Thursday, April 30, 2015

Pointed point points

When you ask the question, "how did the universe begin?" you should be able to get a range of really good answers ranging for the scientific (the Big Bang), the religious (God made it), and the etiological (Odin, Vili and Ve built it from the body of Ymir). Of course, the answers are themselves fascinating points of study. The one answer you really don't want to hear is "who cares?"

"Who cares?" is a response that seems to be quite prevalent in Society. What does it really mean? Clearly, for this answer to be given, one really has to have the mindset that the answer has to matter, it has to be something to care about. Since when is "who cares?" the response to the question, "would you like a million pounds?"? (Crikey, my question marks are becoming convoluted! I must have broken so many rules of grammar that my English teacher is quietly weeping into her marking!) The one who answers "who cares?" clearly doesn't care, but it also gives the impression that he thinks that no-one else ought to care either.

Does anyone really care how the universe began? What's the point of knowing?

Clearly, many people do from all sorts of walks of life: that is why there are answers to the question. These folk are still capable of feeling the sense of awe and wonder about the universe around them. Their beliefs may differ, but they still share that sense of thrill at the mysteries and wonder about this thing called being.

Yet, for many others, we should not be wasting our time with such questions: there is no money in them, they are hard work to think about and knowing the answer doesn't affect anything.

Doesn't affect anything?

"Anything" clearly means the individual's subjective universe. If your subjective universe consists only of home, work and the pub, then knowing of galactic superclusters, Einstein's Cosmological Constant, the Origin of the Species, the disputed existence of universals does not affect your universe - at least until the pub is destroyed by radiation from a quasar emanating from a galactic supercluster.
What happens then?

For these individuals, God does not matter, Death does not matter, Dark Matter doesn't... matter (oops), just the price of beer and a good game on the box otherwise there is no point to life. I would be very interested to hear what happens to them when they have their first brush with Death, after all, we're all going to be dead a very long time. To lack the curiosity to ask the big questions in life may not be necessary for living, but it betrays the endeavour of humanity as something more than a biological machine. While I struggle to understand the philosophy of the Material Realist, I am convinced that they too would be dismayed at the level of uninterest that some people seem to show in the bigger picture.

It is true that many people would like the opportunity to look for the bigger picture. These are the folks for whom life is hard and painful. One cannot determine whether the Ontological Argument is logically circular or modally informative if one is working all the hours God sends trying to make ends meet. One cannot do spin geometry when one's mother is on the operating table. One cannot contemplate how a bridge can be built by Hanuman and his monkeys, when one is frantically trying to pull one's baby out from the rubble of what once used to be one's home. The questions that arise from the lamentation of human suffering also deserve answers and theodicies and some form of address if only to do justice to the value of human life.

There are indeed times and places for asking the big questions. The big questions themselves take a lot of sacrifice and effort to answer. Using the intellect requires just as much effort as any physical activity. Maybe there is a point to asking such hard questions, but maybe they are the point in themselves. Maybe the point is precisely that which gives value to human life. If there is no value to human life, then one can probably be justified in taking no pains to think outside one's subjective universe.

To say, "who cares?" dismisses all human endeavour as ultimately worthless and pointless. It reduces the human condition beyond mere biological machinery but to a basic organism of stimulus-response.

Who cares? I care!

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