"This post sketches a hypothetical curriculum for developing ... meta-systematic capabilities. It’s preliminary ...
According to this framework, there is also a stage 4.5, in which you lose the quasi-religious belief in systems, but haven’t yet developed the meta-systematic understanding that can replace blind faith. Stage 4.5 leaves you vulnerable to nihilism, including ontological despair (nothing seems true), epistemological anxiety (nothing seems knowable), and existential depression (nothing seems meaningful). It’s common to get stuck at 4.5, which is awful."
Meaningness via Cosma

I admit that I am indeed stuck at stage 4.5 and I'm not sure those "meta-systematic capabilities" will really help, but I am glad somebody is trying.

stage 4.6: The dance of nebulosity and pattern.


CapitalistImperialistPig said...

I'm still trying to get to stage 2, if only I could figure out what it is.

And what happened to American Beauty?

Lee said...

>> but I am glad somebody is trying.

Unless there's an afterlife, I think he stopped trying in 2003.

I'm only semi-stuck at stage 4.5. Nothing seems true, except of course the truth that nothing seems true. Nothing seems knowable except knowing the fact that nothing seems knowable. The third characteristic is a little different though. Even though I know nothing is meaningful, almost everything still seems meaningful to me.

wolfgang said...


many philosophers smarter than me have tried to get beyond 4.5 and (as careful readers of this blog may guess) my favorites are Descartes, Wittgenstein, Mach and Vaihinger. Although I'm not sure they ever really reached their destinations.
But as I get older I am less and less afraid of stage 4.5 and I just try to enjoy the clown show happening around me - perhaps the more absurd it is the better the entertainment value.

wolfgang said...

>> American Beauty

Alright, the bag is back.
But it is only stage 4.6 ...

Lee said...

Yeah, the inability to escape the human condition is sometimes really annoying.

For some reason I too get enjoyment out of watching the clown show that is "we the people." What is even stranger to me though is that I still get enjoyment out of the struggle to understand, even though I know that there is zero chance that I ever will.

Me, I'd like to live forever just to see how it all unfolds, even at the price of extreme boredom. Who knows? Maybe quantum gravity is just around the corner and a humanly pleasing explanation to the measurement problem will just fall out naturally.

Btw, in the last sentence of my previous comment I should have said,"Even though I am certain..." instead of "Even though I know." Saying I know causes me another problem with element 2 of stage 4.5.

wolfgang said...

>> quantum gravity
If we are lucky we may get real evidence of Planck scale physics in the near future and I do think that understanding quantum gravity could help with the interpretation problem.
But although all this is very interesting, I'm afraid I would still be stuck at stage 4.5 ...

>> live forever
This is one of the ideas that really frighten me, pretty much the worst possible nightmare.
I know that many people like the idea, but I cannot understand why.

Lee said...

Thanks for the links!

>> But although all this is very interesting, I'm afraid I would still be stuck at stage 4.5 ...

Yes that would be the case for me too because in my worldview there is no escaping some version of stage 4.5. However, I also believe Hume was probably right and that passion (for me that translates to feelings) rather than reason governs human behavior. So even though I believe there is no escaping it, I also believe that that belief is not rationally derived.

>> This is one of the ideas that really frighten me,

I don't think it is something to be frightened of. The reality is that it's all over in less than half of a blink of an eye.

>> but I cannot understand why.

Curiosity. I like the idea of being appalled by whatever future societal norms become. I'm pretty sure if someone like Newton, or any of our intellectual heroes from more than a couple hundred years ago, could be brought forward to present day society they would be much, much more appalled than amazed.

wolfgang said...

I think Newton would appreciate relativity, but probably not quantum theory (extrapolating from other great classical physicists).
He would probably be amazed by the incredible progress in science and technology and in general what we know about the universe and cosmology.
And he would probably find our society in general appalling (e.g. if he was told what central banks are doing), although he might like the fact that gays are now treated mostly equal.

Lee said...

I think he would have had a hard time accepting anything that he couldn't interpret as glorifying God the designer.

I also think our society is much less cruel than the society of his time. But, even given that, it would be very hard for anybody older than their late teens to psychologically adjust to major changes in the societal norms that they know without question to be proper.