I have coined the word “meaningness” to express the ambiguous quality of meaningfulness and meaninglessness that we encounter in practice. According to the stance that recognizes meaningness, meaning is real but not definite. It is neither objective nor subjective. It is neither given by an external force nor a human invention. David Chapman

The central message of this book is that meaning is real (and cannot be denied), but is fluid (so it cannot be fixed). It is neither objective (given by God) nor subjective (chosen by individuals). David Chapman

Perspectives to Purpose

  • Eternalism
    • Everything has a true purpose, given by some higher principle of the universe
    • Most often we can’t figure out what this purpose is supposed to be
    • Eternalism rightly recognizes that the world is meaningful to us, and that it must be accepted as it is. This is the acknowledgement of pattern: the world in all its variety, pain and pleasure alike.
  • nihilism
    • Nothing has a purpose. Any purpose you imagine is an illusion
    • Nihilism rightly recognizes that there is no eternal source of meaning, so there is no ultimate basis or necessity for rejecting anything. This is the acceptance of nebulosity: the chaos and contingency of the world, and the recognition that we are free from divine law.
  • Materialism
    • There are human purposes that can’t be doubted, survival, health, sex, enjoyable experiences etc…
    • This stance rejects altruistic or creative purposes
  • Mission
    • Doesn’t matter what you get but how you live. Find and act on your personal gifts
    • People waste a lot of time and effort trying to find “their purpose in life,” and are miserable when they fail.
  • Existentialism
    • Purpose is a human creation, not god-given. Be careful to not mindlessly adopt a purpose from society, and choose your own



Meaningness is always neboulous,: indefinite, uncertain, ambiguous.

Meaningness is cloud-like. It is real, but impossible to completely pin down.

Often, people would like to get rid of nebulosity, or pretend that it is not there. One strategy is to fixate meanings, attempting to deny their nebulosity by trying to make them solid, eternal, and unambiguous. Another is to deny meaningfulness altogether, or to say that it is not important, or cannot be known.

Confused stances refuse to recognize the nebulosity of meaningness, creating opposite pairs

  • mission and materialism both fixate personal purpose.
    • Mission fixates “eternal” purposes and denies mundane ones.
    • Materialism fixates mundane purposes and denies eternal ones.

Idea of Purpose of Life is Attractive but not useful

”What should I dedicate my life to?* may be the wrong question, rather ask “What is something I can do now that will be both enjoyable and useful?”

If you can let go of the grandiosity that leads you to imagine that some special task awaits you, and the false hope that getting enough of what you want would make life satisfactory, you can be useful and enjoy yourself.

Created on: 2021-11-06 Book by: David Chapman Link: https://meaningness.com/ Related: