In which I do the expected

Harriet Baber likes to put things in a provocative way (as do I), and she does so in answering the Comment is Free belief question of the week. Lots of provoking, and I will oblige by being provoked into commenting.

I see no reason why I should believe that life is, as Tony Soprano’s perfectly awful mother Livia put it, “a great big nothing” after which we are annihilated. That may very well be the way things are. But I see no benefit to believing it is so.

Yes but that’s a false choice, because it’s an incomplete description of the alternative to believing that life is made into Something by the existence of god. The choice is not: 1. god, and life=something, or 2. no god, and life=nothing. I don’t think of life as a great big nothing. In fact that’s a very odd way to describe life – life is very much something. The amount and variety of life on this average-size planet is staggering; it’s light years away from “nothing.” If the idea is that life feels like nothing to people who don’t believe god exists, that’s wrong too. Harriet must know that, but…she likes to provoke.

But if I believe in God and a blissful afterlife contemplating him, then even if I am wrong I will not be disappointed. I would rather live in a fool’s paradise than no paradise at all.

Really? An eternity of blissfully contemplating god? Wouldn’t that start to get boring after about, oh, say fifty years?

Truth is overrated. And it’s remarkable that the very individuals who are most vocal in their opposition to religiously motivated puritanism are the most fiercely puritanical when it comes to truth.

No. It’s not remarkable at all, because the two are not the same kind of thing. (And who are these people, anyway?) Thinking that truth matters is not the same kind of thing as thinking that pleasure is sinful.

People in any case overestimate the value of truth and underestimate the difficulty of arriving at it. There are a great many truths in which I have abolutely no interest – truths about the lifecycle of Ctenocephalides felis, (the common cat flea) or the extensive body of truths about the condition of my teeth that my dentist imposes on me. I see no reason why I should bother with these truths or make a point of believing them.

I see no such reason either, but the whole thing is a red herring. It’s not a question of bothering with every truth there is, it’s a question of paying attention to the truth or otherwise of what one already believes.

There is some notion that even if we can ignore these workaday truths we should be concerned about the larger, more significant truths about the meaning of life, if any, and the human condition. I don’t see why. In any case, I’m a satisficer, quite happy in every department of life with good enough…I don’t much care about getting the right answers to what are commonly called the big questions.

An interesting remark from a philosopher.

That is no doubt what she wanted people to say. I’m nothing if not obliging.

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