Tag Archives: Linguistics

Does life require a purpose?

Nebula Art

Does life require a purpose? I suppose how we define purpose and life is important if we are to attempt an answer that is satisfactorily supported with evidence. Here’s my sketchy take on the subject.

All coherent objects in nature must have some capacity to nourish and or defend their coherence in the context of the environmental womb in which it is situated, otherwise it would not exist over time. In our case, we are nested layers of sophisticated behavioral architectures that support this continuing coherence. The behaviors involve things of adaptive value such as breathing, drinking, eating, obtaining shelter, as well forming social bonds, mating and the like because of the adaptive (purposeful) advantage of these behaviors. This macro behavior, along with a host of micro internal relationships carry out a singular purposeful theme of nourishing and or defending coherence. This is expressed on many levels with many variations built around this unified theme of nourishing and-or defending coherence in the context of the environment. This is what defines a coherent entity, whether an idea, what is communicated by the totality of behaviors we express through our life.

The inherent purpose communicated through our nature is why we are not satisfied unless we do something significant – something of nourishing and-or protective value with respect to the common body of relationships we live in, are part of, and depend on for life. Finding that thing we can do to contribute to the nourishing and or protective value to the community of relationships that defines our common experience of life is a story written right into the fabric of life. We never meet persons who are both malignantly selfish and satisfied at the same time. This inherent purpose written into the complex dynamic coherent structures such as ourselves sets the tone for whether we will be satisfied or frustrated, whether we will do what is significant, or move on the currents in meaningless directions.

Here is a look at some “nourish and defend” activity on a molecular scale.

Where is the Meaning of Life Located?

What Is The Meaning of Life

As far as I can tell, things like rights, beauty, love, money, and all our notions of gods, good, evil and so on, are the various subjects (stories) we derive from the common object of (nature). We make maps as symbolic descriptions of nature as a territory, then use the maps as a means to perceive the meaning of the relationships between objects. In other words; nature is objects in relationship with each other, but these relationship processes also convey meaning – the same way the relationship between letters and words or sounds convey meaning.

Nature is the base line grammatical engine on which all meaning (language) is built. It is also a language in and of itself. The same way many verbal languages can emerge from a grammatical foundation like a limited set of syllabic sounds, we form our various maps of nature based on the context of the heritage of our experience communicated through our various local environments over time. Objects in relationship with each other over time is the essence of story as far as I can tell. We can not have one (subject) without the other (object). The need for a relationship between two or more entities in order for the birth of meaning to take place is perhaps the archetype of what we frame as male-female – yin-yang mother-child and so on. This meaningful aspect of nature we map out in our myths and also describe as process through our scientific lens is built on this universal grammar.

As meaning generators ourselves, we reflect the nature of nature, despite our occasional delusion that we are independent of the whole. This should perhaps come as no surprise even though it appears to for many of us. Specific order conveys coherent meanings, and to the degree we are ordered, we also convey coherent meaning. Nature conveys story through objects in relationship with each other over time and we interpret this objective dynamic process as subject.

The null hypothesis is a statistical test that suggests there’s no significant difference between specified populations or sets of things; that any observed differences are due to sampling or experimental error. It says we see things as an artifact of how we categorize them. Any truth that can be derived from any “object” in nature depends on that object’s relationship to other objects, even if that other object is the whole of nature. We examine facets – pieces- subsets of nature – that we classify by category, and out of that perception of object in relationship to other object we find meaning. The fact that we must divide nature in order for any facets of meaningful difference to emerge points to the fact that a relationship between two or more objects is necessary for meaning to exist at all. Without the relationship between two or more objects there is no “word” no meaning.

The fact that our organs operate as a community of objects that act to nourish and defend each other’s coherency is more than a process, it is a meaningful story of how coherent structures sustain themselves; whether we decode that message plainly by way of our abstract maps or not does not dismiss the fact it conveys meaning. The fact that we are not fulfilled as mature beings unless we find a way to contribute meaningfully in the context of the community we live in and depend on for life is rooted in the fact that we are unable to act against our nature as mature adults – with excessive selfish intent, taking from our community without giving back something that generates greater value in return – and also be satisfied. The fact that we become depressed when we’re not participating in something larger than ourselves is a statement by nature through our native drives that we hunger for meaning – for a larger coherency. We are simply not wired to be satisfied this without meaningful connections to a greater whole. These aspects of a satisfied life and unsatisfied life is clearly mapped in our biology, but also through the mythic story of Cain and Abel; where one was satisfied by giving his best, and the other was not due to doing the minimal. Are these people literally true? Maybe, maybe not, but they are metaphorically sound with the message conveyed through objective nature about who we are and what constitutes a pathway to a satisfied life. To deny this seems to me as incoherent as to deny gravity.

Our cultural myths (stories) throughout time and place are symbolic maps of the world and the cosmos. We use them to craft an image of our place in the context of this larger environmental womb of nature – as a way to reflect our understanding of this “almighty” womb of nature we’re in – that forms us of the dust of the Earth – that gave birth to all things – that nourishes and feeds us and will yield its strength if we cultivate fruitful outcomes, which are rendered through specific nourishing and protective actions along with a certain level of sacrifice and so on over time. This nature, to which we must sacrifice to in order to cultivate a more abundant life speaks of itself in and through the way objects relate to each other. These cultural myths we have formed over the years have embedded within them things like our objective need for a relationship with each other and our world because of how we have been defined (created) by this thing – this greater being; nature.

The fact that we need to tend this garden of living fire with enough intentional cultivation to sustain our collective body, our species, or there will be consequences is conveyed through the process. Our origins, and a projection of our destiny based on how we negotiate in the context of this relationship economy is also conveyed through the process. These subjective words we stitch together as symbolic maps of the territory are not mere descriptions of process alone, they also convey meaningful concepts. We make symbolic tokens that can stand for the territory we are in – this economy of “being”. These maps are how we negotiate our relationship with self other and the world whether we couch it in terms of governments and constitutions and laws, or in the form of mythic stories.

Along with being defined by nature, our maps can also define how we experience “being”. The same way nature creates by way of object within certain boundaries, we can create by way of subject. While I would agree the map is not the territory, and that the claims of literal truth made by certain religions could be argued as objectively untrue or unprovable, we simply cannot know from our perspective, which is why these things are the domain of faith, at the same time, money is not money unless we agree it is money. We shape our experience in objectively true ways through concepts – through meaning. Meanings themselves can take on the form of objects in relation to one another and create a nested architecture of meaning. The same way each language has it’s own word for stone, yet there is only one objective stone to which all these various concepts point, each mythos subject attempts to encapsulate the properties of nature in abstract terms. Each has a a unique map that conceptualized the same source – nature, which is both object and subject.

To suggest that anything not tied to a description of process, which is the domain of science, is valueless and incoherent misses the point as much as claiming subjective truths are objectively true. We can get lost in our maps by mistaking them for objects, but we can also get lost in process by mistaking that for subject, when it is the inseparable relationship between the two that defines what we experience as “being”. We can be the authors of our own poverty, or cultivators of our grandest success depending on how we relate to each other – how we participate in subject making process.

We generate meaning by the way we relate to each other. We also have the opportunity to generate more abundant meaning by how coherently we relate – how much we nourish and protect each other and the common body of life we depend on to sustain us as a single meaningful coherent whole in service of a greater whole. This nested architecture of meaning conveyed through the process of nature is a meaningful guide to a meaningful life if we have the ears to hear the message. Whether we understand it or not, the meaning is clearly conveyed: that objects in relationship with each other over time is the essence of how we experience every story, including our own.

I could be missing something(s)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Null_hypothesis

Where Does Meaning Come From?

0073-Meaning

The definition of language is typically confined to human behaviors that use structured sounds, symbols and/or gestures to communicate meaning.[1] Academic titans in the field of linguistics and cognition have done battle over whether language is behaviorally motivated by cause and effect through stimulus and response, a product of neuronal behaviors in the brain, or perhaps a hardwired human trait.[2] Brain scientists have embarked on quests for such things as “the grandmother neuron” in the search for the means by which we get our state of awareness.[3] Some daring warriors of exploration have pondered that language may be part of the broader animal kingdom. Some definitions expand the language bracket to include non-verbal elements of relationship such as visual communications like architectural design and art. Posture, tone and inflection are woven into the fabric of some theories or even such distant things as the signaling processes that goes on within and between biological cells[4] and organisms. With all of this squishy chatter about the definition of language we could easily miss the common thread that ties them all together; meaning. While there are many conflicts over the nature of language, the idea that language is a structured communication of meaning is not typically in dispute.

Language communicates meaning, and the origin of meaning is relationship. In fact; if we use the idea that “relationship is the origin of meaning” as our lens, it opens up a whole new world beyond the narrow definitions that confine meaning to traditional ideas of language. To illustrate the connection between relationship and meaning we can start by looking at a familiar word; “water”. “Water” is a group of symbols that stands in for the actual substance water. Although the word water and the actual substance are separate entities, these symbols and the substance are connected in relationship. It is this relationship connection by which meaning is conveyed.[5] When a relationship connection is a shared value between two or more entities, this is the root of communication. When two or more people understand this relationship with a shared value between the symbol and the substance, communication is possible, but the point that meaning is conveyed through relationship is the key.

The English word communication comes from a Latin word “communis”, which means “to share”. With meanings built on relationships as the currency of every language and shared values as the means of communicating that meaning we cannot assume that every meaning conveyed through relationships is understood. Communication requires this shared system relationship values in order to both encode and decode the same meaning. Language is the method by which meanings are encoded but communication requires encoding and accurately decoding by way of shared values. If shared values do not exist between both sender and receiver, communication can be distorted or destroyed even though the currency of meaning based on relationships still exists.

With these definitions of language and communication we can explore the meaning expressed through relationships that lay beyond symbolic languages. We are no longer bound to the limits of abstract symbols as the sole means by which meaning is conveyed. We can also see how a narrow definition of language can limit our vision of meaning by cutting off communication from all the relationships that exist outside our traditional ideas of language. With a limiting lens we could also be conjuring up unreal ghosts by distorting meaning through a lens that distorts or obscures the intended meaning – in other words; losing the real meaning in translation.

With the idea that meaning comes from relationships and communication from shared values, we can know that because substance water is built on relationships that it also conveys meaning. We can know that if relationships are the origin of meaning, and we deny this, that we would not understand the message conveyed through water because our lens is not properly tuned to decode the meaning. To the contrary, our abstract lens could by definition be tuned to block the real nature of the communication of water. With relationship as the origin of meaning we can look at the whole of reality as an expression of meaning instead of as a mere process devoid of meaning except perhaps within the domain of what we call human consciousness or biology. We can then use this lens to explore the meaning expressed through the relationship matrix of reality to better understand ourselves and what fulfills us.

Consider the following facts: Since we are real, everything we are is, by definition, a product of reality. Because we are alive and aware, reality is alive and aware, at least to the extent that we are. Because we plan, act with intention and arguably some measure of choice, these are also factors that govern at least a portion of relationships in reality. Since we generate and perceive meaning, this is a property in reality as well. Because we use language and shared values as the means by which we express meaning and communicate; language and communication are also products of reality. The real question is not whether meaning exists, but to what extent meaning exists and is communicated. Is the communication and perception of meaning confined to our own particular biological form of existence, or is it part of the fundamental properties of relationship that define reality itself.

If we embrace the possibility that meaning is a fundamental part of reality we must also embrace the notion that reality is making a statement that we may be unaware of because we artificially limited the notion of language to the sole domain of an infinitesimal fragment of specific human biology-in an unremarkable corner of the cosmos. This narrow idea is perhaps comparable to the once held view that earth was the center of the universe. We have since discovered with the aid of telescopes that the earth centric, human centric perspective was built on arbitrary and narrow assumptions that limited our understanding. It is to our benefit that this self-limiting idea did not weather the storm of empirical discovery as our lenses improved. With the aid of better telescopes, the microscope and other tools we have discovered that earth is not even the center of the solar system much less the universe and humans are a non-essential part of a much greater web of relationships that includes many forms of biology, the planet, fundamental forces, space-time and so on.

As creatures that are dependent on specific relationships for biological coherence we are inseparably dependent on a much larger system of relationships. This relationship matrix is a statement of meaning. It says something about us and what fulfills us. If the relationships that define our existence are stressed beyond their capacity to render the sustained environment of nourishment on which our existence depends, we cannot exist in our current form. This means something. The lion’s relationship to the zebra and the heart’s relationship to the kidney are also statements of meaning. The fact that plants inhale carbon dioxide and exhale oxygen while we inhale oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide means something. A whole new world of meaning opens up when we expand our vision to include ourselves as part of nature, rather than mere observers of it, and that means everything.


[1] For a perspective on this narrow definition of language (not being used here), look up the terms; “biolinguistics”, “Noam Chompsky”, and “Minimalist program”.

[2] For more information on language as a hardwired human trait look up the term; “universal grammar” and “foxp2 gene”

[3] This search for the grandmother has been largely disproved over the years and the brain is currently thought to be built on a vast network structure of connections rather than specific neurons that contain single memories.

[4] For examples of communication between cells look up the term “cell signaling” and “quorum sensing”.

[5] For more information on the structure of verbal/symbolic language in general look up the terms “linguistics” and “semiotics”.