A conversation about nothing?

What’s new?

A thought: What if it is all about nothing? One big Seinfeld episode?


Yeah, nothing. Marx, in his XI thesis on Feuerbach said, “The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways; the point is to change it.” What if that is wrong? What if that is not the point? Not to say that one can’t change or try to change the world in one way or another, only to say that this is not the point of it all.

And suppose that is right…does that mean it is all about nothing? What if Marx is wrong on both points? What if the point is actually to interpret the world?

If that is right, then almost everybody misses the point. People interpret, on a daily basis, aspects of the world that are of their immediate concern, of course. But hardly anyone interprets the world.

Maybe they should?

Then the point would be to change the world, would it not?

How so?

Because, as I’ve said, hardly anyone does interpret the world. And if it is right to say we all should – that the point is to interpret the world – then it implies this interpretation (that hardly anyone is interpreting the world) demands that we change it. And I am not sure that the point is to change the world.

So the point is not to interpret the world; the point is not to change the world; so what is the point?

Maybe there is not point at all….

Can you live like that?

I think, really, almost all of us do. Almost all of us do not live and act as if the world has a point. Again, I don’t think this implies that no one finds any meaning in anything, only that the whole thing is without meaning. Stop anyone on the street and ask what is the point of it all. Hardly anyone will have an answer (besides a pious Evangelical). But that does not mean they are all “living lives of quiet desperation.”

Is the point not moral? Are there not moral demands?

Again, I am willing to guess that most people are “regionally moral,” so to speak. They are concerned that their spouses and bosses and kids and plumbers and so on act morally, and at least because of that concern they try to act morally themselves. But they do not do all that might be considered a moral imperative.

What do you mean?

I mean most people give no thought to where their jeans are made, for instance. And of the ones that do know, the overwhelming majority wear them anyway…even though those jeans are made under conditions that it would be nearly impossible to call just.
I see your point…

A breakthrough!

…I just don’t know how to interpret it.

Look, I am considering the idea that morality is chimerical. The “shoulds” in life are phony. Even the ones that you might sentimentally want to hang on to…helping the poor, the downtrodden, the widows and orphans. The truth is that we’re all as good as dead. Nothing can change that.

So you are saying that because we are mortal we are not obligated to be moral?

I am saying you are not obligated to be moral. You decide to be moral (sometimes out of fear of reprisal, which moral philosophers will remind you is not moral).

So you can just treat anyone however you want?

You already do.

But some people treat others like dirt.


But they shouldn’t.

You’ve chosen to be moral…but why haven’t they?

Because they…are…I don’t know…bad?

They are bad?

Yeah, bad. Bad people. Mean people.

And they shouldn’t be bad or mean?

No! Of course not!

What is that?

Because it’s, um, bad to be bad.


Stop that!

Okay. But you see what you are doing? You have decided that there are some ways that are bad and some ways that are not bad and then you decide that all people ought to agree with you. You are bringing in an abstracted point of view.

So what? My point of view is abstracted from our human propensities to greed, violence, and all -around shittiness. It is abstracted from what is in order to see what ought to be.

And what grounds this view? On what ground are you standing so you can see this? Holy ground?

Do I have to give you a lesson in the history of moral philosophy? There are lots of grounds that philosophers have offered that, while differing from each other, all end up in the same place: don’t steal, don’t lie, don’t treat others unjustly. It is a cumulative argument. If you deny the great weight of that cumulative argument, you are forced to say that stealing and lying and injustice are not bad.

Actually, I don’t think they are necessarily bad. They are possibly bad. And honesty, respect for property rights, and giving each his due is not necessarily good. They are frequently good, but not always good.

On what grounds to you distinguish “good” from “bad”?

On what pleases me, in the end.

Really?! That’s it?

I think, after having given it some thought, that’s it.

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