions –Law of accelerating returns (science & technology) –We can create AI –AI can create AI+ –AI+ can create AI++ –Etc.

22 Kaku: Escaping to New Universes Inflation Eternal Inflation Bubble Universes in the lab? Harness the power!! Getting in there?

23 Progress You don’t need to believe in these particular theories Scientific advancement needn’t even be exponential Our capacity to solve problems is constantly increasing We can’t begin to imagine what the future might bring

24 Progress

25 Is Scientific Optimism Plausible? Is this plausible?: –scientific and technological progress will make it possible for us to meaningfully connect to the infinite somehow Myriad ways it might happen + Ever increasing intelligence = Scientific Optimism is plausible

26 Refuting Tolstoy’s Criticism Tolstoy: Naturalist theories cannot provide a meaningful life because they do not allow for a connection with the infinite Not at all meaningful Extremely meaningful ∞ 0.999… =1

27 How to Resolve Tolstoy’s Dilemma Concurrent belief in: 1)Naturalism 2)The Infinity Connection 3)Naturalist theories do not allow for a meaningful connection with the infinite Swap 3 for Scientific Optimism –Become an Optimistic Naturalist

28 How to Should an Optimistic Naturalist Live? Try to advance science and technology Use your strengths and circumstances Focus on possible near- future catastrophes Have fun too

29 Faith in Science??? To believe Optimistic Naturalism requires faith –Does that make it incoherent? No, ON requires faith in certain facts about physical matters obtaining –Different to faith in Supernaturalism Dogmatic belief in any theory requires faith in some unknown

30 Summary Tolstoy’s criticism refuted Tolstoy’s Dilemma resolved New Position: Optimistic Naturalism –Naturalism –The Infinity Connection –Scientific Optimism


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