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What is the place of human beings in the world

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Philosophers disagree on what philosophy is supposed to do, but one popular candidate for what is part of the philosophical project is to try to understand the place of human beings in the world. What is our significance in the world as whole? What place do human beings have in the universe and in all of reality? These questions are not merely about how we are different from other creatures, or whether we are special in the sense that we are the best or worst at something. We might be the best at music in all of the universe, but that by itself does not make us special in the right way. The largest volcano is special in that it is the largest one, and that makes it special in some sense. But the universe might not care about large volcanoes, so to speak, just as it might not care about music. If we are truly special in and central to the world then we must be so in some way other than being simply best or worst at something. But it is not easy to say more precisely in what sense we must be special in order for this to be of philosophical interest. Let us call the question we are after when we ask about our place in the world the Big Question. How to state the Big Question more precisely and explicitly is not clear, but we can approach the Big Question by considering the two main responses to it that seem to answer it as it is intended. The first of these answers is the broadly naturalistic answer, which holds that we are not special. We are merely slightly more complex creatures that arose out of a fortunate accident and that is locally, on planet earth, significant. But the world as whole, the universe, or more philosophically, all of reality, is largely indifferent to us. We are at best a fortunate bonus to reality, but not a central part of it. The second main answer to the Big Question holds that we are special, since we have a special relationship with God. We are central to the world as a whole, since we are part of the reason why there is a material world in. . .

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News source: OUPblog » Philosophy

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