The Meaning Crisis

If you spend too long on the Wheel of Babylon, you begin to lose touch with reality. This means that things stop being truly meaningful, since, as John Vervaeke puts it, relevance gets uncoupled from truth.

The Meaning Crisis is an existential crisis. In a post-truth world, how do you know what’s real anymore? It’s as though everyone were tripping all the time. Objectivity is lost. Truth is a fiction. All we have is “identity”, which means that we identify with things and ideas simply according to an intuited sense of their relevance. Subjectivism and relativism are the order of the day. The Sophists win.

This explains the exponential rise of bullshit in our culture. “Bullshit” is actually a technical term introduced by Harry Frankfurt in 1986. It differs from deceit or lying in that it is uninterested in the truth to begin with. Advertising and propaganda are the traditional purveyors of bullshit, but it is now endemic in academia and the media. Our culture is drowning in bullshit.

The result is self-deception and self-destructive behaviours. People progressively lose the ability to recognise bullshit and so increasingly bullshit themselves. They start by choosing expedience over truth and following the crowd for the sake of social approbation, what Nietzsche called “herd mentality”, and soon lose interest in the truth altogether.

This is why it is impossible to argue rationally with Muppets. “Ah, but we’re all Muppets now!” they retort. “The Age of Reason is over. Welcome to the Age of Bullshit!”

And they’re right. As long as you remain stuck on the Wheel of Babylon. As long as you remain trapped in Plato’s Cave. But there is a way out for those who want out. As C.S. Lewis said, “the doors of hell are locked from the inside”.