Comments on “I get duped by eternalism in a casino”

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Enjoying the read

Quirkz 2015-09-02

I stumbled on this site looking for a little info on the German romantics’ stance on True Self, and since then I’ve been reading for the last three days. Highly interesting and enjoyable read. I’ve got questions and comments, but I’d like to go through the whole thing once, possibly multiple times, before really getting into it. I’m posting here to say that your enthusiastic quote above, “At one point I was up by thirty-seven cents, but in the end I lost the whole dollar!” struck me as extremely funny. It reminds me of the kind of story Feynman might have told in “Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman.”

Surely You're Joking

David Chapman 2015-09-02

Wow, thanks! I take comparison with Feynman as very high praise indeed! He was a better philosopher than all but a handful of professional philosophers, I think, and funny and accessible as well. It’s quite possible that this story was influenced by my reading of him (although it’s also entirely true).

I have ADHD.

anders 2016-05-18

I have ADHD.
I am addicted to learning.
Wikipedia tells me that ADHD is linked to problems with the dopamine system.
You just told me that sudden insight and dopamine are also connected.
Thank you for the fix.


David Chapman 2016-05-18

Thank you for one! I hadn’t made that connection before.

I think there's a fundamental

Jack 2017-08-20

I think there’s a fundamental misunderstanding in the argument here- that is to say, while your analysis of how meaning is not eternal (objective) is sound, your argument for why meanings are not just subjective seems off.

If meaningness was merely subjective, it would not be possible to be wrong about it. However, my felt beliefs about meaning, in the grip of a run of good luck, were definitely outright wrong.

This seems almost like some kind of a category error, though I am not entirely sure if that is the best way to describe it. The conflation occurs between “belief about what something means to someone else” and “what something means to someone else.”

I can be wrong in my belief that Mr. Smith cares about me, just as you can be wrong about the universe caring about you. However, that doesn’t mean that what I actually mean to Mr. Smith suddenly contains an objective value component.

There are objective facts about what things mean to people- for example, most people value money. That is an objective fact. However, that does not change the fact that the act of valuing money is itself a subjective meaning attribution. Money loses its (subjective, socially constructed) value in the event that everyone decides to stop valuing it.

Meaningness, like a rainbow

David Chapman 2017-08-20

“Not objective” does not imply “subjective”; there are other possibilities. Meanings are neither objective nor subjective; they are interactive, which is a third category.

See “Rumcake and rainbows” for an introduction to this understanding.

Please elaborate on the “Non-Me”?

Brian Kram 2021-08-15

I greatly appreciate your writing, been following you for years. As a life-long atheist, it’s interesting you mention the “Non-Me”, particularly doing so using caps. Isn’t this just another name for your God after all, albeit one that is not personal?

Another name for God

David Chapman 2021-08-15

Hmm. I would turn this around. I had “a vague omnidirectional feeling of being loved.” Some people say they “don’t believe in God as an old man in the sky,” but instead (as far as I can tell) take that feeling and label it “God.”

This seems to work well for many people much of the time. It may cause trouble if you rely too much on this “God,” because the “vague omnidirectional feeling” is liable to collapse when bad things happen.

For better or worse, I don’t get that feeling very often. It was striking enough in this case to make me want to write about it.

Intimations of the Other

brian kram 2021-08-16

Thank you for your “Non-Me” response. While those ‘good’ feelings might very well collapse when bad things happen, they just become displaced (with disappointment, anger, resignation, etc.) rather than simply vanish, yes? Maybe it is through the experiential highs and lows of life where we discover in ourselves a constitutional predisposition toward the Other. And as in any relationship, trouble ALWAYS follows where there is reliance and dependencies, which is really hard to get past. So I’m not seeing that ‘collapse’ really is the endgame here. Do you happen to address this question somewhere in your body of work that I’ve missed? I guess I was surprised by your declaration of atheism, took you for an agnostic, assuming agnosticism to embrace nebulosity better if you will in these particular matters.

Nihilism ensues

David Chapman 2021-08-16

Do you happen to address this question somewhere in your body of work that I’ve missed?

Not sure exactly what you are asking for, but “The emotional dynamics of nihilism” seems likely to be relevant. It suggests, as responses to loss of eternalistic certainty, rage, intellectual argumentativeness, and depression—not far from your “disappointment, anger, resignation, etc.”

assuming agnosticism to embrace nebulosity better

Well, yes, it could… on the other hand, some things are more nebulous than others. Total certainty is never possible, but there’s lots of things about which expressing doubt is nit-picking.

A more complete anthropology?

brian kram 2021-08-17

Thank you, yes I am familiar with your exploration of the emotional dynamics of nihilism which enhanced my understanding and sympathy for those of us so burdened - your comments page in this instance, in fact, is where you really hooked me. Sorry if I was less than clear - allow me to restate my question. Just as we are creatures of pattern-recognition, we are creatures of relationship-recognition. I’m meaning a bit along the lines of martin buber’s “I and Thou” (though his framing is rather eclectic I find). The implication is not only a presumptive universe which is pattern-able (and thus sensible) … but also a universe which is relate-able (and thus sensible). This of course could all be just subjective imagination (a la Matrix) or …? Science then is the pursuit of the pattern-able. Where is the corollary pursuit of the relate-able? Do you explore this aspect of our anthropology in your body of work? Or even submit to its relevancy in your anthropology?

A universe which is relate-able

David Chapman 2021-08-17

I guess I’m still not sure what you are pointing toward… do you mean our relationship with nature? That’s very important to me personally, but I haven’t written much about it. This maybe:

Mountain tops, hammering ... and casinos

Brian Kram 2021-08-18

Bingo, this is what I was hoping you would share - thank you! So … your casino experience of the “feeling of being loved” you would not identify as a mystical experience - or not an invitation to one? Are you suggesting that while hammering or mountain tops can be transcendent, casinos cannot be? I think your “vague omnidirectional feeling of being loved” is interesting - it feels to me that you stopped short in your examination of this experience.

Mystical experience and transcendence

David Chapman 2021-08-18

I’m not fond of the word “mystical” because its meaning is both vague and fetishized. I would rather use some term like “non-ordinary” or even just “unusual” because it carries less metaphysical baggage. The casino experience was somewhat unusual for me (although by no means unprecedented). What would make it “mystical” or not? How would one know?

“Transcendent” is dubious in the same way, although maybe even more so. What might be transcending what? What does that imply? What does the word even mean?

There’s two possible error modes here. Eternalistically, one can fetishize “mystical experience” as a manifestation of the eternal ordering principle and make a big fuss about how important it is while deliberately avoiding clarity and specificity about it. Nihilistically, one can give some vague scientific-sounding “explanation” in terms of nonsense “neuroscience,” deny that it is “really” significant, and again avoid specific investigation.

Meditation regularly produces unusual experiences. An eternalistic approach supposes there is some transcendent one called Enlightenment!!!™️ that you aim for, which would reveal The Meaning Of Everything. I think this is juvenile and generally doesn’t work out well. It’s better to regard unusual states as interesting and meaningful, but not as proof of The Cosmic Plan, and to maintain open-ended curiosity regarding the specific significance of specific ones.

I wrote about this in “Effing the ineffable.”


Brian Kram 2021-08-18

Yes, I stand corrected, I was imprecise in using “mystical experience” and “transcendence” as shorthand in my expression - I get you. “Fetishize” - what a word (and concept). Thank you for the “No Cosmic Plan” link. What I need to think through now is: where does Awe and Wonder of the Cosmic Order (contemporary physics serving as a useful baseline for me) end and Cosmic Plan begin? Does it come down to fetishizing making the difference? A revisit of your Awe and Wonder material may be in order. And before I wear out my welcome with any further lingering questions and commentary - I just wanted to thank you for your thoughtful attention to all my questions. This engagement has been great fun for me. Looking forward to what you have in store around the corner.
-best wishes


Kasinohai 2022-01-06

Its tempting watching the gamblers play and win in a snap thinking you can do it too. You win in few a rounds then succeeding loss in a row. Last thing you know, you’re in a deep trouble.

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