WHAT ARE ULTIMATE QUESTIONS AND

wafflejourneyAI and Robotics

Nov 14, 2013 (3 years and 10 months ago)

60 views

WHAT ARE ULTIMATE QUESTIONS AND
WHY ARE THEY HARD TO ANSWER?


Dr Felicity McCutcheon



A man’s reach should exceed his grasp


or
what’s a heaven for?’

from 'Andrea del Sarto' by

Robert Browning


MY AIM IN THIS PAPER

1.
Explore
the essential features of
ultimate
questions

2.

Examine ways
in which we might
look
for answers

3.

Discuss
the particular difficulties that
arise when teachers address these
questions in the classroom


THE QUESTIONS BEFORE US



What
does it mean to be human?


Why is there evil and suffering?


How do I find truth?


What is a good life?


Robert
Storr
, Dean of
Yale
School of Art
:




We are in a period in which scanning
has replaced seeing and keeping track
has replaced paying attention’

(
quoted in
The Age
, 1 Aug, 2010)




ULTIMATE QUESTIONS


A PECULIAR
SPECIMEN




HUMANS ASK ULTIMATE QUESTIONS



THE MOON CANNOT

ULTIMATE QUESTIONS

Origins


Why is there something
rather than nothing?


What caused the
universe to exist?


Where did we come
from?


What place do we have
in the universe?


Meaning


Does life has meaning?


What is the meaning of
human life?


Is there ultimate
meaning behind the
universe?


Does death cancel out
meaning?


ULTIMATE QUESTIONS

Guilt


Why do we feel guilty?
Should we?


Is there a supernatural
basis for moral
behaviour?


Does following certain
rules of conduct relieve
our guilt?


Which comes first: guilt
or morality?


Death


What happens after
death?


How does having
-
to
-
die
affect our living?


What does it mean to
‘fear death’?


Does my life cease to
have meaning once I
die?



ULTIMATE QUESTIONS



Ultimate
ground
-

metaphysical
(philosophical/theological)
-

Reality



Ultimate
concern


existential/value


‘meaning’
-

Experience


ULTIMATE QUESTIONS


HOW FAR CAN SCIENCE TAKE US?

SCIENCE IS DESCRIPTIVE


Every
scientific statement in the long run,
however
complicated it looks, really means something like, ‘I
pointed the telescope to such and such a part of the
sky at 2.20am on January 15
th

and saw so
-
and
-
so,
or, ‘I put some of this stuff in a pot and heated it to
such
-
and
-
such a temperature and it did so
-
and
-
so.
Do not think I am saying anything against science: I
am only saying what its job is. And the more
scientific a man is, the more I believe he will agree
with me that this is the job of science


and a very
useful and necessary job it is too.

But why anything comes to be there at all, and
whether there is anything behind the things science
observes


something of a different kind


this is
not a scientific question.

If there is ‘something
behind’, then either it will have to remain altogether
unknown to men or else make itself known in some
different way. The statement that there is any such
thing, and there statement that there is no such
thing, are neither of them statements that science
can make…

…Supposing
science ever became complete so that
it knew every single thing in the whole universe. Is it
not plain that the questions, ‘Why is there a
universe?’ and ‘Why does it go on as it does?’ and
‘Has it any meaning?’ would remain just as they
were? (C S Lewis,
Mere Christianity,
Book 1,
Ch

4)


RICHARD DAWKINS



SCIENCE IS THE ONLY MENU



THERE IS NO ‘WHY’

Belief and the brain's 'God spot'



Scientists
say they have located the
parts of the brain that control religious
faith. And the research proves, they
contend, that belief in a higher power is
an evolutionary asset that helps human
survival

.

FOUND! THE GOD
-
SPOT

“A
belief in God

is deeply embedded in the
human brain, which is
programmed

for religious
experiences, according to a study that
analyses
why

religion is a universal human feature that
has encompassed all cultures throughout
history. Scientists searching for the neural God
spot, which is supposed to control religious
belief, believe that there is not just one but
several areas of the brain that form the
biological foundations of religious belief”.


A ‘that’ is not a ‘why’


A
brain state can be matched to a belief
in God, and researches have found that
the brain can be

stimulated

to have
religious experiences
,

according
to a
study that suggests that religion is a
universal human feature that has
encompassed all cultures throughout
history
.




THE ARTICLE CONCLUDES…



When we have incomplete knowledge of
the world around us, it offers us
opportunities to believe in God. When we
don’t have a scientific explanation for
something, we tend to rely on
supernatural explanations’.


Asking Ultimate
questions


the
distinctly
and deeply
human?



Individuals ask ultimate questions

The State cannot


Humans ask ultimate questions

Humanity cannot

ULTIMATE QUESTIONS


THE EXISTENTIAL
COMPONENT

1.
Ontic
self
-
affirmation


threatened in terms
of fate and absolutely in terms of death

2.
Spiritual self
-
affirmation


threatened in
terms of emptiness and absolutely in terms
of meaninglessness

3.
Moral self
-
affirmation


threatened in terms
of guilt and absolutely in terms of
condemnation




The
safety which is guaranteed by well
-
functioning mechanisms for the technical
control of nature, by the refined psychological
control of the person, …this safety is bought
as a high price; man, for whom all this was
invented as means, becomes a means
himself






(Tillich
,
The Courage to Be
,

p.138).



Humans ask ultimate questions.

Things
cannot.



A BRAVE NEW WORLD?

“We prefer to do things comfortably’, said the
Controller.

‘But I don’t want comfort. I want God. I want
poetry. I want real danger. I want goodness. I
want freedom’.

‘In fact’, said the Controller, ‘you’re claiming the
right to be unhappy’.

‘Alright then’, said the Savage defiantly. ‘I’m
claiming the right to be unhappy’.

“Not to mention the right to grow old and ugly
and impotent…the right to be tortured by
unspeakable pains of every kind.”

There was a long silence.

“I claim them all”, said the Savage at last.

“The Controller shrugged his shoulders. “You’re
welcome”, he said.


(
Brave New World
)


WHERE ARE WE HEADING?


Are we not, with this tremendous
objective of obliterating all the sharp
edges of life, well on the way to
turning mankind into
sand
? Sand!
Small, soft, round, unending sand!”
(
Nietzsche,
Daybreak
174
)


Teaching Ultimate questions



Engage their
minds, hearts
and
spirits


Present them with examples of how these
questions have been thought about and
answered (the core of our curriculum) which is
really a way of presenting them with possibilities


Confirm in everything you do and say
the
importance of these
questions


Live the questions ourselves


Know that your answer need not be their
answer


-

they
are not
you!


“There
are many people who reach their
conclusions about life like schoolboys;
they cheat their masters by copying the
answers out of a book, without having
worked out the sum for themselves”


(Kierkegaard
Journals
, Jan 17
th
, 1837
)


An
U
ltimate
H
orizon?

“In post
-
modern culture we tend increasingly to inhabit
virtual reality rather than actual reality. More and more
time is spent in the shadowlands of the computer world.
The computer world is all foreground but has no
background. Much of modern life is lived in the territory
of externality; if we succumb completely to the external
we will lose all sense of inner and personal presence.
We will become the ultimate harvesters of absence,
namely, ghosts in our own lives”.


(
John O’Donohue,
Eternal Echoes
)



1927
-

1989


T
hink about it…

On a
tombstone, the hyphen between the
birth date and the death date stands for the
life that was lived.



What would you like your ‘hyphen’ to
stand for? What do you want your life to
have been like? Why?




How can the gods
meet us face to
face
until we have faces?’


(C.S. Lewis,
Till
we have
Faces
)

“The
real mystery of life is not a
problem to solved, but a reality to
be experienced’.


(
J.J.Van

der
Leeuw
)