An Overview of Clement Vidal’s, The Beginning and the End

The Beginning and the End: The Meaning of Life in a Cosmological Perspective

The author is Dr. Clement Vidal, a scholar and member of the Evolution, Complexity and Cognition Group at the Free University in Brussels, Belgium. Vidal investigates a most important question–whether modern scientific cosmology can satisfy our search for meaning in life. The book is a carefully and conscientiously crafted work of immense scope and daring imagination, one of the most important and timely books of the last few decades.

A briefest overview is as follows. Chapter 1 conducts a broad study of the philosophical method whose major aim, Vidal concludes, is to construct worldviews–comprehensive and coherent answers to big questions. Where do we come from? Where are we going? What should we do? What does it all mean? Chapter 2 develops criteria to test the strengths and weaknesses of these worldviews; Chapter 3 applies these criteria to various religious, philosophical and scientific worldviews; Chapters 4-6 investigate the question of the origin of the cosmos; chapters 7-8 study the question of the future of the cosmos; chapter 9 the question of whether we are alone in the cosmos; and Chapter 10 the possibility of a cosmological ethics.

Vidal is aware of the speculative nature of his work, but he reminds us that speculation plays a large part in the scientific and philosophical enterprises, speculation aims to solve scientific or philosophical problems. He knows his speculations could turn out to be wrong, but given the choice between careful speculation or silence, Vidal chooses the former. And we are glad he did. For his assiduous scholarship reveals the possibility that a scientific cosmology can provide a narrative which gives life meaning. A narrative so desperately needed as the old mythological ones become increasingly passé. And we are privileged to journey along with a well-ordered and visionary mind as it contemplates perhaps the most important question of our time–how do we find meaning in the cosmos revealed by modern science.


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