Comments on “No meaning for mortals”


mtraven 2021-11-01

“They give birth astride of a grave, the light gleams an instant, then it’s night once more.” – Pozzo in Waiting for Godot

The advice to stop seeking eternal meanings and look for small-scale local meaning is no doubt wise and correct, but it doesn’t address the inescapable feeling that the universe is so vast (in both space and time) that our little lives, or even the life of humanity as a whole, is utterly insignificant. It’s not exactly nihilism, more like epsilonism – we have meanings, but they are too small to matter. Death is just the most obvious absolute constraint on our desire to be large enough to matter to the universe.

The solution of course is to recognize that local cognition is just as valid than the cosmic view. More valid, actually, since it’s grounded in actual embodied perception rather than abstract speculation. But it’s easier said than done.

Here’s something I stumbled upon, which you might like. I’ve just skimmed it so don’t necessarily endorse it. Like you, it dismisses obsessions with death, oblivion, and meaninglessness, as basically mistakes, the product of badly-formed concepts.

No eternal meaning

David Chapman 2021-11-01

Thanks! Timely: I’m supposed to write “No eternal meanings” this week, and will read the essay you linked as background. The site is really good; it was a major source of background reading when I was writing the 2006 version of Meaningness.

Well said!

Mike 2021-11-01

Very well put together thoughts on the fallacy of death rendering life itself meaningless. Enjoyed the read!

Do you mean anything to the universe

SusanC 2021-11-01

The nihilist mood (for want of a better term) is a problem I do not have.

But to try and unpick the philosophical argument…

Of course, things in the universe have meaning to you.

But is your desire for you to have meaning to the universe? You own impermanence does sort of suggest (but does not logically require) that the universe does not attach much significance to you.

The relationship is a rather asymmetrical one.

But maybe the universe (if it be the kind for thing that has meanings at all) does not conceptualise time in the same way you do. Eternal recurrence of the same etc. Your transitory existence could hold some sort of specialness for an entity that is not always caught up in the present moment,

I don’t think such a God like entity exists; but the fact of impermanence on its own seems insufficient to rule it out. (You would need additional arguments)


SusanC 2021-11-02

I now find myself singing that song to myself…

Maybe we should include it in a sadhana somehow :-)

The problem with the toothpaste analogy is the “you”

Tom 2023-08-24

I’m the toothpaste analogy you wrote, roughly, that when the tube is empty you won’t be able to get more toothpaste out of it, but that doesn’t imply it never had toothpaste. But the ‘you’ in that sentence suggests a persistent observer who knows there was toothpaste (and found that toothpaste useful). A better analogy would be something like, when you use up the last of the toothpaste someone puts a bullet in your head; now, did all those times you brushed your teeth matter? Or, you but a supposedly bottomless tube of toothpaste, but eventually it runs out. Does that mean it was never bottomless to begin with? Yes, yes it does. You were not aware of the bottom while there was still toothpaste, but it was always there; the claim of bottomlessness was false all along.