maybe we should read this book
Canto: For your thoughts?
Jacinta: Rehashing old arguments against Gray, hardly worth it but it does get the critical juices flowing.
Canto: There's something to be said for reading writers you don't like, I find myself resisting them, once I feel I've cottoned on to their view, and yet when I do read them, as for example regular columnists in the newspapers, or regular bloggers, whatever, I keep finding new arguments to refute them, which is fun, until I find they're just variations of the old arguments.
Jacinta: Which isn't so bad - you have a consistent position, with lots of arguments to back it up, even ones you have yet to to discover.
Canto: Then you always wonder if you're being really rational, or endlessly rationalizing.
Jacinta: Are you happy with your way of seeing the world?
Canto: Yes, happy enough.
Jacinta: So why worry?
Canto: I'm not so much worried - I'm happy because I think I've thought through the issues, but there's always this nagging doubt, have I really thought through them? Do I even understand them?
Jacinta: What issues are you talking about?
Canto: That's the thing, there are so many of them. For example, is our world really the world? That's a really big one. Another one is, can every individual redefine, in his or her small way, what it is to be human? And then there are the innumerable smaller issues, like how to run a government, how to bring up your children [even if you don't have any], with what mixture of discipline and liberality...
Jacinta: For yourself and for your kids. There are of course those who say the questions that most exercise us are those that don't have an answer, such as - why are we here?
Canto, Yes, the being question, the question that so exercised Heidegger I believe, with his idea of 'thrownness into the world', or some such thing. On the one hand a man can put his life's intellectual energy into such a question, while on the other hand you get commentators on blogs [and probably also full-time philosophers] who feel that such questions are meaningless and a waste of time. They even get quite pissed off at the 'dumbness' of the question. There's no ultimate meaning, and don't let it spoil your lunch.
Jacinta: The this-worlders, some of them, seem to want to discourage the question because it leads to other-worldly speculations which get nowhere, being unverifiable, untestable, undecidable.
Canto: Seems reasonable to me.
Jacinta: And yet, while it lets all this in, most people aren't happy with 'this is just the way it is' - I mean, how can it just be that we're the only beings apparently 'privileged' enough to know, to have discovered, that our universe is 13.8 billion years old, and that our planet may well be the only one in this extraordinary universe to sustain what we call 'life', a self-sustaining, self-replicating, entropy-busting local system of so far just about unfathomable complexity? How can it be that we, and no others, are on the verge of recreating the conditions that pertained at the time of the big bang that gave birth to ourselves and everything else knowable to us? Does the so-called anthropic principle really explain this or does it explain it away?
Canto: Well, I'll leave all that with you.