Comments on “No eternal meaning”

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The meaning of the potato masher is apple sauce and mashed potatoes

Robert Lawson 2021-11-06

The story about potato mashers is conceptual and imaginary and separates me from making breakfast. The applesauce I make with a bean masher is delicious, especially with cinnamon and a little salt. Num!

What about math?

mtraven 2021-11-06

Mathematics is supposed to be a field with eternal and universal meanings, as demonstrated by the hypothetical conversations we could have with strange aliens about the Pythagorean theorem or the infinitude of primes.

Of course these also have little to no connection to personal values, other than elegance and beauty (which are also sometimes taken to be eternal values, independent of any particular life or way of life).

I was in an argument with a right-wing religious whacko recently (bad habit) who adhered to the Platonic theory of forms…my attitude was about the same as yours. But if I had to restate his position, it is this: while the material of a potato masher is temporal, the form of a potato masher is atemporal, more like a mathematical object than a thing-of-the-world, and so is eternal in that sense. The humans who invent and make potato mashers are not really creative, just discovering a region of form-space which has always been there.

This seems absurd (and anti-human), but it’s also the default position of western thought since Plato. Undoing it is hard.

Platon delendus est

David Chapman 2021-11-06

Uh, yes, I think I covered math in the body of the page (“it’s more plausible that methods of formal rationality do exist outside of time, but all attempts to use them to establish truths about ethics, purpose, or value fail due to nebulosity”) and Plato in a footnote.

Plato is the root of all evil, and the metaphysical hard core of both Christianity and rationalism. It’s easy to explain why Platonism is false and absurd, but it persists because it underwrites eternalism, and there isn’t a generally recognized better alternative to that. Supposedly I’m going to explain one, but (for some reason?) I am disposing of nihilism first.

Cosmic Meaning of Sex

SusanC 2021-11-07

Re. The comment on your Twitter that early uses of the term “cosmic meaning” are about sex…

Maybe sex is the thing that many humans want to have meaning, even if it doesn’t.

Compare Yab yum in vajrayana iconography. One should be cautious about assuming that the way (many) members of homo sapiens have sex is telling us something fundamental about the structure of the universe.

The empirical observation that some people are gay is big hint that heterosexual intercourse can’t be the meaning of the universe.

Meaning(s)

David Chapman 2021-11-07

FWIW I think sex is exceptionally rich in meaning(fulness), but as with everything else, any specific meanings are nebulous, not fixed.

The heterosexual imagery of Buddhist Tantra is more fixed than I’m happy with. Perhaps this is more salient for me than many since I’m vaguely bi and vaguely trans (and married to someone who is more bi and more trans than I am).

The passages I quoted on sex and “cosmic meaning” were (unintentionally) comic…

Eternal happiness in heaven

Mike 2021-11-07

Isn’t the concept of eternal happiness in heaven one of the major selling points of Christianity? Would this even be possible, or just another paradox? Seems like pretty absurd idea to me if given any thought.

Helena Blavatsky

SusanC 2021-11-11

For what it’s worth, Helena Blavatsky uses “cosmic meaning” in The Secret Doctrine: “… that the first “great flood” had an allegorical, as well as a cosmic meaning, and that it happened at the end of the Satya Yuga…”

So some of the talk of “cosmic meaning” may be coming from people inspired by Blavatsky.

Altered States

SusanC 2021-11-11

Also, from the film script for Altered States:

“EMILY: No, Mason, he’s a truth-lover, a God-fucker. I was never real to him. Nothing in the human condition was ever real to him. Reality to Eddie is only that which is changeless. immutably constant. What happened to him tonight – that was Eddie’s idea of love. That was consummation. He finally got it off with God.”

Emily’s issue with Eddie is that he does attach cosmic meaning to sex with her, rather than it being about her…

I’m now imagining some dialog (from a different imaginary movie) along the lines of “You only ever made love to Vajravarahi, never to me

Romanticism and Vajravarahi

David Chapman 2021-11-11

The Blavatsky connection is definitely on the right track… The Wikipedia Cosmos entry says that the word was mostly obsolete for a couple thousand years before it was resurrected in the mid-1800s by the Romantic philosopher Alexander von Humboldt; and Blavatsky is in the Romantic lineage. This also explains the 1960s “Wow, cosmic, man!” usage, inasmuch as hippie stuff was mostly recycled German Romanticism.

“You only ever made love to Vajravarahi, never to me”

Erm, yes, that would be a sad failure mode… I can definitely imagine someone (maybe even me) making that mistake.

RE: Math

Martijn Struijs 2021-12-11

Mathematics is supposed to be a field with eternal and universal meanings, as demonstrated by the hypothetical conversations we could have with strange aliens about the Pythagorean theorem or the infinitude of primes.
Nonono. Theorems are bounded and limited. Thruth is relevant on axioms and hypothesis. There is nothing eternal in math, other than math itself. Math was practiced way before the Greeks formalized it. And the formalized it wrong. As did the early set theorists. And god knows what the category theorists are doing these days.

Of course these also have little to no connection to personal values, other than elegance and beauty (which are also sometimes taken to be eternal values, independent of any particular life or way of life).
Hmm. I find there can be joy, revelation, dare I say meaning in a good mathematical theorem/proof. But I suppose you’d have to be a mathematician to feel the same.

I was in an argument with a right-wing religious whacko recently (bad habit) who adhered to the Platonic theory of forms…my attitude was about the same as yours. But if I had to restate his position, it is this: while the material of a potato masher is temporal, the form of a potato masher is atemporal, more like a mathematical object than a thing-of-the-world, and so is eternal in that sense. The humans who invent and make potato mashers are not really creative, just discovering a region of form-space which has always been there.
I mean, the idea of a masher exists and is something other than the object. However, I’d say the idea is temporal, or at least bounded in the sense that there is no perceptible evidence of it unless someone thinks of it. Preferably some human.

This seems absurd (and anti-human), but it’s also the default position of western thought since Plato. Undoing it is hard.
I don’t know. The map is not the territory, but that says little about time, I think.

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