Comments on “Nihilistic reasoning errors”

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Nikita 2021-10-30

For me, it was about “everything is meaningless because of the second law of thermodynamics”. Entropy increases, the universe will be uniform, atoms will fall apart, and whatever you do will disappear one day.

What’s funny I wouldn’t even be able to pass undergraduate-level physics exams.

Meaningless meaning?

David Stevens 2021-10-30

Back when I did the est training, one of the context flips they did was to go on about meaninglessness until you were in a strong “it’s all meaningless, there’s no point…” state, then flip it with “and that itself is meaningless”. That was a big deal for me, and made a massive positive flip in my state of mind. Reading this article, what I realised, perhaps for the first time (the “bigness” of the original realisation perhaps obscuring the next step) is that the “… and meaninglessness is meaningless” statement is a statement that is brimming over with meaningfulness!

Entropy and the meaningfulness of the meaninglessness of meaninglessness

David Chapman 2021-10-30

Nikita—A page about this is coming soon I hope! “Because entropy” is one of the “proves too much” cases.

David—Thanks, this is a good point! I’ve done a bit of revision of the page to address it (probably only incompletely).

Proves too much

Nikita 2021-10-31

Of course, David, that’s why I felt like this “argument” was missing. Great that you have a special page for this one because I’m certainly not the only one who used to misunderstand entropy, and it’s important to talk about it.

Desire for meaning

Nihilatte 2021-11-02

I have been observing your crusade against nihilism and as someone amateur nihilist adjacent I feel a need to respond. I think you are fighting something that nobody actually believes. You admit as much yourself in many of those pages.

Jumping from “no special meaning” to “no meaning” lets you avoid examining specifically why the available meanings seem inadequate. That effort seems too emotionally difficult. It is too likely to reveal the actual situation: that that your life is seriously unsatisfactory, in some specific way; that attempts to improve it seem too likely to fail; and that dealing with it realistically is too painful to consider.

I think this is what amateur nihilist are actually expressing and is the more interesting question. There can be obvious material issues, but I think some kind of “meaning” is also a need to a satisfied life. As clever a quip about cats and can openers you think is, it’s at best dismissing and at worse an insulting to someone expressing that concern. It’s just an linguistic trick of you interpreting laymen through you highly specific and unusual terminology when obviously nobody means that kind of meaning (pun intended). Ironically, considering the whole “in the cells of an eggplant” thing is about context dependence.
I wouldn’t hold it against the work for not diving into how to solve the need for meaning if this was just an academic exercise in refuting hard nihilism, but it’s put forward as self evident that adopting your preferred metaphysical view which is called here a “complete stance” solves that issue.
The observation that meaning is context dependent fuzzy categories and patterns is honestly trivial. At least when you already get it. Attempts to define the language in formal logic failed miserably a century ago. The “rationalist” subculture is making a similar error for which they are criticized here.
I don’t see how that is supposed to make one happy or fulfill your need for meaning. Maybe if the search itself is causing you considerable angst it might help but mundane is still “not good enough” and that doesn’t change.

It's a first step

David Chapman 2021-11-02

I think some kind of “meaning” is also a need to a satisfied life.

Yes; I think the book says that in about a million places!

Nihilism is an attempt to deny that meaning is necessary or possible. We adopt that stance when getting enough meaning, or meaning of the right sort, seems too difficult.

cats and can openers

The point of this is to refute the belief that meaning doesn’t exist at all. Sometime one can talk oneself into that, and then it’s helpful to have a way of talking yourself back out of it, and this is trying to be that. Once you admit that some things are a little bit meaningful, you can investigate questions like “how do I get more of it,” whereas if you tell yourself nothing is meaningful at all, it closes of that possibility.

I don’t see how that is supposed to make one happy or fulfill your need for meaning.

Well, the chapter on the complete stance is about that. It’s less than half written, but it does include a step-by-step recipe. Some people have found it significantly helpful.

mundane is still “not good enough”

Indeed. As the book later explains.

Re:It's a first step

Nihilatte 2021-11-02

Fair, this part is mostly about why nihilism is wrong and not on how “how do I get more of it”. I still think nobody actually believes it, but I’m sympathetic to it so I can be a bit defensive. I’m more miserablist than nihilist myself strictly speaking though.

I think I have read most of this book and some other works, but it’s possible there is still something I’m missing. I went to quickly reread the relevant parts and there is some gap I just can’t jump over yet. I think I understand it, but I just don’t get the appeal. Seems a bit buzzwordy, maybe because I’m not at all familiar with Buddhist practice and this seems to be a major source of inspiration.

On nihilism itself I’ll try reading Finding Meaning in an Imperfect World since it’s recommend.

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