In the British philosopher and novelist Iris Murdoch’s 1985 novel The Good Apprentice, one of the book’s central characters, Stuart Cuno, is consumed by a single, central question: what does it mean to live meaningfully, richly, fully in a world where God does not seem to exist? “He just sits wrestling with himself,” Stuart’s father laments, “wondering what the purehearted young idealist does now.” He cannot be a soldier, the father laughs; he cannot be a priest. Rather: “He wants to be like Job, always in the wrong before God, only he’s got to do it without God.” Like many of the characters in Murdoch’s 26 novels, Stuart is obsessed, even addicted to, the idea of meaning: constantly balancing his desire to lead a good life with an aesthetic hunger for extremity: the desire to be the kind of character who lives in a world just a little bit richer, just a little bit more enchanted, than that of the bourgeois social order around him.
Can Algorithms Satisfy the Human Need for Ritual?
The Startup Wife, a buzzy new novel, has been hailed as a serious exploration of modern spirituality. All it explores is a tech-fantasy of hyper-individualism and personal fulfillment.