Mattering theory, perhaps Rebecca Newberger Goldstein’s most distinctive contribution to philosophy, came into the world in a most unlikely way. Renee Feuer, the lead character of her 1983 novel The Mind-Body Problem, ruminated at some length on the importance of mattering—of feeling that one matters—and speculated that the “will to matter" was a principal human motivation. That digression aside, Goldstein completed her witty, insightful first novel and got on with a stellar career. It was only years later that she discovered, quite by accident, that a coterie of philosophers had discovered the will to matter and were building a serious body of work on the foundations it offered. Goldstein joined that dialogue with belated enthusiasm and has since taken her character’s wry notion in unexpected directions.
In this cover feature, Free Inquiry presents essays by Goldstein and by philosopher Andy Norman showcasing the profound ways in which mattering theory (as the discipline is now known) can inform our understanding of secular humanism.