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Thread: Happiness is achieved through Meaning

  1. #1 Happiness is achieved through Meaning 
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    Happiness is achieved through Meaning

    I suspect that when parents are asked what are the most meaningful things in your life they will answer “My kids are the most meaningful things in my life”. A kid might say anything when asked the same question. It may be their car, their boy friend, their new hair style, their new bike, etc. The parent has had more time and experiences about which to organize what is meaningful in their life than does a kid.

    The great truth of the nineteenth century was that produced by William Dilthey, which was the answer to the question “what do humans constantly strive for?” “It was “meaning” said Dilthey, meaning is the great truth about human nature.

    “Everything that lives, lives by drawing together strands of experience as a basis for its action; to live is to act, to move forward into the world of experience…]b]Meaning is the relationship between parts of experience[/b].”

    Man does not do this drawing together on the basis of simple experience but on the basis of concepts. Sapiens impose symbolic categories of thought on raw experience. Her conception of life determines the manner in which s/he values all of its parts.

    Concludes Dilthey, meaning “is the comprehensive category through which life becomes comprehensible…Man is the meaning-creating animal.”

    What are some of the fundamental considerations we must focus upon when we speak of creating meaning?

    Meaning is an abstract concept. What is an abstract concept? Webster informs me that concept is defined as “an abstract or generic idea generalized from particular instances”. I would say that there are two types of ideas, i.e. concepts: concrete (generic) and abstract.

    A concrete concept is the neural network that is created in the brain when we have a physical experience. An abstract concept is constructed, often unconsciously, by one or more concrete concepts. An abstract idea might usefully be thought of as similar to a molecule. The molecule is made up of one or more atoms and the abstract concept is made up of one or more concrete concepts. That is to say the conceptual and inference structure of a concrete concept is mapped into the “mental space” containing the abstract concept.

    The concrete concept is an “objective” concept while the abstract concept is a “subjective concept”.

    Examples of objective concepts becoming part of subjective concepts:

    Infant feeling warm when held mapping into subjective concept of affection.
    Sensing a foul smell into abstract idea of a movie “that stinks”.
    Sensing the rise of milk while pouring into a measuring cup leading to a subjective judgment that prices are too high.

    We are meaning creating creatures. We are creatures who create abstract ideas about which we live, die, and kill. Our task is to comprehend this fact and through the sophistication thus achieved we may be able to create abstract concepts suitable to permit our survival for a few more centuries.


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  3. #2 Re: Happiness is achieved through Meaning 
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    Quote Originally Posted by coberst
    What are some of the fundamental considerations we must focus upon when we speak of creating meaning?

    Meaning is an abstract concept. What is an abstract concept? Webster informs me that concept is defined as “an abstract or generic idea generalized from particular instances”. I would say that there are two types of ideas, i.e. concepts: concrete (generic) and abstract.
    Coberst

    Could you explain why you believe that the fundamental consideration, when speaking of humankind as 'meaning creating animals' (with which, by the way, I tend to agree), is the 'abstract concept'?

    Why is this connection you have made not a non sequitur?


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  4. #3 Re: Happiness is achieved through Meaning 
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    Quote Originally Posted by sunshinewarrior
    Quote Originally Posted by coberst
    What are some of the fundamental considerations we must focus upon when we speak of creating meaning?

    Meaning is an abstract concept. What is an abstract concept? Webster informs me that concept is defined as “an abstract or generic idea generalized from particular instances”. I would say that there are two types of ideas, i.e. concepts: concrete (generic) and abstract.
    Coberst

    Could you explain why you believe that the fundamental consideration, when speaking of humankind as 'meaning creating animals' (with which, by the way, I tend to agree), is the 'abstract concept'?

    Why is this connection you have made not a non sequitur?
    John Rawls authored the book A Theory of Justice published in 1971 in which he offered a theory describing Justice as Fairness that describes two fundamental principles of that theory: “the liberty principle and the difference principle”.

    Rawls describes justice as being equivalent to fairness.

    I would say that both justice and fairness are abstract ideas and both are matters about which all humans place great importance. In fact if we give it some thought most of the things that we are willing to kill and die for are abstract ideas. Religion, nation, capitalism, all of these things are our abstract ideas that we create to provide meaning to our life.

    It seems to me that there are two types of ideas: concrete ideas and abstract ideas. A concrete idea is one I form when I walk in the woods or eat a piece of pie; it is an idea that develops as a result of a physical experience. An abstract idea is a subjective development that incorporates concrete ideas into an idea that is not connected directly with a physical experience.
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  5. #4 Re: Happiness is achieved through Meaning 
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    Quote Originally Posted by coberst
    John Rawls authored the book A Theory of Justice published in 1971 in which he offered a theory describing Justice as Fairness that describes two fundamental principles of that theory: “the liberty principle and the difference principle”.

    Rawls describes justice as being equivalent to fairness.
    Indeed he does. This is one of my favourite philosophical texts.

    Quote Originally Posted by coberst
    I would say that both justice and fairness are abstract ideas and both are matters about which all humans place great importance. In fact if we give it some thought most of the things that we are willing to kill and die for are abstract ideas. Religion, nation, capitalism, all of these things are our abstract ideas that we create to provide meaning to our life.
    Here I'm going to make a suggestion - that you could perhaps even strengthen, given your readings in Lakoff and the modern ideas of cognitive psychology and the embodied mind.

    Many philosophers and psychologists these days suggest that, for most purposes, we use our abstract ideas as post facto rationalisations for the actions we committed. That is, we tell ourselves stories, after the fact, that enable us to justify what we did. We use, to flesh out these stories, amongst other things, abstract concepts such as you have described.

    If this is the case (and a lot of experimentation shows it to be true in a majority of situations), then the abstract ideas that give us meanings, or meaning, are actually sort of epiphenomenal - they do nothing in themselves but exist as a result of our being what we are.

    I don't know if it is an idea you find satisfying, but it seems to me that we kill and die because we have emotions pushing us in those directions - the roar of the mob, the call of loyalty to something, and so on, and afterwards we ascribe meaning to these actions, using the most high-flown abstract concepts we can find. This would suggest either that meaning itself is epiphenomenal, or that it does not reside in abstract concepts.

    Quote Originally Posted by coberst
    It seems to me that there are two types of ideas: concrete ideas and abstract ideas. A concrete idea is one I form when I walk in the woods or eat a piece of pie; it is an idea that develops as a result of a physical experience. An abstract idea is a subjective development that incorporates concrete ideas into an idea that is not connected directly with a physical experience.
    I like the attempt to distinguish these two. Where, however, would you place qualia then? Is the taste of coffee (or say, of a delicate vintage on the palate of a great sommelier) an abstract or a concrete idea? What about the sorrow you might fel on learning that Japan has decided to start whaling again?

    My point is that philosophers have long tried to provide us with categories for mental activity - feelings versus thoughts, perceptions versus conceptions, qualia versus complex ideas, abstract versus concrete ideas and so on. Very few if any of them have become universally accepted simply because it is almost always possible to show too many counter-examples for a single system to cope with.

    Your thoughts?
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    Sunshinewarrior

    Are qualities inherent in the object?

    Are qualities inherent (essential character) in my apperception (the process of understanding something perceived in terms of previous experience) of an object?

    We have all been raised within an objectivist philosophical view wherein the object is out there and it possesses certain qualities such as color, roughness, and stands in certain relationship with other objects.

    “Most people tend to adopt this objectivist metaphysics, because they use their basic-level, body-relative experience of objects and forces as a model for all that exists. They thus come to think that objects have their properties “in themselves”, independent of sentient organisms, since as infants they learn object permanence and eventually come to experience properties as adhering in objects.” We have through social osmosis learned that objects are mind-independent.

    SGCS (Second Generation Cognitive Science) has begun to attempt to correct this faulty view.

    Quotations from “The Meaning of the Body” by Mark Johnson.
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    Quote Originally Posted by coberst
    Sunshinewarrior

    Are qualities inherent in the object?

    Are qualities inherent (essential character) in my apperception (the process of understanding something perceived in terms of previous experience) of an object?
    An old and thorny philosophical question to which my reply for some time has been - dunno, can't say, primarily because I have no way of commenting on anything except my perceptions/thoughts etc.

    Makes conversation a right bugger, though, having to adopt that approach...

    What did you think of the previous points made?
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  8. #7  
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    sunshinewarrior

    Only a few of us ever study philosophy. Almost all citizens pick up their philosophical views through social osmosis. This philosophical view is accidental but very important. It is unfortunate that new philosophical views take generations before they trickle down to the population. This delay will most likely lead to the destruction of the species.

    Technology grows at a very rapid rate and the understanding required grows at a very slow rate. This gap will mean the death of the species because citizens fail to become sophisticated enough to comprehend the problems that our technology creates.
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