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July 11, 2011


Brian, by Chapman’s definition above an eternalist is *precisely* what you are.

You “deny” the political “ambiguity” (at times compromise, at other times stalemate) that is the essence of two party politics – and in this case you do so by assigning religion as the black-and-white cause of the debt limit problem. By making religion the cause you create for yourself a “clear and definite meaning” – a "Cosmic Plan" that replaces “senseless chaos” with order in your otherwise frustrated mind. By Chapman's definition you've created a “clear and simple answer” that justifies a conclusion you had already come to – that Republicans are the problem.

Which begs another question. Governing a nation is a complex process never to be perfected. Why are you trying to take a complex process with 311 million stakeholders and explain it in such black and white terms? Isn’t that the domain of fearful conservatives with their overly large amygdalas?

DJ, to say that the Republican party holds rigid, fundamentalist, faith-based political views isn't an "eternalist" position. It's a fact. Just like gravity, evolution, and global warming are facts.

Good try. Word play like you've attempted is fun, but it is superficial. It's like I remember on the elementary school bus: "You're one!" No, you're one too!"

The Dems and Obama are willing to take a balanced, compromising, fact-based approach to the debt limit negotiations. Cut spending and raise revenues. That's a fact. The Republicans are the "eternalists" with their No Increased Revenues, Ever! ridiculousness.

OK. So gravity, evolution and climate change are facts. That proves what exactly?? Saying something is a black and white fact (there you go again) doesn’t make it a supporting argument for whatever it is you just so happen to believe. Gravity (a fact) doesn’t cause the sky to fall. Evolution (a fact) doesn’t deny creation. Climate change (a fact) didn’t start 100 years ago.

If anything, your response makes you look even more so like an eternalist. It’s a simplistic black and white view that attempts to refute that you presented a simplistic black and white view.
Politics: Republican bad, Democrat good.
Global climate: CO2 bad, O2 good.
Baking: Fire bad, Bread good. SNL Frankenstein… that’s the depth of the thinking we have going on here.

Brian, I’m not the one trying to add two plus too in the back of the bus. I’m taking Chapman’s definition verbatim as stated. If you want to pervert it to wiggle out of being the eternalist he describes then let the painful contortions continue. In the mean time, you might want to have that amygdala checked.

The trouble with "debt limit negotiations" is that fiscal indebtedness itself is theoretical. It does not exist in Reality. In physical Reality, deficits are inexorably dealt with via structural disintegration.

We are all waiting for things to fall apart. Not to worry - they will.

Nihilism in action!

DJ, I think you're misinterpreting what Chapman is saying about eternalism. I've copied in some passages from his Eternalism and Nihilism page below.

I'm definitely not an eternalist. However, I agree with Chapman that the universe does possess order and patterns, which seemingly even a nihilist would agree with (without the order of our bodies, we wouldn't be alive to argue about this stuff).

I don't believe in absolutes or fixed meanings, though. The many Republicans who signed Grover Norquist's No Tax Increases pledge do. They are absolutists, so I'm justified in giving them the "eternalist" name.

Norquist's pledge says that never, ever should taxes/revenue be increased by the federal government. I never say "never." I'm very much open to new possibilities, altered conditions, situational ethics.

Saying that something is true doesn't make me an eternalist. It makes me a human being. We all seek meanings and truth in life. What's dangerous is when those meanings and truths are considered to be fixed, divine, absolute, non-negotiable. This is the danger of today's Republican party: it is so extreme, it is way outside of what the majority of Americans believe.

Here's a great analysis of the debt limit issue that proves what I'm saying:

And here's the Chapman quotes:


"The strategy of eternalism is to deny the ambiguity. Despite appearances, it says, everything does have a clear and definite meaning, which is not merely subjective. We might not perceive it, or we might mistake it, but it exists.

If meanings are objective, not human creations, it may seem they must come from some ultimate, transcendant source. In many systems, that is a God. In others, it is an abstraction, like Fate or Reason or the Absolute. These are supposed to provide the sole source of meaning, purpose, value, and ethics. I refer to any such source as an eternal ordering principle or Cosmic Plan.

Luckily, there is no eternal ordering principle, so eternalism is false as a fact-claim."

Brian, even the additional passages from Chapman describe you as an eternalist. In your case, the “ultimate source” that you derive meaning from to remove ambiguity is “the Absolute.”

It may very well be true that you’re careful not to say or even think obvious absolutes like “never” or “always.” But did you realize a tiny word like “the” can create a fixed absolute as well?…as in, “RELIGION IS *THE* CAUSE OF OUR DEBT LIMIT PROBLEM.”

To you religion is not “a” cause, it’s not “one of” the causes, nor is it a “contributing factor.” To you religion is *THE* cause, thus absolving or dismissing any other party or dynamic in this protracted debt limit debate from being examined, considered or discussed.

Religion is *THE* cause. Republican bad. Democrat good. Ambiguity resolved. Progressive order restored.

DJ, you're mistaking language for reality. "Eternalism" is a stance, an approach toward how to live life, a habitual way of making decisions. It isn't the same as saying, "There's a coffee cup on the table," or "Religion is the cause of our debt limit problem."

Heck, you made apparently absolutist statements in your comment above. But I don't take that as a sign that you're eternalist about them. Using the word "is" isn't a problem; being rigid, uncompromising, and fundamentalist is the problem with eternalism.

I haven't made a promise, as so many Republicans have with the Grover Norquist pledge, to always hold to a certain stance on debt, taxes, and the deficit. I change my mind all the time. I don't believe in absolutist commandments from on high. Or from Grover Norquist.

It's increasingly clear, from reading recent news reports, that my analysis of the debt limit negotiations is correct. The Republicans have put themselves into a box with their ridiculous "eternalist" pledges to never, ever increase federal revenues, even in the event of a national emergency. Which we're facing now

Lesson: we all need to be flexible, willing to admit "I could be wrong," open to compromise and finding the balance between two extremes.

Brian, interesting conversation and I do love busting your chops. But I’m not one to just take the other side of the debate for debate’s sake alone. For example, notice that I haven’t really expressed an opinion on the debt limit negotiations themselves. Fact is, we might not be far enough apart for that to be any fun.

Have I made absolutist statements? If not here then surely elsewhere I have. I bet I’m an unaware eternalist with regard to some things. I’m a work in progress and the first to admit it.

You really don’t see the difference between making an observation about a coffee cup on the table – and declaring a debatable cause-effect relationship as an absolute?? Let me spell it out.
1) The reality of the coffee cup wasn’t created when you observed and thought about or commented on it. It was already there, no one was going to interpret it in any other way.
2) The reality “RELIGION IS *THE* CAUSE OF OUR DEBT LIMIT PROBLEM” is created when someone buys into or believes it – simply because doing so eliminates all other possibilities for the believer.

I agree, words are not reality in and of themselves. But they do have the power to create a reality that goes unspoken. One who believes the debatable pronouncement “RELIGION IS *THE* CAUSE OF OUR DEBT LIMIT PROBLEM” has created a reality for himself in which he will *NEVER* consider the cause-effect of another dynamic in the debt limit debate. After all, what would be the point?

You see how the reality of *NEVER* crept in without even using the word? That’s your unconscious reality talking – the eternalist within. As you yourself said, *NEVER* closes one off to “new possibilities, altered conditions, situational ethics.” And that, my friend, is the difference between words and reality.

I’ll give you the last word if you want it, I’ve overstayed my welcome on this one.

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