Confused stances come in pairs

Confused stances come in mirror-image pairs

Confused stances are strategies for avoiding accepting nebulosity. Each confused stance applies the basic methods of fixation and denial to different aspects of meaningness.

This means that these wrong ideas come in mirror-image pairs. In each pair, one stance fixates what the other denies, and vice versa.

Mirror images

Eternalism and nihilism are the simplest confused stances. Eternalism attempts to fixate all meaningness. Nihilism attempts to deny all meaningness.

Because meaningness is always both nebulous and patterned, eternalism and nihilism both always fail.

Each of the other confused stances denies some aspect of meaningness and fixates another.1 Therefore, they are attempts at compromise between eternalism and nihilism. These increasingly complicated compromises also fail; every dimension of meaningness is both nebulous and patterned.

As a simple example, the stance of true self fixates personal continuity. It insists that there is a mental thing within us that is stable, well-defined, and fully separate: the self. It denies personal nebulosity: the inaccessibility, incoherence, variability, transience, and patchwork quality of this supposed self. The mirror-image stance of no-self fixates personal discontinuity. It denies the pattern of the self: the personality quirks, projects, memories, and relationships that make up an individual.

As a more complicated example, the stances of mission and materialism both fixate personal purpose. However, they agree that purposes can be divided into “eternal” and “mundane” ones. Mission then fixates eternal purposes and denies mundane ones. Materialism fixates mundane purposes and denies eternal ones.

Each of these pairs polarizes meaningness into two unworkable extremes. Because both sides of the polarity refuse to recognize nebulosity (in opposite ways) both fail. Surely the truth lies somewhere in-between? Unfortunately, no: finding the middle ground cannot resolve these dilemmas.

  • 1. One can say that even eternalism and nihilism do this, in a sense. Eternalism attempts to deny meaninglessness, and nihilism attempts to fixate it.

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This page is in the section Stances: responses to meaningness.

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