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Brooklyn 99: A Case for Supernaturalism

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This was a keynote lecture given at Angeles University Foundation in Angeles City, Pampanga, a province north of Manila, last 13 November 2018. In this lecture, I argued that Brooklyn 99's first five seasons portray different positions taken in
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  Page 1  of 18   BROOKLYN 99: IN DEFENSE OF SUPERNATURALISM 13 November 2018 Angeles University Foundation Prof. Edmon Marquez, adviser of the Young Philosopher’s Club. Prof. Joseph Renus Galang, speaker of the first session and director of Center for Christian Formation. Senior High School students of Angeles University Foundation, good morning to everyone. First of all, I want a show of hands: who here watches or have watched Brooklyn 99? I have good news for those who have finished watching season 5. Season six will be out by January next year! For those of you who haven’t finished watching, you still have more than a month to finish. And for those of you who haven’t watched at all, I hope my presentation today will convince you to watch. I would just like to warn you all: spoiler alert! Today I will be talking about Brooklyn 99 as a case for Supernaturalism, a position in Analytic Existentialism. The outline of my presentation is as follows. I will first try to introduce Analytic Existentialism. Afterwards, I will be introducing Supernaturalism and its variants: Purpose Theory, and Non-purposive Supernaturalism. I will specifically be dealing with Purpose Theory in this presentation. I will then consider a counter-argument for Purpose Theory which will subsequently be countered. My method of countering, as my title suggests, is  Page 2  of 18   through a consideration of the different characters of Brooklyn 99.  Analytic Existentialism Existentialism has been around for more than a century. Our philosophy curricula today has familiarized students with existentialists starting from Kierkegaard and Nietzsche to the phenomenological existentialists, Heidegger and Sartre. These philosophers have been heavily studied in the tradition that we call continental . Continental Philosophy came from thinkers in continental Europe, from which the name comes from. The other major philosophical tradition comes from the English-speaking world, the United Kingdom and the United States. This tradition is known as analytic . And historically speaking, analytic philosophers are not really fond of existentialist question, or as some would say, the “big” questions. They are at most skeptical about the warrant of asking existential questions. Recently, however, analytic philosophers have started taking up these big questions as well. Hence, analytic existentialism. Analytic Existentialism is a recently coined term by philosopher David Benatar. In the introduction of his anthology, Life, Death and Meaning, Benatar introduces the term “analytic existentialism.” This is “when existential questions are confronted employing the methodology of analytic philosophy .”  Page 3  of 18   (Benatar 2004) Analytic Philosophy is therefore comprised of the very same questions that you have been exposed to in class but approached in a very different manner. Supernaturalism Thaddeus Metz differentiates two major theories of meaning in life in the analytic literature. The first one is supernaturalism  while the other one is naturalism . He then further divides naturalism into two broad approaches: objective naturalism and subjective naturalism . Today, we are going to focus on the first: supernaturalism. Supernaturalism “is the general view that what co nstitutes, or is at least necessary for, meaning in life is a relationship with a spiritual realm.” (Metz 2013) Life can only be meaningful, therefore, because of a spiritual realm. According to this view, a purely material world cannot render any human life meaningful at all. There has to be a spiritual realm, whether constituted by God or an immortal soul, for any life to be meaningful at all. Here we can further distinguish between two types:  purposive supernaturalism and non-purposive supernaturalism. Purposive supernaturalism “is the view that one’s life is meaningful just insofar as one fulfils a purpose that God has assigned to one.” (Metz 2013) This position is also known as Purpose Theory  . Purpose Theory, therefore, requires the existence of God as the purpose-  Page 4  of 18   giving entity. And a meaningful life is constituted by the fulfilment of the bestowed purpose. Non-purposive supernaturalism, on the other hand, comes in two forms: God-centered non-purposive supernaturalism, and soul-centered non-purposive supernaturalism. The god-centered type is “the idea that our lives have more meaning in them, the more intense our positive relationships to a perfect being and the more intense His positive relationships to us .” (Metz 2013)  Here, although there is a God, following our God-given purpose does not necessarily make one’s life meaningful. What makes life meaningful for the god-centered non-purposive supernaturalist is the mere presence of a good, reciprocated relationship with God. The other type, soul-centered non- purposive supernaturalism is “the view that a significant existence is nothing but being constituted by a soul that lives forever in a certain way, where a soul is an indestructible, spiritual substa nce.” (Metz 2013) Here, an immortal soul is the one that makes a life meaningful. This does not necessarily entail that a deity of some sort created the soul. It neither entails purposiveness as well since a soul is not necessarily purposive. What we will now specifically consider is Purpose Theory, the view that following a God-bestowed purpose is necessary to a meaningful life. Let us consider William Lane Craig’s formulation:    Page 5  of 18   Without God the universe is the result of a cosmic accident, a chance explosion. There is no reason for which it exists. As for man, he is a freak of nature  —  a blind product of matter plus time plus chance. …There is no more purpose in life for the human race than for a species of insect; for both are the result of the blind interaction of chance and necessity. (1994) The presence of the universe does not necessarily imply that its mere existence is meaningful. Here, Craig argues that for the cosmic existence to be meaningful at all, it should be  purposively created. A merely material creation, therefore, cannot satisfy such purposive creation. Therefore, God ought to be the one creating the universe, bestowing a purpose therein. It seems that the same argument applies to human existence. A meaningful human life cannot be a result of random natural selection in the evolutionary process. Viewed by Purpose Theory, natural selection in evolution is  purposive . Species variegation is intended to prefigure human existence. And human existence itself is only meaningful in terms of God’s bestowed purpose  and a human being’s fulfilment of it s. It can be argued that Purpose Theory is held by Christianity, for instance St. Ignatius of Loyola. In his Spiritual Exercises,
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