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The Guide to Life, The Universe and Everything.

3. Everything / Deep Thought / Philosophy

Created: 15th March 2000
Making Sense of Meaning
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Language is a funny thing.

It is rare, in this dawning era of modern communication, that a person can speak with the full knowledge of what he is actually saying, and it is altogether unheard of that, if he manages to do so, those on the receiving end will correctly interpret his words. Common language is so overwhelmingly reliant on catchphrases, buzz-words and euphemisms, one might wonder how anything so hackneyed and meaninglessly clichéd could effectively enable two people to make sense of what they are saying. Ironically, the phrase 'to make sense' is one of the most misunderstood, and yet aptly applied, in the English language.

Making Sense

The common interpretation of the phrase 'to make sense' is this: if something, in and of itself, 'makes sense', it is logically congruent and can be comprehended by someone in terms of the causes and effects within its processes. Upon further investigation, however, this phrase disintegrates into complete nonsense. 'To make', as defined by the New American Edition Webster's Dictionary, means 'to cause to be or do; to create; to appoint', and 'sense' is defined as 'any of the bodily faculties of perception of feeling; ability to perceive; meaning'. Thus, if a circumstance 'makes sense', it 'causes, creates or appoints the ability to perceive or meaning'.

Creating Meaning

Can a situation 'cause meaning' or 'create the ability to perceive'? Can anything cause, create or appoint meaning? Meaning is, by definition, significance, or the importance of something in terms of its effects on everything else. So when someone concludes an explanation with the question, 'does that make sense?', or, in exasperation, exclaims, 'it just doesn't make any sense!', what is it that he is saying? 'Does it create meaning?' 'It doesn't cause any significance!' These phrases are, for all intents and purposes, nonsensical. Meaning cannot be created, merely comprehended. Significance is not caused. Either it exists as an inherent quality of something, or it does not. In the overall, unlimited view of past, present and future, everywhere and nowhere, either everything has meaning and significance, or nothing does.

Does Everything Have Meaning?

Everything has meaning in terms of the unlimited causes and effects of all of reality, because each occurrence will ultimately determine an outcome of some sort. Therefore, if everything has meaning, the question 'does it make sense?' is useless because meaning does, has always, and will always exist in regards to a specific thing. It is therefore impossible for anything less than a god-like presence to cause meaning, since this requires a perception of all things at all times at once. However, simply because everything has meaning when viewed from the stand-point of all things at all times at once, does not mean that from individual, limited, points of view certain things may not appear more significant than others, and other things appear utterly meaningless.

On an individual level, everything begins as meaningless and a person is responsible for assigning significance to that which he chooses. The amount of meaning an individual gathers from life is in direct variation with the amount of knowledge he has, or the broadness of his view, and his comprehension capacity for that knowledge. In other words, the more a person knows and is able to understand, the more things 'make sense' to him. The phrase 'it doesn't make sense' should be more accurately said as 'I can't find the meaning which, in theory, exists.' A fact that everyone intuitively knows, yet hates to admit, is that things only appear to be meaningless because of an individual lack of perception of all things at all times at once. Conversely, due to the limited comprehension capacity of an individual, if the amount of knowledge, or broadness of view, exceeds the amount a person is able to understand at once, things begin to relate to each other in such complicated ways that once simple relationships may appear to lose all meaning in their complexity.

To summarise, the common phrase 'to make sense', while understood to mean 'to be logically congruent to reality', literally means 'to create or cause meaning or significance', and is correctly applied to an individual's perceptions, if not to reality in terms of all things at all times at once. If viewed with unlimited comprehension capacity from an unlimited point of view, everything will ultimately have meaning, rather like viewing a completed jigsaw puzzle. However, if the viewpoint, or amount of knowledge, is limited, only things that fall within that knowledge will appear to have meaning. And, if a viewpoint exceeds the limits of comprehension capacity, nothing will appear to have any clearly defined meaning.

Does that make sense?

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