Why Me?: A Philosophical Inquiry into Fate (Information Sources; 163)

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9780875801643: Why Me?: A Philosophical Inquiry into Fate (Information Sources; 163)
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Most of us have felt, at one time or another, an attraction to the idea that fate plays a role in our lives. It is difficult to dismiss entirely the notion that certain things were somehow meant to be. Perhaps key events did not just happen but were inevitable, maybe even a part of our destiny. As thoughtful and critical beings, however, we may find that we cannot explain to ourselves or to others just what fate means.

In this groundbreaking work, Michael Gelven confronts the question of fate and shows how it is possible to think clearly about fate without abandoning logic or philosophical sophistication. Dismissing the mysterious or the psychological, Gelven subjects the issue to rigorous philosophical examination, thereby opening the topic to critical and rational sensibility.

Gelven raises the challenging question "what is fate?" and seeks to answer it by expressing the problem in terms of what it means to be fated. Chance, destiny, fortune, inevitability—these four aspects of fate provide the foundation for the investigation. Gelven closely examines these aspects through four corresponding figures—the gambler, the historian, the birthday celebrant, and the tragedian—and demonstrates how each interacts with fate. His findings are both surprising and provocative.

Finally, Gelven explores the full significance of what it means to be an individual buffeted by uncontrolled destinies. Placing the great human issues of freedom, mortality, rationality, and truth within the context of his discussion, Gelven reveals how our existential meaning is indeed consistent with our being fated. Written in clear, nontechnical language for the philosophical audience as well as for those who are simply perplexed by fate's wanton authority, Why Me? offers an enlightening and stimulating inquiry into the nature of our existence.

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About the Author:

Michael Gelven is Presidential Research Professor at Northern Illinois University. He is the author of many books, including three books previously published by Penn State Press: Truth and Existence(1991), War and Existence (1994), and The Risk of Being: What It Means to Be Good and Bad (1997).

From Kirkus Reviews:

Those looking for an emotionally reassuring answer to the title's age-old question would do well to avoid Gelven's circuitous, scholarly discussion of the role fate plays in people's lives: the Northern Illinois Univ. philosophy professor prefers to dwell on the loftier ``why'' while shunning the more compelling implications of ``me.'' Rare are those who fail to wonder, in moments of extreme good fortune or tragedy, why they were personally fated to enjoy or endure these particular twist of fates. The question of ``Why me?'' arises potent issues of uncontrollable destiny versus free will, random chance versus inevitability, and moral responsibility versus guiltlessness. In first examining the more basic question ``Who am `I'?,'' Gelven emerges with the intriguing premise that ``I'' cannot exist without fate because the events that happen to a person decide the story of his or her life, defining the person as walls define a room. Without such a story constructed by fate (and involving an interplay between destiny and free will), human lives are as unconnected and meaningless as those of beasts. It is our fate, triumphant or tragic, that gives existence its essential meaning. The title's question, then, could be answered in this way: ``Because as the person to which these events have occurred, I matter''--hardly satisfying to those in one of fate's tighter clutches but intellectually stimulating nonetheless. Highly cerebral despite Gelven's use of lay language. -- Copyright ©1991, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

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