Mattering is a more urgent concept than meaning: An Interview with Rebecca Goldstein

Paula Erizanu at IAI News:

You’re currently working on a book on mattering. What do we mean when we say that something, or someone, matters to us?

The notion of mattering is intimately linked with the notion of attention. To say that something matters is to assert that attention is due it, the kind of attention that both recognises and reveals its reality. Something that matters has a nature that demands to be known, and the knowledge may yield other attitudes and behaviour due it. If I say that something doesn’t matter, I’m saying that it’s not worth paying attention to. 

And the notion of mattering is also normative, meaning that it implies an ought, an obligation—namely the obligation to pay appropriate attention to it. I think there are objective truths about which things matter. I believe it is a demonstrable moral truth that all humans matter, which isn’t, of course, to assert that only humans matter. 

I first became preoccupied with the concept of mattering when I was writing my first book, The Mind-Body Problem—which wasn’t a work of philosophy but rather of fiction. I don’t think this was an accident. A novelist must think out the motivations of her characters, and our strivings to matter — to demonstrate that what we are and what we do are worthy of appropriate attention — are key in understanding human motivation. The concept of mattering stretches across the divide between empirical psychology and moral philosophy.

More here.