How Can Our Human World Exist and Best Flourish Embedded in the Physical Universe? A Letter to an Applicant to a New Liberal Studies Course

On the Horizon 22 (1) (2014)
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In this paper I sketch a liberal studies course designed to explore our fundamental problem of thought and life: How can our human world exist and best flourish embedded as it is in the physical universe? The fundamental character of this problem provides one with the opportunity to explore a wide range of issues. What does physics tell us about the universe and ourselves? How do we account for everything physics leaves out? How can living brains be conscious? If everything occurs in accordance with physical law, what becomes of free will? How does Darwin's theory of evolution contribute to the solution to the fundamental problem? What is the history of thought about this problem? What is of most value associated with human life? What kind of civilized world should we seek to help create? Why is the fundamental problem not a part of standard education in schools and universities? What are the most serious global problems confronting humanity? Can humanity learn to make progress towards as good a world as possible? These are some of the questions that can be tackled as an integral part of exploring the fundamental problem. But the course does not merely wander at random from one issue to another. Taking the fundamental problem as central provides the course with a coherent structure. The course would be conducted as a seminar, and it would respond to queries and suggestions from students.
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