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What is the Meaning of Meaning? Options
Hope123
Posted: Wednesday, September 29, 2021 10:55:09 PM

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Epi, since the question is a personal one, perhaps you should ask yourself what YOU mean when you ask that question?

Because this "other aspect " of the question you were hoping to find help with is a mystery to me unless you tell us or explain a little better what that aspect is that you are missing.

Epiphileon
Posted: Friday, October 1, 2021 4:47:52 AM

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FounDit wrote:
It seems to me you are attaching too much significance to the act of forming the question. I don't see it as significantly influencing our evolutionary development.

That depends on what area of evolutionary development you're talking about, as far as speciation or even the morphologicasl changes to a species over vast stretches of time the question is insignificant. On the other hand when it comes to the co-evoluion of mind and culture, and even more so the evolution of consciousness the question is highly significant. What's more having a blatantly wrong answer to that question is potentially catastrophic. That does not mean that there is any one absolute right answer only that there are two classes of answers, adaptive vs. maladaptive. Examples would be a sucicide bomber's and Mother Teresa's.
Those are examples of how the results of the question what people consider the meaning to be that affect the evolution of mind and culture, as far as the original act of forming the question well that certainly has had a profound affect on our development beginning with the Greeks and the Chinese philosophies and the ways in which they shaped mentality.

FounDit wrote:
There is, of course, a difference between asking the meaning of an individual life, and the meaning of life itself. But your query was an investigation of what is meant by "meaning", and that would differ when examined from the individual to the collective.

My view is to the collective and posits that in asking the question, we seek a reason, a purpose, a goal for the existence of life, but I think the very existence of life is itself the only meaning there is to be found. We are. That is enough. However, our natural curiosity prompts us to investigate and search for a reason, a purpose, or goal. But this may be a case where Occam's Razor applies.

If the question is asked of all life and asked objectively then nihilism is true but I think that is pointless. So in one sense of your answer I agree with you, i.e. we exist and most basically that is the meaning. I would go further though, we exist, we are asking the question, therefore meaning exists because it is in our very nature to require meaning so we make it up. But this is why I'm investigating what is meant by the question.

I do not agree with the other point you made, "but I think the very existence of life is itself the only meaning there is to be found. We are. That is enough." This is where the issue becomes problematic and I am not ready to address this you can be assured that I will be bringing it up in another post though. I'm trying very hard not to let the results of the question bleed into the discussion as that is really a separate issue. What is meant by the question though is going to determine what kind of answers we get.
Epiphileon
Posted: Friday, October 1, 2021 5:06:02 AM

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High Hope, Thanks for your input on this, I changed up my normal response style as I missed this initially and wanted to get to it but with limited time this morning, so I went with a colored font instead of the standard quote/unquote style.
Hope123 wrote:
Some excellent points there, Lotje.

An excellent thread I am enjoying as it is making us think.

:::

Meaning happens through cognition and changes as we grow and changes with age as we use introspection. Our ideas of value change as we grow older.
Bingo, this is a really thorny issue in my attempts to formulate a formal treatment of the issue.


If they are asking what makes ALL life have meaning or value, that's a philosophical or religious question.
Bingo again Hope this is a big reason I'm diving into this, I think it's time we drag it out of those realms, to the degree possible, and formulate at least some natural science foundation for it.

If they are asking what makes MY life have meaning or value, that's a different question. If you feel you have not accomplished much in one area, you can still feel life has purpose in other areas to make up for it. Perhaps then accomplishment is what some mean by the meaning of life. In other words, what is my sense of worth of my life. What direction do I want to go now?
Yes I am finding that the majority of answers are along this line. It will probably be no surprise to you that I find that insufficient but that is a topic all on its own and whether or not I still think that's a defensible position after some more research is debatable.

So we all have different meanings to our lives.
Yes specifically we do, however, in general, I think there are only a few meanings of meaning that all the various meanings fall into. (oh crap that's an awful sentence sorry out of time)

Right now each morning the purpose of life is being on this side of the lawn. 😀 Only half joking.
LOL no you're not, I completely understand.
Russell Oxendine
Posted: Friday, October 1, 2021 6:23:50 AM
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Joined: 5/15/2021
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Really, in my humble opinion, life is in vain unless death can be eradicated!...What meaning/purpose can one really have if indeed in a few relatively short years that same one will be dead?....The average lifespan is between 70-80 years old...Are we really as important as we think?...

.
Jyrkkä Jätkä
Posted: Friday, October 1, 2021 6:58:42 AM

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I've been thinking.

Perhaps we are built so, programmed, that we (as the whole humankind) continuously seek for understanding of where we came from, where we are, and where are we going to.
The purpose of the eternal question "What's the meaning of everything?) is to kick every capable scientist, philosopher, priest, thinker..., every wise to their ass to think harder to find the ultimate truth.
FounDit
Posted: Friday, October 1, 2021 11:11:45 AM

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Joined: 9/19/2011
Posts: 16,512
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Epiphileon wrote:
FounDit wrote:
It seems to me you are attaching too much significance to the act of forming the question. I don't see it as significantly influencing our evolutionary development.

That depends on what area of evolutionary development you're talking about, as far as speciation or even the morphologicasl changes to a species over vast stretches of time the question is insignificant. On the other hand when it comes to the co-evoluion of mind and culture, and even more so the evolution of consciousness the question is highly significant. What's more having a blatantly wrong answer to that question is potentially catastrophic. That does not mean that there is any one absolute right answer only that there are two classes of answers, adaptive vs. maladaptive. Examples would be a sucicide bomber's and Mother Teresa's.
Those are examples of how the results of the question what people consider the meaning to be that affect the evolution of mind and culture, as far as the original act of forming the question well that certainly has had a profound affect on our development beginning with the Greeks and the Chinese philosophies and the ways in which they shaped mentality.

FounDit wrote:
There is, of course, a difference between asking the meaning of an individual life, and the meaning of life itself. But your query was an investigation of what is meant by "meaning", and that would differ when examined from the individual to the collective.

My view is to the collective and posits that in asking the question, we seek a reason, a purpose, a goal for the existence of life, but I think the very existence of life is itself the only meaning there is to be found. We are. That is enough. However, our natural curiosity prompts us to investigate and search for a reason, a purpose, or goal. But this may be a case where Occam's Razor applies.

If the question is asked of all life and asked objectively then nihilism is true but I think that is pointless. So in one sense of your answer I agree with you, i.e. we exist and most basically that is the meaning. I would go further though, we exist, we are asking the question, therefore meaning exists because it is in our very nature to require meaning so we make it up. But this is why I'm investigating what is meant by the question.
But wait. Doesn't the fact that, as you say, we "make it up" nullify any objective "reason" for meaning? We make it up only because we can ask the question. We are the source of the curiosity and the answer to the question. It becomes circular.

I do not agree with the other point you made, "but I think the very existence of life is itself the only meaning there is to be found. We are. That is enough." This is where the issue becomes problematic and I am not ready to address this you can be assured that I will be bringing it up in another post though. I'm trying very hard not to let the results of the question bleed into the discussion as that is really a separate issue. What is meant by the question though is going to determine what kind of answers we get.
But we determine the answer, so it is whatever we say it is, right? Therefore, it cannot be an objective reason. It is us. We determine the meaning by our existence, our questioning, and our answer.
Hope123
Posted: Friday, October 1, 2021 8:57:21 PM

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Ah so, Epi.

What you are looking for is a scientific general rubnic, an overall theme that all "meanings" can be categorized under or within. The scientific box into which meanings can be put. (Am I Right? I'm definitely not "High" - sometimes I wish" 😀)

Have we not already talked about that - the frantic ant scurrying away from the human's boot? The human doing everything possible to live? And live comfortably? Free from pain?

So Survival at all costs is that box. And I put as the main subtitle - The Ability to Grow and Adapt (physically, mentally, emotionally)

But also put into it being comfortable, healthy - mentally and physically, needs such as inclusion, being heard, the bare necessities of life.

I don't remember what Thoreau said were the basics but food, water, sleep, sex come to mind. Shelter, freedom to move about, - wow the list goes on.

But then there is self fulfillment and we are back to what we've already discussed and you've found wanting. So that's from an individual's perspective.

A scientist depending upon their field would add from their perspective.

There's the universe and how it works. There's biology. There's evolution, natural selection, and adaptation to the environment. We don't survive unless we adapt. (Which is why we desperately need to adapt to the changing environment now.)

Genetics. And so forth.

So now I seem to be putting into that Survival box everything including the kitchen sink of science.
Epiphileon
Posted: Saturday, October 2, 2021 4:37:31 AM

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Joined: 3/22/2009
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Russell Oxendine wrote:


Really, in my humble opinion, life is in vain unless death can be eradicated!...What meaning/purpose can one really have if indeed in a few relatively short years that same one will be dead?....The average lifespan is between 70-80 years old......

Hi Russel, Obviously you are coming at the question from some interpretation of reality that includes a dualistic nature of man, the physical body, and an extraphysical soul of some type. I am asking the question from a monistic interpretation of reality where we are mortal beings who cease to exist upon death. From this perspective, life is a gift of incalculable worth even though there is no giver, and 70-80 years is an incredible opportunity to experience the wonder of being an experiencing being.

Russell Oxendine wrote:

Are we really as important as we think?


From a cosmic perspective, we are not important at all in fact just about as insignificant as you can get but that is not the perspective that matters. What matters is our appreciation of the fact that we exist and what effect our existence has on other members of our species and the world around us. The awareness of being an experiencing being is, to my current understanding and ability, a source of inexhaustible levels of wonder. I am amazed that I get to have it at all, so 80-100 years* is fine with me.

*at 65 I prefer this estimate even maybe a few years more than that just because it would be interesting to have lived over a century.

(ETA If you'd like to discuss the validity of the different interpretations of reality I'm always up for that discussion but in a separate topic.)
Epiphileon
Posted: Saturday, October 2, 2021 4:44:08 AM

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Joined: 3/22/2009
Posts: 4,397
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Jyrkkä Jätkä wrote:
I've been thinking.

Perhaps we are built so, programmed, that we (as the whole humankind) continuously seek for understanding of where we came from, where we are, and where are we going to.
The purpose of the eternal question "What's the meaning of everything?) is to kick every capable scientist, philosopher, priest, thinker..., every wise to their ass to think harder to find the ultimate truth.


Yes JJ in principle I agree with this, the question has endured because it is incredibly adaptive for us to be driven to answer it; although you have to be really careful how you use the word purpose. Many folks are convinced to have a purpose you must have a purposeful entity and there is nonesuch in evolution.
Epiphileon
Posted: Saturday, October 2, 2021 5:57:19 AM

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FounDit wrote:
Epiphileon wrote:

If the question is asked of all life and asked objectively then nihilism is true but I think that is pointless. So in one sense of your answer I agree with you, i.e. we exist and most basically that is the meaning. I would go further though, we exist, we are asking the question, therefore meaning exists because it is in our very nature to require meaning so we make it up. But this is why I'm investigating what is meant by the question.

But wait. Doesn't the fact that, as you say, we "make it up" nullify any objective "reason" for meaning? We make it up only because we can ask the question. We are the source of the curiosity and the answer to the question. It becomes circular.

Yes but I didn't say the question yielded an objective answer as it is asked. I said if it is asked objectively then it is meaningless.

FounDit wrote:
Epiphileon wrote:
I do not agree with the other point you made, "but I think the very existence of life is itself the only meaning there is to be found. We are. That is enough." This is where the issue becomes problematic and I am not ready to address this you can be assured that I will be bringing it up in another post though. I'm trying very hard not to let the results of the question bleed into the discussion as that is really a separate issue. What is meant by the question though is going to determine what kind of answers we get.

But we determine the answer, so it is whatever we say it is, right? Therefore, it cannot be an objective reason. It is us. We determine the meaning by our existence, our questioning, and our answer.

That is the issue I eventually want to address, whether or not it is qualifiable to assert that there is some basis for at least part of the answer being said to be universal or that there is some universal premise upon which various answers are built. That all though is for further investigation right now I'm just trying to establish a foundation, and if the question is ambiguous then that won't be possible. Currently, I'm guessing the question has to be somehow formalized, i.e asked more rigorously, and I'm not even certain what that exactly means yet.
jacobusmaximus
Posted: Sunday, October 3, 2021 4:37:14 PM

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It is commonly thought that life has a purpose other than to be lived to the best advantage. Some who have much might wonder about their legacy while the poorest might wonder what is the point of life. Many religious folk think that the purpose of life in this world is to prepare for the next while others believe that the purpose of life is to love God and enjoy him forever.
FounDit
Posted: Monday, October 4, 2021 10:55:18 AM

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jacobusmaximus wrote:
It is commonly thought that life has a purpose other than to be lived to the best advantage. Some who have much might wonder about their legacy while the poorest might wonder what is the point of life. Many religious folk think that the purpose of life in this world is to prepare for the next while others believe that the purpose of life is to love God and enjoy him forever.


Exactly. What we choose as the meaning of life is what it is. We choose it. We believe it. Therefore, it is we who decide the meaning of life. And because it is we who decide, we are the meaning. Even if we believe there is a Creator who has a purpose for life, and there is nothing wrong with that, it is still we who believe that. So again, it is we who choose the meaning.
Epiphileon
Posted: Tuesday, October 5, 2021 4:29:10 AM

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Hope123 wrote:
Ah so, Epi.
What you are looking for is a scientific general rubnic, an overall theme that all "meanings" can be categorized under or within. The scientific box into which meanings can be put. (Am I Right? I'm definitely not "High" - sometimes I wish" 😀)

(Lol not the connotation of "High" I meant Hope but honestly I'm looking forward to retiring from bus driving and checking out some of the amazing edibles being sold in the new dispensaries.)
No actually Hope I am looking to find out if there are different things that are meant by the word meaning in that question. I have to do a careful review of the replies to ascertain if the impression I'm getting is correct. It seems to me that the consensus is that meaning and purpose are synonymous in that question for most folks. Perhaps the elusive, esoteric connotation, (that I have yet to well define) is a different, as yet not identified question.


Hope123 wrote:
Have we not already talked about that - the frantic ant scurrying away from the human's boot? The human doing everything possible to live? And live comfortably? Free from pain?

So Survival at all costs is that box. And I put as the main subtitle - The Ability to Grow and Adapt (physically, mentally, emotionally)

But also put into it being comfortable, healthy - mentally and physically, needs such as inclusion, being heard, the bare necessities of life.

I don't remember what Thoreau said were the basics but food, water, sleep, sex come to mind. Shelter, freedom to move about, - wow the list goes on.

But then there is self fulfillment and we are back to what we've already discussed and you've found wanting. So that's from an individual's perspective.

A scientist depending upon their field would add from their perspective.

There's the universe and how it works. There's biology. There's evolution, natural selection, and adaptation to the environment. We don't survive unless we adapt. (Which is why we desperately need to adapt to the changing environment now.)

Genetics. And so forth.

So now I seem to be putting into that Survival box everything including the kitchen sink of science.


Exactly Hope, I think something similar is going on with meaning in the question at hand but not as broad as that. What you enumerated seems like a hierarchy, similar to Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs but with various forms of survival as the motivation.

I am tentatively thinking that the connotation of meaning I'm thinking of is along the lines of what has been mentioned a few times, something along the lines of worth, value, fulfillment. That would make it at least two separate questions.
Epiphileon
Posted: Friday, October 8, 2021 4:01:25 AM

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Thank you: Jyrkkä Jätkä, FounDit, Hope123, Lotje1000, Russell Oxendine, and jacobusmaximus. Each of your responses helped to expand my view of this question and provided insights into it I hadn't had. I sincerely appreciate the assistance I will post about some of the things I've found. I came across a number of things I'd never heard of.

This question actually came up as part of a different and I'm hoping not too ambitious project I'm trying to undertake but am currently floundering a bit as I had no idea that it would be so hard to address some of the issues involved. Every phrase to describe, or question I'd thought to ask about this issue has been asked from different perspectives and have volumes of information already existent from those perspectives, so I may be asking for a lot more help.

Again thank you all for your help.
Hope123
Posted: Wednesday, October 13, 2021 9:36:20 PM

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An interesting discussion explaining Kierkegaard in lay terms. (In today's list of topics from Aeon Psyche)

https://psyche.co/guides/how-kierkegaard-can-help-you-cope-with-an-existential-crisis

"Maybe you are still looking for a reason to live, or you have too many confused reasons, or you have forgotten what your reasons are. Congratulations – you’re having an existential crisis. Sometimes, the questions ‘Why am I here?’ and ‘What’s it all for?’ haunt you gently like a soft wingbeat with barely a whisper, but sometimes they can feel as if they are asphyxiating your entire being.

Whatever form your existential crisis takes, the problem, as the Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard (1813-55) saw it, was that living without passion amounts to not existing at all. And that’s bad for all of us because, without passion, rampant waves of negativity poison the world. Kierkegaard thought that one of the roots of this problem of a world without passion is that too many people – his contemporaries but, by extension, we too – are alienated from a society that overemphasises objectivity and ‘results’ (profits, productivity, outcomes, efficiency) at the expense of personal, passionate, subjective human experiences.

...For existentialists, it’s up to you to decide the kind of person you want to be and how to live your life meaningfully. But these choices leaven despair because of the pressure that comes when you realise you’re free and responsible and have no one else to blame, no excuses for your behaviour. Anxiety, or despair, Kierkegaard wrote, is the ‘dizziness of freedom’. Despair is a kind of vertigo we get when overwhelmed with possibilities and choices. Kierkegaard described it as a similar feeling to standing on the edge of an abyss. You might be afraid of falling, but anxious when you realise that jumping is a possibility.

...To choose despair also means to choose humanity. In the ethical mode, you recognise that you live in a world with other people, that they matter, and that every choice you make must reflect a responsibility towards them. You act with honesty, open-heartedness, understanding and generosity. You focus more on what you can give to others and less on what you’re getting out of them. To cultivate your humanity, go people-watching for an hour and consider the beauty in each individual. Appreciate every person you meet in their particularity – their tasks, challenges and triumphs. Join a club and build a community of friends. Act more charitably. Help people. Commit to making the world better for others."...


So it seems a few people today should heed Kierkegaard that freedom means responsibility too. You are responsible for your actions and the consequences not only to yourself but also to others. That will help you to answer "Why am I here?"
Epiphileon
Posted: Thursday, October 14, 2021 4:31:44 AM

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Thanks Hope I hadn't come across this. I am still struggling to get a cohesive line of pursuit on this issue. This will definitely be making it into what I eventually write about it as I think there are very key points alluded to in it.
Russell Oxendine
Posted: Sunday, October 17, 2021 12:17:04 PM
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Location: Tallahassee, Florida, United States
Epiphileon wrote:
Thank you: Jyrkkä Jätkä, FounDit, Hope123, Lotje1000, Russell Oxendine, and jacobusmaximus. Each of your responses helped to expand my view of this question and provided insights into it I hadn't had. I sincerely appreciate the assistance I will post about some of the things I've found. I came across a number of things I'd never heard of.

This question actually came up as part of a different and I'm hoping not too ambitious project I'm trying to undertake but am currently floundering a bit as I had no idea that it would be so hard to address some of the issues involved. Every phrase to describe, or question I'd thought to ask about this issue has been asked from different perspectives and have volumes of information already existent from those perspectives, so I may be asking for a lot more help.

Again thank you all for your help.






It was a pleasure, friend!....U chose an extremely difficult subject to tackle!...I'm still on the "fence" in regards to the answer to this question?....Again, enjoyed being able to interact on the matter!...


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