Comments on “Appendix: Further reading”


This is wonderful. In one way

Romeo Stevens's picture

This is wonderful. In one way this could be described as your sense of the main plotline. Curious whether you think Quine’s work is on this main plotline since you didn’t mention him (eg Putnam-Quine indispensability thesis etc).

Mipham's Beacon of Certainty

George L. Vockroth's picture

In regard to - “The Beacon of Certainty may be the most difficult book I’ve ever read. I absolutely do not recommend it…Unfortunately, there is no less-difficult text I can recommend.” In lieu of, or as an introduction to that, I would recommend, “Journey To Certainty” by Anyen Rinpoche and “Jamgon Mipham” by Douglas S. Duckworth. The former is a methodical explication of the “Beacon” for would be practitioners of Dzogchen, while the latter is a broad overview and introduction to Mipham’s thought that includes translations of brief excerpts from his various writings.

Finding the main plotline

this could be described as your sense of the main plotline

Yes, that’s really interesting, isn’t it? I set out just to recommend some books, but the list turned into an essay explaining the history of the ideas in Meaningness. It will probably make the overall shape and message of the work much clearer to readers who know that history.

In the book itself, I’ve mainly avoided talking about my sources and their historical background. For readers unfamiliar with those literatures, it would be a distraction, and probably off-puttingly academic. Maybe that’s a dishonest covering-of-tracks, though; or a dubious erasure of personal history, as recommended by Garfinkel wearing a shaman’s mask.

It’s sometimes baffling when readers say Meaningness is obscure, because I try to write in the simplest language possible, assuming no conceptual background; and the points all seem obvious, verging on trite. There’s nothing in the book that wasn’t thoroughly understood by whole fields, decades ago. But, perhaps I can’t help tacitly assuming the background understanding that comes from reading the books I recommended here!

whether you think Quine’s work is on this main plotline

Well… he was working on many of the same problems, in the wake of Wittgenstein. And relative to the analytic tradition, he was trying to break out of its misguided rationalism. Historically, though, I don’t think he succeeded. His legacy—and that of contemporaries such as J.L. Austin who were also trying to work through the implications of Philosophical Investigations—was to domesticate and neuter its insights within rationalism, rather than to transform Anglophone philosophy using them.


Thank you—the Duckworth book looks particularly interesting! I’ve added it to my personal short list.

In the helpful Amazon review by “applewood”, I found the paragraph starting “Mipham’s main characteristic…” striking. His “main characteristic,” explained there, might be described as meta-rationality!

That is, the distinctive feature of Mipham’s work is that he relates different conceptual systems to each other, without driving toward a proof that one is Ultimately Correct. Rather, he shows how each relates to reality, as revealed in close observation of experience; and how different ones are useful in different situations.


Matthew O'Connell's picture

Thanks for this David. It was interesting to read through and discover some of your major influences, especially concerning the nihilism & eternalism split and metmodernism. I do have a question or two.

“Nagarjuna, was severely confused…Nagarjuna got everything wrong.”

Is this more of your hyperbolic writing style, or pretty much the case in your view? Can you say more, or point me to somewhere that explains why Nagarjuna was so?

Thank you


Duckland's picture

Thanks. I’m glad this finally exists.

It seems to me that one could interpret this as “here are all the people who agree with me”. I don’t interpret it this way. It always surprises me when apparently similar philosophers still have fundamental disagreements. It makes one wonder if their similarity is superficial, whether they’re talking about different things in similar language, etc.

That being said I must apply my Meaningness-inspired metarational skill in asking: which of these authors would disagree with each other? Why? How can we interpret their disagreement?

Which would disagree with you?

I believe these are important questions.

Thanks. I appreciate any reply.

splendid list - and some suggestions

What a great list, and a lifetime’s work.

In all of your extravagant free time, I urge you once again to read Alisdair Macintyre! He connects Kuhnian ontological breakdown (explicitly described as such) with moral breakdown and the competition of different rationalities. What’s not to like?

And some of the alternatives to Kegan, if you haven’t already - I prefer Bill Torbert, but Cook-Greuter is highly recommended too.

Beyond that, though, Marx and Saint-Simon on alienation would be a really really good fit, I suspect.

And I can’t help thinking that systems and complexity thinking, though often they don’t address ontology explicitly, are really relevant to your interests. Second and third order cybernetics, enactivism (you have Flores but not Maturana and Varela?) - there’s a bunch of things I reckon you could make easier for me to understand :-)

This is probably not the response you wanted :-)


Thank you for compiling this list, as well as your book! This site found me in a dark time, and helped expedite my journey out of nihilism. I am deeply grateful.

For the Author

Taylor Horne's picture

I have recently been listening to Stephen Jenkinson a great deal and would be curious how his words land with you. He is known for his work in the palliative care business, or as he calls it the “death trade,” and his commentary on death and dying may be of interest to you. I recommend Campfire Stories, they have quality interviews of him that are an absolute treat to listen to.

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