How and why is there something rather than nothing? If that’s not an ultimate question, I don’t know what is. It’s also the driving question of the philosopher and theologian Robert Cummings Neville’s latest, and most ambitious, opus. This work, Ultimates, is not just ambitious in its question; it’s also incredibly ambitious in scope, as Neville looks at nearly every major religious tradition in depth.
The most surprising and refreshing part of this book is that it’s actually relevant to life. This is incredibly rare within modern philosophy, which is all too often just weird, dense, abstract reflections on itself. Instead, Neville dares to talk about goodness, beauty, and truth. He dares to recognize value. It’s crazy to have to call such a thing “daring,” but regrettably most of modern philosophy won’t touch these topics. Best of all, Neville doesn’t just talk about how we actually live – he brings as much data to bear on the question as possible. Like I said, it’s an ambitious book.
So of course I can’t cover the whole thing. But here’s a snippet. Given the way the cosmos is, Neville argues that there are “ultimate” questions that we can’t help but run up against. They’re the problems that are inescapable – to opt out of answering them is itself an answer. They’re also the sorts of problems that nearly all religions have built solutions to address. That’s not to say the solutions are all the same – they tend to range across the imaginable spectrum. It’s simply to say that even radically different solutions are aimed at answering the same questions – the ultimate questions.