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Philosophy and Environmental Studies

“Vonnegut’s Struggle with Nihilism in Cat’s Cradle” | Shapshay on Cat’s Cradle

Sandy Shapshay   Of all of his novels up to this point, Vonnegut’s 1963 Cat’s Cradle strikes me as the most Nietzschean. It’s in this novel that our Hoosier author—through the formerly Christian (p. 1), now Bokononist narrator Jonah (a.k.a. John)—struggles to overcome a nihilistic pessimism, the same –ism that exorcised Nietzsche throughout his writings. In Nietzsche’s first philosophical book, …

Campbell’s Confessions | Shapshay on Mother Night

Sandy Shapshay   Vonnegut’s first novel takes us into an automated, dystopian future; his second carries us deep into outer space; but Mother Night (1961), his third novel, brings us back to Earth and to the not-so-distant past. From the introduction we learn that Mother Night deals to some extent with what must have been the author’s own traumatic involvement …

Freedom, Purpose and Morality in The Sirens of Titan | Shapshay on The Sirens of Titan

The Sirens of Titan is a novel of ideas that takes the reader on an imaginative romp through the solar system. Three timeless philosophical questions are explored in the course of Malachi Constant’s space odyssey: the metaphysical question of whether free will is an illusion; the moral question of whether good ends can justify evil means; and, most prominently, the existential question of the meaning of life—that is, the question of whether an individual human life has a purpose, and, if so, what that purpose is.