Date of Award

Spring 2004

Document Type

Dissertation - Restricted

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Tallon, Andrew

Second Advisor

Ibanez-Noe, Javier

Third Advisor

Krettek, G. T.


Two themes stand in stark contrast in contemporary culture. The first is the accidental nature of physical existence and the second is the fervent, even desperate search by people to find a meaning to their lives. The developments of the natural sciences and the long list of natural and man-made horrors of the twentieth century have all contributed to the sense that the events of life are no more than a matter of chance, a random unraveling of things that happen for no particular reason and that go toward no particular end. By contrast, and likely as a consequence of that sense of the triviality of daily life, people have committed themselves zealously, even fanatically, to various causes, cults and mystical beliefs for which they become fully willing to dedicate their lives and even their deaths. These commitments carry with them the odd feature of polarizing the communities in which they arc found, resulting in, and even feeding off of, a hatred for opposing factions. For a reflective person, that polarizing feature raises serious questions about the validity of the cause or the beliefs. If human existence is to have meaning, that is, if my concrete existence is to be found to be related to an absolute in terms of which I have worth or significance, that meaning has to be valid for every person, for every human existence. If I am to have inherent worth, it must be a worth that is assignable, not to any particular group or doctrine, but rather it must be assignable to every human being. If, to refer to the founding document of the United States, I am to have inalienable rights, it must be because every human being has inalienable rights...



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