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This section will explore the concept of “meaning”.
1.1. Usage of “Meaning”
The usage of the word “meaning” may typically either be:
(1) What a symbol, word, sound, gesture, etc. represents.
(2) The purpose or significance of something.
1.2. Examples of Meaning
The first usage of meaning (1) is commonly observed in language: words represent things or actions. Some words represent abstract concepts, such as types of words (nouns, verbs, etc.) or subjective experiences (love, colours, sounds, etc.).
We might also say that computer files are meaningful. They represent executable operations for a processor and other hardware. Sometimes these files represent pattern of light on a computer monitor (images or video) or patterns in the sound generated by speakers (music or speech) that are meaningful to biological minds.
The second usage of meaning (2) is less common, but is seen in the phrase “a meaningful look”. More relevant to this section, the word is seen in the question: “What is the meaning of life?”
1.3. The Existence of Meaning
Consider the first usage of “meaning”.
Meaningful words represent something. When we see a written meaningful word, such as “cat”, it represents the sound of that word. Seeing the word might trigger an internal experience the sound of that word in our mind. The word might trigger the visualisation of something in our mind.
Consider the case of a word in a dead language. The word will not represent anything in the mind of the viewer. This word would have been meaningful to people literate in that language. No living person knows the original meaning of that word. Does it still have meaning?
Whether words that no longer have a known meaning do still have meaning might depend on how “meaning” is defined.
[Meaning as purpose.]
The process of associating meaningful words with their representations is interpretation. These generated sounds and sights exist in our minds, not in the word itself.
1.5. A Definition of Meaning
From these points a definition of “meaning” will be proposed.
This section will explore the concept of “value”.
2.1. Usage of “Value”
The word “value” has many uses. These will be discussed and uses of particular interest will be highlighted.
2.2. Examples of Value
What things have value? What actions are valuable? What are values? Examples of value will be discussed.
2.3. Impetus for Action
The relationship of value to action will be discussed.
2.4. The Existence of Value
How does something acquire value? When does something lose value? The conditions that are necessary for existence of value are discussed.
2.5. A Definition of Value
These discussions lead to a proposal for a definition of “value”.
This section will explore the concept “life”.
3.1. Usage of “Life”
The word “life” may have fewer uses but the term is somewhat nebulous.
3.2. Examples of Life
Examples of what is considered to be living provide insights into the necessary conditions for what should be considered alive.
The examples of life highlight entities that are on the fringe of being considered alive. When does something qualify as being alive? When does something no longer qualify as alive? This discussion will further dissect the usage of the terms “life” and “alive”.
3.4. The Value of Creating Meaning
Value and action are related to the acts of interpretation and creation that are intrinsic to life.
3.5. A Definition of Life
In conclusion, a definition and meaning of “life” is proposed.