David Chapman's (aka Meaningness) efforts to critique rationalism and replace it with a more powerful and realistic metarationality; My own views were deeply influenced by his work, which includes a much more systematic and thorough analysis of the problems of rationalism than anything here.
A big influence on Meaningness and Phil Agre and thus indirectly on me. But I also have a pretty deep resistance; the man was a Nazi, and when the anti-rationalism starts to shade into fascism that's where I get off the train.
First, “a project” is an optional technique for viewing patterns in your activity in order to rationalize it. There is no objective truth about whether or not something “is” a project. Sometimes it’s useful to view some things you are doing as a project, to better organize them; sometimes it’s not... Is it a good idea to view your entire life as a single overall project? Weinberg says that if you do, it should result in your being very, very sad. I think she’s probably right.
So I recommend that you don’t do that.
I'd quibble with this; I think some people do manage to conceptualize their life as a project and that's just fine for them and may even be essential for cultural progress. The problems come from thinking you are obligated to do that.
I'm generally a big fan of Meaningness but on a few things I find myself disagreeing, or objecting for reasons that I can't quite articulate. Often this is when he touches on politics, I think we just have different orientations on that. Sometimes his stuff seems a bit oversimplified or schematic or reductive.
To put it in your own terminology, you read to me as overly patterned and insufficiently nebulous. But that is no doubt just be a reflection of my own biases.
This theory was developed by Suzuki together with the Kyoto School. That was a group of Japanese philosophy professors, founded by a close friend of Suzuki’s, devoted to synthesizing Buddhist and Western philosophy. Their work was world-class—brilliant. Unfortunately, the main Western philosophy they chose to integrate with Buddhism was German Romantic Idealism. That philosophy is long-since discredited in the Western world. It is also, in my personal opinion, mostly wrong and harmful. Suzuki presented this mash-up as the original, true, pure Zen; but also as not particularly Buddhist. Zen was, instead, the mystical essence of all religions; just as much a part of Christianity as of Buddhism.
Despite the sermons against nihilism of Meaningness, this feels bad. It's not a question of whether we should feel "very, very sad"
Maybe it's this: "We don’t have any of these extra-special fancy meanings, and we can’t get them. Should we be very, very sad?" (I know you are just quoting that article) but it should be obvious that sadness precedes any philosophical conclusions
, or not, that's how we feel, and we aren't going to be argued out of it.
Undergrad co-op house at MIT. Where I learned to be a druggie anarchist hacker dude. Other luminaries I knew there include MeaningnessGeorge Hart Mike McMahon ("the smartest man in the world" and a founder of Symbolics, I learned a lot from him.). David Feinberg who later became a major gay novelist. John Redford
Meaningness sites are a good entry point to Buddhism for the rationalist and postrationalist. Meaningness itself seems to be firmly grounded in Buddhism while getting rid of all the religious machinery. Vividness is more explictly about Buddhism itself.
Meaningness has a lot to say about nihilism. It's one side of the false dichotomy he aims to overcome (eternalism being the opposite error). To him, it's a stance, a posture people take towards the problem of making sense of their lives. He provides a detailed story about the dynamics of the nihilist stance; why people fall into it; how they escape out of it.
A difficult to define ideology, but literally means people who have moved beyond Rationalism. Meaningness and Ribbonfarm are usually taken to be postrationalist, and I'm close enough to those precincts that it probably means I am too, although in truth I was probably never Rationalist enough to qualify.
After making a huge fuss about how important it is to be rational, and how rationality proves everything is meaningless, and dissing Heidegger for using poetical language to advocate meaningfulness, Brassier’s _Nihil Unbound_ advocates this ULTRA RATIONAL proof of meaninglessness pic.twitter.com/wdZ31X9thf
Existentialism supposes the meaning lives inside your head (so it is subjective, internal, and individual). This is also wrong. I will explain later why meanings logically can’t be subjective. They also can’t be individual: they are inherently social. Also, we don’t have perfectly free will to choose meanings. We are constrained by, and unavoidably depend upon, biology and society and culture.
I'm not sure this is an accurate characterization of existentialism, which was about social commitment, not mere subjectivity?
...But existentialism conclusively failed half a century ago, so the word sounds quaint and dated, and most people who adopt it now don’t realize that’s what they are doing. Many think they’ve invented a clever personal philosophy—with no clue why it won’t work....If you seriously attempt existentialism, you will fail. You cannot create your own meanings.
This is wise, but also a bit ... evasive? It evades the problem of moral judgement. I wager he doesn't think much of that either. I am not sure that is honest. We are always making judgements, aesthetic if not moral but the implications are the same.
This idea of a stance is partly inspired by David Chapman aka Meaningness who defines a stance as "a simple, compelling pattern of thinking and feeling". One his important points is that stances trump systems, that is, people's deepest beliefs are best thought of not so much as systematic ideas, but instead as attitudes or patterns of attitudes. Chapman is talking about something fairly specific: "patterns of thinking and feeling about meaningness", where meaningness is his neologism for "problems of value, purpose, and selfhood". His stances are defined in terms of large-scale philosophical positions like nihilism and eternalism. (see stance/meaningness for my attempt to understand his concept of stance).
Almost every culture, religion, ideology, or world-view holds some things as sacred, pure, holy, or unquestionably true—and others as profane, unclean, or taboo.
Among the few exceptions are Zen and Dzogchen. They hold that there is nothing that is inherently sacred. (This ought to be an obvious consequence of the Heart Sutra—but most Buddhists do not see it that way.)
If you spend enough time with Zen or Dzogchen teachers, it is certain that they will at some point roast your sacred cows—whatever they are.
Because nothing is inherently sacred, anything and everything can be experienced as sacred.
May be related to structuralism, although I never really understood what that was all about to be honest, whereas algebraic is something deeply felt. GOFAI tends towards the algebraic: Cyc, but even more Meaningness's early work cognitive cliches
This desire for moral fixed points is considered Bad by Buddhism, as transmitted via Meaningness:
Any fixed belief, or fixed emotional response, is a “reference point.” We use reference points as bricks to build the prison of identity. In meditation, we allow that structure to collapse. When the roof falls in, we see the boundless sky. That is the vastness of nonduality, where purity and impurity are equally meaningless.
David Chapman (aka @meaningness) has been a major influence on my own thinking. His work at the MIT AI lab with Phil Agre made a deep impression on me when I was trying to figure out my own academic path. This included a critical take on the standard cognitive science view of the mind, which is pretty much Rationalism minus the more cultish and cartoonish aspects.
In AI, this manifested as the planning problem. This is a standard AI problem, in which an agent has a desired state and some available actions, as well as access to a representation of the current state of the world. The planning problem is defined as coming up with.a sequence of actions that when executed will achieve the goal. Chapman proved that this problem was computationally intractable, which was pretty significant, but for me the more interesting part of his work was how it led to a critique of the very basic foundations of the cognitive model, including representationalism and the default modularization of mind into perception, cognition, and motor activity.
He's taking on Rationalism more directly in his in-progress book on meta-rationality, In the Cells of the Eggplant. This is a systematic critique of the assumptions underlying Rationalism, together with a set of techniques to replace it. If I'm taking potshots at the Temple of Reason, he's mounting a full-scale artillery assault.
One aspect of Meaningness that took me awhile to appreciate was that it has a very complex and well-worked out formal structure, and the ideas form a sort of multi-dimensional lattice. There's an extremely simple idea at the core (which is straight out of Buddhism): people tend to fall into two separate, opposed and equally false modes of thought or being: eternalism (in which meaning is well-defined, fixed, and objective) and nihilism (in which there is no meaning whatsoever); and that it's possible to transcend this sterile polarity with better, richer ways of being (completeness). But this ultra-simple idea is elaborated into a precise and structured algebra of being.
This complex conceptual structure is striking to me because even though both he and I have a lot of shared background, and are covering some of the same topics, in our own evolving hypertexts (and both building our own toolchains to do so) – the two texts are very different. His seems to have a grand plan; mine really has no plan at all. So while he may write about the virtues of nebulosity; I'm living it. Or it's more like he's done the hard work of opening up this intellectual terrain which give me the freedom to play in it.
In other words (a) I owe him a lot, and (b) for many of the topics addressed here, you are likely to be better off reading the more serious and thorough treatment in Meaningness.