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Our Cosmic Insignificance

Noûs 47 (2):745-772 (2013)

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  1. Meaning in Life and Self-Cultivation.L. A. Scripter - 2022 - Journal of Value Inquiry 56 (2):241-261.
  • Living with Absurdity: A Nobleman’s Guide.Ryan Preston-Roedder - forthcoming - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research.
    In A Confession, a memoir of his philosophical midlife crisis, Tolstoy recounts falling into despair after coming to believe that his life, and for that matter all human life, is meaningless and absurd. Although Tolstoy’s account of the origin and phenomenology of his crisis is widely regarded as illuminating, his response to the crisis – namely, embracing a religious tradition that he had previously dismissed as “irrational,” “incomprehensible,” and “mingled with falsehood” – seems unpromising, at best. Nevertheless, I argue, Tolstoy’s (...)
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  • A Critique of Metaphysical Thinking.T. Parent - manuscript
    Draft of March 2022. This is a draft of the front matter and ch. 1, for a new book manuscript on metametaphysics.
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  • Does the Lack of Cosmic Meaning Make Our Lives Bad?Thaddeus Metz - 2022 - Journal of Value Inquiry 56 (1):37-50.
    This article is part of a special issue devoted to David Benatar’s anti-natalism. There are places in his oeuvre where he contends that, while our lives might be able to exhibit some terrestrial or human meaning, that is not enough to make them worth creating, which would require a cosmic meaning that is unavailable to us. There are those who maintain, in reply to Benatar, that some of our lives do have a cosmic meaning, but I grant Benatar here that (...)
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  • Importance, Value, and Causal Impact.Guy Kahane - forthcoming - Journal of Moral Philosophy:1-25.
    Many believe that because we’re so small, we must be utterly insignificant on the cosmic scale. But whether this is so depends on what it takes to be important. On one view, what matters for importance is the difference to value that something makes. On this view, what determines our cosmic importance isn’t our size, but what else of value is out there. But a rival view also seems plausible: that importance requires sufficient causal impact on the relevant scale; since (...)
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  • If Nothing Matters.Guy Kahane - 2017 - Noûs 51 (2):327-353.
    The possibility that nothing really matters can cause much anxiety, but what would it mean for that to be true? Since it couldn’t be bad that nothing matters, fearing nihilism makes little sense. However, the consequences of belief in nihilism will be far more dramatic than often thought. Many metaethicists assume that even if nothing matters, we should, and would, go on more or less as before. But if nihilism is true in an unqualified way, it can’t be the case (...)
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  • Doomsday Needn’T Be So Bad.Travis Timmerman - 2018 - Dialectica 72 (2):275-296.
  • If There Is a Hole, It Is Not God Shaped.Guy Kahane - 2018 - In Klaas J. Kraay (ed.), Does God Matter? Essays on the Axiological Implications of Theism. London, UK: pp. 95-131.
    Some people are deeply dissatisfied by the universe that modern science reveals to us. They long for the world described by traditional religion. They do not believe in God, but they wish He had existed. I argue that this is a mistake. The naturalist world we inhabit is admittedly rather bleak. It is very far from being the best of all possible worlds. But an alternative governed by God is also unwelcome, and the things that might make God’s existence attractive—cosmic (...)
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  • Optimism Without Theism? Nagasawa on Atheism, Evolution, and Evil.Guy Kahane - forthcoming - Religious Studies.
    Nagasawa has argued that the suffering associated with evolution presents a greater challenge to atheism than to theism because that evil is incompatible with ‘existential optimism’ about the world—with seeing the world as an overall good place, and being thankful that we exist. I argue that even if atheism was incompatible with existential optimism in this way, this presents no threat to atheism. Moreover, it’s unclear how the suffering associated with evolution could on its own undermine existential optimism. Links between (...)
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  • Pessimism Counts in Favor of Biomedical Enhancement: A Lesson from the Anti-Natalist Philosophy of P. W. Zapffe.Ole Martin Moen - 2021 - Neuroethics 14 (2):315-325.
    According to the Norwegian philosopher Peter Wessel Zapffe, human life is filled with so much suffering that procreation is morally impermissible. In the first part of this paper I present Zapffe’s pessimism-based argument for anti-natalism, and contrast it with the arguments for anti-natalism proposed by Arthur Schopenhauer and David Benatar. In the second part I explore what Zapffe’s pessimism can teach us about biomedical enhancement. I make the case that pessimism counts in favor of pursuing biomedical enhancements. The reason is (...)
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  • Non-Symmetric Awe: Why it Matters Even if We Don’t.Daniel Coren - 2021 - Philosophia 49 (1):217-233.
    The universe is enormous, perhaps unimaginably so. In comparison, we are very small. Does this suggest that humanity has little if any cosmic significance? And if we don’t matter, should that matter to us? Blaise Pascal, Frank Ramsey, Bertrand Russell, Susan Wolf, Harry Frankfurt, Stephen Hawking, and others have offered insightful answers to those questions. For example, Pascal and Ramsey emphasize that whereas the stars cannot think, human beings can. Through an exploration of some features of awe and its positive (...)
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  • Human Extinction, Narrative Ending, and Meaning of Life.Brooke Alan Trisel - 2016 - Journal of Philosophy of Life 6 (1):1-22.
    Some people think that the inevitability of human extinction renders life meaningless. Joshua Seachris has argued that naturalism can be conceptualized as a meta-narrative and that it narrates across important questions of human life, including what is the meaning of life and how life will end. How a narrative ends is important, Seachris argues. In the absence of God, and with knowledge that human extinction is a certainty, is there any way that humanity could be meaningful and have a good (...)
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  • God, the Meaning of Life, and a New Argument for Atheism.Jason Megill & Daniel Linford - 2016 - International Journal for Philosophy of Religion 79 (1):31-47.
    We raise various puzzles about the relationship between God and the meaning of life. These difficulties suggest that, even if we assume that God exists, and even if God’s existence would entail that our lives have meaning, God is not and could not be the source of the meaning of life. We conclude by discussing implications of our arguments: these claims can be used in a novel argument for atheism; these claims undermine an extant argument for God’s existence; and they (...)
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  • Neutrality, Partiality, and Meaning in Life.Thaddeus Metz - 2017 - De Ethica 4 (3):7-25.
    Discussion of whether values and norms are neutral or not has mainly appeared in works on the nature of prudential rationality and morality. Little systematic has yet appeared in the up and coming field of the meaning of life. What are the respects in which the value of meaningfulness is neutral or, in contrast, partial, relational, or ‘biased’? In this article, I focus strictly on answering this question. First, I aim to identify the salient, and perhaps exhaustive, respects in which (...)
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  • Importance, Fame, and Death.Guy Kahane - 2021 - Royal Institute of Philosophy Supplement 90:33-55.
    Some people want their lives to possess importance on a large scale. Some crave fame, or at least wide recognition. And some even desire glory that will only be realised after their death. Such desires are either ignored or disparaged by many philosophers. However, although few of us have a real shot at importance and fame on any grand scale, these can be genuine personal goods when they meet certain further conditions. Importance that relates to positive impact and reflects our (...)
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  • 'It Doesn’T Matter Because One Day It Will End'.Preston Greene - 2021 - Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 24 (1):165-182.
    The inference that things do not matter because they will end is a source of despair for reflective people that features in literature, popular culture, and philosophy. Are there sound arguments in support of the inference? I first review three arguments that have been put forward in the existing philosophical literature and consider the objections that can be made against them. While the objections appear persuasive, these arguments do not exhaust the plausible justifications for the inference. Drawing on examples from (...)
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  • Confronting Existential Risks With Voluntary Moral Bioenhancement.Vojin Rakić & Milan M. Ćirković - 2016 - Journal of Evolution and Technology 26 (2):48-59.
    We outline an argument favoring voluntary moral bioenhancement as a response to existential risks humanity exposes itself to. We consider this type of enhancement a solution to the antithesis between the extinction of humanity and the imperative of humanity to survive at any cost. By opting for voluntary moral bioenhancement; we refrain from advocating illiberal or even totalitarian strategies that would allegedly help humanity preserve itself. We argue that such strategies; by encroaching upon the freedom of individuals; already inflict a (...)
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  • How Human Life Matters in the Universe: A Reply to David Benatar.Brooke Alan Trisel - 2019 - Journal of Philosophy of Life 9 (1):1-15.
    In his book, The Human Predicament, David Benatar claims that our individual lives and human life, in general, do not make a difference beyond Earth and, therefore, are meaningless from the vast, cosmic perspective. In this paper, I will explain how what we do matters from the cosmic perspective. I will provide examples of how human beings have transcended our limits, thereby giving human life some meaning from the cosmic perspective. Also, I will argue that human life could become even (...)
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  • How Much is Rule-Consequentialism Really Willing to Give Up to Save the Future of Humanity?Patrick Kaczmarek - 2017 - Utilitas 29 (2):239-249.
  • Does Anything We Do Matter Forever?T. J. Mawson - forthcoming - Religious Studies:1-18.
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