Steinbeck's Nonteleological Perspective

3036 Words May 1st, 2005 13 Pages
There is no meaning to life. Life has no inherent meaning. The meanings of our lives are chosen by what we feel and experience or are assigned to us by others. The ends of our existence cannot be foreseen and will not be limited by such things as destiny. These are the ideas and philosophies of those who believe life to be non-teleological. A famous literary example of a non-teleologist is a man named John Steinbeck. Throughout his life Steinbeck experimented with Darwinism, transcendentalism, realism, socialism, naturalism, and Taoism (Endnotes 1). Each of these ways of thinking show up in Steinbeck's philosophy and therefore his work cannot be classified specifically. All that may be said is that he had a non-teleological way of …show more content…
There is an important idea to keep in mind when considering teleology. "The question in not whether there are efficient or final causes, whether for instance, man sees because he has eyes or has eyes in order to see" (Teleological Explanations 1).
One of the clearest examples of Steinbeck's non-teleological view of life occurs in the novel East of Eden in which a character discusses choice in life and glory of the human soul as a result of that choice. Lee is revealing his discovery of the correct translation of the story of Cain and Able in The Bible.
The American Standard translation orders men to triumph over sin, and you call sin ignorance. The King James translation makes a promise in ‘Thou shalt,' meaning that men will surely triumph over sin. But the Hebrew word, the word timshel—‘Thou mayest'—that gives choice. It might be the most important word in the world. That says the way is open. That throws it right back on a man. For if ‘Thou mayest' it is also true that ‘Though mayest not.' Don't you see?" (303) The character, Lee, being a Chinese refugee, takes this new idea to heart not as a religious philosophy but as a way of viewing life. He stated: "This is not theology. I have no bent towards the gods. But I have a new love for that flittering instrument, the human soul. It is a lovely and unique thing in the universe. It is