Meaning and meaninglessness

This book is based on the idea that meaning can be real but nebulous: ambiguous, variable, and context-dependent. This is an uncommon stance.

The more common stances are eternalism (that meanings are fixed and well-defined); and nihilism (that meaning is entirely non-existent). This chapter explains the psychological dynamics of these confused stances in detail.

The mistaken assumption shared by eternalism and nihilism is that meaning must be objective to be real. Existentialism took an alternative stance, that meanings are subjective and personal. This chapter begins to explain why that is also a mistake. A detailed account must be postponed into the next chapter, which investigates issues of the inside/outside boundary, mind and world, self and other. The view of Meaningness is that all these distinctions are nebulous, and that meaning is neither subjective nor objective. Instead, it is an interaction that crosses all these boundaries.

This chapter also begins to explain the complete stance, which allows for nebulous meaning. It only makes a beginning, because the nebulosity of meaning involves concepts that I can introduce only gradually. Understanding of the nature of meaning will, I hope, accumulate throughout your reading of the book. Ultimately, meaningness is itself a nebulous concept, and cannot be specified with complete precision.


This page introduces a section containing the following:

This page is in the section Doing meaning better.

The previous page is Schematic overview: all dimensions.

This page’s topic is Meaningness.

General explanation: Meaningness is a hypertext book (in progress), plus a “metablog” that comments on it. The book begins with an appetizer. Alternatively, you might like to look at its table of contents, or some other starting points. Classification of pages by topics supplements the book and metablog structures. Terms with dotted underlining (example: meaningness) show a definition if you click on them. Pages marked with ⚒ are still under construction. Copyright ©2010–2017 David Chapman.