Is life to be taken seriously?

Du Plessis, Daniel Willem (2020-03)

Thesis (MA)--Stellenbosch University, 2020.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: In this thesis, the question “is life serious?” is posed and answered. To answer this question, a conceptual analysis of the concepts ‘life’ and ‘serious’ is undertaken along with an extrapolation and analysis of the ontological structure of human existence. The conclusion that this thesis ultimately reaches is that, because of the inherent value of human life, which is necessitated by the ontology of existence, life is inalienably serious. To reach this conclusion, the thesis begins by exploring the work of David Benatar, who argues that the best possible outcome for human beings would be to become extinct. By analysing Benatar, we are able to ground the argument in Benatar’s understanding that non-existence is preferable to existence, as well as place it firmly in the contemporary discussion. Continuing the discussion, before attempting to answer the question “is life serious?” the thesis undertakes a conceptual analysis of the concept ‘life’. An analysis is undertaken of ‘life’ as understood in its common linguistic and conceptual application. A distinction is drawn between life as a purely biological phenomenon and life as an existential phenomenon. After analysing the various conceptualizations of ‘life’, the conclusion is drawn that the only intelligible use of ‘life’ in the question “is life serious?” is of ‘life’ understood as existence - a concept which is to be understood with recourse to the existential style of doing philosophy. The thesis continues by analysing the concept existence as it is understood within the so-called discipline of Existentialism. To this end, the work of John Macquarrie is utilized along with a number of other ‘existential’ philosophers.What is concluded from this analysis is that the human existent is situated in a unique position with regards to its ‘mode-of-being’. As determined by its ontology and in light of its relationship with (among other elements) death, the existent invariably exists with a concern for its being. It is this idea which is built upon to reach the final conclusion of this thesis. Before such a conclusion is reached, a conceptual analysis of ‘serious’ is undertaken. What is elucidated from this analysis is that the ‘seriousness’ of any matter depends on the acceptance of the premise that human life (thus understood as existence) has inherent value. Thus, to conclude that life is serious one must substantiate its inherent value. To substantiate this premise, the argument is made that the human being exists necessarily with a concern-for-being. A return to the discussion on Benatar as well as an analysis of Thomas Nagel is utilized to substantiate this argument. The argument ultimately concludes that human beings, because of the ontological structure of their existence, cannot but conceive of life as valuable and, consequently, serious. To actually reach such a conclusion would be to conceive of a manner of being which is different to our own - which is impossible.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: In hierdie tesis, word die vraag “is die lewe ernstig?” gestel en beantwoord. Om hierdie vraag te beantwoord, is ’n konseptuele analise van die konsepte “lewe” en “ernstig” onderneem, asook ’n ekstrapolering en analise van die ontologiese struktuur van die menslike bestaan. Hierdie tesis kom uiteindelik tot die gevolgtrekking dat die lewe onvervreembaar ernstig is weens die inherente waarde van die menslike bestaan wat vereis word deur die ontologie van bestaan. Om hierdie gevolgtrekking te kan maak, word daar eerstens ondersoek ingestel na die werk van David Benatar, wat aanvoer dat uitsterwing die beste moontlike uitkoms vir menslike wesens is. Deur Benatar se werk te ondersoek, kan die grondslag gelê word vir die argument dat nie-bestaan verkieslik teenoor bestaan is. Verder word ’n konseptuele analise van die konsep “lewe” onderneem. Hierdie analise steun op die algemene linguistiese en konseptuele toepassing van “lewe”. ’n Onderskeid word getref tussen die lewe as ’n pure biologiese verskynsel en die lewe as ’n eksistensiele verskynsel. Die gevolgtrekking hieruit is dat die enigste verstaanbare gebruik van “lewe”, in die vraag “is die lewe ernstig?”, is “lewe” as bestaan ─ ’n konsep wat met behulp van eksistensiële filosofie begryp sal kan word. Daarna word die konsep van bestaan, soos uiteengesit in die sogenamde dissipline van Eksistensialisme, geanaliseer. Hiervoor word die werk van vele eksistensiële filosowe, maar veral John Macquarrie, gebruik. Uit hierdie analise kan daar afgelei word dat die menslike wese in ’n unieke posisie geplaas is met betrekking tot sy “wyse van bestaan”. Soos bepaal deur sy ontologie en aan die hand van sy verhouding me, onder andere, die dood, bestaan die wese, sonder uitsondering, met ’n besorgdheid vir sy wese. Dit is ook op hierdie voortgeboue idee waarop die finale gevolgtrekking van die tesis steun. ’n Konseptuele analise van “ernstig” is ook nodig om die sentrale vraag te beantwoord. Wat hieruit blyk is dat die “erns” van enige saak op die aanvaarding van die veronderstelling dat menselewe (d.w.s. bestaan) inherente waarde het, berus. Om dus vas te stel dat die lewe ernstig is, moet die inherente waarde daarvan bewys word. Om hierdie veronderstelling te staaf, word daar aangevoer dat die menslikewese bestaan noodsaaklikerwys met ’n besorgdheid vir sy bestaan. Die bespreking van Benatar en ’n analise van Thomas Nagel se werk is gebruik om hierdie argument te motiveer. Die argument kom oplaas tot die slotsom dat menslike wesens, weens die ontologiese struktuur van hulle bestaan, nie anders kan as om die lewe as waardevol, en gevolglik, ernstig te verstaan nie. Dit is onmoontlik om werklik tot so ’n gevolgtrekking te kom omdat dit buite die bereik van ons denkbare wyse van bestaan lê.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/108122
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