Comments on “Eternalist ploys and their antidotes”



Cesar's picture

Hi David, I know this is an enquiry that doesn’t really fit with this article but I can’t find the right one (in which if I’m right there is a link to a Wikipedia page on “fallacies”). Maybe you can help me.

I’m having an online discussion about a very rich businessman in the clothes business, who, being working class himself, turned a small business he’d started himself into a huge multinational (Zara). He’s reputed to be an honest boss and generous towards charitable institutions, and quite revered by a sector of the population in his (and my) hometown.

Others inevitably point to the path he took in order to build up his business, the usual outsourcing of work to Eastern countries, less and less people being employed at home, parallel speculative investments, etc. His defenders answer that 1. His is standard practice in modern business and he shouldn’t be criticised because he a) does what is the norm and b) gives money to charity, and
2. You have no right to criticise his practice unless you stop using every product made under the same conditions as his clothes, eg. computers, iPads, etc.

Do numbers 1 and 2 have names that you know of in Logic theory? I imagine you haven’t got lots of time to be answering random questions, don’t worry if you feel I’m imposing on your generosity and choose not to answer!

Less is More

thintiebuddha's picture

I think that a general list is better than ALL the specific kinds that could possibly be had. Long lists burn out both authors and readers in addition to never being complete.

"Fluid Dynamics" -- Eternalism is a whirlpool

Amy K.'s picture

Eternalism is a whirlpool. Eternalist systems rely on complex interactions in a social environment to sustain themselves. Individuals who could normally stay afloat get sucked into eternalist social whirlpools.

I suggest that four tactics are combined to create an eternalistic maelstrom: Obfuscation, Settling, Deception, and Authority Hoarding.

Eternalist ploys rely on the interdependence of the tactics. Eternalist individuals are encouraged to Settle. Then they can excuse Obfuscation coming from the system. By Settling, individuals can ignore Deception and Authority Hoarding. Meanwhile, designated authority holders Deceive the individuals who follow them and Obfuscate unexplainable parts of the system. The interaction of these social forces creates an inescapable social spiral toward a central funnel of fictions and mysteries that are never intended to be understood.

“Colluding” can replace “Deception” to reduce phrasing negativity. However, I think it’s important to recognize that the Designated Authority Holders usually do understand that there are unaddressed mysteries in the inside funnel of their system. They are committing a lie of omission when they encourage individuals to ignore the mysteries.

Notes/ Examples

1) Filibustering difficult topics
2) Over-analysis of minutiae
3) Wasting time on trivialities to avoid real issues
4) Debating without intention to act

1) Pascal’s wager (I don’t lose if the system is wrong. I can only lose if the system is right)
2) “What’s the alternative?” (How can I have a career if I don’t participate in the standard eternalist systems?)
3) Everyone else does it this way…
4) Grief leverage (If your genuine inquiry takes away my happiness, it can’t be worth it)

1) Eternalists rely on fundamental mysteries (blind faith) to sustain the institution’s survival
2) Illusions of mysterious sources of truth are perpetuated
3) Authority holders exaggerate their own capabilities and wisdom
4) Designated authority holders deceive themselves (I must be as wise as they think I am – otherwise, why would they permit me to keep this authority?)

Authority hoarding
1) Eternalist systems encourage individual naivete, such as encouraging the assumption “there must be some truth in this that I can’t know about”
2) Ex cathedra authority removes transparency and accountability. One authority source makes all ultimate decisions
3) Hierarchy within the system means that only a single type of member, such as men-only, can make decisions and decide processes. This hierarchy creates a loop of Deception and Settling. The genuinely intellectually curious will often opt out of the system. The remaining authority holders Deceive and Obfuscate, while the individual members Settle.

Authoritarian dynamics in eternalism

Thanks, lots of good points here!

You might like to take a look at The Guru Papers, a book I sort of summarized here. It’s about authoritarian dynamics in eternalism. It looks at monist religion more than dualist ones, but there’s a lot of overlap in the tactics of obfuscation, deception, and appeal to unchallengeable authority.

On a slightly different topic, I find fascinating the issue of “Designated Authority Holders usually do understand” their deceptions, vs “Designated authority holders deceive themselves.” When someone is spouting obviously harmful lies, what do they think they are doing? Do they even think?

Presumably some are deliberate wrong-doers, some are self-deceiving, and some are just idiots. But probably most/all fit into each of those categories at times, and maybe more than one at once!

Feedback: List of eternalist ploys

Remedios's picture

Thank you for the response.

When someone is spouting obviously harmful lies, what do they think they are doing? Do they even think?

I think they are justifying and ignoring the effects of what they are saying. They A) don’t care about the harm or don’t think it’s significant, or B) they believe they are justified in causing the harm because it helps them achieve their goals. C) Sometimes they don’t actually see/ imagine the harm they’re causing (they are not thinking, in this case). I’ve seen limited examples of all of the above! In cases A and B, they do think. They believe they are accomplishing something greater than the harm – from their perspective, at least.

I’ve now read The Guru Papers. Very enlightening!

I am unsure about my current list of ploys. They seem to overlap and run into each other somewhat, and I also expect I may find more of them. I may need to “refactor” the categories. Feedback about this would be welcome!

Assuming that much of eternalism is founded in and sustained by hierarchies, I propose a framework based on disassembling an imaginary top-down hierarchy as outlined by The Guru Papers to reveal the roles and ploys within each layer. Something like this: Authorities in a hierarchy justify themselves and the hierarchy, ignore what does not support the hierarchy, and control their laypeople. The hierarchy itself uses obfuscation, standardization (purification), and enforcement methods designed to console, mislead, and condition laypeople. The ploys the laypeople use include renunciation of control, self-distrust, and wistful certainty.

Hierarchical Colluding to Avoid Meaningness
A walkthrough of a hierarchy maintaining the eternalist stance, as seen from roles within the hierarchy:

  1. Authorities justify their own statements about eternalism despite having no evidence. They also justify the methods the hierarchy uses to maintain the eternalist ideas within the hierarchy.
  2. Authorities ignore gaps, inconsistencies, and contradictions in the eternalist system. They control the discussions and feedback regarding eternalist topics and meaningness.
  3. Laypeople renounce their participation in the discussions of meaningness and distrust their own ideas about meaningness. They are consoled with a purification mindset and wistful certainty.
  4. The behaviors to avoid meaningness and other topics are cemented using lifelong systematic conditioning to rely on the eternalist hierarchy and authority rather than one’s own intelligence and curiosity.

Benign vs Harmful Eternalism…
Should distinction be made between benign and harmful eternalist hierarchies? Should eternalist thinking within hierarchies and individuals be left alone if the belief system allows fluidity and participation in spite of dualist or eternalist mindset? The reason not to intervene would be: Individual eternalism may be like cosplay or personal gender selection. Like which clothes a person chooses to wear, benign eternalism can be considered a personal issue. Some implementations of benign eternalist stance allow enjoyable usefulness and fluidity. No antidote would be in order because an intervention could be pointless and even harmful.

To close the loop, I suggest a few possible antidotes to the hierarchical ploys. These are probably obvious but I’ll write them anyway. Most were suggestions for change in The Guru Papers or are your antidotes:

Hierarchical Role: Authorities
Format: Ploy: Antidote

  • Justify: Be alert to self-deception.
  • Ignore: Guard against power corruptions. Be curious. Investigate.
  • Control: Understand of the dynamics and pervasiveness of authoritarianism. Teach self-correction and hierarchy correction to current and future authorities.

Hierarchical Role: Laypeople

  • Renounce control: Guard against power corruptions. Be curious. Investigate.
  • Self-distrust: Take accountability for yourself in this moment (participate)
  • Wistful Certainty: What you said, etc.: “The antidote is to remind yourself that many things are meaningless, or have inherently vague meanings, and that action is possible anyway.”


This page introduces a section containing the following:

This page is in the section Eternalism: the fixation of meaning,
      which is in Meaning and meaninglessness,
      which is in Doing meaning better.

The previous page is Eternalism is harmful.

This page’s topic is Eternalism.

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 ©2010–2018 David Chapman.