I was planning to move to Florida, write philosophy in a library, while it was open, sleep outside in the warm weather at night, and hopefully find some soup kitchen or something. […] Living in the city slums wasn’t that enjoyable a feeling, especially since being robbed and shot at tended to disrupt my concentration on the theory I was working on.
Quentin Smith, ‘An interview with Quentin Smith’
[F]elt importances are neither propositions nor universals nor Platonic ideals; rather, they are individual and concrete features of the empirically existing world-whole.
Quentin Smith, The Felt Meanings of the World: A Metaphysics of Feeling, West Lafayette, Indiana, 1986, p. 29
The basic presupposition shared by Heidegger and other philosophers in the rational-metaphysical tradition from Plato and Aristotle onwards is that the central metaphysical question is a Why-question, and is about the reason or reasons that explain why everything is and is as it is. Metaphysicians from Plato to Hegel presupposed the most fundamental metaphysical truth to be the answer to this question, and metaphysicians from Schopenhauer onwards presupposed the most basic metaphysical truth to be the unanswerability of this question.
Quentin Smith, The Felt Meanings of the World: A Metaphysics of Feeling, West Lafayette, Indiana, 1986, p. 13
[T]here may be an even more basic (and perhaps unique) problem that arises due to the highly non-conservative shift in thinking that a transition to quantum cognitive science would require. It may be that quantum ontologies are so ‘strange’ that many, most, or virtually all philosophers find them psychologically impossible to believe. This may be a genetic problem, rather than merely a problem in the lack of intellectual acculturation in quantum ontology.
Quentin Smith, ‘Why Cognitive Scientists Cannot Ignore Quantum Mechanics’, in Smith and Aleksandar Jokic (eds.), Consciousness: New Philosophical Perspectives, Oxford, 2003, p. 410
[W]hy is there a whole of parts rather than nothing at all? […] The reason why this whole of parts exists, rather than some other possible whole, is that this whole’s existence is logically required by the existence of its parts, and its parts exist. The parts of the merely possible whole do not exist, and therefore the actual existence of this merely possible whole is not logically required.
But why these parts? These parts exist because all of them have been caused to exist by earlier parts. Other possible parts do not exist because nothing causes them to exist.
But why is there something rather than nothing? The whole of parts is something. The reason it exists is that every one of its parts has been caused to exist by earlier parts and the whole’s existence is logically required by the existence of the parts. The reason there is not nothing is that a universe caused itself to begin to exist and the basic laws governing this universe instantiated themselves.
By thy is there such a thing as a universe that causes itself to begin to exist? The reason is that this universe’s existence is logically required by the existence of its parts and its parts exist because each of them is caused to exist by an earlier part.
Quentin Smith, ‘Kalam Cosmological Arguments for Atheism’, in Michael Martin (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Atheism, Cambridge, 2006, pp. 192-193
[M]y entire life is less valuable than the entire state of my being dead (which may be identified with the continued existence of the matter and energy that composed my body at the time of my death, even if this matter and energy no longer constitutes a corpse and breaks down into separated and distant atoms). My life can add up only to a finite number of units of value. But my state of being dead lasts for an infinite amount of future time. Even if my state of being dead at each time has the minimal value, say one (the value of the members of the set of particles that composed my body at the time of my death), my state of being dead will have aleph-zero units of value. My state of being dead is infinitely more valuable than my state of being alive. The same is true for any human and any living being.
Quentin Smith, ‘Moral Realism and Infinite Spacetime Imply Moral Nihilism’, in Heather Dyke (ed.), Time and Ethics: Essays at the Intersection, Dordrecht, 2003, p. 47
[W]e cannot concentrate only on benefactors to humans. Perhaps Peter Singer, the most influential person in promoting the welfare and rights of animals, will ultimately have contributed more to the development of the universe than benefactors merely of humans. Perhaps Singer’s book Animal Liberation will (over the centuries) have increased the happiness, health, and lives of animals to such an extent that it adds up to a greater amount of goodness than the human development that will be the total consequence of (say) Gandhi’s actions.
Quentin Smith, Ethical and Religious Thought in Analytic Philosophy of Language, New Haven, 1997, p. 217
Most of the time, we live in an illusion of meaningfulness and only some times, when we are philosophically reflective, are we aware of reality and the meaninglessness of our lives. It seems obvious that this has a genetic basis, due to Darwinian laws of evolution. In order to survive and reproduce, it must seem to us most of the time that our actions are not futile, that people have rights. The rare occasions in which we know the truth about life are genetically prevented from overriding living our daily lives with the illusion that they are meaningful. As I progress through this paper, I have the illusion that my efforts are not utterly futile, but right now, as I stop and reflect, I realise that any further effort put into this paper is a futile expenditure of my energy.
Quentin Smith, ‘Moral Realism and Infinite Spacetime Imply Moral Nihilism’, in Heather Dyke (ed.), Time and Ethics: Essays at the Intersection, Dordrecht, 2003, p. 53
Not long ago I was sleeping in a cabin in the woods and was awoken in the middle of the night by the sounds of a struggle between two animals. Cries of terror and extreme agony rent the night, intermingled with the sounds of jaws snapping bones and flesh being torn from limbs. One animal was being savagely attacked, killed and then devoured by another. […] [I]it seems to me that the horror I experienced on that dark night in the woods was a veridical insight. What I experienced was a brief and terrifying glimpse into the ultimately evil dimension of a godless world.
Quentin Smith, ‘An Atheological Argument from Evil Natural Laws’, International Journal for Philosophy of Religion, vol. 29, no. 3 (June, 1991), pp. 159, 173
I don’t think philosophers have careers. Business executives or bankers can properly be said to have careers, but devoting one’s life to pursuing the basic truths cannot be considered a career. I experience philosophizing to be the same thing as being alive. For example, I do not understand the distinction between “work” and “relaxation”, or the concept of a “vacation”. How can one take a vacation from thinking about what the point of human existence is, or whether it has any point at all? And how can philosophizing be classified as one’s “working hours”? As far as I can see, philosophizing hours are not “working hours” but instead should be viewed as the hours at which one is awake rather than asleep. Others may call it “work”, but I would call it “doing what it is natural for any conscious being to do”, trying to figure everything out.
Quentin Smith, ‘An interview with Quentin Smith’