Reasons to be cheerless, part 3

For the nihilism section of the book, I’m collecting reasons to think everything is meaningless. I’m hoping to get a complete set, so I can address them comprehensively.

Can you help?

Oddly, I haven’t been able to find any discussion of nihilism that covers many reasons, or even any that argues seriously for any of them. Generally, they say something like “after we’re all dead, nothing will be meaningful, therefore nihilism,” which doesn’t actually follow.

Can you recommend books/articles/blog posts that make good arguments for nihilism?

Which of the following reasons do you find most convincing, and why?

Are there reasons to think everything is meaningless that I’ve missed in this list?

Please leave a comment!

  1. Sure, some things have a mundane, trivial “meaning,” but nothing is really meaningful.
  2. Some things have some finite meaning, but nothing is ultimately meaningful.
  3. Some things (food, sex, survival) obviously have materialistic meanings to us as animals; but “higher” meanings are pious fantasies or lies.
  4. Nothing is inherently meaningful. Objects don’t have meanings inside them, as essences; physics doesn’t support that.
  5. Nothing is objectively meaningful. Finding things meaningful is a subjective, mental process, so it’s arbitrary and the meanings aren’t real.
  6. Subjective “meanings” are relative to the observer. There’s no way to resolve disagreements about them, so they aren’t good for anything.
  7. Space aliens might have completely different ideas about what counts as meaningful, which shows nothing is really meaningful at all.
  8. You can’t prove anything is actually meaningful.
  9. Nothing is absolutely meaningful. All supposed meanings are merely relative, so they don’t count.
  10. Nothing is eternally meaningful. All meanings are transient and will be obliterated by time, so they don’t count.
  11. After you are dead, whatever you found meaningful is lost, so it won’t be meaningful any more. What good is your life then?
  12. After everyone is dead, and the sun explodes and the human race goes extinct, nothing will be meaningful to anyone.
  13. Some things falsely seem meaningful, but when viewed from the perspective of the universe as a whole, they are revealed to be meaningless.
  14. Some things in life—its contents—seem meaningful; but looking at your life as a whole, you realize they don’t add up, and it’s meaningless.
  15. When you think about why things seem meaningful, in the final analysis, you realize they aren’t meaningful after all.
  16. To see what is really meaningful, you’d have to stand outside the universe, like God. But there is no God, and we can’t do that.
  17. Subatomic particles have no meaning, and everything is made of subatomic particles, and nothing adds meaning to them, so there’s no meaning.
  18. Everyone used to believe in spirits, but we couldn’t measure them, and we now know they don’t exist. Same for meanings.
  19. Meanings would have to be made of some non-material substance, but there’s strong evidence nothing like that exists.
  20. Meanings would imply mind/body dualism, which we know is wrong. Science shows that consciousness is just a neurochemical process.
  21. There’s no credible theory that explains how meaning could actually work.
  22. We know how “meaning” works—it’s just produced by neurons—so it doesn’t actually exist.
  23. We hallucinate meaning as a result of the evolution of the brain, but evolution is a random, meaningless process, so meaning is illusory.
  24. There was no meaning in the universe at the moment of the Big Bang, and there’s no process that adds meaning, so there’s no meaning now.
  25. You can’t prove anything is worth living for. Life is mostly suffering, and has no real value.
  26. Meanings are just made-up, like stories. They’re not real.
  27. Sure, you could choose to label some things “meaningful,” but that doesn’t mean anything. You could call some things “yixxy” too.
  28. You can’t define “meaning,” so it doesn’t exist.
  29. Any argument that something is meaningful would have to justify it in terms of the meaningfulness of something else. But this can’t work; either there is an infinite regress, or it’s circular, or you come to something whose meaningfulness can’t be justified.

(To be explicit: I think each of these is wrong, and intend to explain why.)

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You are reading a metablog post, dated December 31, 2015.

The next metablog post is Enough of eternalism!.

The previous metablog post was YOU NEED MORE LUMENS.

This page’s topic is Nihilism.

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.