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The Brain and the Meaning of Life- Chapter 1: We All Need Wisdom


Thagard seems to equate the question of the meaning of life with what makes life worth living. I’m sure some would object to this way of looking at the question, but I’ll just have to keep in mind what Thagard means (page 1).

His answer follows Seligman: Work, love, and play.

He defines wisdom as knowledge of what matters, why it matters, and how to achieve it. Sounds like a mix between instrumental rationality and strategic reliabilism. . . sort of.

Kindle Notes:

Naturalism is the view that we can best address philosophical questions by taking into account scientific evidence and theories rather than by seeking supernatural sources (51).

Science alone cannot answer inescapable philosophical questions, but it can collaborate with philosophy to establish general theories about reality and morality (53).

My aim in this book is to use experimental and theoretical research in psychology and neuroscience to provide a much richer and deeper understanding of how love, work, and play provide good reasons for living (86).

we should think of wisdom as knowledge about what matters, why it matters, and how to achieve it (98).

What is reality? My answer will be that we should judge reality to consist of those things and processes identified by well-established fields of science using theories backed by evidence drawn from systematic observations and experiments (158).

Note: But science changes in its results. Do we stay with current wrong or unknown future findings?

Chapter 3 will similarly argue that neuropsychological theories are now sufficiently powerful to make it plausible that minds are brains, so that hypotheses about the existence of the soul are as superfluous as ones about gods and angels (164).

Chapter 8 shows how love, work, and play deserve to be meaningful because they contribute to vital human needs for relatedness, competence, and autonomy Love, work, and play satisfy requirements that people need to live as human beings, and so provide the meaning of life normatively as well as descriptively (188).

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