Does Anything Really Matter, and Does it Really Matter if it Does?

David Banach

St. Anselm College


We fight for more than Love or Pleasure; there is Truth. Truth counts, Truth does count.

E. M. Forster, A Room with a View



  I. The Problem.

      A. How can it matter that it matters?

           1. It can't really matter that nothing really matters.

           2. A necessary condition for something really mattering seems to be that it really matter that it matters. This causes two problems:

               a. If it can't really matter that nothing really matters how can it really matter that it does.

               b. Does it really matter that it really matters that something really matters?

      B. The Real Problem: What does it mean to really matter? Do the things that matter to us really matter? Does our consciousness of the way in which things really matter make them matter more? Sources of the Appearance/Reality problem for mattering:

           1. It matters to me now. Will it later when I think about it? Will what matters to me now matter when I know who and what I really am.

           2. It matters to me, but does it matter to anyone else, and will it matter 100 years from now?

           3. Is there any real matter to my matterings? Is mattering merely in the eye of the matterer?


 II. Does Anything Really Matter? This really involves two problems (2 and 3 above).

      A. Is there any real matter to our matterings? This entire problem is based on a misconception of the nature of pleasure and perception, and a related misconception about the nature of the matter of the world outside us. If pleasure and all subjective mattering are merely a reaction of our mind to our perceptions; if perception is merely the consciousness, in our mind's eye, of mental images or representations; and if the real matter outside us is in itself devoid of value and mattering, then nothing can really matter. If all this were true, our lives would be little more than a shadow in a dream, an image in a brain in a vat, a set of disembodied pleasures in an experience machine. But all this is false.

           1. Pleasure is the direct perception of some good or mattering outside of us.

           2. Perception is a species of physical causation. Perception is a direct interaction with objects outside us. External objects enter into our internal constitutions through perception.

           3. The matter of our interactions with other objects is their matterings. The essence of any object is its causal relations with other things through which it feels or takes in the value of that object, through which the object matters to it. All objects really matter. All matterings are the incorporation of the real mattering of other objects. Mattering is the name we give to the way objects enter into the internal constitutions of other objects and objects are the sum total of their matterings and how they are integrated.

      B. Really really mattering. If everything really matters then why did the problem arise. The question of whether anything really matters arises from problem two above. It is really the problem of whether anything matters any more than anything else, and of what makes something matter more.

           1. The Problem: Even though our subjective matterings are the incorporation of the real values of external objects, and even though we matter in virtue of the way in which these real matterings are integrated and reflected in us, it still matters how our mattering is reflected in the world outside us. The aim of every mattering is to become the matter of new matterings. The way in which we figure in the world around us can emphasize our mattering, can eliminate it, or can actively shun it. Even though we really matter, we want our mattering to really matter to the world around us. After all, it is this world that provides that matter of our matterings. What makes a thing really matter (matter more) is the degree to which it coherently and comprehensively integrates the matterings of its environment, and, hence, can be most coherently and comprehensively integrated into it.

           2. Two sub-problems:

               a. Even though it is inevitable that we will matter (be the matter of matterings) to the rest of the universe, we have no control over how we will be integrated into these matterings (as good, bad, or indifferent). This is the subject of  the next section on why it really matters that we are conscious of how we really matter.

               b. Our matterings are temporary. Why don't they just peter out as they are split up and conveyed to the ends of the universe in space and time through our causal relations? If what makes a thing really matter is the degree to which it promotes the comprehensiveness and coherence of the mattering of the universe, Doesn't there have to be a single mattering in which all matterings are integrated, a single mattering in which things really matter. Yes.





           3. A solution. The universe as a whole is a single mattering in which all particular matterings are integrated as coherently and comprehensively as possible. A thing really matters to the degree to which it can be coherently and comprehensively integrated into this mattering.


Argument: The Universe is a causally interconnected whole; all parts effect all parts. The universe as a whole is in a particular determinate state at each moment. Each particular object can determine how all other objects are integrated into it: they determine their own determinate state at each moment. There is no object, nor any set of objects, that can determine the concrete state of the entire universe at any moment, except the universe as a whole. All determinate relationships exist within something that makes them determinate. Nothing can contain the determinate relationships that constitute the state of the universe at any moment except the universe itself. Hence, the universe as a whole is a mattering, or entity, in which all other entities are set in some determinate relation. (The one in which their real mattering is determined.)



III. Does it really matter whether a thing really matters? Even when the problem of whether our matterings are real and the problem of whether our matterings really matter are solved, another problem remains. Why is it important that we be conscious of  the way in which our matterings really matter. Really real mattering requires rational consciousness of what and who we are. Consciousness allows us to represent the matterings of the universe at large and to see our place in it. It allows us to see that we are who we are only in relation to the matterings of the universe that are our matter. It allows us to see that we can really matter to the universe only insofar as we order our matterings coherently with its. (And this is possible only if, through reason, the universe matters to us.) It can give us a glimpse of how we matter in the one mattering that counts. Real mattering is rational consciousness of your place in the universe, of how you figure as matter in the really real mattering. It is being conscious of yourself as you really are. Rational consciousness of the world around us, of how it matters to us, and of how we matter to it is necessary for real mattering. If you want to really matter, don't grasp the moment. Grasp the weeks, the years, the centuries, eternity and how they matter in the moment and how the moment matters in them. Make the universe really matter in you. Not only is the old saying that you don't matter till you matter to somebody true. It is also even more true that you don't really matter till something real really matters to you. And this is possible only through a rational consciousness that you are what you really are only in relation to the matterings of the rest of the universe, because it really matters that what matters to you is what matters to the real you.