Tag Archives: Meaning

Logical Gal – what about meaning?

6 Jun

Meaning

I read an essay that mentioned truth and meaning in the same sentence.  I stopped, realizing that I had never thought about the distinction between the two.

Truth is pretty straight forward in its definition, even though volumes of ink and print have been invested in battling over whether true exists.

I’ll spare you the churn- it does.

truth

Truth is that which exists, that which corresponds to reality.  It’s not  a case of – YOUR truth or MY truth, nor is it  – True for YOU and True for ME.

So without showing the reasons for the assertion that TRUTH is objective reality  (other posts have done that – just click on the tag labelled ‘truth’ along the lower right side of this blog), l will move on to something that IS more subjective, and that is ‘meaning‘.

In talking with my husband the other night, we reasoned our way to the following:  meaning is a way to describe the impact of reality ON a human.

Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City has organized and streamlined Christian doctrine into a set of 52 questions and answers  – New City Catechism.  One of the questions asks: “What does the resurrection mean FOR me?”

That one little preposition ‘for’ is key.  I thought about how the bent of the question would be significantly changed if one were to substitute the preposition ‘to’ in the place of the 3-letter one.  What something means FOR me is completely different from what it means TO me.  I can be wrong about what a piece of reality means to me.  However, when you say something has meaning FOR someone,  a follow-on question quickly surfaces……meaning FOR me ACCORDING TO WHOM OR WHAT? 

In the arena of the New City Catechism, the authority supporting those answers is the Bible.  But there are plenty of other authorities in life.  For example,  I can imagine a scenario where a teenager might query her parent:  What does this curfew mean FOR me?

Curfew

and the parent might respond: The curfew means a limit which carries consequences TO you should you violate it.

So the concept of meaning follows on FROM truth.  And it varies according to authority.

  • The next question that then occurs: Do WE have authority over meaning for ourselves?
  • What about those poor souls who announce  – “Life Is Meaningless! ?

Meaningless

I’m thinking that the only response one could offer would be to ask them the questions:

  1. How do you define ‘meaning’? 
  2. From whose point of view is ‘life meaningless’? 

They might be intending the concept of ‘meaning’ to refer to teleos (the Greek term for purpose) – that is design or ultimate end .  In that case someone might be a materialist and consider life to be a random interchange of time and matter to have NO ultimate purpose.  However IF there is ultimate meaning FOR someone because ‘someone or something’ created them in the first place, THEN no matter the denial or ignorance of that creating authority, there IS meaning for the person.

Whew!  – I’m getting hungry.  All that thinking burns us the ‘little gray cells’ as our favorite Belgian detective likes to say!

Hercule Poirot

I’ll leave you with the logical next question:  Do you view life as having meaning and purpose?  If so, according to whom or what?

 

 

Logical Gal goes metaphysical

8 Nov

Today is the anniversary of my Grandmother’s birth in 1885.   So I’ve been thinking about icons who have died.  Two weeks from now, many will commemorate the 50th anniversary of CS Lewis’ death.  Much has been written about him in the previous 10 months as we approach 22 November.  And yesterday, I read an essay that discussed……

…Lewis’ commitment to reason among other communicative tools.

But what was intriguing  in the article was CS Lewis’ conviction that meaning precedes reason.  And imagination is necessary to produce meaning.

Access to article

Imagination….meaning…….metaphors…….metanymy:  these serve to make TERMS comprehensive.  And establishing clarity when we use our terms is the first step in logical reasoning.

Metanymy uses a symbol to represent or substitute for a broader concept.  My husband and I used to pick at our youngest son when he would say – “Let’s go get ‘Burger King’!”

He didn’t really mean Burger King food;  he often used BK to indicate fast food.

And you know what a metaphor is.  That’s when you describe something in borrowed language that communicates more vividly the true meaning.   God is our Rock.   That image conveys the idea of strength..immovability…permanence…protection.

Back to CS Lewis:  I think he chose fiction as a way to create mind pictures and understanding of  such concepts as God, eternity, divine love,  human pettiness and the limited vision of men BEFORE he attempted to argue a case.

Maybe we, as well, should spend more time painting a vivid picture of reality before we attempt to persuade someone with sound reasoning. After all, few would disagree that as humans, we are imaginative folk.  From an early age, we seem to long for the heroic amidst challenging life situations.  The enduring need to both create and consume literature, film, and art testifies to our make up.

So, taking our cue from CS Lewis, let us not put the cart before the horse.  Let’s spend enough time communicating well our terms and ideas.