Is Naturalism Bleak? A Reply to Holland and Cottingham

Environmental Values 22 (6):689-702 (2013)
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Although Cottingham and Holland make a persuasive case for the claim that it is difficult to situate a meaningful life within a Darwinian naturalistic cosmology, this paper argues that their case should be modified in response to the apparent fact that certain persons seem genuinely not to experience the ‘bleakness’ that they describe. Although certain of these cases will reflect an incomplete appreciation of the existential implications of Darwinian naturalism, at least some of those cases may be genuine. The resulting possibility that certain persons can embrace Darwinian naturalism and live meaningful lives in apparent immunity to the ‘bleakness charge’ therefore poses new puzzles for Cottingham and Holland, and for wider questions about the meaningfulness of human life. I consider that possibility in light of the work of David E. Cooper and Paul Feyerabend and offer a set of three suggestions for further developing these debates.
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