18 April 2006

A Sea of Questions.

Wednesday, April 12. I just finished the Teaching Company course, Philosophy as a Guide to Living (PGTL), by Stephen Erickson. I have so many ideas running around in my head and so many blog drafts on my desktop that I need to stop listening to courses for awhile and write down some of these thoughts. So we might see a flurry of blogs from me, inspired by ideas from PGTL, plus courses I listened to several months ago, and a few books that I am reading.

The first twenty-three PGTL lectures discussed many different philosophers' thoughts on the meaning of life and on what it means to be human. As I put lecture twenty-four into my CD player, I wondered if Prof. Erickson would wrap it all up and tell me the meaning of life. But he didn't, and by this last lecture, I didn't really expect him to. Throughout, he carefully gave us a lot of information, but not his judgements on that information. He gave us guidelines from several sources, and we can pick and choose our favorites.

In lecture twenty-four, he acknowledges that he is leaving us in a sea of ideas. I think of it as a sea of questions.

One point in particular that I like from this last lecture is this: Prof. Erickson spoke that philosophy, at its best, asks questions; institutionalized religion, at its best, gives answers. Some people are happy to be given answers by a religion, but as I've already stated in my blog, I am an atheist. I ask questions, and expect my outlook on life to always be in flux as I find new questions and see new answers. I've always been this way, now I understand and accept myself a little better. I don't care if anyone else makes the decision to believe in God, that's up to them and has nothing to do with me.

The course ends with a look to the future, with ideas familiar to me from years of both following the biotech field and from reading science fiction. Erickson quotes the Hebrew Bible, the book of Job: "We are on the wings of the morning". In 2006, it is too early for humans to see what kind of a day it will be. So many changes are sure to come as biotechnology advances. What if we can enhance different of our faculties? Modify our intelligence? Augment our senses? Eliminate any desirable urges? Live very long lives? What then will it mean to be human?

A sea of questions to ponder in the wings of this morning.

wings of the morning

Here's a cool picture of the moon, setting in the same sunrise, through the clouds. Note the planet (?) in the photo too:


Note to my teacher:

Thank you, Prof. Erickson, for sharing your knowledge with us. The course was just what I wanted, and I am once again reminded how well human society can work. I like touching on philosophy, but most of my life I have spent studying chemistry (perhaps I could say cooking and computers too), but the thought of hefting home books written by philosophers just makes me weary. From your tone of voice, I feel that you would like nothing more than to curl up with Eternal Returns or a similar tome. Since you have studied philosophy in depth, I can trust the information that you presented in the lectures. Some of the philosophers I might explore further, but thanks to you, I now know which ones interest me. Perhaps the best thing that I got from the course is that now while I am ruminating on philosophical ideas, I am now much more confident to think for myself.


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