The search for meaning is in truth, but secretly, the longing for a state of in-ness, but since the question about the worth and meaning of life has existence as a whole in its field of vision, it inevitably positions us outside and vis-a-vis life. The search for meaning unwittingly has to construe that which it desires to be the logic or syntax of life as a semantic content, as a kind of doctrine of wisdom or a creed or ideology, ultimately as a commodity. This is why today meaning exists in the plural of numerous competing meanings put up for sale on a large “meaning market” by a whole “meaning industry”, and why we are in the position of customers who have to make their decisions and choices about these “meanings.” Even if we “buy” a certain meaning and immure ourselves in it, nothing can undo the fact that it is a secondary acquisition and that our in-ness in it, if it comes to exist at all, is like that in a house that we ourselves built or rented, not that kind of a priori and irrevocable in-ness that was actually sought.
Let’s examine Giegerich’s term, “in-ness,” a little closer. As was previously stated, Giegerich compares in-ness to that state in which a fish has its existence in water. It is totally contained in its world and this is its meaning for existence. It doesn’t need to question it; it just is.
Meaning, where it indeed exists, is first of all an implicit fact of existence, its a priori. It can never be the answer to a question; it is, conversely, an unquestioned and unquestionable certainty that predates any possible questioning. It is the groundedness of existence, a sense of embeddedness in life, of containment in the world–perhaps we could even say of in-ness as the logic of existence as such. Meaning exists if the meaning of life is as self-evident as the in-ness in water is for fish.
Humans, prior to the end of the mythological age, were totally immersed in their world. Their myths, legends, and religions were not offered as answers to questions concerning the meaning of life. Rather, they were emanations of human thought that factually expressed human experience as totally contained, totally immersed in Nature.
There were different ways of expressing in-ness. One was expressed imaginally through the creation of myths; another was through metaphysics, utilizing human reason. These modes of thought
were the self-expression in consciousness of the meaning
The end of in-ness, as we have discussed, came sometime in the nineteenth century, according to Giegerich. I can’t help but think this was somehow meant to be. It is as if our evolution on this planet demanded that we shift our mode of existence for some unknown reason. Admitedlly, the shift has resulted in much pain and suffering for mankind. Just the psychological toll alone has been tremendous, not to mention the death and mayhem caused by various totalitarian ideologues who claimed to have solved the riddle of life.
I am reminded of how reality’s pendulum swings from side to side, continuously. Do we strive to return to in-ness? I say, Live life as it is and do not strive at all. Live life to the fullest! Forget about meaning. The question is moot. Carpe diem!
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