06 Dec 2008

Roissy’s Non Sequitur

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“Roissy in DC” gives us his answer to the meaning of life: hedonism. Roissy starts out by assuming there is no afterlife or supreme being, and then concludes (HT2MR):

My answer to the philosophical question I posed above is hedonism. It is the only rational conclusion one can draw faced with the premises I presented. When there is no second life or higher power to appease; when our lives are machines — complex misunderstood machines cunningly designed to conceal the gears and pulleys behind a facade of self-delusional sublimation, but machines nonetheless — grinding and belching the choking gritty smoke of status-whoring displays in service to our microscopic puppetmasters… well, there can be only one reasonable response to it all. It makes no sense to behave any other way unless you never questioned the lies.

Are you prepared to embrace the meaning of your ultimately inconsequential existence? If it feels good…

And yet, he also recommends:

Spend time with little children and old people. One is innocent, the other is reacquainted with innocence. Their company is a world away from the drone and ruckus of all the furious humanity in between. At the extremes you will find perspective.

Now I’m not saying atheists can’t invoke terms like “innocence,” but they need to at least offer some sketch of their definition, given their worldview. (Roissy doesn’t do this.) And what if another hedonist (I have known some) say, quite understandably, “Are you nuts?! We both agree we’ve got a limited time here–we could get hit by a bus tomorrow–and you want me to play airplane with toddlers, and drive elderly people to their rest home? Huh?! I’m hitting the strip club.”

Note, I am NOT saying, “If you don’t believe in God, you logically have to become a heroin addict.” What I AM saying is that Roissy’s post smuggles in a bunch of value judgments without explaining where they come from, given his initial “thought experiment.” In particular, I don’t see how he would respond to the hypothetical (though based on people I have known) hedonist above. Old people might give you information you didn’t previously have, but unless you derive pleasure from playing with kids directly, what’s the point? To learn about “innocence”? Isn’t that term itself just one of the “lies” from which Roissy says we must disabuse ourselves?

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