AuthorTopic: Extreme examples, eternalism and nihilism  (Read 4723 times)

Offline knarf

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Extreme examples, eternalism and nihilism
« on: May 13, 2017, 04:43:50 AM »



Why would anyone want to claim that everything is meaningful, or that everything is meaningless, defying our everyday experience that some things are meaningful and some not?

Here I’ll give an example of extreme meaninglessness, and one of extreme meaningfulness. Because it is difficult to deny their meaninglessness and meaningfulness, these help uncover the reasons people might want to do that.
Fear of meaninglessness motivates eternalism

A tiny gray pebble slides half an inch down a slope on a lifeless planet a million light-years from the nearest star. No being ever knows about this, and nothing happens as a result of it.

If anything is meaningless, this is it. So why on earth would you claim this must be meaningful? Only if it is important that absolutely everything is meaningful. And why would that be?

This insistence is motivated by fear: the fear that perhaps everything is meaningless.

If we could definitely say which things are meaningful and which are meaningless, there would be no problem. The meaninglessness of the pebble’s slide would not threaten the meaningfulness of our own lives.

But we cannot always say what has meaning and what does not. We have no hard-line test. Meaningfulness is frustratingly unreliable; transient, uncertain.

There are clues. In everyday experience, it seems that things are meaningful only if they are meaningful to someone. And, mostly things are meaningful only if they have some effect, positive or negative, on someone. The pebble’s slide is meaningless because it fails those tests.

But what about your own life? Things happen that seem meaningful to you. But often they do not seem meaningful to other people—especially if they affect only you. And it is certainly possible to be mistaken about meaningfulness—to suppose things have meanings that they don’t. So isn’t it possible that you are entirely mistaken about meaningfulness? Isn’t it possible that life itself is completely meaningless? That is a profoundly depressing idea.

“Nonsense,” you think. “I know that my life is meaningful to me.” But what good is that? No one else cares about your life the way you do. Maybe your supposed “meaningfulness” is a delusion. Maybe it is purely subjective, and exists only in your own mind. And then, so what? That seems like a meaningless kind of “meaning.”

This is a slippery slope you don’t want to slide down. Since there seem to be no definite criteria for meaningfulness, you cannot rely on anything to have meaning. There is no solid ground under foot, once you admit the nebulosity of meaningness.

Better to stick a stake in the ground at the top of the hill. If everything is meaningful, then there is no need to sort out what is or isn’t. There is no need to grapple with ambiguity and uncertainty. There is a reliable foundation on which you can build a meaningful life.

This is the stance of eternalism. Eternalism provides a reassuring firmness, certainty, definiteness to meaning. It says: you are right to care about what you do, because it is truly meaningful.

But what makes everything meaningful? What could give meaning to the pebble?

Here, you must invoke a Cosmic Plan. There has to be a universe-spanning intelligence that knows everything, and that gives everything meaning. (What meaning? That is not always for humans to know.)

The supposed meaningfulness of the pebble and the Cosmic Plan are mutually reinforcing. The pebble couldn’t be meaningful without the Cosmic Plan. If seemingly meaningless things were not really meaningful, the Cosmic Plan would have no work to do, and we would have no reason to imagine it.

Since usually things are meaningful only to someone, who likes or dislikes them, you might personalize the Cosmic Plan. God is the “someone” to whom all things are meaningful, and whose preferences gives positive or negative value to all things.
Fear of excessive meaning motivates nihilism

A gigantic spaceship arrives. Astonishingly beautiful aliens emerge, and announce that they are on a diplomatic mission from the Universal Federation of a billion planets.

Humankind, they explain, has reached the point of sophistication where we can join the Federation. We will not, however, join as junior partners. Human beings have a unique spiritual ability not found anywhere else in the universe. This ability is latent in us now, but can easily be developed with tools the aliens will provide.

Unfortunately, the entire universe, with its billions of inhabited planets, will be destroyed just a few years from now. A tiny flaw in the fabric of reality is about to spread across the universe in an instant, like a pin-prick in a balloon, and the whole of space-time will evaporate.

Only the specially-developed spiritual abilities of human beings can prevent this.

The aliens will make us immortal and vastly more intelligent than any human has ever been—a necessary prerequisite to this spiritual development. Naturally, this will make us radically different from the way we were; we will no longer be human.

Having saved the universe, humanity will lead all other intelligent species to a triumphant destiny, a culmination of the ultimate purpose of existence that is now utterly inconceivable.

However, since the aliens do not wish to force anyone to do anything, it is up to us to decide whether to undergo the transformation.

This is a meaningful choice. The fate of the universe, and billions of billions of beings, hangs in the balance.

Suddenly, your nagging back ache, your promotion review at work, and the credit card company’s screw-up that is causing all kinds of havoc—all highly meaningful yesterday—seem totally meaningless. Political parties, religious differences, wars, economics, favorite songs—even these become meaningless by comparison.

The only way to say “this choice would not really be meaningful” is to insist that, no matter how many beings are affected, the apparent meaning is still just subjective. It’s only in the minds of a bunch of random life-forms, who are (after all) just blobs of matter; swirls of subatomic particles. Therefore, it is illusory.

Implicit here again is the view that real meaningfulness could only be objective, and could only be provided by something external to the universe. There is no Cosmic Plan, so nothing is truly meaningful.

This is the stance of nihilism. Nihilism’s improbable insistence on meaninglessness is also motivated by fear. It is the mirror-image fear of eternalism.

The fear is that, if you admit anything is meaningful, then perhaps everything has a fixed meaning—or at least everything in your life.

You don’t want the responsibility of dealing with the intricacies, implications, and imperatives of all that meaningfulness. And if everything had a specific meaning, there would be no room for creativity. You would have no freedom.

Perhaps worst of all, you might have to accept a lot of sentimental claptrap—the nonsense eternalists spout in a desperate attempt to justify their delusions.
Meaningness without a Cosmic Plan

Eternalism and nihilism exist only out of fear of each other. There is a better alternative—what I call the complete stance.

I suggest that meaningfulness is not provided by a Cosmic Plan. There is no Cosmic Plan; but that does not mean that nothing is meaningful.

I suggest that some things are meaningful, and some things are not. That is true even though we have no definite criteria to decide which is which.

I suggest that meaningness is neither objective, nor subjective.

Accepting these suggestions allows you to let go of the unrealistic fears that motivate both eternalism and nihilism.

This complete view of meaningness has its own implications. They may seem to make life more complicated. However, the complete stance also eliminates the many troubles eternalism and nihilism cause.

https://meaningness.com/extreme-examples-eternalism-and-nihilism
NECROCAPITALISM at http://openmind693.wordpress.com ‘Rolling thunder. Shock. A noble one in fear and dread sets things in order and is watchful.’ I-Ching (Hex.51)

Offline RE

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Re: Extreme examples, eternalism and nihilism
« Reply #1 on: May 13, 2017, 05:00:14 AM »
Extreme examples sometimes can demonstrate dichotomies well, but it's a big leap to say this is neither subjective or objective.

There are no aliens currently offering eternal life to Homo Saps, any more than there are Ferengi with Starships loaded with Gold Pressed Latinum and Dilithium Crystals to solve our monetary and energy problems.  So you can nix out this entire aspect of this argument, it's just fantasy.

Are pebbles rolling down a hill on some far off planet with no sapient life form around to appreciate that meaningful?  That is just another version of "If a tree falls in the forest with nobody around to hear it, does it make a sound?".  Or "What is the sound of one hand clapping?".  And so forth.  These type of illustrations confound people in general.

In order to get beyond the confounding, you need to understand yourself and what meaning really is, which is the totality of the universe and beyond, and how God permeates that existence.  It takes time to work through it though, and most people do not take the time to do it, or just don't have the time.  Too bizzy getting enough food to eat.

RE
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Offline knarf

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Re: Extreme examples, eternalism and nihilism
« Reply #2 on: May 13, 2017, 05:40:15 AM »
Extreme examples sometimes can demonstrate dichotomies well, but it's a big leap to say this is neither subjective or objective.

There are no aliens currently offering eternal life to Homo Saps, any more than there are Ferengi with Starships loaded with Gold Pressed Latinum and Dilithium Crystals to solve our monetary and energy problems.  So you can nix out this entire aspect of this argument, it's just fantasy.

Are pebbles rolling down a hill on some far off planet with no sapient life form around to appreciate that meaningful?  That is just another version of "If a tree falls in the forest with nobody around to hear it, does it make a sound?".  Or "What is the sound of one hand clapping?".  And so forth.  These type of illustrations confound people in general.

In order to get beyond the confounding, you need to understand yourself and what meaning really is, which is the totality of the universe and beyond, and how God permeates that existence.  It takes time to work through it though, and most people do not take the time to do it, or just don't have the time.  Too bizzy getting enough food to eat.

RE

I agree. What I do is not wander to either extreme. I accept my physical responsibilities, and find meaning in them, and people i know. I know that in 10,000 years in all is just dust in the wind, so while I have this body, I am gonna kick up a little dust!  ;D
NECROCAPITALISM at http://openmind693.wordpress.com ‘Rolling thunder. Shock. A noble one in fear and dread sets things in order and is watchful.’ I-Ching (Hex.51)

Offline RE

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Re: Extreme examples, eternalism and nihilism
« Reply #3 on: May 13, 2017, 07:07:32 AM »
Extreme examples sometimes can demonstrate dichotomies well, but it's a big leap to say this is neither subjective or objective.

There are no aliens currently offering eternal life to Homo Saps, any more than there are Ferengi with Starships loaded with Gold Pressed Latinum and Dilithium Crystals to solve our monetary and energy problems.  So you can nix out this entire aspect of this argument, it's just fantasy.

Are pebbles rolling down a hill on some far off planet with no sapient life form around to appreciate that meaningful?  That is just another version of "If a tree falls in the forest with nobody around to hear it, does it make a sound?".  Or "What is the sound of one hand clapping?".  And so forth.  These type of illustrations confound people in general.

In order to get beyond the confounding, you need to understand yourself and what meaning really is, which is the totality of the universe and beyond, and how God permeates that existence.  It takes time to work through it though, and most people do not take the time to do it, or just don't have the time.  Too bizzy getting enough food to eat.

RE

I agree. What I do is not wander to either extreme. I accept my physical responsibilities, and find meaning in them, and people i know. I know that in 10,000 years in all is just dust in the wind, so while I have this body, I am gonna kick up a little dust!  ;D

Dust is good.  It's meaningful.  :icon_sunny:

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Offline Eddie

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Re: Extreme examples, eternalism and nihilism
« Reply #4 on: May 13, 2017, 09:51:44 AM »
Nice article. Good work there Knarf.

Brings up some good questions.

What's the best way for someone to know whether something is meaningful?

Intuition, that's my answer. You just know. Whatever criteria I may have been born with or learned, it doesn't matter. The answer lies very early, one way or another. Does that mean "meaningfulness" is a completely subjective term. Maybe....maybe not.

Just like all the little anecdotal bits of life that suggest that there is more to consciousness than something constructed in the human mind, we have clues that can guide us. Objective? Not exactly, but just like we humans can largely agree on what constitutes our reality (Gravity keeps us from flying off the planet. Sun comes up in the East.) we can agree on certain behaviors, as to whether they are positive or negative.

Think of the unfolding universe as a larger, more complicated version of an ocean wave. You can behave in a way that is congruent with the force of the wave, like a surfer taking a free ride on a beautiful curl. Effortless, beautiful. Using the power of the ocean to propel us along.

Or we can walk  headfirst into a big breaker, get smacked headfirst into the sand, and get a mouthful of dirty saltwater.

Is one of those better than the other?  My intuition says yes. I think most people would agree. No?

So put me down as an eternalist. Not because I am eternal. I came from dust and will soon return to dust. But the wave, the unfolding universe, is eternal, and I am and always will be a part of that, in ways that I don't fully understand.

Take the ride, I say. Don't fight the ocean.

What that means to me is this:

Kindness is the height of human behavior.

Sustainable living that considers the entire ecosystem and other species and the planet as a whole, is better behavior than strip mining and industrial agriculture.

Peace is better than war.

Living in an imperfect world is superior to suicide.

Nihilism sucks.



What makes the desert beautiful is that somewhere it hides a well.

Offline luciddreams

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Re: Extreme examples, eternalism and nihilism
« Reply #5 on: May 13, 2017, 10:05:43 AM »
Nice article. Good work there Knarf.

Brings up some good questions.

What's the best way for someone to know whether something is meaningful?

Intuition, that's my answer. You just know. Whatever criteria I may have been born with or learned, it doesn't matter. The answer lies very early, one way or another. Does that mean "meaningfulness" is a completely subjective term. Maybe....maybe not.

Just like all the little anecdotal bits of life that suggest that there is more to consciousness than something constructed in the human mind, we have clues that can guide us. Objective? Not exactly, but just like we humans can largely agree on what constitutes our reality (Gravity keeps us from flying off the planet. Sun comes up in the East.) we can agree on certain behaviors, as to whether they are positive or negative.

Think of the unfolding universe as a larger, more complicated version of an ocean wave. You can behave in a way that is congruent with the force of the wave, like a surfer taking a free ride on a beautiful curl. Effortless, beautiful. Using the power of the ocean to propel us along.

Or we can walk  headfirst into a big breaker, get smacked headfirst into the sand, and get a mouthful of dirty saltwater.

Is one of those better than the other?  My intuition says yes. I think most people would agree. No?

So put me down as an eternalist. Not because I am eternal. I came from dust and will soon return to dust. But the wave, the unfolding universe, is eternal, and I am and always will be a part of that, in ways that I don't fully understand.

Take the ride, I say. Don't fight the ocean.

What that means to me is this:

Kindness is the height of human behavior.

Sustainable living that considers the entire ecosystem and other species and the planet as a whole, is better behavior than strip mining and industrial agriculture.

Peace is better than war.

Living in an imperfect world is superior to suicide.

Nihilism sucks.

That was beautiful, thanks for it Eddie😊

I was ruminating on this article a few moments ago.  I was playing Shakuhachi, and I thought it was a beautiful thing to do, and to hear, and I thought that process had some kind of meaning.  I thought it could really be as simple as that.  The point to it all could just be to create beauty in spite of Samsara...just because beauty is beautiful and that is the reason.  I suppose it's the same with love.

Offline RE

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Re: Extreme examples, eternalism and nihilism
« Reply #6 on: May 13, 2017, 12:23:44 PM »
Think of the unfolding universe as a larger, more complicated version of an ocean wave. You can behave in a way that is congruent with the force of the wave, like a surfer taking a free ride on a beautiful curl. Effortless, beautiful. Using the power of the ocean to propel us along.

<a href="http://www.youtube.com/v/3KM5Vnnog5w" target="_blank" class="new_win">http://www.youtube.com/v/3KM5Vnnog5w</a>

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Offline RE

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Kelly Slater on the Wipeout that nearly killed him
« Reply #7 on: May 13, 2017, 12:43:49 PM »
<a href="http://www.youtube.com/v/_wimsBlgnQw" target="_blank" class="new_win">http://www.youtube.com/v/_wimsBlgnQw</a>

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Offline Ka

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Re: Extreme examples, eternalism and nihilism
« Reply #8 on: May 13, 2017, 04:42:41 PM »
"Eternalism and nihilism exist only out of fear of each other."

An ad hominem argument. If, instead, one employs reason...

If one assumes there are events that happen outside any experience then one is faced with either the hard problem of consciousness (for the materialist) or the interaction problem (for the dualist). These problems are intractable, in that no one, after centuries pondering them, has a hint of a clue how they can be solved. On the other hand, denying that assumption, and saying instead that only experience is real, removes those problems without adding anything intractable. If that makes one an "eternalist", so be it. At least it is coherent.

Offline RE

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Re: Extreme examples, eternalism and nihilism
« Reply #9 on: May 13, 2017, 06:37:55 PM »
"Eternalism and nihilism exist only out of fear of each other."

An ad hominem argument. If, instead, one employs reason...

Who's the hom in the argument?

Ad Hom is an argument made to undermine the person you are arguing with rather than addressing the topic.  Irv isn't arguing with anyone here, he's just stating his POV.

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Offline Ka

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Re: Extreme examples, eternalism and nihilism
« Reply #10 on: May 13, 2017, 10:03:00 PM »
"Eternalism and nihilism exist only out of fear of each other."

An ad hominem argument. If, instead, one employs reason...

Who's the hom in the argument?

Ad Hom is an argument made to undermine the person you are arguing with rather than addressing the topic.  Irv isn't arguing with anyone here, he's just stating his POV.

RE

The hom is whoever holds an eternalist or nihilist point of view. We are being accused of holding the position out of fear, not careful thought. (BTW, this is from someone named David Chapman, not Irv.)

Offline RE

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Re: Extreme examples, eternalism and nihilism
« Reply #11 on: May 14, 2017, 12:40:33 AM »
"Eternalism and nihilism exist only out of fear of each other."

An ad hominem argument. If, instead, one employs reason...

Who's the hom in the argument?

Ad Hom is an argument made to undermine the person you are arguing with rather than addressing the topic.  Irv isn't arguing with anyone here, he's just stating his POV.

RE

The hom is whoever holds an eternalist or nihilist point of view. We are being accused of holding the position out of fear, not careful thought. (BTW, this is from someone named David Chapman, not Irv.)

I don't think that counts as Ad Hom.  If he was arguing with you and said you were motivated out of fear, that could be considered Ad Hom.

This is more like making a diagnosis of a general class of people.  Like saying "schizophrenics behave the way they do because of a biochemical imbalance in the brain".  Or, "Pigmen act the way they do because they are greedy scumbags with empathy deficit disorder".

You are free of course to argue with the diagnosis and show why it is incorrect, at least in some cases.

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Offline Ka

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Re: Extreme examples, eternalism and nihilism
« Reply #12 on: May 14, 2017, 03:07:35 PM »

The hom is whoever holds an eternalist or nihilist point of view. We are being accused of holding the position out of fear, not careful thought. (BTW, this is from someone named David Chapman, not Irv.)

I don't think that counts as Ad Hom.  If he was arguing with you and said you were motivated out of fear, that could be considered Ad Hom.

From wikipedia:

"Ad hominem (Latin for "to the man" or "to the person"[1]), short for argumentum ad hominem, is now usually understood as a logical fallacy in which an argument is rebutted by attacking the character, motive, or other attribute of the person making the argument, or persons associated with the argument, rather than attacking the substance of the argument itself."

To say that eternalism and nihilism exist solely out of fear is attacking the motive and character of the eternalist or nihilist, rather than attacking the substance of eternalism or nihilism. Sure looks like an ad hominem to me, that is, is logically fallacious.

Offline RE

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Re: Extreme examples, eternalism and nihilism
« Reply #13 on: May 14, 2017, 04:05:40 PM »

The hom is whoever holds an eternalist or nihilist point of view. We are being accused of holding the position out of fear, not careful thought. (BTW, this is from someone named David Chapman, not Irv.)

I don't think that counts as Ad Hom.  If he was arguing with you and said you were motivated out of fear, that could be considered Ad Hom.

From wikipedia:

"Ad hominem (Latin for "to the man" or "to the person"[1]), short for argumentum ad hominem, is now usually understood as a logical fallacy in which an argument is rebutted by attacking the character, motive, or other attribute of the person making the argument, or persons associated with the argument, rather than attacking the substance of the argument itself."

To say that eternalism and nihilism exist solely out of fear is attacking the motive and character of the eternalist or nihilist, rather than attacking the substance of eternalism or nihilism. Sure looks like an ad hominem to me, that is, is logically fallacious.
Bold mine.

Except he's not attacking the person or character of the person making the argument, because there is no person making the argument!  He's not debating with you Ka.  He's just stating his perception.  He hasn't targeted you for attack.  Ad hom is when two (or more) people are debating and then one person call the other person stupid, or some other derogatory adjective rather than address the topic.  The topic here is what moticates eternalists and nihilists, and he posits that the motivator is fear.  That's not ad hom, sorry.

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Offline agelbert

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Re: Extreme examples, eternalism and nihilism
« Reply #14 on: May 14, 2017, 04:24:10 PM »

The hom is whoever holds an eternalist or nihilist point of view. We are being accused of holding the position out of fear, not careful thought. (BTW, this is from someone named David Chapman, not Irv.)

I don't think that counts as Ad Hom.  If he was arguing with you and said you were motivated out of fear, that could be considered Ad Hom.

From wikipedia:

"Ad hominem (Latin for "to the man" or "to the person"[1]), short for argumentum ad hominem, is now usually understood as a logical fallacy in which an argument is rebutted by attacking the character, motive, or other attribute of the person making the argument, or persons associated with the argument, rather than attacking the substance of the argument itself."

To say that eternalism and nihilism exist solely out of fear is attacking the motive and character of the eternalist or nihilist, rather than attacking the substance of eternalism or nihilism. Sure looks like an ad hominem to me, that is, is logically fallacious.
Bold mine.

Except he's not attacking the person or character of the person making the argument, because there is no person making the argument!  He's not debating with you Ka.  He's just stating his perception.  He hasn't targeted you for attack.  Ad hom is when two (or more) people are debating and then one person call the other person stupid, or some other derogatory adjective rather than address the topic.  The topic here is what moticates eternalists and nihilists, and he posits that the motivator is fear.  That's not ad hom, sorry.

RE

Good points, RE.  :emthup:

Ka,
why do you think being motivated by fear is a negative concept? I agree that being motivated by GROUNDLESS fear is certainly to be disdained, but LOGIC based fear (e.g. some thing, being or event is to be feared because it has been conclusively proven to be deleterious to your continued biochemical activity.), IMHO, is, well, prudent, as well as logical. 
Leges         Sine    Moribus      Vanae   
Faith,
if it has not works, is dead, being alone.

 

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