Science has proved itself to be a reliable way to approach all kinds of questions about the physical world. As a scientist, I am led to wonder whether its ability to provide understanding is unlimited. Can science in fact answer all the great questions, the ‘big questions of being’, that occur to us?
There’s been a lot of interest in reviving Stoic philosophy recently, particularly the therapeutic aspects of it. I’m skeptical about this, as in my view philosophy is primarily the attempt to understand, and as such is an activity of enquiry. There’s no guarantee that discovering how things are will benefit us psychologically: it might in fact make things much worse. As Friedrich Nietzsche pointed out, it might not even be possible to confront the deeper truths of reality head-on. That would make human existence unbearable. What do you think?
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Immortality has gone secular. Unhooked from the realm of gods and angels, it’s now the subject of serious investment – both intellectual and financial – by philosophers, scientists and the Silicon Valley set. Several hundred people have already chosen to be ‘cryopreserved’ in preference to simply dying, as they wait for science to catch up and give them a second shot at life. But if we treat death as a problem, what are the ethical implications of the highly speculative ‘solutions’ being mooted?
‘The theory produces a good deal but hardly brings us closer to the secret of the Old One,’ wrote Albert Einstein in December 1926. ‘I am at all events convinced that He does not play dice.’
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