An Unabashed Argument from Absurdity

There are metaphysical systems that claim reality is constituted non-intentionally. In this worldview, there are non-intentional laws and processes that create reality at every level. If that constitution is non-intentional then existential concepts like purpose, objective value, free will, and meaning are vacuous because no matter at what level of complexity there is, it’s just autonomic — mirroring the character of that which constituted it. For thinking and sentient beings, this presents an absurdity. Why? Because those beings have a profound sense that those existential concepts are not just an illusion perpetrated on them by non-intentional nature but are real. Also wouldn’t it seem absurd that all this — the entire universe and all the beings in it are just meaningless.

This absurd sense becomes apparent when we see the extraordinary lengths those who profess that worldview go through to salvage them somehow. These attempts always fail with a necessity and chance causal structure that a non-intentional constitution entails.

Now, an argument from absurdity is considered a logical fallacy. So what? This only carries weight for those who think that logic alone can capture the essence of reality. Sure, without logical constructs there can be a descent into nonsense. What is often missed, however, is that logic is grounded in our intuitions about how things work. If logic alone was determinative then we would expect that analytic philosophy would have eventually reached a consensus of conclusions. Not even close. Something must be missing. Can the structure we see be just part of the picture? Perhaps the structural aspect provides the stability that life can exist but there is also novelty within constraints that offers the meaning and purpose we intuitively feel.

There is a reason humans personify the ultimate. If the ultimate is personal then it is intentional as well — and relational. Even non-theistic religions like Buddhism have personifications among adherents. We want to be in relation with the universe and beyond. Without a relationship to the ultimate we are alone and isolated. As finite creatures this doesn’t work. It deprives us of a sense of being part of something profound. If taken seriously, that only leads to despair and nihilism.

So, there is a choice. We can obscure the absurdity of being an automaton through ignorance, denial, or repression and just carry on. Or we can embrace that there is a personal, intention ground to reality that we can relate to and be a part of something profound going on in this life.

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