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The Australian National University

Preston Greene (NTU Singapore): 'It Doesn’t Matter Because One Day It Will End'

Date and time

Mon, 07/08/2017 - 12:30 - 14:00


Coombs Seminar Room A

The idea that life does not matter because it will end continues to be a source of despair for many reflective people, and its widespread influence can be seen in literature and in philosophy. Given its power and prominence, alleviating the despair would not only be an intellectual achievement, but also a contribution to welfare. Existing philosophical models diagnose the cause of the despair as a frustrated expectation of permanence. In contrast, I suggest that it is generated by a temporal argument for nihilism, which cuts across all nontheistic theories of life’s meaning, as well as nontheistic theories of value. The temporal argument for nihilism, however, has inconsistent premises, and in general, the “it doesn’t matter because it will end” despair is generated by an inconsistent shift between temporally neutral and temporally biased evaluations of mattering/meaning/value. Once the inconsistency is resolved, and however it is resolved, the source of the despair is removed.

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