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The Stone’s weekly briefing of notable philosophy-related issues and ideas from around the Web. A few weeks ago we linked to an article connecting Sartre’s insights about “authenticity” with recent work in cognitive science. This week, in an essay at The Chronicle of Higher Ed, David P. Barash pursues a similar thread connecting existentialism and evolutionary biology, one he thinks shows that “science has not completely destroyed our understanding of free will.” Against some assumed points of conflict — existentialists see humans as lacking some larger “purpose,” yet “condemned” to create our “selves” against the backdrop of an “absurd” cosmos; Darwinians see us as serving the brute “purpose” of “projecting” our genes to our offspring, and no more than that — Barash points out that both evolutionists and “existentialists” from Pascal to Heidegger all see the universe in its sheer indifferent vastness as in some sense “absurd” from the human perspective.
The Ragged Trousered Philosopher or 'RTP' as we are affectionately known to our friends, is an exercise in Web authorship which has been going on since 1996 (the core 'book' was started in 1986), the title of which was inspired by Robert Tressell's classic 'The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists'. But that's about as far as the resemblance goes. There is little doubt that life on Earth is headed in the general direction being painted here. Entropy, chaos and quantum mechanics have somehow turned primitive information first into energy, then matter, then self-motivating matter, intelligent matter and, with us, matter that can begin to create even more intelligent matter .