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Socrates famously said that the unconsidered life is not worth living. He meant that a life lived without forethought or principle is a life so vulnerable to chance, and so dependent on the choices and actions of others, that it is of little real value to the person living it. He further meant that a life well lived is one which has goals, and integrity, which is chosen and directed by the one who lives it, to the fullest extent possible to a human agent caught in the webs of society and history.
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Eagleton has spent his life inside two mental boxes, Catholicism and Marxism, of both of which he is a severe internal critic""that is, he frequently kicks and scratches at the inside of the boxes, but does not leave them. Neither are ideologies that loosen their grip easily, and people who need the security of adherence to a big dominating ideology, however much they kick and scratch but without daring to leave go, hold on to it every bit as tightly as it holds onto them. The result is of course strangulation, but alas not mutual strangulation: the ideology always wins.
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The notion that evil is non-rational is a more significant claim for Eagleton than at first appears, because he is (in this book [On Evil] as in others of his recent 'late period' prolific burst) anxious to rewrite theology: God (whom he elsewhere tells us is nonexistent, but this is no barrier to his being lots of other things for Eagleton too, among them Important) is not to be regarded as rational: with reference to the Book of Job Eagleton says, 'To ask after God's reasons for allowing evil, so [some theologians] claim, is to imagine him as some kind of rational or moral being, which is the last thing he is.' This is priceless: with one bound God is free of responsibility for 'natural evil'-childhood cancers, tsunamis that kill tens of thousands-and for moral evil also even though 'he' is CEO of the company that purposely manufactured its perpetrators; and 'he' is incidentally exculpated from blame for the hideous treatment meted out to Job.
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I once had a published written debate with a religious apologist who, after I had argued the standard line that the idea of a loving and merciful deity is inconsistent with the fact of natural evil, said this meant his god was not all-powerful, and therefore was not to blame because it could not stop natural evil from occuring. This is a different tack from the more robust one that says natural evil is a response to humanity's moral evil. What this latter view in effect argues is that because of (say) Hitler's wrongdoings, thousands of babies deserve to be drowned in tsunamis.
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Theistic claims that supernatural agency exists in the universe derive from ancient traditions of belief. The word 'atheist' is a theist's term for a person who does not share such beliefs. Theists think that atheists have a belief or set of beliefs, just as theists do but in the opposite sense, about theism-related questions. This is a mistake; atheists certainly have beliefs about many things, but they are not 'theistic-subject-matter-related beliefs' in any but a single negative sense. For atheism is the absence of 'theistic-subject-matter-related belief. Although it is true that 'absence of belief in supernatural agency' is functionally equivalent to 'belief in the absence of supernatural agency', theists concentrate on the latter formulation in order to make atheism a positive as opposed to privative thesis with regard to theistic-subject-matter-related matters. This is what makes theists think they are in a kind of belief football match, with opposing sets of beliefs vying for our allegiance. What is happening is that the theists are rushing about the park kicking the ball, but the atheists are not playing. They are not even on the field; they are in the stands, arguing that this particular game should not be taking place at all.
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Those who think that modern times are wickeder than previous times are apt to identify the cause as the weakening of a sense of moral law, associated with the departure of religious traditions of morality as a social influence... Such views give comfort to apologists for religion, who fasten on the implication that to revive a culture of moral concern people must be encouraged back into churches. But this reprises the usual muddle that getting people to accept as true... such propositions as that at a certain historical point a virgin gave birth, that the laws of nature were arbitrarily suspended so that, for example, water turned into wine, that several corpses came to life (and so forth), will somehow give them a logical reason for living morally (according to the attached view of what is moral - e.g. not marrying if you can help it, not divorcing if you do, and so forth again). It is scarcely needful to repeat that the morality and the metaphysics here separately at stake do not justify or even need one another, and that the moral questions require to be grounded and justified on their own merits in application to what they concern, namely, the life of human beings in the social setting.
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Nationalism as a thesis confuses (almost always deliberately) certain legitimate desires with illegitimate ones. People like to run their own affairs, and most people value the culture they were raised in, are proud of its achievements and wish it well; a significant degree of their sense of personal and group identity derives from it. All this is unexceptionable. But nationalists try to persuade their fellows that the existence of other groups and cultures somehow represents a challenge, and sometimes a threat, to what the natives of the home culture value. (From: Toward the Light of Liberty)
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Perhaps worse still is what liberal societies might do to themselves in the face of this new and different threat [of terrorism]. They begin, by small but dangerous increments, to cease to be as liberal as they once were. They begin to restrict their own hard-won rights and freedoms as a protection against the crminial minority who attempt (and as we thus see, by forcing liberty to commit suidcide, succed in doing) to terrorise society.
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the most important philosophical question we can each ask ourselves is, 'Do I or do I not wish to commit suicide?' If we say, 'No I do not, ' as most of us would, it is because we have reasons for living, or at the very least real hope that we can find such reasons. Then the next question is: what are the reasons I personally have for saying 'No' to that question? The answer contains the meaning of my life.
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If there is a deity of the kind imagined by votaries of the big mail-order religions such as Christianity and Islam, and if this deity is the creator of all things, then it is responsible for cancer, meningitis, millions of spontaneous abortions everyday, mass killings of people in floods and earthquakes-and too great mountain of other natural evils to list besides. It would also, as the putative designer of human nature, ultimately be responsible or the ubiquitous and unbeatable human propensities for hatred, malice, greed, and all other sources of the cruelty and murder people inflict on each other hourly.
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