Materialism

Rejecting materialism

This page is outdated. The text below is from the first, 2007 draft of Meaningness. My understanding of the material has changed since then, and the style I write in too. Someday I would like to rewrite this; but I hope the 2007 version may be adequate for now.

Materialism wrongly fixates mundane purposes, and denies higher ones. Both aspects cause unnecessary trouble.

This page explains how three other confused stances, eternalism, mission, and nihilism reject materialism. These rejections are each partly right, and obviously so. Unless you are stubbornly committed to materialism, you will admit this, if perhaps sometimes reluctantly. That makes these considerations obstacles to maintaining the stance, destabilizing it.

Each critique is flawed; partly wrong, although not entirely mistaken. These flaws are also obvious, which is a reason it’s possible to adopt materialism at times.

Meaningness rejects materialism from point of view of the complete stance. It regards all purposes, mundane and higher, as both nebulously meaningful and nebulously meaningless. The next page explains that critique.

Materialism

This page is outdated. The text below is from the first, 2007 draft of Meaningness. My understanding of the material has changed since then, and the style I write in too. Someday I would like to rewrite this; but I hope the 2007 version may be adequate for now.

Materialism is the confused stance that only “mundane,” self-interested purposes are meaningful.

As an attempt to reconcile eternalism and nihilism—with an emphasis on nihilism—materialism tries to overcome the obstacles to nihilism and the defects of eternalism.

  • The central obstacle to nihilism is the obviousness of meaning; especially the meanings of one’s desires and the objects of one’s desires. Consequently, materialism is all about self-gratification and self-preservation.
  • The central defect of eternalism is its demand that you serve the “eternal,” “higher,” or “transcendent” purposes of the Cosmic Plan. Those are often unreasonable, inconvenient, painful, or outright harmful. Materialism rejects eternalism’s demand by denying the meaningfulness of all purposes other than the mundane ones. Those, which we share with other social mammals, are too obvious to deny.

Purpose

This page is outdated. The text below is from the first, 2007 draft of Meaningness. My understanding of the material has changed since then, and the style I write in too. Someday I would like to rewrite this; but I hope the 2007 version may be adequate for now.

This chapter discusses stances toward purpose.

For an introduction to this topic, see “An appetizer: purpose.”

The question of purpose is easy for both eternalism and nihilism. For a committed eternalist, your purpose is whatever the Cosmic Plan says it is; no problem. For a committed nihilist, there can be no purpose; no problem. Both stances are difficult to live up to. In practice, we usually fall into two other, confused stances: mission and materialism.

These confused stances share an underlying mistaken metaphysical assumption: that purposes can be classified as “mundane” or “higher,” and only one of those sorts is meaningful.

  • Mundane purposes are those we share with other social mammals: food, security, reproduction, and position in social dominance hierarchies. They also include material altruism on behalf of one’s family or tribe.
  • Higher purposes are those that transcend animal existence, such as creative production, disinterested altruism, and religious salvation. These are sometimes called “transcendent,” “eternal,” or “ultimate.” Their value should survive your physical death, or have significance in realms beyond the material.

Materialism is the stance that only mundane purposes count; it fixates their value, and denies higher purposes. We have no choice but to pursue sex, power, status, safety, pleasure and possessions; anything else is a delusion. Mission is its mirror image: it fixates higher purposes and denies mundane ones. We have a specific higher purpose, and pursuing others is wrong.

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