What follows is a transcript of my notes of Truman Madsen’s “last lectures” called Timeless Questions, Gospel Insights. He stated that if he could give one last series of lectures, these are the lectures he would give. These notes come from the first of the lectures. The notes are quite disjointed – they are nowhere near an exact transcript of Truman Madsen’s words; however and hopefully they still are interesting.
“What is matter? Never mind. What is mind? It doesn’t matter” said the philosopher Bertrand Russell. Some philosophers speak of man as tripartite – three parts – nous, psyche, and soma: reason, spirit, and body. These three parts constitute the “soul” of man. What is manhood? According to Plato, it goes beyond this world. Truth, beauty, and good are the basis of much of Greek philosophy. These philosophies led to a change in Christian and Hebrew theology. Hamlet’s famous musing: “To be or not to be” to a latter-day saint could be phrased “to become or not to become.” This describes our potential. God is the ultimate extension of intelligence. God cannot create or destroy this – or Himself. We are all eternally self-existent. “Joseph Smith said, “God never had the power to create the spirit of man, for all intelligence is spirit…” We are beginningless. Greek notion – time is non-temporality. Joseph Smith also said [this is Truman possibly paraphrasing], “God found himself in the midst of intelligence and glory and was infinitely more intelligent. He set laws wherewith these intelligences could become exalted like himself.” This is good doctrine; it tastes good and is sweet.
If there is no God [as some people claim], we have to go to the laws of chance to get everything. Start with mere atoms and get these remarkable selves [people]. This is a sad doctrine [in that] there is nothing to look forward to. This leads to existentialism – which is a philosophy formed around human existence. One branch of this is phenomenal logicalism. Sartre was part of this movement. He said that L’homme est une passion inutile – man is a useless passion. You create you from nothing – you are responsible to no one. Sartre also said, “Hell is other people” and he may be right. Existence precedes essence – you exist before you think. Then there is the threat of non-being; this is the ontological shock – we only exist as long as we project ourselves, our nature, on that around us.
We believe that we are stuck with ourselves forever. We must be a pleasant person to live with. You have a body forever. This is bad news if you are hard to live with; good news if you can live with yourselves.