Before the metaphysical break signified by Socrates/Plato, what was seen as a truly human life was the vita activa —> the mortal attempt to become immortal -Eternity comes to replace immortality as what as seek as humans —> in Plato we find the life of the philosopher as inherently contradictory with the life of the citizen -But this concern with eternity instead of immortality is itself contradictory: moment one writes down the claims about the preeminence of the eternal, or the superiority of contemplation, one is immediately participating in the vita activa -“The fall of the Roman Empire plainly demonstrated that no work of mortal hands can be immortal…the concomitant reversal of the traditional hierarchy between action and contemplation sufficed to save from oblivion the striving for immortality which originally had been the spring and centre of the vita activa”
PHIL 1100 — The Meaning of Life Seminar 13 Oct. 24, 2019 Leo Tolstoy — “My Confession”Collapse of Meaning -Tolstoy describes a situation where, at the height of his career, he begins to wonder about his underlying meaning of his life -The persistent question of “why” beneath everything -“I felt that what I had been standing on had collapsed and that I had nothing left under my feet. What I had lived on no longer existed. And there was nothing left” -Feels that, because of this persistent feeling, his life has come to a “standstill” -A sense that life is ultimately meaningless -That life was a joke that was played on him -Faced with our annihilation, and the fact that we are going to die, what does anything we accomplish in this life matter? -For Tolstoy, this sense leads to contemplating whether its worth ending life, if living any longer is meaninglessness is truly worth it The Fable of the Well -Chased by a beast a man jumps down a well -There is a dragon at the bottom of the well, however, so he catches himself part way down by clinging to a twig growing out of the well wall -A black and white mouse are eating the twin -Trapped between the dragon and the beast, faced with the inevitability of his doom, he sees some honey on a leaf and decides to lick it -What does Tolstoy say the fable mean? -Distracts himself with the honey -It is life, we are going to be annihilated without meaning for anything, we are just going to distract ourselves -“So I too clung to the twig of life, knowing that the dragon of death was inevitably awaiting me, ready to tear me to pieces; and I could not understand why I had fallen into such torment. I tried to lick the honey which formerly consoled me, but the honey no longer gave me pleasure, and the white and black mice of day and night gnawed aw the branch by which I hung. I saw the dragon clearly and the honey no longer tasted sweet. I only saw the unescapable…” -Now he cannot distract himself with the “honey” (family and his writing/poetry) as the possibility of his annihilation grows closer Searching for Meaning -1) How do the sciences fail to provide Tolstoy with an answer to his question about meaning?