Coffee, the Sober Drink

Ancient Philosophers Catechism Class

All right, welcome to class everyone. We're starting our discussion on the meaning of life today with the question, "What is the chief end of man?" Raise your hand if you'd like to answer... Okay Plato, we'll let you go first. What is man's chief purpose?

Plato: "We should always keep to the upward path, and we should use every means at our disposal to act morally and with intelligence, so that we may gain our own and the gods' approval, not only during our stay here on earth, but also when we collect the prizes our morality has earned us..."

Well said, Plato. We may talk about that "gods" thing later, but overall I think you've got a good answer there. Let's see, who else wants to answer? Aristotle?

Aristotle: "...the function of man is an activity of the soul, which follows or implies a rational principle...if this is the case, human good turns out to be the activity of the soul in accordance with virtue."

Okay, nicely done. I think after we talk to Plato about the "gods" we might have a discussion about the nature of virtue, but once again a good answer. All right, Solomon, I think your hand was up next. Go ahead.

Solomon: "The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil."

Excellent answer! Did everyone hear Solomon's answer? I think he's hit the nail right on the head. Solomon, would you mind... *sound of "ooh ooh ooh" from the back and the squeak of someone shifting eagerly in their seat* Oh...Oh yes... All right Lucretius, I see you want to answer as well. What is the chief end of man?

Lucretius: "In these affairs [I] crave that thou wilt passionately flee the one offense, and anxiously wilt shun the error of presuming the clear lights of eyes created were that we might see; or thighs and knees, aprop upon the feet thuswise can bended be, that we might step with goodly strides ahead; or forearms joined unto the sturdy uppers, or serving hands on either side were given, that we might do life's own demands. All such interpretation is aft-for-fore with inverse reasoning, since naught is born in body so that we may use the same, but birth engenders use...Yielding the weary body to repose [is] far ancienter than cushions of soft beds, and quenching thirst is earlier than cups. These objects, therefore, which for use and life have been devised, can be conceived as found for sake of using. But apart from such are all which first were born and afterwards gave knowledge of their own utility--chief in which sort we note the senses, limbs: wherefore, again, 'tis quite beyond thy power to hold that these could thus have been create for the office of utility."

Really, Lucretius? Really? So you reject the whole question of the chief end of man? Life is wholly devoid of meaning and purpose? Let's talk about that for a minute. Oh, wait. It looks like Marcus wants to say something. Marcus, did you want to compare Lucretius's and Solomon's answers? Go ahead.

Marcus Aurelius: "(1) Mixture, interaction, dispersal; or (2) unity, order, design.
Suppose (1): Why would I want to live in disorder and confusion? Why would I care about anything except the eventual "dust to dust"? And why would I feel any anxiety? Dispersal is certain, whatever I do.
Or suppose (2): Reverence. Serenity. Faith in the power responsible."


Excellent questions, Marcus. Well, it looks like we're out of time for today, but maybe we can pick up right here in our next class. For homework, I'd like you all to read Genesis 1-2; Ecclesiastes 12:13-14; 1 Corinthians 10:31; Psalm 16:5-11; and Acts 17:24-31.

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