Monday, April 6, 2015

577: The Meaning of "Meaning"

If you think about the ease with which people talk about the meaning of life, it actually is amazing. Do they really understand what they are talking about?
In his article The Meaning of “meaning” (1975) Hilary Putnam says: “In my opinion, the reason that so-called semantics is in so much worse condition than syntactic theory is, 
that the prescientific concept on which semantics is based - the prescientific concept of meaning- is itself in much worse shape than the prescientific concept of syntax. 
As usual in philosophy, skeptical doubts about the concept do not at all help one in clarifying or improving the situation any more than dogmatic assertions by conservative philosophers that all's really well in this best of all possible worlds. 
The reason that the prescientific concept of meaning is in bad shape is not clarified by some general skeptical or nominalistic argument to the effect that meanings don't exist.” -end quote-
You might say….wait a minute! Here you are talking about semantics, about what words mean. When I ask “what is the meaning of ‘chicken’ ?” , that is a totally different question from “What is the meaning of life?”
“What does traveling mean?” It means moving from A to B. So what does life mean? It means “not being dead”. And this concludes the debate about what the meaning of life is.
When you Google on “meaning of life” you get al least 419 million (!) hits within 0.31 seconds! Combined with atheism you still get 2.220.000 hits within 0.47 seconds.
The idea that the meaning of life = not being dead seems not to be satisfactory. We do not want to know the meaning of the word, so actually we do not ask for the meaning of life at all. We are asking something else.
As so often Wikipedia answers our puzzlement: “The meaning of life is a philosophical and spiritual question concerning the SIGNIFICANCE of living or existence in general.
 It can also be expressed in different forms, such as "What should I do?", "Why are we here?", "What is life all about?", and "What is the purpose of existence?….” -end quote-
The use of the word “meaning” is in fact masking the real question. The question is about the PURPOSE of life. This reveals already a primary assumption: life has a purpose.
One of the most common criticisms of atheism is that life can have no meaning without a god-belief. Even if true it does absolutely nothing to prove the existence of god. 
What the believer is saying is that god-belief gives him or her the feeling that life makes sense. Well, that’s great, but your feelings don't prove anything.
We are not dealing here with a semantical problem but with a psychological matter. Yet maybe “The Meaning of Meaning: A Study of the Influence of Language upon Thought and of the Science of Symbolism”  (1923, a book by C. K. Ogden and I. A. Richards, may help us out.
Richards sets forth a contextual theory of Signs: that Words and Things are connected “through their occurrence together with things, their linkage with them in a ‘context’…”
The question “What is the purpose of life?” makes no sense. We do not live some abstract life. We live in contexts. These contexts are family, neighborhood, town, country, earth, universe, or simply the soccer team we are member of….
Within all these contexts the questions “What should I do?", "Why are we here?", "What is life all about?", and "What is the purpose of existence?” make perfect sense. For that you don’t need a religion or gods.
Why should we not find satisfaction in alleviating suffering or injustice, just because we’re all going to die one day? 
The very fact that this life is all we have makes it even more important to do everything possible to reduce the suffering caused by poverty, disease, injustice and ignorance in any context. 
To describe such attempts as meaningless is to say that avoidable suffering does not matter, hardly a moral stance.
Only when you would ask me to answer these questions within the context of the universe, I have to disappoint you. The only thing I know is that we are here. 
Maybe we should first try to answer the question “What is the meaning of the universe?”  Being a hobby or a toy of some god(s) perhaps?
Thank you… the floor is yours ^_^

The Discussion

Bejiita Imako: that might be a good place to start indeed
Bejiita Imako: and for what i know there are some really good organisations doing just that at moment
CB Axel: 42 is the answer to life, the universe, and everything according to Douglas Adams.
Bejiita Imako: both NASA and CERN are at it
Max Chatnoir: Is the universe more meaningful because there is life in it?
Bejiita Imako: how does the world really work
Max Chatnoir: and we're here to ask the question?
herman Bergson: I think it is nonsense to ask for the meaning of the universe....
herman Bergson: it is using language in a wrong context
CB Axel: Yes, Bejiita. They're looking for how the universe works but not why it's here.
Bejiita Imako: that might be
Max Chatnoir: I like that answer "42".  There is a sort of ultimate lawfulness about it.  :-)
Bejiita Imako: its just here
Bejiita Imako: sort of
herman Bergson: the fact that we can ask the WHY question doesnt mean that it makes sense in all situations
Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): and i think how it got here as it is
Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): how
herman Bergson: I think the only real fact is that the universe and we are just here...
herman Bergson: and that our limited brain isnt capable of understanding more thanthat
Eva Inanna (evaishtar): And how do we know that the universe and us are here? what is here?
Max Chatnoir: Interesting enough for our limited brains.  :-)
Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): :-)
Bejiita Imako: hehe
Bejiita Imako: maybee its like Matrix
Bejiita Imako:
herman Bergson: the question is begging the question....I would say Eva :-))
Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): i think this discussion has taken place zillions of times over the centuries
Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): over and over
Lizzy Pleides: yes, I also think the point is that our brain is too limited to find an explanation
Eva Inanna (evaishtar): perhasp it has no answer
herman Bergson: yes the Matrix was a terrific idea ;-)
Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): but it keeps us going
herman Bergson: no it hasn’t; Eva
herman Bergson: Also such a weird idea of humans.....
herman Bergson: there HAS to be an answer to every question....
herman Bergson: where the philosopher also questions the question too :-)
herman Bergson: As I said....we live within contexts...
herman Bergson: and within these contexts our lives make perfectly sense...
herman Bergson: you don’t need a religion for that
herman Bergson: you need love, empathy, compassion, idealism, joy and so on...
Bejiita Imako: ah
herman Bergson: that creates a meaningful life to me
Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): especially idealism in the case of the service of human kind
herman Bergson: yes Gemma.....
herman Bergson: all these people of Green Peace for instance...
Max Chatnoir: When Thomas Huxley lost one of his children, he said that it would have been nice if he could have found consolation in religion, but that it wasn't an intellectual move that he could honestly make.
Bejiita Imako: yes
Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): most people who don’t believe do that
Bejiita Imako: ok
Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): in fear too i think
herman Bergson: what would have given religion, Max...
herman Bergson: the believe that death is not the end.....
herman Bergson: ?
herman Bergson: You read that is so many texts....
Max Chatnoir: I'm not sure what he meant exactly, but probably something like that.
herman Bergson: People can not believe that life just ends like that...
herman Bergson: But...just think about it.....
herman Bergson: After we die we will live forever in the glory of the Lord....oh my
Max Chatnoir: I think that might be a major appeal of religion -- the connection to an afterlife.
herman Bergson: I live ..say..80 years...
herman Bergson: that is just a blink of en eye related to eternity
herman Bergson: then I die....
herman Bergson: and I have to live on forever...what sense does that make
.: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): maybe time doesn’t exist anymore after you pass away
herman Bergson: ok Beertje....time doesn’t exist then....
herman Bergson: then you just are?
.: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): yes
Max Chatnoir: Yes, if we becamse truly immortal, we would have to stop having children.
Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): well it means you would take your mind and use it to enjoy forever
herman Bergson: MAy I then ask what the meaning is of eternal life???
Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): aoll your philosophy
Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): and other interests
herman Bergson: What is it spurpose....???
Lizzy Pleides: in a closed sytem nothing gets lost, so what happens to mind and matter after death?
.: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): uhmmm...
Max Chatnoir: Generally, I think that having new people coming along might be more interesting.
Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): to what purpose was your past life??
Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): there would be no past of future
Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): just present
herman Bergson: It was to my joy and sorrow, Gemma :-))
Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): you would have that memory
Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): forever
herman Bergson: for what purpose, gemma?
Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): if you get there you will know
.: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): for your joy and sorrow;)
herman Bergson: If one thing scares me then it is the idea that this will go on for ever and ever.....:-)
Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): one thing i have learned in the discussion thesse past weeks is that those who are unbelievers believe as strongly as faith believers
Max Chatnoir: Well, the matter gets recycled eventually, and without a brain, I think the mind must just stop.
Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): we all believe what we believe
Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): you believe it will not happen
Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): others believe it will
herman Bergson: Ahhh lecture will be on that theme!!!!!
Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate) GIGGLES!!
Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): ...LOL...
Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): I'm Sorry!
Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): I sorry..
herman Bergson: The atheist is a believer in disguise :-))
Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): exactly!!!!!!!!!
herman Bergson: Great!
Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): all these lectures has proved that
Bejiita Imako:
Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): the discussions especially
herman Bergson: ok....
CB Axel: Atheist doesn't mean non-believer. Just a non-believer in a god.
CB Axel: We all believe something.
Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): right
herman Bergson: Prepare a lecture Gemma, in which you make your point...:-)
CB Axel: I believe I'll go have a glass of wine. °͜°
Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): my meaning exactly
herman Bergson: You deserve the stand :-)
Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate) GIGGLES!!
Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): ...LOL...
Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): we wil all have a glass of wine
Bejiita Imako whispers: yummy!
herman Bergson smiles
Bejiita Imako: hehe
herman Bergson: I already got one :-))
Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): ah it is too early for us
Max Chatnoir: My drug of choice is coffee.  :-)
Bejiita Imako:
Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): i have glass of petit shiraz waiting for later
Max Chatnoir: Never too early or too late.  :-)
herman Bergson: Well Gemma..what about the challenge?
Bejiita Imako: GIVE MEEEE!
Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): no
Bejiita Imako: lol
Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): i did not graduate
Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): here
Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate) GIGGLES!!
Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): ...LOL...
Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): jus tkeep coming and coming
herman Bergson: the next lecture will be about " The atheist is a believer in disguise :-))"
Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): who knew what i was getting into all those years ago
herman Bergson: :-))
Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): hopes i can make it on time
Max Chatnoir: we do, too!
herman Bergson: Ok challenged me :-))
herman Bergson: The fact is, that this opinion...
CB Axel: There you go, Gemma. Your purpose in life is to challenge Herman.
Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate) GIGGLES!!
Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): ...LOL...
herman Bergson: that atheists are actually believers in disguise is a classic :-)
herman Bergson: Within the context of this class indeed Gemma...
herman Bergson: outside it I can be much nicer ^_^
Max Chatnoir: How many of us were raised in some kind of religious tradition?
Max Chatnoir: I was.
CB Axel: I was
Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): oh i was
Bejiita Imako: not me
Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): very much so
Lizzy Pleides: I was too
herman Bergson: USsually most of us MAx...
herman Bergson: Me too
.: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): iw as, till i fell of the religion
Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): yes
Max Chatnoir: There must be some second generation atheists!
herman Bergson: there will be Max....
Max Chatnoir: Maybe they just don't think about it so much.
herman Bergson: I found a sociological article about Atheism and crime...
Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): and also the opposite ... those raised by unbelievers who suddenly discover religion by themselves
Bejiita Imako: hmm ok
herman Bergson: it shows that the societies which are the least religious also are the least criminal societies
Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): maybe it is all an act of aggression against our parents
herman Bergson: or I should say..with the lowest criminality
Max Chatnoir: Gosh, I hope not.
Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate) GIGGLES!!
Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): ...LOL...
Max Chatnoir: aggression against parents....
Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): no i don’t believe so in most cases
herman Bergson: Inother words...religion is NOT the source of morality
Bejiita Imako: for sure its not!
Max Chatnoir: So you could make an argument that atheism is good for society.
CB Axel: Maybe the least religious societies just have less strict laws.
herman Bergson: Havent read the article yet CB...:-)
Bejiita Imako: if it wasn’t for religion world would be peaceful today
Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): interesting thought
Bejiita Imako: at least much more then now
herman Bergson: I'll dedicate a lecture to it
Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): bejiita. i know you believe that
Max Chatnoir: So what what wrong with the USSR wasn't atheism, but the political repression.
Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): i doubt it
Max Chatnoir: Substitution for religious persecution --- thought police.
CB Axel: Bejiita, we would just use something else to fight about: race, country, etc.
Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): yep
Max Chatnoir: But religious wars seem to generate such vervor.
Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): or as a reason for fighting
Bejiita Imako: well there is always something to have as reason for war i guess
Max Chatnoir: fervor.
herman Bergson: The most amazing thing in the USSR was that after the fall of communism it was partly taken over by some russian maffia in no time...
Max Chatnoir: So the Head Bullies in Charge just changed.
herman Bergson: Which means, I guess , that there was an huuge mass of criminality under the surface already
Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): there always is
Lizzy Pleides: I believe that too herman
herman Bergson: Just think of it....
herman Bergson: all of a sudden there were Russian billionairs???!!!!!
CB Axel: I wonder if wars over religion are the most aggressive (or so they seem to me) is because deep down both sides know what they're fighting about is a shaky philosophy.
herman Bergson: Welll CB ..I'd say that would count for this medieval Islam indeed
Lizzy Pleides: religious wars are fanatic
CB Axel: So they fight harder so no one will be left to question their belief.
herman Bergson: and most islamic countries are failed societies
Bejiita Imako: hmm
CB Axel: Kill everyone else so I don't have to explain my religion anymore.
herman Bergson: no infra structure, no medical care, no educational system....
herman Bergson: or only in poor shape
herman Bergson: lots of corruption tho
.: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): and lot's of sand...
herman Bergson: lots of sand indeed
.: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): are those people jealous at us?
Lizzy Pleides: and oil sometimes
CB Axel: I can't help thinking that dividing up the middle east the way it was after WWII was a mistake.
herman Bergson: Could be indeed Beertje
Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): right cb
CB Axel: It wasn't countries. It was little tribes.
Lizzy Pleides: yes CB
Max Chatnoir: It still is.
Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): more and more evident
herman Bergson: But ...let's get back to the meaning of life :-))
CB Axel: Right
CB Axel: 42
herman Bergson: exactly CB...
.: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): what does 42 mean?
Max Chatnoir: So many possibilities:
herman Bergson: A word from the Galaxy :-)
CB Axel: There is no meaning to life, so we may as well just make the best of it while we're here.
Max Chatnoir: 7 x 6, 6 x 7,  2 x 3 x 7 (all prime numbers)....
herman Bergson: Is the answer to the meaning of life in "Hichhicker through the galaxy"....some novel :-)
CB Axel: 6 is not prime.
Max Chatnoir: 21 x 2, 84 x .5.
Max Chatnoir: An infinitude of meaning  :-)
Bejiita Imako:
Max Chatnoir: I just meant the last 3:  2, 3, 7.
herman Bergson: I disagree CB.....
.: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): hmm..the dime is not falling for me...
herman Bergson: when you see your life within contexts there is a lot of meaning in your life
herman Bergson: Your live means a lot to a number of other people...
CB Axel: Beertje, read The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams. Then you'll understand the significance of 42. °͜°
herman Bergson: to begin with
Bejiita Imako:
herman Bergson: yeah thats the exact title
.: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): ok:)
herman Bergson: Well..I guess we challenged our brains enough for today....:-)
CB Axel: So my life has meaning for other people who's lives have no meaning?
Bejiita Imako: hehe
herman Bergson: So thank you all again.....:-)
CB Axel: Thank you, Herman.
Max Chatnoir: Thanks for the interesting talk, Herman.
herman Bergson: Class dismissed...:-))
CB Axel: We stayed mostly on topic today!
.: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): yay!'
Bejiita Imako:
herman Bergson: Yes..not bad, wasnt it CB ? :_))
Bejiita Imako: hehe
Max Chatnoir: See you all next Tuesday.
Lizzy Pleides: thank you
Bejiita Imako: aaa cu then
Bejiita Imako:
herman Bergson: Yes next Tuesday the Gemma Challenge :-))
Bejiita Imako: YAY! (yay!)
Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate) GIGGLES!!
Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): ...LOL...
Bejiita Imako: hahaha
CB Axel: Bye, everyone. See you Tuesday. Can't wait to hear what Gemma has for us! LOL
Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): being here will be the challence
Bejiita Imako:
Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): challenge
Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): on time
Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): oh i am listening
Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): only
herman Bergson: I'll do the lecture....dont worry
Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): and commenting
.: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): and we are listening to you Gemma...
Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): ;-)
herman Bergson: no no..not yet Beertje
Bejiita Imako: cu soon all
Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): ♥ Thank Youuuuuuuuuu!! ♥
Lizzy Pleides: good night everbody and happy eastern, if I may say that, lol
.: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): night bejiita
Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): bye for now
Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): going fishing

herman Bergson: Bye Gemma..have a good time :-))

No comments:

Post a Comment