The Human Predicament
The Human Predicament
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Publication Date: 2017
The Human Predicament engages life’s big questions. Are our lives meaningless? Is death bad? Would immortality be better? Alternatively, should we hasten our deaths by acts of suicide? Many people are tempted to offer comforting, optimistic answers to these existential questions. The Human Predicament offers a less sanguine assessment and defends a substantial, but not unmitigated, pessimism. It is argued that while our lives can have some meaning, we are ultimately the insignificant beings that we fear we are. There is no point to human life as a whole, and individual human lives have no cosmic purpose. Nor is meaning the only way in which our lives are deficient. A candid appraisal reveals that the quality of life, although less bad for some people than for others, leaves much to be desired in even the best cases. Death, however, is not generally the solution. It exacerbates rather than mitigates our cosmic meaninglessness. It can release us from suffering but even when it does, it imposes another cost—annihilation. The human predicament is thus forged by both life and death. This unfortunate state of affairs has nuanced implications for how we should think about immortality and suicide, which are also discussed in The Human Predicament.
Reviews and Responses:
Kirsten Egerstrom’s review in The Philosophers' Magazine, Issue 78, 3rd Quarter 2017, pp. 111-112.
Joanna Bourke’s review, “Staring at the Void”, Wall Street Journal, 31 August 2017, p. A15.
David Matheson’s review, Philosophical Quarterly
Rachel James and Todd Shackelford’s review, Evolutionary Psychological Science
Rhys Southan’s review, “The Vise Side of Life”, The Oxonian Review, 24 April 2018
Stuart Campbell, “The Human Predicament’, Consider This, KZYX Radio, 27 October 2017
Joshua Rothman, “The Case for Not Being Born”, New Yorker, 27 November 2017
OUP’s Molly Grote interviews David Benatar, 6 December 2017
Chinese translation forthcoming (Publisher: Beijing Imaginist Time Culture Co., Ltd.)
Spanish translation forthcoming (Publisher: Alianza)