Scanning my long list of links that haven't quite made it into a MindBlog post, I note this Op-Ed piece by David Brooks from Dec. 31, in which he summarizes the main arguments in a new history of Western Philosophy by Dreyfus and Kelly, "All Things Shining."
Dreyfus and Kelly start with Vico’s old idea that each age has its own lens through which people see the world. In the Middle Ages, for example, “people could not help but experience themselves as determined or created by God.” They assumed that God’s plans encompassed their lives the way we assume the laws of physics do...For the past hundred years or so, we have lived in a secular age...individuals have to find or create their own meaning.
Dreyfus and Kelly...are on to something important when they describe the way — far more than in past ages — sports has risen up to fill a spiritual void...Spiritually unmoored, many people nonetheless experience intense elevation during the magical moments that sport often affords. They call this experience “whooshing up.” We get whooshed up at a sports arena, at a political rally or even at magical moments while woodworking or walking through nature...We should not expect these experiences to cohere into a single “meaning of life.” Transcendent experiences are plural and incompatible...Our most vibrant institutions are collective, not individual or religious. They are there to create that group whoosh: the sports stadium, the concert hall, the political rally, the theater, the museum and the gourmet restaurant. Even church is often more about the ecstatic whoosh than the theology...Real life is more about serial whooshes than coherent meaning. (Though they try, Dreyfus and Kelly don’t give us a satisfying basis upon which to distinguish the whooshing some people felt at civil rights rallies from the whooshing others felt at Nazi rallies.)