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Synopsis

History and psychology indicate that people have psychological needs including a sense of meaning and purpose in their lives. Mountains symbolize obstacles in meeting these needs, and experiences in climbing mountains provide a vehicle both actually and figuratively for exploring associated mechanisms and impacts. The first chapter relates a personal experience climbing Mount Fuji that nearly ended in disaster, with the question of why people do such things. Subsequent chapters alternate between mountain climbing experiences and research results about why people pursue difficult tasks. A bottom-up approach supports the final chapter’s proposals of spirituality as a personality trait, nognosticism that recognizes knowledge is limited, ecumenical humanism for religious tolerance, and the philosophy of pragmatic pluralism. For life to be meaningful and manageable, people need a sense of purpose and coherence that is best met by having both a belief about the unknown and doubt of its validity.

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