Wednesday, September 20th 2017, 5:30-7:00pm
The Cosmos is all that is or ever was or ever will be.
― Carl Sagan
Imagine there’s no heaven
It’s easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people living for today
― John Lennon and the Plastic Ono Band, “Imagine”
Provided it is dialectical enough.
Meaning it will know how to juggle heart and mind,
Body and soul, life and death,
That it won’t avoid questions about ultimate things,
And will accept, as equals, the arguments of believers and nonbelievers
― Czeslaw Milosz, November 28, 2002
What does it matter if matter is all there is? For a growing number of people, belief in God or religion or spirituality just seems less and less plausible the more we learn from science about the makeup of the natural world. For many, it seems to be increasingly obvious that Reality is just a whirl of chance and matter and time, that this life is all there is, that our minds are nothing but our brains, and that is just the way it is.
So what? If we adopt this worldview―commonly called Materialism or Naturalism―what difference should it make to how we think about rationality, morality, and the meaning of life? Does it make no difference at all, as some think? Or, as Nietzsche thought, does it make all the difference in the world? Can morality make sense in a purely material universe? Is life without an afterlife simply “a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing,” as Shakepeare’s MacBeth would have it? Or, as John Lennon seemed to believe, is imagining there’s no heaven the first step towards a better world: a brotherhood of man living for today, a day when “the world will be as one”?
If you’re a graduate student at New York University, you are cordially invited to join us this Wednesday evening to grapple with these questions and more over hors d’oeuvres and wine. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org for location details and to RSVP. Here are some of the readings we will be discussing.