I’ve known about David Chapman’s Meaningness for a while, but only recently have I begun to pay it closer attention. In particular, I’ve been thinking about what Chapman calls the “complete stance”. I don’t think there’s much value in myself trying to compress and reframe Chapman’s ideas further–he does a good job of communicating the concepts with clarity. Instead, I want to make a note. And I’ll do that with the help of the following graphic:
I haven’t poured over Meaningness, but I noticed no immediate reference to the opposite of the “complete stance”–no stance. In my mind, “no stance” could be akin to the normie level of non-awareness concerning all the topics Chapman writes about.
However, an alternative interpretation can be found in martial philosophy of the East. From Musashi’s The Book of Five Rings comes the notion of Stance-No-Stance:
“This is the principle in which there is, and there is not, a stance. At its heart, this is first taking up the sword and then cutting down your opponent, no matter what is done or how it happens. Whether you parry, slap, strike, hold back, or touch your opponent’s cutting sword, you must understand that all of these are opportunities to cut him down. To think, “I’ll parry” or “I’ll slap” or “I’ll hit, hold or touch” will be insufficient for cutting him down. It is essential to think that anything at all is an opportunity to cut him down.”
Translated from sword-play concept to philosophical concept, the idea of “no stance” could be a call to use beliefs in accordance with their utility. If “cutting him down” is translated into “getting by”–or “getting ahead”–then a stance is worthy of adoption if it makes life easier for oneself, or for others. It could perhaps also be linked to the aphorism, “Strong opinions, loosely held”, or to the aggressive empiricism advocated in Nassim Taleb’s Antifragile.
Another thing: my own beautiful graphic has a left-to-right upward tilt, with “no stance” in red, “confused stance A/B” in amber, and “complete stance” in green. The implicit–and unintended–signals:
1) The “complete stance” is better than “no stance”.
2) that one ascends from “no stance” to the “complete stance”.
I don’t necessarily agree with either of those statements. In fact, I suspect the situation is a great deal more cloudy. Occupying a “complete stance” may not be the same as recognising it, and it could turn out that, like inhabiting the present and noticing the present, the two are utterly at odds.
Further, I suspect the no-stance-confused-stance-complete-stance planet itself turns on its own unfathomable axis, and that’s why we feel so bewildered so often.
In the sentence immediately following the above quoted passage, Musashi advises the reader “to investigate this thoroughly.” It’s his way of saying one can’t learn the way of the sword without swinging it. Maybe it’s equally true that one can’t learn the philosophy of life without living?
I’ll heed Musashi and investigate this thoroughly…