Sunday, September 09, 2007

Happy (2nd) Blogbirthday To Me

Hello, reader.

I'm back from vacation, and I am ready to start another brand new year of Atheist Ethicist.

As it turns out, this is the second anniversary of my first post in this blog.

As it turns out, I am also sleep writing. Having just gotten back from vacation, I am very much in need of a good night's sleep. My wife and I travelled home last night (leaving at 4:00 yesterday, getting home at 6:00 this morning), and I have an annoying problem of not being able to sleep during daylight. So my brain is not fully functional.

Who said that!

Who said that my brain has never been fully functional!

I heard that!

Anyway, if we can put aside the heckling from the studio audience, I want to say that I have found the work that I have done here extremely valuable, at least to me.

Over the break, I wrote a book, Good Lives and Good People, about how atheists can live good a good life and be a good person. Now, I hate to give away the ending . . . okay, I actually answer this question in the first chapter, but a good life is a life that contains those elements that would fulfill good desires.

Recall, one of the claims made within desire utilitarianism is that all value exists in the form of relationships between states of affairs and desires. This means that if we are going to evaluate lives, the only type of value that exists for a life is in terms of a life's relationship between that which is true of a life and a set of desires. A good life is going to be a life that we have reasons to recommend pursuing. The only "relationship between the properties of life an desires" that we have reason to promote is a life that would fulfill good desires.

Some might complain that this is not good enough for a good life. A good life must have something else - some special quality independent of desire.

Not good enough?

This is the only good that is real. An individual may, of course, come to want some other type of good - intrinsic good, transcendental good, divine good. However, the world will always thwart such a desire - those types of goodness do not exist. Because these are desires that cannot be fulfilled, they are desires that should be avoided.

Anyway, this blog would certainly count as part of a'good life'. Assuming, of course, that I am actually doing some good with it.

I have actually given up quite a bit to be in this place where I can write this blog. I gave up a lucrative job offer to go to graduate school - and to study in a field that does not produce job offers. The philosphy department sent a written warning to those they accepted into graduate school saying that there was little chance to find work in that particular field. I went anyway. My application to graduate school said why. I needed to learn these things. I was not going to study moral philosophy to get a job. I was not even going to get a degree. I was going to get an education. That is what I received.

Even today, I would likely be a much better computer programmer if, like other programmers, I were to focus all of my attention on that job, writing programs both on and off the job. However, I have something else that I do when I am off the job, so I am not as good a programmer as I could be.

When I think about giving it up, those thoughts last about 1.7 seconds. (Though, I will state explicitly, because I have much to gain and nothing to lose, that if anybody should know of a way that I could quit doing this blog part time . . . and write and research these issues full time . . . I would be pleased to listen to the proposition.)

Spending a week with my nieces and nephews, wondering what type of future they may have, I really could not live with myself if I decided to hang this up and do nothing. I could not do that to them. Though my writings do not have much of a chance of making any significant contribution to their future, ceasing to write will guarantee no useful contribution at all.

While I was on vacation, I read a National Geographic article mostly on religion in Pakistan. It was largely a story of so many lives ruined, and the teaching and spreading of idiotic claims - like the claims that Pakistan's earthquake was caused by the will of Allah. These types of claims are not only false, they are morally negligent. Only through understanding earthquakes can we avoid future catastrophies. Those who obsecure the scientific facts for these phenomena are setting people up for death and injury. They are people who leave a trail of maimed and broken bodies in their wake, killed by ignorance.

As those forces of ignorance gain power, they provide an ever increasing threat to my neices' and nephews' future - and their children. Am I to sit back and do nothing?

For all practical purposes, my life ends when I can no longer make some sort of useful contribution to the subjects that I write about. I may stay alive, but that life becomes insignificant at that point. My wife knows this. Those are my criteria for when she is supposed to pull the plug on my existence. When there is no reasonable expectation that I could write another post that made a real contribution to some subject under dispute.

The critic may say that I have already passed the point where I could make any real contributions. Or that I never reached it, and never will. Perhaps that is correct. This theory does allow it to be the case that a person can believe his life has significance when it does not. Many who have served a church and spent their lives promoting a religion fall into this category. The ends they pursued did not exist, and they ended up promoting myth and superstition, which in turn lead to death, disease, and injury.

Those things happen. However, all a person can do is try.

Tomorrow, I try again.

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