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Yes and No - Life is Absurd - Term Paper Example

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This paper is focused on the article of Michael Smith by way of an assessment of his arguments which counter Joel Feinberg’s antecedent position that (a) it is incoherent to suppose human life as such is absurd and (b) fulfilment can save human life from being tragic…
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Yes and No - Life is Absurd
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Download file to see previous pages After an assessment, this paper will point out some underlying ideas on which both Smith’s and Feinberg’s differing views are based. A backgrounder Michael Smith is a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Humanities whose interests include the philosophy of the mind. His article Is That All There Is poses a question which embodies the position of the philosophical school of Absurdism that man is incapable of ultimately finding inherent meaning to life. In the article, Smith implicitly avows his absurdist philosophy, nothing short of revealing his growing up experience in an undeveloped suburb of Melbourne, Australia’s capital city. Smith’s schooling was not remarkable, except for the intellectual cream of his school’s teaching staff. Mr. Taffe, one of his respected teachers, came prominently in his recollection as the teacher who introduced him to the French language and culture. The opportunities afforded by Mr. Taffe allowed Smith to attend a Waiting for Godot theatre performance. As an adolescent with a malleable mind, Smith felt strongly influenced by the play’s dramatic portrayal of life’s tragic lack of meaning. The play belongs to the genre of the Theatre of the Absurd which portrays horror and tragedy with characters caught up in situations of hopelessness and absurdity. In Smith’s own words, the play impressed on him the “utter pointlessness and tragedy of human existence” (Smith 77). This sense of hopelessness would linger throughout the life of Smith in spite of such wonderful experiences as having a family. Later in his career, Smith would garner career achievements such his being a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Humanities. But in spite of his success he says he felt the intellectual “dissonance” in his life, and this prompted his study of Joel Feinberg’s paper “Absurd Self-fulfilment.” Feinberg’s essay Feinberg’s essay was a challenge to Smith’s enduring adolescent dissonance. In his critique, Smith found an ally in Thomas Nagel, an American philosopher widely known in the field of the philosophy of the mind. Nagel’s What Is It Like to Be a Bat held a sceptical view of the world, as the mind is obstructed by three barriers to human consciousness-- physical, functional and mental. Smith then expounds his five arguments arguing against Feinberg’s propositions which upheld coherence to human life as such, and the redeeming value of fulfilment to save human life from being tragic: 1. What makes a life absurd? Smiths lays the ground for discussion as he explains Feinberg’s explanation of what is absurd, namely: the irrational/incongruous in things/activities/attitudes of the individual person. For Fienberg, the Absurd can be likened to the mythical Sisyphus who perpetually rolls a rock uphill, the rock rolling down the other side again and again. For Fienberg, there is a spectrum of absurdities from the extreme-intrinsically worthless, to the absurdly trivial, the burdensome-ill-designed, and misfits in terms of pretensions of aspirations. With sweeping insight, Smith viewed Feinberg as positing different levels of absurdity, some more and others lesser the extreme being the thought of life as totally pointless. Smith clarifies that his adolescent dissonance does not redound to absurdity in the extreme case. 2. Can a pointless human life be saved from being tragic by being fulfilled? Smith gave cognizance to Feinberg’s position that human lives can both be pointless to a certain extent and at the same time fulfilled, again to a certain extent. Feinberg’s own definition of fulfilment is “an individual’s having and exercising the capacities that are centrally involved in her being the individual that she is” ...Download file to see next pages Read More
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