The core of this book is a method for resolving confusions about meaningness.
The method can be applied to many sorts of issues. Any topic that involves meaning and meaninglessness I call a “dimension of meaningness.” (These include, for instance, ethics, purpose, and value.)
For any dimension, the method asks:
- How does nebulosity affect the subject? That is, what makes the issue ambiguous, uncertain, changeable, or impossible to categorize?
- Why is this nebulosity unattractive? What negative emotions does it provoke?
- How are fixation and denial used to avoid acknowledging nebulosity? These two strategies try to nail the issue in place, or deny that it exists at all. They produce pairs of “confused stances,” or wrong attitudes to the subject. Why are fixation and denial appealing in this area?
- How do fixation and denial fail? (You cannot nail clouds down, but they are still real.) What are the consequences of this failure?
- Consider the possibility that the nebulosity is unavoidable. This means abandoning fixation and denial. It produces the “complete stance” for this dimension of meaningness. What are the consequences of the complete stance?
- Typically, the complete stance is more accurate and helpful than the confused ones, but it seems less attractive. How can one overcome this emotional barrier, in order to adopt the complete stance?
This explanation may seem conceptual and abstract at this point. Meaningness is meant to be useful in everyday life practice. Most of it consists of detailed applications of the method to different dimensions of meaningness.
As we go along, I hope you will gain an intuitive, concrete understanding of the method, through reading examples. Also, we will revisit it with more precision and detail later in the book, when additional relevant concepts will be available.