This page is in the section Stances: responses to meaningness.

☞ The next page in this section is Confused stances come in pairs.

☜ The previous page is Pattern.

General explanation: Meaningness is a hypertext book. Start with an appetizer, or the table of contents. Its “metablog” includes additional essays that are not part of the book.

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## Comments

## We all are engaged in many

We all are engaged in many activities:

- Building an addition to your house

- Raising animals

- Working as a chemist

- Raising children

- Nurturing friendships

- Playing in a band

The above abstract post is global. So it is tempting, at any given moment, to think of a different activity when reading your post with its analogies to apply them to a particular activity. And as you can see by the list, they invite, I think different judgments. For me, it has always been hard listening to someones abstractions of deeply personal insights – they aren’t my abstractions, they aren’t how I feel and experience them. I see pitfalls uncovered when applied to the particulars of my life. It is difficult to talk about these things. Grounding philosophy with particulars helps me a great deal.

## Abstraction

Hmm. I am not sure I understand your comment… I think your point that philosophy ought to be grounded in specifics is a very good one. (My sometime colleague Phil Agre and I, frustrated by the abstractions of mainstream phenomenology, started a “phenomenology of breakfast” project. We learned some useful things.)

The page you commented on is from the introductory overview to the book. The introductory overview is general and abstract (as is common for introductory overviews). Later the book gets more specific. (Maybe it won’t be as specific as you’d like.)

The underlying problem is that I’m dribbling out the introduction over a period of months, when the whole of it ought to be read in a half hour. The individual pages of the introduction don’t stand well alone. They aren’t like blog posts.

The web really may not be the right format, after all… Or I should concentrate on writing just one thing at a time, rather than trying to interleave four sites.

## Gian-Carlo Rota on phenomenology

Purely by coincidence, I just came across something relevant and funny, from an amusing talk about mathematical careers by one of my professors, Gian-Carlo Rota:

Rota was, in striking ways, similar to a Tantric Vajra Master (only, of course, with respect to discrete mathematics and Husserlian phenomenology). There are many remarkable stories about him. I have a vague intention of writing something about him someday.

## Abstract nonsense

It occurs to me that I studied category theory with Rota. Category theory is often described as the most abstract discipline there is—more abstract than any other branch of mathematics, and possibly even than phenomenology…

In fact, it is referred to humorously as “generalized abstract nonsense.”

As you can see, I’m reminiscing, instead of working on the next page of the introduction, like I should be. On the other hand, you said you wanted autobiographical details, so—there you are!

## A New Kind of Science

That was fascinating and ironic. Thanx for the personal element. Very interesting.

I have always wanted to study discrete mathematics more after reading Wolfram’s

“A New Kind of Science”.

## Isn't mathematics an example of successful fixation?

Or are mathematical truths out-of-context somehow in the discussion of “meaningness”?

I suppose another way of putting my question is, is meaningness always grounded in the concrete and so not relevant to (abstract) mathematics?

## Mathematics and nebulosity

An excellent question!

Yes, math definitely seems to be an exception. The book outline says so somewhere-or-other.

There are hard philosophical questions about the nature of mathematics, and the relationship between mathematics and the concrete world. I don’t have strong opinions about them.

One thing I do believe strongly is that there is no straightforward or correct mapping of mathematics onto the macroscopic world; and that is exactly because the world is nebulous and mathematics is not. Some flavors of rationalist eternalism insist that there is a correct mapping, and I think that’s wrong and harmful.

Mathematics is certainly experienced as highly meaningful by some few weirdos (including me). The sense of “meaningful” is approximately aesthetic, although probably not quite the same.

Basically, I don’t think math has much (if anything) to do with “meaningness” as I’m discussing it in this book. But my mind might change about that in some way at some point!

Hmm… On re-reading, I see you are asking the converse of the question I expected: not, what does math imply about meaningness, but what does meaningness imply about math.

Some philosophers of mathematics think it is more nebulous than most working mathematicians believe. Is that what you had in mind?

## the relationship between math and meaningness

I think that find both responses interesting. I wasn’t really thinking about the question from one perspective or the other, but rather as a question of relationship. If that makes any sense.

## What does "negation" mean in the context of the last section?

I found most of this section really interesting and useful, but I’m not sure I quite follow “Each fixation denies the negation of what it fixates.” since I’m not sure what negation means in this context. Maybe “complement” would get at the meaning better than

“negation”?

“Negation” might be misleading in that it suggests only two possibilities (which then seems to be directly contradicted by the proceeding claim that ethical eternalism denies both its two-valued negation “ethical ambiguity” and the rest of its complement “freedom”).

## Negation

Good point, thanks! I’ve changed it to “opposite,” which is imprecise, but might be easier to for many readers to understand than “complement” (which might be more accurate).

## Symbols of fixation and denial in Christianity

I couldn’t resist to point two things:

## Love and meaningness

Hi David,

How does love play into meaningless?

Thanks.

## … or sorry meaningness.

… or sorry meaningness. Meaning that love is the distribution of power. So how does distribution of power play with meaningness?

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