Paul Nervy Notes
“Jokes, poems, stories, and a lot of philosophy, psychology, and sociology.”

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Philosophy, ethics, meaning.  ---  .This section is about meaning from an ethical standpoint.  Topics include: ( ) Meaning and value.  ( ) Meaning system.  ---  1/24/2006

Philosophy, ethics, meaning.  ---  "What x means to you.", equals all the other ideas you associate with x.  And one's ideas are all linked together and spread outwards in a web.  The meaning of one thing leads to the meaning of many things.  The meaning of one thing leads to the meaning of all things.  Meaning holism.  ---  6/15/2005

Philosophy, ethics, meaning.  ---  (1) Today's work world provides less meaning for individuals due to simplification and specialization.  (2) Our growing existential knowledge creates a need for more meaning.  (3) The resulting meaning gap between the meaning we need and the meaning we get causes depression, a disease that is increasingly rampant in our times.  ---  7/22/2002

Philosophy, ethics, meaning.  ---  Against the destructive pleasures of lust, sloth, greed, and needless risk taking.  Against the pain of physical decay, psychological problems, work, growing old, and the many other injustices in life.  Against the above there is only the joy of clean living, of living right, of doing the right thing, straight, pure, and noble.  This will have to do against all of the above.  Repeat it over and over to yourself.  To work, pay your taxes, love someone special, look for the noble in man and in yourself, to help someone, to use all your abilities to their best and utmost for as long as you can.  Don't goof off.  Take care of your body, mind, career and life.  To be able to feel good about yourself.  To be able to look self in the mirror.  To be able to stand and walk tall, with chin up and chest out.  ---  12/30/1996

Philosophy, ethics, meaning.  ---  Do not lock up meanings to physical persons, places and things.  Keep it on the idea level.  ---  7/2/2001

Philosophy, ethics, meaning.  ---  Existential psychology.  Existential questions that are constantly burning in our unconscious: (1)(A) Who am I now?  (B) What can I become, based purely on my ability and not based on society or family etc.  (C) What do I like?  This is a question of desires and interests.  (D) What should I become?  This is an ethical question.     (2) What gives my life meaning?  One's unconscious self worth hangs on the preceding question.  One's will to live hangs on this question.  One's hope hangs on this question.  The alternative to a life of meaning is meaninglessness, despair, giving up, corruption, apathy and suicide (physical or psychological).     (3) The above are questions that we often ask when we perform a job search, but they are questions that are more basic and primary than occupation.  We should not ask these questions infrequently, in a context limited to job searches.  These are questions that need to be asked frequently, daily even, in the context of our entire lives in the entire world for all time.     (4) These are questions to which our answers will change as we grow and develop psychologically.  If your answers are not changing, then you are not developing.  These are also answers that will decay as we decay psychologically.  So it pays to save your best answers.  Write down your best answers to these questions, and then work from these answers.  It pays to buttress your answers with your arguments, so that they stand up.  It pays to test your answers with counter-arguments, to see if your answers are sturdy.  Now you are doing philosophy!     (5) Most people do not realize it, but the existential search for meaning is often a life or death struggle.  To fail to find something that is truly worth living for often leads to death.     (6)(A) To let society or family make this decision for you, to accept the defaults, is to die psychologically (and often physically).  (B) If your standards are too low, you self destruct.  When you set your goals too low, you essentially waste your life.  (C) To fail to develop psychologically often leads to self destruction.  (D) So make an effort!  Do not despair.  It can take years to come up with a simple answer.  It can take years to come up with a satisfying answer.  Give yourself time.     (7) To fail to find something worth living for leads to giving in to the stresses of life.  It leads to saying "This (my goal or meaning) is not worth it (the stress and pain of life)."  ---  8/2/1999

Philosophy, ethics, meaning.  ---  How do you add meaning to your life?  If your meaning requirements are low then you do not need much meaning.  Add meaning as needed and stir.  You can acquire meaning or you can create your own meaning.  Spread meaning liberally.  Slather with meaning.  When is meaning required?  Only when you notice the lack of meaning in your life.  The meaning vacuum, the meaning void.  ---  7/25/2001

Philosophy, ethics, meaning.  ---  How does personal meaning develop?  ---  12/30/1992

Philosophy, ethics, meaning.  ---  Humans seem to be hardwired to both search for meaning in things and also to attribute meaning to things.  People forever ask "Why?", which is a question asking about both the first causes of things and the final ends of things.  It is a phenomenon similar to the way humans seem to be hardwired to look for problems and then to look for solutions to those problems.  If no problems are to be found then humans create problems and create solutions (ex. crossword puzzles).  ---  6/29/2001

Philosophy, ethics, meaning.  ---  It is our ethical obligation to find some reason (purpose) to live that is greater or stronger than the pain(s) of life.  ---  01/12/1997

Philosophy, ethics, meaning.  ---  Love and meaning.  Meaning does not have to come from an idea.  It can be an emotion that gives your life meaning.  It can be another person that gives your life meaning.  ---  7/31/2001

Philosophy, ethics, meaning.  ---  Meaning and value.  (1) Is the act of attributing meaning to something similar to the act of attributing value to something?  Is it the same thing?  (2) If so, are there as many types of meaning as there are types of value?  ---  3/5/2002

Philosophy, ethics, meaning.  ---  Meaning and value.  Can something have meaning without having value?  Can something have value without having meaning?  Does something have value by virtue of having meaning?  Does something have meaning by virtue of having value?  ---  12/20/2002

Philosophy, ethics, meaning.  ---  Meaning and value.  Reducing meaning to value.  If something has meaning then it is valuable because it is packed with useful information.  Thus, meaning is a type of value.  PART TWO. Reducing value to meaning.  If something has value then that must have some meaning to you?  ---  10/4/2002

Philosophy, ethics, meaning.  ---  Meaning and value.  We say we value things because they mean something to us.  How are meaning, value and ethics related?  ---  11/15/2001

Philosophy, ethics, meaning.  ---  Meaning and value.  You can argue that some things have intrinsic value or you can argue that other things have arbitrary value assigned by humans.  (2) You can argue that some things have intrinsic meaning or you can argue that other things have arbitrarily assigned meaning by humans.     PART TWO.  Four examples.  (1) A dollar bill is a piece of ink-covered paper that has arbitrarily assigned value.  (2) The letters "CAT" have arbitrarily assigned meaning to denote an animal that "meows".  (3) A hammer has intrinsic value yet only for those in need of a hammer now or later.  (4) Is there any object or event with intrinsic meaning?  ---  9/24/2002

Philosophy, ethics, meaning.  ---  Meaning system crisis can drive people crazy, or to suicide, or at least cause them emotional pain and misery.  ---  7/2/2001

Philosophy, ethics, meaning.  ---  Meaning system means what x means to you.  What x means to you depends on what definition you have of x.  It depends on what you associate with x, connotation/denotation.  It depends on how much you value x, and for what reasons.  The meaning x has for you is a psychological and language issue.  The value you ascribe to x is an ethics issue.  ---  12/30/1992

Philosophy, ethics, meaning.  ---  Meaning system.  (1) When a meaning system goes bankrupt.  This can occur slowly or quickly.  The causes of meaning system death can be things like changing circumstance, or simply growing up.  Teens is a time of birth and death of many meaning systems one after another.  The feeling one gets when an old meaning system dies is that "All that was bullshit.  That was empty.  That no longer satisfies".  (2) If one is not able to create a new meaning system, one that satisfies, soon after an old meaning system dies, one can perish for lack of meaning.  One should not become despondent, give up and cease looking for meaning when a meaning system dies.  ---  02/28/1998

Philosophy, ethics, meaning.  ---  Meaning system.  A person's meaning system, although wrong and/or unfounded, may give them the hope, the will, and the psychological stability needed to live.  Be careful of destroying it.  ---  12/30/1992

Philosophy, ethics, meaning.  ---  Meaning system.  A person's view of why they adhere to their meaning system, vs. the forces that led to the development of a persons meaning system.  ---  12/30/1992

Philosophy, ethics, meaning.  ---  Meaning system.  As life becomes more complex, as man becomes more knowledgeable, as man becomes more free, with more options open, the search for meaning becomes tougher.  ---  12/30/1992

Philosophy, ethics, meaning.  ---  Meaning system.  Change in meaning system as situation/environment and self changes.  The things that we feel give our life meaning change through time, therefore, the search for meaning is continuous.  Goals always change.  The question "Why live?" is always asked anew, with new answers.  ---  12/30/1992

Philosophy, ethics, meaning.  ---  Meaning system.  Change of meaning system (evolution, stagnation, or devolution).  You can try to destroy and rebuild someone's meaning system.  You can do this slowly and gently, or quickly and violently.  This can be done with varying degrees of success.  But be careful when doing this, because it can be very damaging if you are not careful.  People are fragile and a meaning system is a major thing that keeps them standing.  ---  12/30/1992

Philosophy, ethics, meaning.  ---  Meaning system.  It takes a long time of integration for a person to develop or build a meaning system.  Meaning systems usually evolve slowly over long periods of time.  ---  12/30/1992

Philosophy, ethics, meaning.  ---  Meaning system.  Life is meaningless in and of itself.  Life has no meaning unless we give it one.  Meaning is created by man.  ---  12/30/1992

Philosophy, ethics, meaning.  ---  Meaning system.  My life has no meaning, no sense (reason, order), nonsense, no sense of direction.  Exactly!  We must struggle against nothingness to give life meaning.  ---  12/30/1992

Philosophy, ethics, meaning.  ---  Meaning system.  People have meaning systems.  Meaning systems have major psychological importance.  ---  12/30/1992

Philosophy, ethics, meaning.  ---  Meaning system.  Some people get meaning from (1) Money.  (2) Material stuff.  (3) Competition against others.  (4) Other people's approval.  ---  02/15/1997

Philosophy, ethics, meaning.  ---  Meaning systems can be: (1) Weak and fragile vs. robust and hardy.  (2) Simple vs. complex and sophisticated.  (3) Accurate vs. inaccurate.  (Epistemologically true or false.  Ethically good or bad.)  ---  7/2/2001

Philosophy, ethics, meaning.  ---  Meaning systems.  PART ONE.  One of the interesting things is how many people try to foist meaning onto objects that are essentially meaningless.  People have a tendency to pile meaning onto objects even when it is not demanded by the object.  For example, recently a great deal of attention is being paid by pseudo-intellectual adults to superhero comic books and paint-by-number paintings.  This phenomena is going way beyond the usual nostalgic reveries (see History, nostalgia) because of the incredible amounts of meaning and importance that these so called intellectuals are attributing to comic books and paint-by-number paintings.     PART TWO.  I think there are positive and negative sides to the phenomenon of "uncalled for meaning foisting".  (1) On the positive side, the act of attributing meaning to things that do not deserve it at least helps us build our meaning systems.  And our meaning systems help keep us alive.  Humans seem to need something, anything, to hang our meanings on.  If something has no current meaning, or is inherently meaningless, no matter, we will just give it some meaning.  (2) On the negative side, attributing meaning to things that do not deserve meaning is essentially an act that is logically inconsistent, epistemologically untrue and ethically unjust.  That is no way to live.  The sudden recognition of such a sham is often quite traumatic.  (3) So what is one to do?  For one thing, try to attribute meanings to things that deserve it.  ---  6/28/2001

Philosophy, ethics, meaning.  ---  Meaning techniques.  (1) Recognize all the meanings that we attribute to an object.  This is a challenge because we often unconsciously attribute meaning to objects.  (2) Recognize when you are attributing more meaning to an object than it deserves.  (3) Learn how to separate the meaning from the objects you attribute the meaning to.  Learn how to de-couple meaning from object, and then learn how to transfer meaning to a new thing when the old thing losses its meaning.  (4) Learn to recognize when a person, place or thing is gaining, losing or changing meaning for you.  Recognize sudden and complete loss of meaning and learn how to handle it.  (5) Be able to separate meaning from the people, places and things you attribute it to.  Because when you lock all meaning inseparably to people, places and things and then that thing is destroyed, you have built planned obsolescence into your meaning system.  (6) Keep building your meaning system, because your meaning system helps keep you psychologically healthy.  ---  7/2/2001

Philosophy, ethics, meaning.  ---  Meaning.  Life is pain, as the Buddha said.  Happiness is fleeting and transitory.  Instead of looking for happiness, people should be looking for meaning.  Meaning will let your endure the emotional pain of life.  Meaning, by letting you withstand pain, will produce a type of happiness.  (2) The reason why many people are depressed.  Subconsciously, many people realize life is absurd and meaningless.  They have not fully consciously sorted it out.  They have not taken the crucial next step to create their own meaning.  The struggle to create personal meaning is perhaps the most important struggle in life.  It can be a life or death struggle.  The search for personal meaning is under-recognized.  The search for meaning can take years.  The search for meaning produces an intellectually and emotionally satisfying answer.  The search for meaning produces peace and health.  Without meaning the result is isolation, alienation, apathy and disconnectedness.  With meaning there is connectedness, engagement, enthusiasm.  (3) The search for meaning is continual, as you change and as your situation changes.  Be careful during meaning transitions, when you switch from one meaningful activity to another.  Be careful of meaning gaps, when you have no meaning.  The state of meaninglessness, and even the state of less than satisfactory meaning, is a painful state, a possibly dangerous state, more so than people realize.  (4) French existentialists, like Sartre and Camus, confronted the meaninglessness of life and the necessity to search for meaning.  Existentialist psychologists like Victor Frankl and Rollo May also confronted man's search for meaning.  (5) Meaning, and the search for meaning, are important, yet under emphasized, concepts in psychology.  ---  8/9/2005

Philosophy, ethics, meaning.  ---  Meaning.  What has meaning for you?  What do you find meaningful?  (1) Intellectual meaning.  Logical.  Empirical.  Grammatical.  (2) Emotional meaning.  Comforting.  Warm and fuzzy.  ---  6/8/2004

Philosophy, ethics, meaning.  ---  PART ONE.  Nonsentient life, as exemplified by plants, is about fecundity of physical living matter.  Sentient life, as exemplified by humans, is about fecundity of meaning.   Against the couch potato we have only a multitude of diverse meanings that we create and gather from our memories, feelings, thoughts, experiences and actions.     PART TWO.  Four views of how much meaning to load onto life.  (1) A meaning impoverished action or idea is one that has only a few weak thoughts and emotions attached to it.  (2) Why be meaning rich?  Can we not live a simple, happy life as far as meaning is concerned?  (3) An alternative view is to be only as meaning complex as far as life is complex.  Meaning complexity only in so far as it is required by reality.  (4) Then there is the view of meaning richness for its own sake.  I tend to this view.  The richness of our lives is based on the richness of the meanings that we attach to our experiences.  ---  6/24/2002

Philosophy, ethics, meaning.  ---  Personal culture collapse.  There may come a point in your life when you realize that, for example, "The clothes I wore were just a meaningless stylistic variation.  Likewise the music I listened to, the books I read, the movies I saw, were all just meaningless stylistic variations."  Unless you can quickly salvage some meaning from your sinking pursuits you face what I term a "personal culture collapse".  You will walk around with a dazed expression and a feeling of having been robbed.  To prevent it, try to find meaningful stuff.  ---  4/17/2001

Philosophy, ethics, meaning.  ---  Question: What does "x" mean to me?  Answer: Not much vs. a whole lot.  Mistakes: (1) You can attribute too much or too little meaning to a thing.  (2) You can attribute an epistemologically false or an ethically unjust meaning to something.  ---  7/2/2001

Philosophy, ethics, meaning.  ---  The key is to find something worth living for.  Then devote your whole life to staying in shape to pursue this thing.  And don't let unhealthy things seduce you, or evil things discourage you from staying healthy and safe.  ---  12/30/1995

Philosophy, ethics, meaning.  ---  The meaning of an action or event.  Take, for example, the act of sex.  We can imagine that for animals the act of sex does not mean much.  Not to insult animals, but for humans the act of sex has the potential to mean much more.  Yet not always, for cheating spouses often tell their mates that their acts of infidelity "meant nothing".  (2) This leads toward a theory that the more thoughts and emotions you attach to an act the more it means to you.  And, furthermore, the act of loading things with meanings is perhaps what the meaning of life is all about.  For example, truly meaningful sex means a lot and has many strong meanings attached to it.  (3) An alternate theory is that the meaning of an act consists of its predicted effects and implied causes.  ---  6/23/2002

Philosophy, ethics, meaning.  ---  The meaning of life is that something is alive.  This is the meaning of life of, or for, a grub.  ---  12/30/1992

Philosophy, ethics, meaning.  ---  The question is whether things have inherent meaning or whether we attribute meaning to things.  If we attribute meaning to things then we should develop healthy, useful, life-affirming meanings and stick them on everything so that our meanings are all around us like sticky notes for the soul.  ---  6/29/2001

Philosophy, ethics, meaning.  ---  There is a connection between the meaning of life (see Philosophy, ethics, meaning) and the meaning of a sentence (see Sociology, communication, language, meaning).  ---  8/3/2001

Philosophy, ethics, meaning.  ---  To say, "Nothing has any meaning to me" is to have two problems: (1) It is to fail to recognize the meaning of things.  To fail to see the inherent meaning of things.  (2) It is to fail to attribute meaning to things.  To fail to assign meaning to things.  (3) Both of these are major problems.  ---  6/29/2001

Philosophy, ethics, meaning.  ---  To see how people make sense of their lives and make meaning of their lives look at their refrigerator doors, fireplace mantels and desktops covered with pictures, trinkets and souvenirs.  ---  7/4/2002

Philosophy, ethics, meaning.  ---  Two views of meaning.  (1) Things have pre-set, simple meanings.  (2) We create a rich set of meanings.  ---  6/8/2002

Philosophy, ethics, meaning.  ---  Types of meaning.  (1) Meaning of a sentence.  Linguistic meaning.  (2) Meaning of any symbol or sign.  Semantic meaning.  (3) Meaning of "any thing" also includes emotional meanings, ethical meanings, and existential meanings.  ---  11/15/2001

Philosophy, ethics, meaning.  ---  We are forced to either gather meaning (find out) or create meaning (figure out).  ---  6/8/2002

Philosophy, ethics, meaning.  ---  Weddings, funerals and birthdays are how many people try to give meaning to their life.  It is futile to try to have a day give your life meaning.  ---  8/3/1999

Philosophy, ethics, meaning.  ---  What do "meaning" in the sense that I use it in the Ethics section and "meaning" in the sense that I use it in the Language section have in common?  The ethics sense of "meaning" has to do with purpose.  Can we say that the language sense of "meaning" is also about purpose?  The purpose of a word?  ---  7/10/2002

Philosophy, ethics, meaning.  ---  When you find a song, or book, or movie that means something to you, you should cling to it like a raft floating in the sea of meaningless garbage that surrounds us.  ---  6/29/2001

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Paul Nervy Notes. Copyright 1988-2007 by Paul Nervy.