IMAGES OF NATURE AND MEANINGS OF LIFE IN THE FACE OF DEATH
AN EXISTENTIAL QUEST
Keywords:humanism, science, Richard Dawkins, biology, Francis of Assisi
This article will explore different images of nature and their implications for the meaning of life in the face of death. First we will elaborate on life as creation, as expressed by Francis of Assisi in his Canticle of the Sun, and see how the imaginative power of this story gives meaning to life and death. Then we will go into the evolutionary approach of life by Richard Dawkins. In his work a totally different significance of finitude becomes visible: death as a necessary segment in the development of life. The philosopher Leo Apostel states that an intellectual/scientific understanding of death is not enough; we need to explore our emotional response to the universe in order to be able to create meaning and value. The work of the biologist Ursula Goodenough and the philosopher Ton Lemaire are discussed as examples of such an affective admiration of life and death based on scientific knowledge. In the end I will conclude that scientific insights give us a lot of information about human beings as concerns their nature and the inevitability of death. But how we can affectively value and give meaning to life in the face of death is still an open question which cannot be answered by science alone.
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