– THE MYSTERY OF BEING HUMAN –
they address. The wonderfully witty philosopher J. L. Austin offered a footnote to one of the last papers he gave before his premature death:
I dreamed a line that would make a motto for a sober philosophy: ‘Neither a be-all nor an end-all be’.
It is in the spirit of this sentiment that these philosophical essays are offered to the reader. And, what is more, there is a hidden nerve of association connecting the pieces, so the occasions of their non-doctrine are not entirely scattered.
This is hinted at in the opening essay, ‘Humanity: Neither God’s Work nor a Piece of Nature’, which is the closest I can manage to a mission statement: namely, to try to characterise a secular humanism that, while distancing itself from religious belief, does not merely dismiss something that (for good or ill) has been central to our humanity. Nor does it subscribe to a naturalism that sees us as ultimately explicable by biological science. The essay – and, less explicitly, its successors – is a non-strident Prologue to a humanism that celebrates the infinite complexity of beings who are unique in unique ways; who are offset from nature as well as a part of it; and who are able to wake out of themselves and their organic condition, even to the point of believing in God and Eternity. Consistent with its non-stridency is what I hope is a balanced view of the impact on humanity of religious belief.