Fortress eternalism

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Eternalism is the confused stance that everything has a fixed meaning. Various ploys try to maintain that stance in the face of frequent evidence that most things do not have definite meanings. When these fail, a fallback is to try to maintain eternalism where it seems most critical or plausible, and wall that off from everything else, which you abandon to nebulosity.

It is difficult, for instance, to see how earthquakes, tsunamis, and famines could be willed by a benevolent God; or meaningful; or anything other than disasters that just happened. It is difficult not to fall into the stance that most things are God’s will, but not some bits that cause you trouble.

For the liberally-minded, it is common to abandon the view that life has a definite purpose, while continuing to insist that some particular scheme of ethics (utilitarianism, for instance) is definitely correct. Then one has abandoned eternalism in the dimension of purpose, while preserving it in the dimension of ethics.

Fortress eternalism has all the same defects and harms as full-on eternalism—within the territory you hold eternalistically. Also, if you misinterpret nebulosity as meaninglessness, then you are effectively a nihilist as far as anything outside your domain of safety is concerned; and you are subject to the harms of nihilism when you venture there.

Terrifyingly, as you try to tend your eternalist garden, you find the outer darkness encroaching. Areas of visible chaos inexorably expand. Having initially admitted a tiny bit of nebulosity, it spreads like a puddle of black ink—because in fact everything is nebulous. You can try to build dams, bulwarks against the encroaching tide, by redoubling commitment to eternalism; but you find that more and more of everyday life becomes the domain of nebulosity. Eternalist belief is increasingly relegated to Sunday morning. Increasingly, you become a nihilist in practice, even while maintaining commitment to eternalism in theory.

Since eternalism is the stance that everything has a fixed meaning, fortress eternalism is not really eternalism at all. This last-ditch ploy transitions you from eternalism to some next stance.

This is, actually, an opportunity to move to the complete stance. When the last defense finally collapses, you can see that all is nebulous. If you remember then that nebulosity is not meaninglessness, and recognize patterns of meaning remaining after eternalism has collapsed—you have found the complete stance.


This page is in the section Eternalist ploys and their antidotes,
      which is in Eternalism,
      which is in Meaning and meaninglessness,
      which is in Doing meaning better.

This is the last page in its section.

The next page in book-reading order is Accomplishing eternalism.

The previous page is ⚒ Purification.

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 ©2010–2017 David Chapman.