Prof Philip Goff – Cosmic Purpose
Western thought is dominated by the dichotomy of religion and secular atheism. For Christians, Muslims and Jews, the universe has a purpose because God created it for a reason. For secular atheists, God does not exist, and hence there is no purpose beyond those we create. But could the universe have a purpose even if God does not exist?
The idea of purpose without a conscious mind whose purpose it is, can seem to be contradictory. But for a long time European thought revolved around the philosophy of Aristotle, according to which everything in the inanimate world had goal or a ‘telos’: fire goes up and earth goes down because each aims to get back to its natural place in the cosmos. The scientific revolution replaced teleology – or goal-directedness – with mechanism. Many now see it as almost true by definition that science postulates mechanisms rather than purposes.
I will argue not only that godless teleology makes sense, but that such a hypothesis better fits of the world as we find it. Whilst believers in God struggle to explain the evil and suffering we find in the universe, atheists struggle to explain the surprising discovery of recent decades that the laws of physics are uncannily well-suited for the emergence of life. Godless teleology is uniquely suited to account for both of these data-points. I will also suggest that godless teleology may offer a solution to the ‘meaning crisis’ which pervades contemporary society.
Dr PHILIP GOFF is Professor of Philosophy at Durham University. His research focuses on consciousness and the ultimate nature of reality. Goff is best known for defending panpsychism, the view that consciousness pervades the universe and is a fundamental feature of it. Goff’s books include Why? The Purpose of the Universe, Galileo’s Error: Foundations for a New Science of Consciousness, Consciousness and Fundamental Reality, and Is Consciousness Everywhere? Essays on Panpsychism. Goff has published many academic articles as well as writing extensively for newspapers and magazines, including Scientific American, The Guardian, Aeon, and the Times Literary Supplement.
Social Media: https://twitter.com/Philip_Goff