Our Cosmic Insignificance
Version of Record online: 4 JUN 2013
© 2013 The Author(s). NOÛS published by Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Volume 48, Issue 4, pages 745–772, December 2014
How to Cite
Kahane, G. (2014), Our Cosmic Insignificance. Noûs, 48: 745–772. doi: 10.1111/nous.12030
- Issue online: 27 OCT 2014
- Version of Record online: 4 JUN 2013
The universe that surrounds us is vast, and we are so very small. When we reflect on the vastness of the universe, our humdrum cosmic location, and the inevitable future demise of humanity, our lives can seem utterly insignificant. Many philosophers assume that such worries about our significance reflect a banal metaethical confusion. They dismiss the very idea of cosmic significance. This, I argue, is a mistake. Worries about cosmic insignificance do not express metaethical worries about objectivity or nihilism, and we can make good sense of the idea of cosmic significance and its absence. It is also possible to explain why the vastness of the universe can make us feel insignificant. This impression does turn out to be mistaken, but not for the reasons typically assumed. In fact, we might be of immense cosmic significance—though we cannot, at this point, tell whether this is the case.