Comments on “Appendix: Further reading”

This is wonderful. In one way

Romeo Stevens 2017-11-23

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 2017-11-24

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

David Chapman 2017-11-24

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.


David Chapman 2017-11-24

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 2017-11-26

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 2017-11-26

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

Benjamin Taylor 2017-11-27

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 :-)


Will Minshew 2017-11-28

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 2020-07-01

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.

Bohm dialogue

Alexander Donets 2021-11-15

Have you ever heard of David Bohm and his concept of dialogue? It seems to me that his ideas on how to convey and conduct dialogue are likely connected with your concept of participation. Some excerpts with the notion of “thought participation” or “participatory thought”:

“A new kind of mind thus begins to come into being which is based on the development of a common meaning that is constantly transforming in the
process of the dialogue. People are no longer primarily in opposition, nor can they be said to be interacting, rather they are participating in this pool of common meaning which is capable of constant development and change.”

“Bohm suggests that while literal thought has been predominant since the inception of civilization, a more archaic form of perception, formed over the whole of human evolution, remains latent — and at times active — in the structure of our consciousness. This he refers to as “participatory thought,” a mode of thought in which discrete boundaries are sensed as permeable, objects have an underlying relationship with one another, and the movement of the perceptible world is sensed as participating in some vital essence. Even today, says Bohm, many tribal cultures maintain aspects of participatory thought.”

David Bohm

David Chapman 2021-11-15

Thanks; I know only a little about his work, and should learn more!

Michael Polanyi

Alexander Donets 2022-01-28

Good day. Also, you may find interesting the ideas of Michael Polanyi. He seems to generally share views with Meaningness, though it is somewhat intuitive judgment.

As just one particular example, he advocates for the falsity of subjective/objective dichotomy of personal knowledge and introduced the idea of “tacit knowing”, which seems intrinsically connected to the properties of meaningness:

”<…> Such is the personal participation of the knower in all acts of understanding. But this does not make our understanding subjective. Comprehension is neither an arbitrary act nor a passive experience, but a responsible act claiming universal validity. Such knowing is indeed objective in the sense of establishing contact with a hidden reality; a contact that is defined as the condition for anticipating an indeterminate range of yet unknown (and perhaps yet inconceivable) true implications. It seems reasonable to describe this fusion of the personal and the objective as Personal Knowledge.”

Personal Knowledge

David Chapman 2022-01-28

Thanks, yes, I’ve read Personal Knowledge and The Tacit Dimension. He’s underrated (in the English-speaking world, at least), which is a pity.


Garrett 2022-05-15

I love seeing this list! It definitely gives me clearer insight into where Meaningness is coming from.

One thing that surprises me is that the pragmatists (especially Dewey) are not here. Seeing that absence makes me realize that I was (somewhat unconsciously) reading Meaningness as a modern update/popularization of Deweyan pragmatism. I still think that’s not a bad take on this project, actually.

I think Dreyfus’s reading of Heidegger downplays much of what is distinctively Heideggerian in favor of what Heidegger shares with American pragmatism. Now I’m curious if that is what accounts for the resonance with pragmatism that I’m seeing throughout Meaningness, or if other thinkers on this reading list also play in here. Even Kegan might account for an overlap with pragmatism, since Kegan (like Dewey) is providing a kind of secularized, psychologized Hegel that keeps the emphasis on dialectical growth while eliminating much of the metaphysical baggage.

…which is all just to say that I’m curious if you’ve read the American pragmatists and that I’d suggest Dewey to anyone who finds Meaningness compelling.


David Chapman 2022-05-15

Hi Garrett,

I haven’t read the pragmatists properly—just particular bits that seemed particularly relevant at times. I feel like I have a decent understanding of what they are about from secondary sources, but that might be mistaken, and I have vague good intentions to read them systematically someday.

I think Dreyfus’s reading of Heidegger downplays much of what is distinctively Heideggerian in favor of what Heidegger shares with American pragmatism.

I think that may be fair…

Now I’m curious if that is what accounts for the resonance with pragmatism that I’m seeing throughout Meaningness

That could be! It could also be that I’m an American former engineer and businessman, which gives me a pragmatic attitude. (I realize that Pragmatism isn’t the same thing as pragmatism, but there’s a family resemblance.)


John 2022-11-16

I’m surprised you haven’t read the pragmatists! I was also reading Meaningness with a vague thought that this was further discourse on pragmatism-related thought.

(Though I’m by no means well-read in this area. It seems like you may enjoy the work of C. S. Peirce.)

Aro gTér

AB 2022-11-24


Are there any Aro books in particular that might get an honorary mention?

Aro books

David Chapman 2022-11-25

I recommended a couple of them here.

Michael Oakeshott

Thom 2023-10-05

Michael Oakeshott is a philosopher who seems relevant to your project in some ways, especially regarding the relation between rationality and circumrationality. His most well-known work is “Rationialism in Politics”, in which he criticises ideological politics as abstractions not properly based in practice, but he also discussed this in less contentious contexts, including cooking:

“It might be supposed that an ignorant man, some edible materials, and a cookery book compose together the necessities of a self-moved (or concrete) activity called cooking. But nothing is further from the truth. The cookery book is not an independently generated beginning from which cooking can spring; it is nothing more than an abstract of somebody’s knowledge of how to cook: it is the stepchild, not the parent of the activity. The book, in its tum, may help to set a man on to dressing a dinner, but if it were his sole guide he could never, in fact, begin: the book speaks only to those who know already the kind of thing to expect from it and consequently how to interpret it.”
― Michael Oakeshott, Rationalism in Politics and other essays

Your use of seafaring metaphors in particular reminded me of this quotation, to which one could reply “and not only in political activity”:
“In political activity, then, men sail a boundless and bottomless sea; there is neither harbour for shelter nor floor for anchorage, neither starting-place nor appointed destination. The enterprise is to keep afloat on an even keel; the sea is both friend and enemy, and the seamanship consists in using the resources of a traditional manner of behaviour in order to make a friend of every hostile occasion.”
― Michael Oakeshott, Rationalism in Politics and other essays