When philosophically-minded people say the world is “meaningless,” as they sometimes do, I usually balk. They have misdiagnosed the problem. The world — like their heads — is over-full of meaning.

But our own mindscapes encounter an even greater welter of meanings. The cup of meaning runneth over.

Indeed, that realm of meaning has always struck me as self-evident. As a lover of the fantastic in literature, I understand that our imaginations extend far beyond the realm of the actual, the factual, into fiction.

Which is why Anselm’s ontological argument has always struck me as bizarre.

And I am not alone in such thoughts. My bent of mind was preceded by a great philosopher, George Santayana. And in my possession I have a paperback study of his thought that I highly recommend, by Willard E. Arnett.

Late in the book Arnett confronts Santayana’s approach to God. Which is tricky in the Santayana oeuvre, since the Spanish-American philosopher wrote much about religion as fiction, as “poetry.” But not much about the facticity of theological claims.

Arnett hones right in on the core issue, meaning, or “essence.”

And it is a fascinating and elegant doctrine, best stated in The Realm of Essence: Book First of Realms of Being (1927). But Arnett’s discussion is helpful:

If thought has no existential implications as such, then an imagined perfect Being can be just that, imagined. There is no warrant that the imagined must be existent.

So you can see why people tend to chafe at the vast realm of essences: the world doesn’t conform to the essences they prefer. Other essences map the world better. And that subset itself is vast, but not the “right Vastness,” so they imagine the world meaningless without God, their preferred essence. It is a non sequitur, it is an imposition upon the world of a standard that doesn’t fit, but which they think should.

This basic attitude I call the Ought/Is Hegemony. Or perhaps a different orthography is in order: Ought>Is Hegemony.

I find this alien to my thinking. I may contemplate some wild essence or another without having to assume that it matches the world of everyday existence.

I believe this puts me in Santayana’s camp.