Smearing meaning all over everything

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The eternalist ploy smearing meaning all over everything hallucinates imaginary meanings, to avoid perceiving meaninglessness. That makes it similar to the ploy imposing fixed meanings, but whereas that deploys rigid categories, “smearing” is non-specific.

Smeared-around meanings are usually vague. If something is labelled “inappropriate”: how, and why, and what does that actually imply?

Smearing is also usually quite undiscriminating about which things get what meanings. The important thing is that everything means something. Smearing accepts nebulous meanings, but not meaninglessness.

For instance:

Traditional ways of knowing draw on the wisdom of nature, which the West has forgotten.

This is almost perfectly vague, but expresses a strong value judgement nonetheless. Not only does it devalue “the West,” it also attempts to rescue “traditional ways of knowing” from the sensible judgement that they are sometimes idiotic and virtually meaningless. “Nature” and “wisdom” are sufficiently hand-wavy that they can justify almost anything—especially if they are supposed to be “mysterious” (to unenlightened Westerners, at least).

Smearing is common in monist eternalism, whereas fixed meanings are more common in dualist eternalism. (See “The big three stance combinations” for an introduction to monist vs. dualist eternalism.) Monism denies specifics, whereas dualism fixates them. Smearing is typically justified by “intuition” (characteristic of monism), where fixed meanings are justified by categorical knowledge (characteristic of dualism).

Smeared meanings cause trouble in almost the same way as fixed ones. They fail to fit reality, so acting on them has bad outcomes. Relying on “traditional ways of knowing” to handle an Ebola outbreak is a really bad idea.

The antidote to smearing, as with imposing, is to find out what things actually mean. If you find yourself smearing a lot, learning to be clear and specific is helpful, and some rigorous intellectual work is called for. For imposing, the antidote is more to be receptive to your perceptions of meaning, moment-by-moment, and to allow them to be as they are.

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

The next page in this section is ⚒ Magical thinking.

The previous page is ⚒ Imposing fixed meanings.

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.