David E. Cooper Quotes
I don’t think we should just ‘muddle through’ and ignore the question of life’s meaning. Or better, perhaps, I don’t think it is a question that can be ignored once the business of asking about the worth and significance of what one is doing – one’s work, one’s pleasures, one’s ambitions and so on – has got going. You can’t at any point stop the urge to ask Tolstoy’s questions, ‘… and then what?’, ‘What’s the point of that?’.
The dis-incumbenced stance is the one people should cultivate, we are told, once they recognize that there is no world beyond the human world. They will, indeed must, have their beliefs and values, but they will recognize that these ‘lean upon’ – and are answerable to – nothing other than human commitments and purposes. The only fidelity, Rorty remarked, can be to our own conventions.
As for the meaning of gardens, particular gardens may have, of course, all sorts of different meanings – emotive, historical, emblematic, religious, commemorative, and so on. But I think that good gardens all signify or exemplify an important truth about the relationship of culture and nature – their inseparability.
The aim of dis-incumbence is a hubristic one, for it requires confidence in the ability of men and women to live in the belief that nothing they do can, in the end, be justified by anything. That’s a belief that it is easy to proclaim in seminar rooms or pubs, but not one that people could actually live with.
For many years, questions about the meaning of life were dismissed as senseless. We were told that life, not being a word or sentence or anything language-like, can’t intelligibly be said to have meaning. An encouraging development in the last couple of decades is a return by philosophers to addressing – as nearly all people do at some time or another – the question of life’s meaning.
I’m very sceptical about the prospects for ‘big’ environmental causes – ‘saving the planet’, halving the world’s population, ending the exploitation of animals, and so on – but a person can ask him- or herself how he or she personally may exercise compassion or humility towards animals, vegetal life and so on.