Friday, February 6, 2009

Viewing Insolvability as a Sign of Meaninglessness

A current theme in my philosophical meanderings is the insolvability of certain questions. My question is thus: If a question/discussion cannot be answered, should that be a sign that it is meaningless to us? Now, I don’t mean meaningless in an ultimate sense, but simply in the sense that we shouldn’t spend our time wondering about things that can’t be answered.

Or perhaps insolvability means we’re approaching the issue through the wrong lens, with the wrong questions, with the wrong end in mind.

Some may say, “Of course: if a question can’t be answered, it isn’t worth it.” However, I think we often spend out time asking these sorts of questions. We let them occupy our time and consume our thought, sometimes without knowing they are insolvable. Or perhaps we let ourselves ignore their insolvability for psychological reasons.

I ramble…I shall stop.


  1. I think it's probably a bit of all those answers. Sometimes we can let the question go as insolvable and therefore unimportant. But I tend to think that if the question won't let go there may be something more then our inability to just let go. Those big questions could be being attacked from the wrong angle such as trying to find meaning in the world but failing, prehaps that need only exists because we keep assuming there should be meaning, etc. I don't know but I'm writing this on my iTouch and I'm getting tired of typing with my thumbs so I'll stop.

  2. Our inability to let go to of certain problems stems from people shying away from the consequences. To use your analogy, Porch Rat, people need to assume the question of meaning in the world still has validity, in order to avoid the obvious conclusion: the world does NOT have meaning. There is nothing mystic or spiritual in arguments that “persistently nag humanity’s top thinkers;” just a blind persistence to the fact that there may be something beyond nihilism.

  3. Well hello gentlemen.First of all forgive my scatteredness, I clean air ducts now and my brain is struggling to survive..
    I think that these questions really to need to be categorized. If there is an insolvable question in science is that different than an insolvable question in morality? (Where you draw the line between the two is another question. The origin of species versus creationism..the scientific answer may impact the moral) Anyway my point is that i think that the answer can change depending on the category.
    Also is the idea of life's meaninglessness any more certain than a life of meaning? Is not that also a psychological stroking of a frustrating wound?

  4. Good points, monsieur Duct Cleaner. You are definitely correct: there are different answers to m my question depending on its type. This is an important point to make. My rambling had mainly do to with questions we had been discussing recently on the two blogs. Read by itself, it needs more explanation. In context, it makes sense – although the proper context may only be my brain.

    I will post later with some clarifications. Thanks for the response; it is helping me formulate what I think and believe.

  5. The meaningLESSness of the world is NOT in the same category as the meaningFULness of the world, as Duct Cleaner contends. If it were, you would be right: both would be similar assumptions. However, the meaningFULness of the world is the only side of the argument that requires an assumption: the assumption that things can and do have meaning at all. The meaningLESSness of the world needs no assumption; it stands on its own. It is not a conclusion – it is a fact. It has more proof in human history than almost anything else.

    The argument isn’t like two brothers arguing whether a room they grew up in was red or blue. Instead, it is more like an argument between two brothers about whether the tooth fairy was real or not.

  6. i do realize that i am a humble cleaner of the richer man's home, but I dare to say that i think that there is more to our discussion about meaning. Perhaps Skrignov could define what meaning means?

  7. I think regardless of what the 'definition' of meaning is, which I might add is much harder to do then one would assume, hell the philosophers of language having been trying to do it for centuries now. Now that is only from the modern philo paradigm, but still it offers an important insight. That being that fact that they need to find it. I think what Skrignov is getting at is the plain fact that the burden of proof, so to speak, is on meanings side. In other words we need to show that there is meaning, whereass we don't need to show that there isn't meaning, that is the starting point. we start with there appears to be no meaning in the world, shit we need to prove that there actual is! Perhaps this is a bit better in elucidating the point; the very fact that we need to try and explain why there is meaning is evidence for the fact that we aren't starting with that knowledge. life appears pointless by itself, we need to add frameworks to it to give it meaning, or justify its existence. Regardless of what meaning is, it is clear that we keep trying to find it, and by nature of our 'trying to find it' we prove Skrignov's point, e.g. we start with meaninglessness. So yeah the tooth fairy analogy is apt, we are trying to show something exists, if we can't we should we are stuck at square one, it doesn't.

  8. Rat and Skrig heal my diseased mind. Do you think that reason and purpose are equal to the tooth fairy?
    I understand that if you want to make a case for meaning, that you have to create and build. I guess that is not true for the case for meaninglessness, as i understand it there need be no case. It is the beginning. However, I think that we start with ignorance.

    i see that i have made this discussion stray from its original track. do with this post as you will

  9. Of course, every analogy limps. So the tooth fairy thing isn’t perfect; but the point was accessible, I think.

    What do you mean by saying we begin with ignorance? I agree. The question is how do we go anywhere from there? Beyond ignorance --- beyond Socrates’ “I know I know nothing” --- nothing is sure or provable.

    Of course, I’m not silly enough to miss the fact that, from a subjective standpoint, I can’t say Socrates’ statement is objectively true. However, simply because subjectivism is self-defeating doesn’t mean objectivism is true.