Mystification

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Mystification is a ploy for maintaining the eternalist stance. Like wistful certainty, it is a tactic for explaining away non-perception of meaning. It is the next step when faithful bafflement fails.

Mystification uses thoughts as a weapon against authentic thinking. It creates glib, bogus metaphysical explanations that sweep meaninglessness under the rug. It can be vague, poetic, emotive (typical of monist mystification), or elaborately conceptual and intellectual (typical of dualist mystification).

Eternalist ideologies claim to have all the answers. However, when push comes to shove, they admit that some things are mysterious. In fact, the mysteries turn out to include all the major questions about each of the dimensions of meaningness.

Still, eternalist ideologies insist that it is not mysterious which things are mysterious; nor how they are mysterious; nor what the mystery means. One is not to inquire into that which is mysterious, to come to have a tentative opinion about it. Mystery is not allowed to be mysterious: We know everything about it, says eternalism.

In fact, according to this ploy, mystery always means the same thing: apparent meaninglessness is the very best proof that everything is meaningful. Everything mysterious is bundled together and labeled “sacred” or “miraculous” or “cosmic.” Or, more specifically, “God’s plan, not for man to know”; or “the historically-inevitable working-out of class struggle”; or “the uncomputable but optimal decision strategy.”

Mystification produces half-assed mumbo-jumbo explanations. Acting based on these fails—naturally!—with more-or-less disastrous results.

The antidote to mystification is actual thinking. “Actual thinking” means not simply repeating thoughts you have taken over from an ideology, but active curiosity and investigation and questioning and reasoning. It involves skepticism; not the pseudo-skepticism of rejecting claims your tribe rejects, but actively wondering about how things are, and refusing to accept attractive stories that make no sense.

Thinking is a skill. There are many specific methods, taught for example in the “critical thinking” curriculum, and it is worth learning them. It is also important to realize that thinking must go beyond method.

Recognizing meaninglessness can be an opening into vastness. That is what mystification promises—but then it delivers the opposite. It gestures at vastness, but immediately closes it off by labeling it, and by pretending to explain some ultimate insight into its nature.

The best antidote to mystification is to appreciate, and open to, the experience of vastness. That is wonderment.

Navigation

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

The next page in this section is ⚒ Rehearsing the horrors of nihilism.

The previous page is ⚒ Faithful bafflement.

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.