The appeal of eternalism

Smarmy guy

Eternalism is the most attractive of all stances.1 It’s simple and easy to understand. It promises everything you could want from meaning: certainty, safety, understanding, and control. It offers solid ground; a foundation on which you can build a meaningful life.

Eternalism guarantees that everything is under control, meaningness-wise. Meanings are clear and fixed; they won’t slide out from under you. Ethics won’t change with fashion; your purpose in life won’t suddenly become pointless; you are not going turn into someone other than the person you truly are and have always been.

If you play your part in the Cosmic Plan, everything will be well. You are guaranteed a good outcome if you follow the rules. Even when your life seems to be a chaotic disaster, even when you doubt whether it means anything—even then, it is all part of the Cosmic Plan, and there is nothing to worry about. Conflict and uncertainty, all sorts of messiness about meaning—these are only illusions.

  1. 1.Eternalism seems also to be the most biologically natural stance. Something like it is automatic; our brains just go there by default. See the discussions of patternicity earlier, and magical thinking later. More precisely, the innate human worldview is probably animism, which is not quite eternalistic. Animism makes everything meaningful, but does not make explicit that everything is meaningful—which is part of my understanding of eternalism.