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1

Questions and answers

9
terms
7
notes

Eagleton, T. (2007). Questions and answers. In Eagleton, T. The Meaning of Life. Oxford University Press, USA, pp. 1-32

(noun) germanic

3

‘How come Being?’ is a supreme example of a pseudo-question [...] For them, it is really just a ponderous Teutonic way of saying ‘Wow!’

I just think it's a great word

—p.3 by Terry Eagleton
notable
2 years, 3 months ago

‘How come Being?’ is a supreme example of a pseudo-question [...] For them, it is really just a ponderous Teutonic way of saying ‘Wow!’

I just think it's a great word

—p.3 by Terry Eagleton
notable
2 years, 3 months ago

make (something abstract) more concrete or real

6

Nietzsche, however, believed neither in mega-entities nor in everyday ones. He thought the very idea of there being distinct objects, such as God or gooseberries, was just a reifying effect of language.

—p.6 by Terry Eagleton
notable
2 years, 3 months ago

Nietzsche, however, believed neither in mega-entities nor in everyday ones. He thought the very idea of there being distinct objects, such as God or gooseberries, was just a reifying effect of language.

—p.6 by Terry Eagleton
notable
2 years, 3 months ago

referring to an apocryphal anecdote illustrating the piety or humility of King Canute the Great, in which he demonstrates to his courtiers that he has no control over the elements (the incoming tide), explaining that secular power is vain compared to the supreme power of God

7

The philosopher must simply wage a ceaseless, Canute-like war against them – a battle which Wittgenstein sees as a kind of linguistic therapy, and which Derrida terms ‘deconstruction’.

them being metaphysical illusions

—p.7 by Terry Eagleton
uncertain
2 years, 3 months ago

The philosopher must simply wage a ceaseless, Canute-like war against them – a battle which Wittgenstein sees as a kind of linguistic therapy, and which Derrida terms ‘deconstruction’.

them being metaphysical illusions

—p.7 by Terry Eagleton
uncertain
2 years, 3 months ago
9

[...] Perhaps life is kept going by our ignorance of its fundamental meaning, as capitalism is for Karl Marx. [...]

just thought this was a cool quote

—p.9 by Terry Eagleton 2 years, 3 months ago

[...] Perhaps life is kept going by our ignorance of its fundamental meaning, as capitalism is for Karl Marx. [...]

just thought this was a cool quote

—p.9 by Terry Eagleton 2 years, 3 months ago
11

Only by keeping your head down as you pick a precarious way through the minefield of human existence can you hope to survive, paying homage to cruelly capricious gods who often enough scarcely deserve human respect, let alone religious veneration. The very human powers which might allow you to find a foothold in this unstable terrain continually threaten to spin out of control, turning against you and bringing you low. It is in these fearful conditions that the Chorus of Sophocles’ Oedipus the King delivers its final gloomy judgement: ‘Count no man happy till he dies, free of pain at last'.

This may be a response to the problem of human existence, but it is hardly a solution to it. For tragedy, there is often enough no answer to why individual lives are crushed and mutilated beyond endurance, why injustice and oppression appear to reign sovereign in human affairs, or why men are deceived into chewing the roasted flesh of their own slaughtered children. Or rather, the only answer lies in the resilience with which these issues are confronted, the depth and artistry with which they are framed. Tragedy at its most potent is a question without an answer, deliberately depriving us of ideological consolation. If it demonstrates in its every gesture that human existence cannot tolerably carry on like this, it challenges us to find a solution to its anguish which is more than just another piece of wishful thinking, piecemeal reformism, sentimental humanism, or idealist panacea. In portraying a world in urgent need of redemption, it intimates at the same moment that the very thought of redemption may well be just another way of distracting ourselves from a terror which threatens to turn us to stone.

—p.11 by Terry Eagleton 2 years, 3 months ago

Only by keeping your head down as you pick a precarious way through the minefield of human existence can you hope to survive, paying homage to cruelly capricious gods who often enough scarcely deserve human respect, let alone religious veneration. The very human powers which might allow you to find a foothold in this unstable terrain continually threaten to spin out of control, turning against you and bringing you low. It is in these fearful conditions that the Chorus of Sophocles’ Oedipus the King delivers its final gloomy judgement: ‘Count no man happy till he dies, free of pain at last'.

This may be a response to the problem of human existence, but it is hardly a solution to it. For tragedy, there is often enough no answer to why individual lives are crushed and mutilated beyond endurance, why injustice and oppression appear to reign sovereign in human affairs, or why men are deceived into chewing the roasted flesh of their own slaughtered children. Or rather, the only answer lies in the resilience with which these issues are confronted, the depth and artistry with which they are framed. Tragedy at its most potent is a question without an answer, deliberately depriving us of ideological consolation. If it demonstrates in its every gesture that human existence cannot tolerably carry on like this, it challenges us to find a solution to its anguish which is more than just another piece of wishful thinking, piecemeal reformism, sentimental humanism, or idealist panacea. In portraying a world in urgent need of redemption, it intimates at the same moment that the very thought of redemption may well be just another way of distracting ourselves from a terror which threatens to turn us to stone.

—p.11 by Terry Eagleton 2 years, 3 months ago
12

Heidegger argues in his work Being and Time that humans are distinguished from other beings by their capacity to put their own existence into question. They are the creatures for whom existence as such, not just particular features of it, is problematic. This or that situation might prove problematic for a warthog, but – so the theory goes – humans are those peculiar animals who confront their own situation as a question, quandary, source of anxiety, ground of hope, burden, gift, dread, or absurdity. And this is not least because they are aware, as warthogs presumably are not, that their existence is finite. Human beings are perhaps the only animals who live in the perpetual shadow of death.

—p.12 by Terry Eagleton 2 years, 3 months ago

Heidegger argues in his work Being and Time that humans are distinguished from other beings by their capacity to put their own existence into question. They are the creatures for whom existence as such, not just particular features of it, is problematic. This or that situation might prove problematic for a warthog, but – so the theory goes – humans are those peculiar animals who confront their own situation as a question, quandary, source of anxiety, ground of hope, burden, gift, dread, or absurdity. And this is not least because they are aware, as warthogs presumably are not, that their existence is finite. Human beings are perhaps the only animals who live in the perpetual shadow of death.

—p.12 by Terry Eagleton 2 years, 3 months ago

(noun) a branch of metaphysics concerned with the nature and relations of being / (noun) a particular theory about the nature of being or the kinds of things that have existence

13

ontological anxiety’: namely, the feeling (sometimes accompanied by a particularly intense hangover) that one is a pointless, superfluous being

—p.13 by Terry Eagleton
notable
2 years, 3 months ago

ontological anxiety’: namely, the feeling (sometimes accompanied by a particularly intense hangover) that one is a pointless, superfluous being

—p.13 by Terry Eagleton
notable
2 years, 3 months ago
15

The question ‘What is the meaning of life? might have seemed to an ancient Hebrew as curious as the question ‘Do you believe in God?’ For most people today, including a lot of religious believers, the latter question is unconsciously modelled on questions like ‘Do you believe in Father Christmas?’, or ‘Do you believe in alien abductions? [...] But an ancient Hebrew would probably not have imagined that ‘Do you believe in God?’ meant anything like that. Since the presence of Yahweh was proclaimed by the whole earth and heavens, the question could only mean: ‘Do you have faith in him?’ It was a matter of a practice, not of an intellectual proposition. It asked about a relationship, not about an opinion.

on the meaning of life being, at least in pre-modern times, obvious, in the sense of
a "solid foundation to human existence known as God"

—p.15 by Terry Eagleton 2 years, 3 months ago

The question ‘What is the meaning of life? might have seemed to an ancient Hebrew as curious as the question ‘Do you believe in God?’ For most people today, including a lot of religious believers, the latter question is unconsciously modelled on questions like ‘Do you believe in Father Christmas?’, or ‘Do you believe in alien abductions? [...] But an ancient Hebrew would probably not have imagined that ‘Do you believe in God?’ meant anything like that. Since the presence of Yahweh was proclaimed by the whole earth and heavens, the question could only mean: ‘Do you have faith in him?’ It was a matter of a practice, not of an intellectual proposition. It asked about a relationship, not about an opinion.

on the meaning of life being, at least in pre-modern times, obvious, in the sense of
a "solid foundation to human existence known as God"

—p.15 by Terry Eagleton 2 years, 3 months ago

the presence of something only in small or insufficient quantities or amounts; scarcity

16

In the conflict between Western capitalism and radical Islam, a paucity of belief squares up to an excess of it.

—p.16 by Terry Eagleton
notable
2 years, 3 months ago

In the conflict between Western capitalism and radical Islam, a paucity of belief squares up to an excess of it.

—p.16 by Terry Eagleton
notable
2 years, 3 months ago
17

Postmodernism then pushes this secularization one step further. As long as we still have depths, essences, and foundations, it insists, we are still in the awesome presence of the Almighty. We have not really killed and buried God at all. We have simply given him a series of majestic new names, like Nature, Man, Reason, History, Power, Desire, and so on. Rather than dismantling the whole outdated apparatus of metaphysics and theology, we have simply given it a new content. Only by breaking with the whole notion of ‘deep’ meaning, which will always tempt us to chase the chimera of the Meaning of meanings, can we be free. Not, to be sure, free to be ourselves, for we have also dismantled the metaphysical essence known as the self. Quite who is to be set free by this project, then, remains something of a mystery. It may also be that even postmodernism, with its aversion to absolute foundations, secretly smuggles such an absolute into the argument. It is not, to be sure, God or Reason or History, but it behaves in just such a bottom-line sort of way. Like these other absolutes, it is impossible to delve beneath it. For postmodernism, this is known as Culture.

his writing is kind of curmudgeonly but in a remarkably fun way

—p.17 by Terry Eagleton 2 years, 3 months ago

Postmodernism then pushes this secularization one step further. As long as we still have depths, essences, and foundations, it insists, we are still in the awesome presence of the Almighty. We have not really killed and buried God at all. We have simply given him a series of majestic new names, like Nature, Man, Reason, History, Power, Desire, and so on. Rather than dismantling the whole outdated apparatus of metaphysics and theology, we have simply given it a new content. Only by breaking with the whole notion of ‘deep’ meaning, which will always tempt us to chase the chimera of the Meaning of meanings, can we be free. Not, to be sure, free to be ourselves, for we have also dismantled the metaphysical essence known as the self. Quite who is to be set free by this project, then, remains something of a mystery. It may also be that even postmodernism, with its aversion to absolute foundations, secretly smuggles such an absolute into the argument. It is not, to be sure, God or Reason or History, but it behaves in just such a bottom-line sort of way. Like these other absolutes, it is impossible to delve beneath it. For postmodernism, this is known as Culture.

his writing is kind of curmudgeonly but in a remarkably fun way

—p.17 by Terry Eagleton 2 years, 3 months ago

the study of signs and symbols and their use or interpretation (adj: semiotic)

17

For St Augustine, to attend to objects in themselves reflects a carnal, fallen mode of existence; instead, we must read them semiotically, as pointing beyond themselves to the divine text which is the universe

—p.17 by Terry Eagleton
notable
2 years, 3 months ago

For St Augustine, to attend to objects in themselves reflects a carnal, fallen mode of existence; instead, we must read them semiotically, as pointing beyond themselves to the divine text which is the universe

—p.17 by Terry Eagleton
notable
2 years, 3 months ago

(noun) a branch of metaphysics concerned with the nature and relations of being / (noun) a particular theory about the nature of being or the kinds of things that have existence

19

By the early decades of the twentieth century, this culture, with its attendant ontological anxieties, had taken the form of modernism.

—p.19 by Terry Eagleton
notable
2 years, 3 months ago

By the early decades of the twentieth century, this culture, with its attendant ontological anxieties, had taken the form of modernism.

—p.19 by Terry Eagleton
notable
2 years, 3 months ago
22

Capitalist modernity, so it appeared, had landed us with an economic system which was almost purely instrumental. It was a way of life dedicated to power, profit, and the business of material survival, rather than to fostering the values of human sharing and solidarity. The political realm was more a question of management and manipulation than of the communal shaping of a common life. Reason itself had been debased to mere self-interested calculation. As for morality, this, too, had become an increasingly private affair, more relevant to the bedroom than the boardroom. Cultural life had grown more important in one sense, burgeoning into a whole industry or branch of material production. In another sense, however, it had dwindled to the window-dressing of a social order which had exceedingly little time for anything it could not price or measure. Culture was now largely a matter of how to keep people harmlessly distracted when they were not working.

—p.22 by Terry Eagleton 2 years, 3 months ago

Capitalist modernity, so it appeared, had landed us with an economic system which was almost purely instrumental. It was a way of life dedicated to power, profit, and the business of material survival, rather than to fostering the values of human sharing and solidarity. The political realm was more a question of management and manipulation than of the communal shaping of a common life. Reason itself had been debased to mere self-interested calculation. As for morality, this, too, had become an increasingly private affair, more relevant to the bedroom than the boardroom. Cultural life had grown more important in one sense, burgeoning into a whole industry or branch of material production. In another sense, however, it had dwindled to the window-dressing of a social order which had exceedingly little time for anything it could not price or measure. Culture was now largely a matter of how to keep people harmlessly distracted when they were not working.

—p.22 by Terry Eagleton 2 years, 3 months ago

make (something abstract) more concrete or real

22

Yet this was true only of the work of art’s form. Since its content inevitably reflected the reified world around it, it could provide no lasting source of redemption.

on art as a potential source of human value

—p.22 by Terry Eagleton
notable
2 years, 3 months ago

Yet this was true only of the work of art’s form. Since its content inevitably reflected the reified world around it, it could provide no lasting source of redemption.

on art as a potential source of human value

—p.22 by Terry Eagleton
notable
2 years, 3 months ago
24

[...] If everyday life was deficient in meaning, then it would have to be artificially supplemented with the stuff. It could be laced from time to time with a dash of astrology or necromancy, as one might add vitamin pills to one’s daily diet. Studying the secrets of the ancient Egyptians made a pleasant change from the tiresome business of finding yourself yet another fifty-bedroom mansion. Besides, since spirituality was all in the mind, it did not require of you any inconvenient sort of action, such as freeing yourself from the burden of running your mansions by giving away large amounts of money to the homeless.

on celebrities trying to find meaning in, e.g., Scientology

—p.24 by Terry Eagleton 2 years, 3 months ago

[...] If everyday life was deficient in meaning, then it would have to be artificially supplemented with the stuff. It could be laced from time to time with a dash of astrology or necromancy, as one might add vitamin pills to one’s daily diet. Studying the secrets of the ancient Egyptians made a pleasant change from the tiresome business of finding yourself yet another fifty-bedroom mansion. Besides, since spirituality was all in the mind, it did not require of you any inconvenient sort of action, such as freeing yourself from the burden of running your mansions by giving away large amounts of money to the homeless.

on celebrities trying to find meaning in, e.g., Scientology

—p.24 by Terry Eagleton 2 years, 3 months ago

(adjective) fatty oily / (adjective) smooth and greasy in texture or appearance / (adjective) plastic / (adjective) full of unction / (adjective) revealing or marked by a smug, ingratiating, and false earnestness or spirituality

31

Michael Palin as an unctuous Anglican vicar in the Monty Python film, ‘The Meaning of Life’.

—p.31 by Terry Eagleton
notable
2 years, 3 months ago

Michael Palin as an unctuous Anglican vicar in the Monty Python film, ‘The Meaning of Life’.

—p.31 by Terry Eagleton
notable
2 years, 3 months ago