makes Eternalism promises it can’t keep. It lies about the things that are most important to us. It makes us do stupid, crazy, evil things. And we still love it and keep going back for more.
Eternalism seems so
. It is hard to believe ill of it. Yet always it drops its victims in seething cauldrons of misery. The message of nice this entire book is: eternalism is bad; there is a 1 . So, much of the book consists of warnings about eternalism’s harms. This page is an overview. better alternative
The harms are myriad. Some I have already discussed: troubles that flow from the
promise of certainty, the illusion of understanding, and the fantasy of control. Some I will detail shortly, in the sections on eternalist ploys and non-theistic eternalisms. Many must be postponed to chapters on allied with eternalism, such as stances , mission , and true self , each with harms specific to its ethical eternalism of meaningness. dimension
Broadly, we might categorize harms as:
Emotional regression with an abusive, addictive dynamic
Bad practical outcomes from unrealistic actions based on imaginary meanings
Emotional pain from trying to conform to eternalism when it’s obviously not working
Morally wrong decisions based on absolutist ethics
We are not stupid enough for eternalism
Eternalism comes naturally; human brains evolved to
hallucinate meaning where there is none. Any other takes at least a little thought. stance , especially, is difficult. It’s only possible to maintain nihilism using sophisticated rationalizations that explain away obvious meaningfulness. Other, more complex stances depend on dubious metaphysical distinctions that take work to apply in concrete circumstances. Nihilism
Nevertheless, eternalism is obviously wrong. Everyone can see that many events are
completely meaningless, and the meanings even of important ones are often . nebulous
To maintain eternalism, you have to
deliberately stupefy yourself. You need to damage your own natural intelligence to not-see nebulosity and to preserve illusions of meaningfulness and . Starting on the next page, I’ll explain various mind-killing cosmic order ploys you can use to hide eternalism’s failures and lies.
Eternalism can provide bogus
feelings of intelligence, from perceiving that aren’t there. This is the rush of excitement as the new convert to an eternalist system “discovers” that Mindfulness or Marx or Mormonism patterns explains everything. Desire for meaning makes you willing to sabotage your critical ability, in order to accept preposterous stories in which the Cosmic Plan makes everything make sense. That inhibits curiosity and the natural drive to find a better understanding.
In the end, no one can make themselves stupid enough to
eternalism—to maintain the stance at all times. Everyone, at times, does recognize nebulosity—and so accomplish moves into some other stance. Eternalism is regressive and addictive
Eternalism is comforting, when life is going well enough. Then you can choose to ignore the ways reality fails to fit
meanings. Eternalism’s promises of fixed hope and solace seem credible. You can live in a pastel fantasy world. So eternalism “works” as long you can maintain a childish, self-indulgent obliviousness—which is its characteristic emotional texture.
Maintaining eternalism requires emotional regression, into a toddler’s bedroom, watched over by a wise protecting parent: the Cosmic Plan, or some authority who poses as its representative. When you are unable to keep deluding yourself, you look for someone more powerful to do the job: someone or something that can affirm eternalism in the face of your perception of the contradictory evidence. The parent-figure promises to protect you from nebulosity. You choose this relationship specifically to obstruct
emotional and intellectual growth when that seems too frightening.
Preserving comforting illusions may be psychologically valuable in the short run, in times of crisis: as antidotes to depression, anxiety, and despair. (Those are symptoms of
, which may be the only accessible alternative to eternalism for some people.) In the longer run, this pain-killing function leads to helplessness and nihilism addiction.
As the opening paragraph of this page suggested, a relationship with eternalism may resemble addictive dynamics of domestic abuse, which keep a victim returning to the abuser. The victim believes—rightly or wrongly—that they are powerless, and that the abuser is powerful. The victim hopes that the abuser would act as a protector against the world, if properly propitiated. This requires the victim to delude themselves that the abuser has loving intentions, and that the abuse episodes are somehow be triggered by the victim’s inadequacy.
Eternalism has bad practical results
Eternalism promises eternally good feelings. And it
is a comforting ride—until it crashes into reality and you get hurled from your seat onto the open highway.
Meanings have consequences. Meaning is not an autonomous domain, disconnected from practical reality; everyone frequently acts on the basis of perceived meanings. But those are
often wrong. Eternalism says the world is good, and I am good, so if I choose to do something good, then the result must be good! But often it isn’t.
As we saw earlier, eternalism’s
illusions of understanding and control fantasies often lead over-confidence, excess risk-taking, over-control, and other unrealistic patterns of action. Alternatively, the delusion that you must base action on the Cosmic Plan leads to paralysis when you are unable to discern what it demands. (This is particularly common in the stance of , which is closely related to eternalism.) mission
Acting based on imagined meanings frequently fails. Harm and pain ensue. Eternalism’s synthetic certainty ensures that this comes as a shock, each time. Each time, one experiences it
as a betrayal. I am a good person; this wasn’t supposed to happen to me!
Then, disillusioned, you may
exit eternalism into another stance. Alternatively, you may apply ploys to maintain eternalism—probably in an increasingly shaky, wavering form. Wavering eternalism is emotionally painful
Eternalism persuades you that you
should maintain the stance at all times. This has moral force; if you in your commitment, you are a bad person. However, it is impossible to waver consistent eternalism. This implies perpetual struggle, with shame and guilt at imperfection, and much wasted effort. accomplish
The wavering eternalist
feels intense confusion during periods of doubt.
When eternalism fails, it
tries to convince you that it’s your fault, for wavering, for not trying hard enough, for being unworthy of the Cosmic Plan. Then you may punish yourself—as harshly as you can, to demonstrate your renewed commitment. (The Cosmic Plan can’t punish you adequately; it doesn’t exist!)
As you repeatedly experience eternalism failing when it encounters nebulosity, you develop fear and loathing of ambiguity and change. You come to
avoid areas of life that seem particularly nebulous. This progressively narrows your scope for action, leading to rigidity or even paralysis. You may isolate yourself socially: from everyone, or into a closed group that agrees to pretend eternalism works. You may adopt an aggressive hostility toward anyone who reminds you of nebulosity.
You may come to feel cramped and imprisoned in the
small safe space where eternalism seems to function. Creativity and daring become impossible.
You somehow cannot find your true
in life, for which eternalism would guarantee success. You neglect mundane goals as mere mission , meaningless in the eyes of the materialism . Most of the time, you cannot locate your eternal ordering principle ; your miserable ego’s attempts to live up to its ideals are pathetic. Sometimes, you believe you true self have found your true self and mission, and go off on a fantastical ego-trip crusade, which needs constant confirmation from followers and eventually ends in catastrophe. Eternalism is immoral
The eternal ordering principle is a cruel tyrant. The Cosmic Plan makes insane demands—and calls that morality. It sometimes commands harmful actions; it often fails to promote beneficial ones. Following its dictates causes damage to yourself and others.
Ethical issues are inescapably nebulous.
Ethical eternalism blinds you to the complexity, ambiguity, and situatedness of moral decision-making. Taken seriously, it leads to moral absolutism and political extremism.
Religiosity promotes paranoia about contamination; blaming of victims; waste of resources and opportunities; and tribalist conflict.
Meaningness is a book, best read in order.
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Informally introducing the central themes of the Meaningness book.
Stances: responses to meaningness
The overall conceptual framework: “stances” are simple patterns of thinking and feeling about meaningness.
Stances trump systems
People think they approach meaning in terms of religions or philosophies, but in practice, "stances" matter more.
Stances are unstable
Stances—responses to meaning—are unstable thought-patterns. Often we adopt several contradictory ones in rapid succession.
Meaningness is cloud-like: nebulous. It is real, but impossible to completely pin down.
Brains automatically find meaning and pattern; we need them to act. Unfortunately, brains also find meaning and pattern where there are none.
Fixation and denial
Fixation and denial are the two simplest ways of refusing to deal with the nebulosity of meaningness.
Confused stances come in pairs
Wrong ideas about meaning come in mirror-image pairs, which fixate and deny opposite aspects of reality.
No middle way
Polarized pairs of confused stances cannot be resolved by compromise. There is no middle way between them.
Accepting nebulosity resolves confusions about meaning
Confusions about meaning can be resolved using a method for looking at ways nebulosity affects the subject matter.
Confusion, completion, misery and joy
Properly understanding meaning eliminates needless suffering. An application: ethics.
Meaningness as a liberating practice
A practice of replacing confused, dysfunctional patterns of thinking and feeling about meaning with accurate ones.
The psychological anatomy of a stance
The key aspects of a stance toward meaning, and how to use them effectively.
Adopting, committing, accomplishing, wavering, appropriating
Concerning relationships one may have with stances: basic attitudes toward meaningness.
Doing meaning better
The main division of the Meaningness book: a catalog of specific stances toward meaning, and how to deal with each.
The Big Three stance combinations
Dualism, nihilism, and monism are the three main approaches to fundamental questions of meaning. This book proposes a better, fourth alternative.
Schematic overview: all dimensions
A complete summary overview of all the dimensions of meaningness, with all the common stances one can take to them.
Meaning and meaninglessness
Eternalism fixates meaning; nihilism denies it. Recognizing that meaning is both nebulous and patterned resolves this false dichotomy.
The puzzle of meaningness
What is the meaning of an extra-marital affair—or any relationship? A philosophical short story illustrates the puzzle of the nebulosity of meaningness.
Meaningfulness and meaninglessness
Some things are meaningful, and others aren't. This is obvious; yet most confusions about meaning begin by denying it.
Extreme examples, eternalism and nihilism
Claims that everything is meaningful, or that nothing is, are motivated by fears: fear of the opposite.
So how does meaningness work?
We have a choice of explanations: ones that are simple, clear, harmful, and wrong; or ones that are complex, vague, helpful, and approximately right.
Schematic overview: meaningness
A schematic overview of eternalism and nihilism as confused responses to meaningness.
Eternalism: the fixation of meaning
Eternalism is the wrong idea that everything has a definite meaning, fixed by an external ordering principle.
I get duped by eternalism in a casino
Gambling, religion, and addiction: a personal story.
⚒︎ No cosmic plan
Great confusions about meaningness stem from the mistaken assumption that there must be some sort of eternal ordering principle.
The appeal of eternalism
Eternalism promises everything you could want from meaning: safety, support, certainty, reassurance, and control. Solid ground!
The promise of certainty
What we want most from meaning is guarantees. Religions, political ideologies, and other eternalist systems promise certainty; but they cannot deliver.
The illusion of understanding
It’s deluded to think we mostly understand issues of meaning (ethics, purpose, value, politics). Ideologies deliberately create and sustain that illusion.
The fantasy of control
Eternalism promises complete control over life—but that is an impossible fantasy. Influence through collaboration and improvisation are possible, however.
The wheel of fortune
Eternalism promises answers about good and bad—the meanings we care about most—but cannot deliver.
Eternalism as the only salvation from nihilism
Eternalism's final promise is to keep nihilism at bay. There is a better alternative to both!
Eternalism is harmful
Eternalism—belief in fixed meanings—makes promises it can't keep. It makes us do stupid, crazy, evil things. And we still love it and keep going back for more.
Eternalist ploys and their antidotes
Ploys—ways of thinking, feeling, talking, and acting—which stabilize eternalism; and antidotes to use against them.
⚒︎ Imposing fixed meanings
Forcing fixed meanings on experience always eventually results in unpleasant shocks when reality refuses to conform to your pre-determined categories.
⚒︎ Smearing meaning all over everything
Monist eternalism—the New Age and SBNR, for example—say everything is meaningful, but leaves vague what the meanings are.
⚒︎ Magical thinking
Magical thinking—hallucinating causal connections—is powerfully synergistic with eternalism (the stance that everything has a fixed meaning).
Hope is harmful in devaluing the present and shifting attention to imaginary futures that may never exist.
Eternalist religions and political systems are always partly make-believe, like children playing at being pirates.
⚒︎ Colluding for eternalism
Because eternalist delusion is so desirable, we collude to maintain it. To save each other from nihilism, we support each other in not-seeing nebulosity.
⚒︎ Hiding from nebulosity
Hiding from nebulosity is a ploy to preserve eternalism by physically avoiding ambiguous situations and information.
⚒︎ Kitsch and naïveté
Eternalist kitsch is the denial of the possibility of meaninglessness. This leads to willfully idiotic sentimentality.
⚒︎ Armed & armored eternalism
When nebulosity becomes obvious, eternalism fails to fit reality. You can armor yourself against evidence, and arm yourself to destroy it.
Privileging faith over experience is an eternalist ploy for blinding yourself to signs of nebulosity.
⚒︎ Thought suppression
Thought suppression is a ploy for maintaining faith in non-existent meanings. It leads to deliberate stupidity, inability to express oneself, and inaction.
⚒︎ Bargaining and recommitment
When eternalism lets you down, you are tempted to make a bargain with it. Eternalism will behave itself better, and in return you renew your faith in it.
⚒︎ Wistful certainty
Wistful certainty is a ploy for reinforcing eternalism based on the thought that there must exist whatever it takes to make eternalism seem to work.
⚒︎ Faithful bafflement
Faithful bafflement is a ploy for maintaining the eternalist stance that remains committed but begins to doubt.
Mystification uses thoughts as a weapon against authentic thinking. It creates glib, bogus metaphysical explanations that sweep meaninglessness under the rug.
⚒︎ Rehearsing the horrors of nihilism
Reminding yourself and others of how bad nihilism is can help maintain the eternalist stance. This is the hellfire and brimstone of eternalist preaching.
Purity is an obsessive focus for dualist eternalism. It mobilizes emotions of disgust, guilt, shame, and self-righteous anger.
⚒︎ Fortress eternalism
In the face of undeserved suffering, is difficult not to fall into the stance that most things are God’s will, but not the horrible bits.
Accomplishing eternalism would would mean knowing the meaning of everything, and acting accordingly. This is impossible, because there are no fixed meanings.
Learning skills for escaping the grip of eternalism—the delusion that everything is meaningful.
Freeing ourselves from theism is only a first step toward freeing ourselves from a host of ubiquitous, harmful, mistaken ideas about meaningness.
⚒︎ Atheism: a good first step
Eternalism, not supernaturalism, is the root cause of religion's harmfulness.
⚒︎ Belief in belief
The belief that beliefs are clear-cut entities, which people do or don't have, supports dysfunctional ideologies.
⚒︎ How space aliens make everything meaningful
UFO cults, which make no supernatural claims, disprove the rationalist belief that religion’s faults stem from supernaturalism.
Rationalist ideologies as eternalism
Rationality is a valuable way of knowing, but cannot provide explanations or meanings for everything.
Wrong-way reduction is a logical fallacy that turns messy, tractable problems into tidy, impossible ones.
⚒︎ Eternalisms as wrong-way reductions
Ideological rationalism usually turns difficult, messy problems into tidy but insoluble ones.
⚒︎ Logic as eternalism
Taken as an epistemology, logic is a wrong-way reduction: it turns difficult problems of practical reasoning into impossible feats of deduction.
⚒︎ The continuum gambit
The continuum gambit tries to eliminate ambiguity using numbers on a scale. This can only ever partially succeed, and may mislead badly.
⚒︎ Bayesianism is an eternalism
Bayesianism is a quasi-religious ideology of rationality and epistemology. It cannot deliver the meta-certainty it promises.
⚒︎ Utilitiarianism is an eternalism
Utilitarianism promises to eliminate ethical uncertainty, but instead replaces a difficult, messy problem with an impossible, tidy one.
A history of supposedly-scientific nutritional theories illustrating pathologies of rationalism (scientism), with an analogy to cognitive science.
Nutrition offers its resignation. And the reply
A satire: all nutritionists offer their resignation, having recognized their incompetence; but their employers refuse it.
Nutrition: the Emperor has no clothes
Nutrition science has conclusively failed; it was myths invented to satisfy compulsive hunger for meaning. Now what?
⚒︎ A malign modern myth of meaningness: cognitive “science”
Cognitive “science” was actually a philosophical ideology of the self. It mostly failed, but neuroscience is now infested with the same wrong ideas.
⚒︎ Eternalism in politics
Political eternalism is the belief that some system of government can provide an unquestionable foundation for meaning.
Nihilism: the denial of meaning
Nihilism is the wrong idea that nothing is meaningful, based on the accurate realization that there is no external, eternal source of meaning.
You’ve got nihilism wrong
Whether you think you are a nihilist, or think you are not—I think you are mistaken. Nihilism is impossible—but so is avoiding it.
Rumcake and rainbows
Nihilism recognizes, accurately, that meaning cannot be either objective or subjective. But meaning does exist: as interaction.
⚒︎ Cold comfort: the false promise of nihilism
Nihilism promises you don’t have to care, because nothing means anything. But you do care—and you can’t escape that.
⚒︎ The nihilist elite
Nihilism requires unusual intelligence, courage, and grit. Nihilists know this, and consider themselves an elite class. Membership is a major attraction.
⚒︎ Nihilism is hard
It’s a pity that it’s so hard to be a nihilist. Nihilism is mistaken and harmful, but its insights into what’s wrong with eternalism are accurate and useful.
Spam from God
Nihilism starts with the intelligent recognition that we have been conned by eternalism—ideologies of ultimate meaning.
The emotional dynamics of nihilism
Nihilism relies on three emotional strategies to deny meaning: rage, intellectualization, and depression. It also causes anxiety.
⚒︎ Nihilistic depression
Realizing that eternalism will always fail can result in anguish, pessimism, depression, stoicism, alienation, apathy, exhaustion, and paralysis.
⚒︎ Nihilistic intellectualization
When desperate to deny all meanings, we use absurd pseudo-rational, pseudo-scientific, intellectual arguments to justify nihilism.
⚒︎ Nihilistic rage
Nihilistic rage wants to destroy whatever has meaning, and whoever points to meaning.
⚒︎ Nihilistic anxiety
Anxiety is a natural reaction to uncertainty. In nihilism, pervasive loss of meaning makes everything uncertain; existential angst is a response.
190-proof vs. lite nihilism
Nihilism says nothing means anything—but no one actually believes that. Lite nihilism weakens the claim, to make it plausible.
190-proof nihilism: intoxicating intellectual idiocy
Nihilism defends itself from the obviousness of meanings with spurious intellectual arguments. Here’s how to dispel them.
⚒︎ Sartre’s ghost and the corpse of God
Existentialism, a hopeful alternative to rigid meanings, makes wrong metaphysical assumptions, and cannot work. It collapses inevitably into nihilism.
Meaningness: the complete stance
Meaning is nebulous, yet patterned; meaningfulness and meaninglessness intermingle. Recognizing this frees us from metaphysical delusions.
The appeal of complete stances
Resolving problems of meaning by recognizing inseparable pattern and nebulosity will improve your life.
Peak experiences and the complete stance are similar in texture, but differ in intensity, conceptual content, and causes.
Obstacles to the complete stance
Meaning and meaninglessness, pattern and nebulosity all obviously exist—yet we resist recognizing and admitting this. Why?
⚒︎ Observing meaningness
How to catch meaningness in action; ways of watching confused and complete stances.
Finding the complete stance
The fundamental method for resolving problems of meaning: by finding nebulosity, pattern, and their inseparable relationship.
Textures of completion
Patterns of thinking, feeling, and acting in the complete stance, which resolves problems of meaning.
Wonder at the vastness, beauty, and intricacy of the phenomenal world: a texture of the complete stance.
Open-ended curiosity gives you the freedom to interact with the world without metaphysical presuppositions.
Recognizing the inseparability of nebulosity and pattern gives experience a texture of good humor, and the funny sort too!
Playfulness, which recognizes the mingled pattern and nebulosity of meaning, is a characteristic texture of activity in the complete stance.
⚒︎ Enjoying the dance of nebulosity and pattern
Enjoyment of the intertwining dance of nebulosity and pattern is a characteristic texture of the complete stance to meaning.
Creation is the characteristic activity of the complete stance; its densest texture.
Stabilizing the complete stance
Going beyond resolutions of specific problems: consistently maintaining an accurate stance toward meaningness.
Unity and diversity
Stances concerning connection and separateness: monism, dualism, and participation.
Abandoning selflessness and egoism equally, we can play with the ambiguous self/other boundary; supple, skillful selfing for successful, satisfying interactions
Schematic overview: self
A schematic overview of stances regarding the meaningness of the self: non-self, True Self, and intermittently continuing.
⚒︎ A billion tiny spooks
Representationalism tried to exorcise the ghost in the machine, but succeeded only in splitting it into innumerable tiny ghosts.
⚒︎ The true self
Monism and dualism both offer concepts of the supposed true self as a coherent entity.
Several views of selflessness, in different religions and philosophies.
⚒︎ Intermittently continuing
An optimistic view of the self as incoherent, but not non-existent, and not necessarily problematic.
Dividing purposes into higher and mundane, mission pursues higher ends and rejects pragmatism; materialism seeks only selfish goals. Both are mistakes.
⚒︎ Personal value
Agonizing over whether you are ordinary or special—or feeling smug about one or the other—can be resolved by choosing to be noble instead.
Schematic overview: value
A schematic overview of stances toward personal value: specialness, ordinariness, and nobility.
Specialness is a sense of having been picked out for destiny by the Cosmic Plan. That causes you and others much trouble.
If we could just manage to be ordinary, we would not have the responsibility of living up to our potential. Fortunately, ordinariness is impossible.
Nobility is the aspiration to manifest glory for the benefit of others.
Resolving a false dichotomy between unrealistic views: being a helpless victim and being totally responsible for your circumstances.
Schematic overview: capability
A schematic overview of stances regarding issues of capability.
⚒︎ Total responsibility
The delusion that we are, or can be, totally responsible for reality is prevalent in some religious and psychotherapeutic circles.
Victim-think is a strategy for denying all responsibility—on the part of individuals and social groups.
Playfully co-create reality in collaboration with each other and the world.
Available ethical theories are either eternalist or nihilist; both are useless. We must recognize that ethics are both nebulous and meaningful.
Schematic overview: ethics
A schematic overview of fundamental stances regarding ethics.
⚒︎ Ethical eternalism
An ethical system that reliably delivers correct moral judgements is a wishful fantasy. No such system is possible.
⚒︎ Ethical nihilism
Ethical nihilism is the denial of all ethical rightness and wrongness.
⚒︎ Ethical responsiveness
Ethics is centrally important to humans, and is not a matter of choice, but is fluid and has no definite source.
A better alternative to the dysfunctional stances of mindlessly opposing authority and mindlessly obeying.
Resolving the twin delusions that nothing is sacred and that the only sacred things are those designated by some authority.
Schematic overview: sacredness
Schematic overview of stances toward sacredness: religiosity, secularism, kadag.
Religiosity is the confused, eternalistic view that the sacred and profane can be clearly separated.
Secularism is the stance that sacredness is mere superstition; nothing is sacred.
Kadag: Because nothing is inherently sacred, everything can be sacred.
Causality is inherently nebulous; many things have no definite cause, but still we can find useful patterns.
Schematic overview: contingency
A schematic overview of stances toward contingency: causality, chaos, and flow.
The eternalist stance of causality: Everything happens for the best, in accord with the Cosmic Plan. (Except free will lets us do evil.)
The stance that things happen for no reason.
There are no ultimate causes, and causation is nebulous, but we naturally observe patterns.
Meaningness and Time: past, present, future
The problems of meaningness we face now are dramatically different from those of the past. We also sense new opportunities, and have new resources.
How meaning fell apart
Over the past century, systems of meaning gradually disintegrated, and a series of new modes of meaningness developed.
A gigantic chart that explains absolutely everything
This chart is an overview of Meaningness and Time: the past, present, and future of culture, society, and our selves.
In praise of choicelessness
The choiceless mode of understanding meaning has no “becauses.” Explanations are unnecessary because you are unaware of any alternatives.
The glory of systems
Systems of society, culture, and the self were the foundation of the modern world. Their glories have passed.
Invented traditions and timeworn futures
Invented traditions and timeworn futures are ideological time-distortion strategies. Highly effective in propaganda.
Systems of meaning all in flames
How and why modernity failed. All systems of meaning—religious, political, artistic, psychological—began to fall apart. Nihilism seemed the only alternative.
Countercultures: modernity’s last gasp
The hippies and the Moral Majority both tried to rescue systematic eternalism—and failed. We live amongst their wreckage.
What makes a counterculture?
Countercultures defined as new, alternative, universalist, eternalist, anti-rational systems: there were two in the late 20th century.
Hippies and Evangelicals: monist and dualist countercultures
The hippie counterculture was structurally and functionally similar to the Moral Majority Christian Right counterculture a decade later.
⚒︎ The hippie family who invented contemporary conservatism
The Schaeffer family, hippie gurus, created the American Religious Right. Too late, they realized they had created a monster: a tragedy in the ancient style.
Renegotiating self and society
How—and why!—countercultures sought to reform psychologies and polities: to counteract alienation, anxiety, and anomie.
Rejecting rationality, reinventing religion, reconfiguring the self
The 1960s-80s countercultures abandoned rationality because they believed it negated all meaning. They were wrong.
The personal is political
The 1960s-80s countercultures dissolved the boundaries between self and society, ethical and political—setting us up for decades of culture war.
Rotating politics ninety degrees clockwise
In the 1960s-80s, American politics shifted from economic to sacredness issues. This damaged public discourse, but created a new two-track class system.
⚒︎ Countercultures: modern mythologies
The Religious Right and New Age Left both promoted time-distorting meta-myths—imaginary past golden ages and implausible future utopias—to hide their defects.
Fundamentalism is countercultural modernism
Fundamentalism is not traditional; it is a modern, countercultural movement, opposed to tradition and to post-modernity.
⚒︎ Counter-cultures: thick and wide
The hippie and Moral Majority movements both developed broad, deep cultures, with innovative approaches to every aspect of life, from music to dentistry.
Why both countercultures failed
Failure to find new foundations for meaning, to recognize diversity, to provide community, and to transcend opposition: all doomed counterculturalism.
Wreckage: the culture war
The culture war, political polarization, Baby Boomer bafflement: the unending zombie slugfest pairing the two countercultures of the 1960s-80s.
Completing the countercultures
At root, the culture war is not about abortion, gay marriage, or marijuana. It is about shared misunderstandings of the nature of meaning.
Subcultures: the diversity of meaning
The subcultural era (1975-2000) recognized the diversity of meanings, and provided a new type of supportive, voluntary social group.
Atomization: the kaleidoscope of meaning
The global internet atomizes cultures, societies, and selves into tiny brilliant shards. Meaning has lost context and coherence. Now what?
⚒︎ Fluidity: a preview
Fluidity addresses the atomization of culture, society, and self with ships that sail the sea of meaning: collaborative, improvised, intimate, and playful.
Modes of meaningness, eternalism and nihilism
From fundamentalism to atomization, different modes of relating to meaning overemphasize pattern or nebulosity.
Desiderata for any future mode of meaningness
A positive and realistic vision for the future of society, culture, and self, drawing lessons from recent history.
⚒︎ Sailing the seas of meaningness
Social, cultural, and personal fluidity create vessels to navigate the ocean of atomized meanings, steering between nihilism and eternalism.
⚒︎ Fluid understanding: meta-rationality
Meta-rationality uses rational systems more effectively by taking them as nebulous tools, not eternal truths.
⚒︎ Fluid self in relationship
Fluidity recognizes that you have selves, rather than being a self, and that the self/other distinction is nebulous though patterned.
⚒︎ Fluid society
A fluid society ideally provides the benefits of tradition, modernity, and postmodernity, while avoiding their defects.
⚒︎ Fluid culture: metamodernism
Metamodernism resolves the modernity/postmodernity conflict in favor of reconstruction, collaboration, ambiguity, and engagement.
A series of appendices, including a glossary and suggestions for further reading elsewhere.