Philosophy cannot resolve the question ‘How should we live?’

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Abstract

The question How should we live? is one that many ask in a crisis, jolted out of normal patterns of life. But that question is not always a simple request for a straightforward answer, as if we could somehow read off the ‘correct’ answer from the world. This sort of question can be like a pain that requires a response that soothes as much as it resolves. It is not obvious that academic philosophy can address such a question adequately. As the Australian philosopher Raimond Gaita has suggested, such a question emerges from deep within us all, from our humanity, and, as such, we share a common calling in coming to an answer. Academia often misses the point here, ignoring the depth, and responding as if problems about the meaning of life were logical puzzles, to be dissolved or dismissed as not real problems, or solved in a single way for all time. True, at various times philosophers such as Gilbert Ryle and more recently Mikel Burley have called for a revision of academia’s approach towards these sorts of questions, for a ‘thickened’ or expanded conception. But, while improving our awareness of their complexity and diversity, such approaches still fail to address the depth that their human origin provides.
Original languageEnglish
JournalAeon
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2020

Keywords

  • religious language
  • ethics
  • philosophy
  • metaphilosophy
  • Wittgenstein

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