Archive for March, 2011

Ephemeral or Eternal?


Jim at Agent Intellect has just passed on a very interesting philosophical musing from the Maverick Philosopher, Bill Vallicella. Here is a taste:

The problem with time is not that it will end, but that its very mode of being is deficient. The problem is not that our time is short, but   that we are in time in the first place. For this reason, more time is no solution. Not even endlessly recurring time is any solution. Even if time were unending and I were omnitemporal, existing at every time, my life would still be strung out in moments outside of each other, with the diachronic identifications of memory and expectation no substitute for a true unity.

Like Koheleth’s lament that all is ephemeral, this is an age-old lament at the ephemeral nature of existence.

The Maverick Philosopher takes the common theistic route of invoking eternal life as an escape clause from this existential malaise. I can certainly sympathize.

I prefer, however, to grapple a little more deeply with this ephemeral existence. Not just “make the most of your time while you have it” – an option that is clearly open to anyone, regardless of belief or disbelief in an eternal afterlife. But actually constructing an attitude toward meaning that embraces and incorporates the temporary nature of life.

It’s difficult. We seem to be born to deny death and transience. Accepting them is unnatural. Against our nature.

But then, it is unnatural to reduce the fat, salt, and sugar in our diets. It is unnatural to set aside our prejudices and consciously grant all people respect and dignity. Like these exercises, I think the attempt to come to terms with transience is an ultimately rewarding – even liberating – one.

What do you think? Do you think that acceptance or transience is opposed to belief in an eternal afterlife? Is it, in fact, virtuous to try to accept our transient existence, or is it better to seek an alternative, a solution to the problem of our transience?