General Information about the Project
The following is the synopsis for the forthcoming book “Seeking a More Enlightened Worldview” by Brandon Norgaard, specifically the advanced version. You can read about the introductory version here. Both versions cover similar subject matter, but the introductory one is oriented towards general audiences and the advanced one is for academic audiences.
Synopsis for “Seeking a More Enlightened Worldview – Advanced Version”
There is a wide diversity of worldviews throughout human society, many of which are religious in nature while some of which are secular. For some people, their worldview involves significant philosophical engagement, while for others their worldview mostly involves unquestioning belief and adherence to what one has been told and is practiced with little critical thinking. Some people are able to use their worldview to find satisfying answers to the great questions of life, while others might have to admit that their worldview leaves many great questions unanswered.
It is natural for humans to ponder questions such as “What is right and what is wrong?”, “What is the nature of our conscious experience”, “What is the meaning of life”, and “Why is the universe the way that it is and not different?”, although it is less common for one to achieve satisfying and reasonable answers to these questions. There have always been religions within human society through which one can find some sort of answer to these questions with relative ease, but these answers are often to be taken simply on the basis of faith rather than on the basis of observation and reason, which are the mental facilities that one uses to understand most other things in life. It makes sense that philosophy would work better towards the goal of finding satisfactory and reasonable answers to these questions because it inherently involves the use of observation and reason to make important points. Throughout human history, there have been a number of notable philosophers who have tried to tackle these problems. Over time, some have made important progress in the effort to find reasonable and satisfying answers to these questions and their work has helped many people become more enlightened.
Many schools of contemporary philosophy, however, seem to have lost interest in the great questions of life in favor of detailed analysis of small questions. Now, detailed and narrowly focused analysis is important in all areas because the results of such analysis naturally contribute to a better understanding of more broadly focused subjects. In recent decades, contemporary philosophy has produced a very large amount of analysis covering every possible area of inquiry. The problem, however, is that it is uncommon within contemporary philosophy for anyone to try to bring together studies from various different fields and to show how they can all contribute to a comprehensive worldview. While several ancient and enlightenment-era philosophers made contributions in several fields of philosophy and were able to make advancements towards in the effort to finding answers to the great questions of life, philosophy of the late 20th and early 21st centuries is rarely this ambitious. Most contemporary philosophers focus most of their time and effort to studying a specific field of philosophy, such as epistemology, metaphysics, ethics, etc. and their findings are rarely brought together into a comprehensive worldview.
Contemporary philosophy is often fragmented between different schools of thought that rarely communicate with each other. Notably, there is the long standing analytic/continental divide and the even longer standing western/eastern divide. Analytic philosophers are often detailed and diligent and focused on analyzing important concepts such as language, knowledge, science, and the mind, but they rarely step back and ask how their findings relate to the human experience and what the meaning or purpose of life might be. Continental philosophers are known to more often deal with questions relating the nature of conscious experience and the meaning of life, but the philosophers who do engage with these questions usually do not coordinate much with analytic philosophers and they do not often take into account the findings of analytic philosophy. Both analytic and continental philosophy are historically derived from ancient and early modern western philosophy, which in turn is not the only philosophical tradition in the world. There are many schools of eastern philosophy that have ideas and approaches to solving problems that the western tradition has largely overlooked.
The best way for us to find the most reasonable and satisfactory answers as possible to the great questions of life is to formulate a worldview that is based on a wide range of existing philosophical ideas from different traditions and schools of thought. Analytic philosophy provides indispensable methods for solving problems, but it has not been focused enough on addressing the great questions of life. Continental philosophy has an established tradition of treating these questions with special significance, but this has often been done in a haphazard and disorganized manor. Western philosophy has a long tradition that goes back to Ancient Greece and hundreds of philosophers since then have analyzed problems big and small, but there is also much we can learn by looking at some ideas that originated within eastern philosophy as well. If one takes into account a diversity of views within each of these traditions, then it might well become possible for them to discover a more enlightened worldview through which they can, on the basis of observation and reason, begin to receive satisfying answers to life’s great questions.
The purpose of this book is to help the reader discover a worldview that is more enlightened than any religion that relies on blind faith and that is also more enlightened than any that are presented within the narrowly focused and disjointed world of contemporary philosophy. Throughout this book, different fundamental questions of life will be analyzed and theories will be formulated. This book will conclude by showing how each of these theories can come together into a comprehensive and coherent worldview, where each great question of life is treated with special significance and at least partial answers can be found for each of these on the basis of observation and reason.
Part 1: Building a Structure of Knowledge
In this Part, the foundation of knowledge is analyzed, including how epistemic justification is possible, whether anything can be known with utter certainty, how the laws of nature can be known, and how to evaluate claims made by others. The foundation of modern science is also analyzed.
Part 2: A Methodology for Modern Phenomenology
The dichotomy between objectivity and subjectivity is analyzed. The problems with traditional phenomenology are explained. Based in part on traditional phenomenology and also on the methodology of modern science, a new methodology for modern phenomenology is formulated, which is called the modern phenomenological method or MPhM. This method is used in Parts 3 through 9.
Part 3: Language, Thought, and Meaning
Question of how language can have meaning is analyzed. Specifically, what is meaning and how can we come to know the meaning of a linguistic expression? Any answer that one gives to this question will inevitably have implications for any further questions that are considered.
Part 4: The Great Dilemma of Consciousness
The fundamental question of the nature of the self is considered. While there has been a wide diversity of ideas that have been put forth throughout time as attempts to answer this question, they all seem to either involve a conception of the self that is purely physical or a conception that is both physical and nonphysical, the latter being dualist conceptions. This fundamental question can be called The Great Dilemma and it involves a multitude of more specific questions. This part is focused on the specific questions that relate to the nature of consciousness, specifically what is conscious experience, what is sense perception, and is anything about it outside the realm of the physical/material world?
Part 5: The Great Dilemma of Intentionality
Continuing the analysis of questions related to The Great Dilemma, another important aspect of consciousness is covered here. Consciousness is not just a state of being, but it is always about something. That which is believed, that which is desired, that which is loved. Consciousness always seems to be about things that are external to it, and this is called intentionality. Is this a purely physical process or is there something else going on?
Part 6: The Great Dilemma of Free Will
The Great Dilemma would not be complete without an analysis of the question of whether all of one’s actions are caused by the laws of nature or whether at least some of one’s actions are ultimately determined by one’s own free will.
Part 7: The Foundation of Morality
Alongside the question of the nature of the self, another fundamental question that is essential to one’s worldview is the foundation for determining what is good and what is bad, what is right and what is wrong. This question is addressed here and is also shown to be closely related to The Great Dilemma because there are purely physical theories of morality and there are also dualist theories.
Part 8: Completing a Theory of Ethics
Some questions relating to morality that Part 4 did not get around to answering are addressed here. There have been several proposed systems of morality, including virtue ethics, duty, natural rights, and utilitarianism. Each of these seems to have merits, but each has drawbacks. It is possible, however, to combine more than one of them into a new theory.
Part 9: Completing the Picture of the Metaphysics of Consciousness
The findings from Parts 4 through 8 are used to address questions of the metaphysics of consciousness and bioethics. Topics covered include the start of life, the end of life, animals versus humans versus other life forms, and artificial intelligence. These issues are addressed in a purely philosophical context and the political implications of these issues are not covered.
Part 10: Ultimate Explanation
The question of what is the ultimate explanation of the universe is addressed. Various theories are considered, including those that involve a higher power and those that do not. The question of whether there is a God, and what the nature of God might be, and whether the concept of God is even coherent are addressed as well.
Part 11: Theodicy and Teleology
The problem of evil, which in the broad sense is the question of why evil exists in the universe, is analyzed. Also, questions relating to the afterlife and the meaning of life and our place in the universe are addressed.
What are your thoughts upon reading the basic summary of this book? Love it? Hate it? Want more info? Please let your voice be heard in the forum. Also, more information about the effort to bring this book to publication can be found here.
Important project update: As of 2015, Brandon and the rest of the Enlightened Worldview Project team can’t speculate on when Seeking a More Enlightened Worldview will be complete and become available for purchase, but special advance copies may be available by special request. Quite a bit of research still needs to be conducted and the manuscript still needs significant edits, but there might be an opportunity for you to be a part of this project. Email the author and we might be able to work out a deal where you are given access to the manuscript (PDF file, approx 250 pages) for a small purchase price ($10 US) and then have the opportunity to possibly earn money by providing useful comments to Brandon and the rest of the team. This is a very ambitious project and it will probably only be successful as a collaborative effort. If you would like to be a part of the team, contact Brandon and there might be an opportunity for you.