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  1. #1
    Senior Member Passacaglia's Avatar
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    Default How [Un]Comfortable Are You...?

    ...With the idea that life lacks inherent meaning?

    I.e., the idea that whatever meaning we ascribe to our lives results from what we accept from our various cultures or beliefs, or what we consciously choose to ascribe to our lives. I heard a radio program last night which touched on one of the philosophies which rejects inherent meaning, and when one of the speakers mentioned how uncomfortable this idea is for so many people, I found myself wondering just how much and many people find this idea uncomfortable.

    So, my question is as the title: How [un]comfortable are you with the idea that life lacks inherent meaning?

  2. #2
    Mojibake sprinkles's Avatar
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    I find it to be a non-issue.

    It puts me at odds with a lot of people though. It also informs my worldviews which puts me even further at odds. Yet I don't really even think about meaning that much when it pertains to life in general because the meta sense of 'life' is actually far removed from immediate experience.

    If you're hungry there's no point in worrying about whether eating a sandwich has any inherent meaning - just eat the damn sandwich.

    It's not positive. It's not negative. It's not good or bad. It's just there and to me complaining about it is like complaining that the sky isn't yellow instead of blue.

  3. #3
    Senior Member Nicodemus's Avatar
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    At this point, it is more of a relief than anything else.
    Likes Hard, /DG/, Cellmold liked this post

  4. #4
    LL P. Stewie Beorn's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sprinkles View Post
    I find it to be a non-issue.

    It puts me at odds with a lot of people though. It also informs my worldviews which puts me even further at odds. Yet I don't really even think about meaning that much when it pertains to life in general because the meta sense of 'life' is actually far removed from immediate experience.

    If you're hungry there's no point in worrying about whether eating a sandwich has any inherent meaning - just eat the damn sandwich.

    It's not positive. It's not negative. It's not good or bad. It's just there and to me complaining about it is like complaining that the sky isn't yellow instead of blue.
    Quote Originally Posted by Nicodemus View Post
    At this point, it is more of a relief than anything else.
    Enter the buffered self.

    Modern Westerners have a clear boundary between mind and world, even mind and body. Moral and other meanings are “in the mind.” They cannot reside outside, and thus the boundary is firm. But formerly it was not so. Let us take a well-known example of influence inhering in an inanimate substance, as this was understood in earlier times. Consider melancholy: black bile was not the cause of melancholy, it embodied, it was melancholy. The emotional life was porous here; it didn’t simply exist in an inner, mental space. Our vulnerability to the evil, the inwardly destructive, extended to more than just spirits that are malevolent. It went beyond them to things that have no wills, but are nevertheless redolent with the evil meanings.

    See the contrast. A modern is feeling depressed, melancholy. He is told: it’s just your body chemistry, you’re hungry, or there is a hormone malfunction, or whatever. Straightway, he feels relieved. He can take a distance from this feeling, which is ipso facto declared not justified. Things don’t really have this meaning; it just feels this way, which is the result of a causal action utterly unrelated to the meanings of things. This step of disengagement depends on our modern mind/body distinction, and the relegation of the physical to being “just” a contingent cause of the psychic.

    But a pre-modern may not be helped by learning that his mood comes from black bile, because this doesn’t permit a distancing. Black bile is melancholy. Now he just knows that he’s in the grips of the real thing.

    Here is the contrast between the modern, bounded, buffered self and the porous self of the earlier enchanted world. As a bounded self I can see the boundary as a buffer, such that the things beyond don’t need to “get to me,” to use the contemporary expression. That’s the sense to my use of the term “buffered” here and in A Secular Age. This self can see itself as invulnerable, as master of the meanings of things for it.

    These two descriptions get at, respectively, the two important facets of this contrast. First, the porous self is vulnerable: to spirits, demons, cosmic forces. And along with this go certain fears that can grip it in certain circumstances. The buffered self has been taken out of the world of this kind of fear. For instance, the kind of thing vividly portrayed in some of the paintings of Bosch.
    - Charles Taylor
    Of course despite this buffer most people are haunted by what lies beyond the self.
    Take the weakest thing in you
    And then beat the bastards with it
    And always hold on when you get love
    So you can let go when you give it

  5. #5
    likes this gromit's Avatar
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    I dunno.

    I kind of feel like we create meaning with our choices and our actions and our relationships. We can lead a life that's mostly devoid of meaning, I suppose. And even at points in my life when I've been a bit depressed, I've started to feel that life is meaningless.

    But I do think life in general is worthwhile, and meaningful.

    I don't know what you mean by "inherent' really.
    Your kisses, sweeter than honey. But guess what, so is my money.

  6. #6
    Mojibake sprinkles's Avatar
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    @Beorn

    It's not that 'external' and distant things don't get to me (I don't consider a difference between internal and external) it's that they're not relevant.

    Consider Shikantaza. The point of it is to sit and let things be. Everything simply unfolds. You do not block anything out, you don't distance yourself, you don't separate between inner and outer worlds. Things simply are.

    If you're already living then what's left to worry about? You already got this far didn't you?

  7. #7
    Senior Member Nicodemus's Avatar
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    Apparently, @Beorn's reaction is denial.

    Quote Originally Posted by gromit View Post
    I dunno.

    I kind of feel like we create meaning with our choices and our actions and our relationships. We can lead a life that's mostly devoid of meaning, I suppose. And even at points in my life when I've been a bit depressed, I've started to feel that life is meaningless.

    But I do think life in general is worthwhile, and meaningful.

    I don't know what you mean by "inherent' really.
    What he means by 'inherent' is that you have to create meaning for it to be there, that there is none to life in and of itself.

  8. #8
    Mojibake sprinkles's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by gromit View Post
    I dunno.

    I kind of feel like we create meaning with our choices and our actions and our relationships. We can lead a life that's mostly devoid of meaning, I suppose. And even at points in my life when I've been a bit depressed, I've started to feel that life is meaningless.

    But I do think life in general is worthwhile, and meaningful.

    I don't know what you mean by "inherent' really.
    Things are worthwhile. Life is filled with things. The world is filled with things. Things are not life and the world is not life.

    Life is an abstracted notion of little significance without a context. If you were stuck in a complete isolation chamber and had nothing to do ever but were kept alive, that is life, but is it still worth it?

  9. #9
    likes this gromit's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nicodemus View Post
    Apparently, @Beorn's reaction is denial.


    He he means by 'inherent' is that you have to create meaning for it to be there, that there is none to life in and of itself.
    Oh I don't know if there's baseline meaning below that which we create. I know we can create more, but I don't know if it's there to begin with. I like to think it is, but I only know what my mind can conceive of.
    Your kisses, sweeter than honey. But guess what, so is my money.

  10. #10
    LL P. Stewie Beorn's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nicodemus View Post
    Apparently, @Beorn's reaction is denial.
    At least if it is denial then my denial is of no significance.
    Take the weakest thing in you
    And then beat the bastards with it
    And always hold on when you get love
    So you can let go when you give it

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