Online reading group and book discussion forum
  HOME ENTER FORUMS OUR BOOKS LINKS DONATE ADVERTISE CONTACT  
View unanswered posts | View active topics It is currently Sat Sep 22, 2018 8:31 am





Post new topic Reply to topic  [ 17 posts ] • Topic evaluate: Evaluations: 0, 0.00 on the average.Evaluations: 0, 0.00 on the average.Evaluations: 0, 0.00 on the average.Evaluations: 0, 0.00 on the average.Evaluations: 0, 0.00 on the average.  Go to page Previous  1, 2
Please check in here if you're going to join the "Finding Purpose in a Godless World" discussion! 
Author Message
Years of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membership
BookTalk.org Hall of Fame

Platinum Contributor

Joined: Jan 2008
Posts: 6044
Location: Berryville, Virginia
Thanks: 1633
Thanked: 1764 times in 1356 posts
Gender: Male
Country: United States (us)

Post Re: Please check in here if you're going to join the "Finding Purpose in a Godless World" discussion!
Harry Marks wrote:
DWill wrote:
I'll just say I'm glad Lewis chose the word "purpose" for his title, rather than "meaning." What does meaning mean, anyway? Purpose covers meaning and everyone understands the word. I'm absolutely certain that atheists have no purpose deficit, compared with theists.

Now you have me worried. I'm usually willing to treat them as "essentially" the same. But there is a difference, of course. One's sense of purpose may be entirely private, but to say something is "meaningful" has connotations that it matters to more than just me.

I might be wading into the semantic weeds to no great effect, but it seems to me that the sense of both purpose and meaning, to the extent that they are separate, is private. Is the nature or origin of that sense different according to a quality of sharedness? It doesn't seem to me a given, but I'd have to think about it some more.
Quote:
So if I said "Her purpose in life is to make a million dollars in two different businesses," you would find this perfectly intelligible, while if I said, "She made a million dollars in each of two different businesses! Now that's a meaningful life," you might scratch your head as to where I was coming from.

It depends on how you put it. I wouldn't be too puzzled if you said pursuing those goals gave her life meaning, even though my first reaction might be something like, "how shallow." My next thought might be to consider the "different strokes" path to meaning she might have taken.
Quote:
To put it quite plainly, meaning is more intersubjective. Both have elements of intersubjectivity, relying partly on a sense that we can share the purpose or meaning of our activity and be understood, but a claim of "meaning" implies that we feel we have some right to expect others to find that the thing matters as well. Even if you say, "Nothing means as much to me as my children," you are implying that your children fill a space in your values that you would expect other people to also hold valuable, if it was them.

"What matters" is a more graspable idea to me than "meaning" or "meaningful." My approval of Lewis' use of "purpose" (and of Rick Warren's) is based on avoiding a goes-nowhere discussion (or maybe just to avoid difficulty). From purpose, meaning or "matteredness" can derive. But I can't see the equation working with the terms reversed.
Quote:
So I am worried because I fear that our author is going to settle for a purely private understanding of "finding purpose." That would be more than just disappointing to me - it would be distressing. Hooking our sense of purpose is, in some sense, easier than settling in on our sense of meaning. A person might find a sense of purpose in living long enough to see their great-grandchild born, or in visiting every state in the Union, or in summoning the courage to tell their mean uncle what they think of him. But none of those can be said to be meaningful, even the first. Idiosyncracy doesn't have to cut off our sense of purpose from finding meaningful things to do, but the idiosyncracy should give the purpose as an instance of some larger value that matters to people in general.

I think I'm with you here in that having a bucket list can only be something that matters to me; it can't be something that matters in the larger sense.
Quote:
When we move into values, to say that something is meaningful is to say that it signifies something important. Now, we can posit as a matter of argument that different people find different things important. But in practice on the big things we are usually willing to argue for our sense of what matters, (some of us are almost always willing to argue for our sense of what matters,) on the assumption that a person who sees things differently is not so different from us but has yet to get the connections, the implications, that tell why a particular benefit is one that ought to matter to people in general.

Victor Frankl's search was for what mattered or what was important, so I'm more than willing to accept these terms as proxies for meaning.
Quote:
I saw on social media today a claim that Simon and Garfunkel's "Sounds of Silence" was the anthem of our generation. (Never mind that nearby there were admiring tributes to "Teach Your Children Well" and "The Times They Are a-Changin'"). If you were going to make a case that the song is meaningful, you would start getting into why it matters that "people talking without speaking" is happening, or that "the words of the prophets are written on the subway walls." Why do issues of empty noise, of words that signify nothing, capture the experience of people who lived through the 60s? And the alienation of graffiti, what did it signify? In the end you might not convince many people that it is the anthem of that generation, but the person could presumably be helped to understand why so many people found the song "meaningful."

So this is remarkable, how with this insight you've come to a place where purpose is nowhere in sight. How did that happen? Could it be that purpose and what matters have no necessary connection at all? I guess I'll have to rethink and perhaps retract.
Quote:
There is a book out, from 2002, called "War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning." Chris Hedges, the author, says that the title is only partly ironic. The thrust of the book is that the way war fascinates and causes people to set aside differences is seductive. That we seek it all too easily lest we be left with a sense of meaninglessness. Thus the irony is that the meaning can all too easily be false.
[/quote]
In this example the sharedness dimension of meaning is clear. Whether that feeling of meaning can ever be false, I'm not not sure. Maybe you mean that our better angels aren't always called upon when we're mobilized by strong meaningfulness.



Tue Sep 11, 2018 8:05 am
Profile
User avatar
Years of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membership
So Awesome

Book Discussion Leader

Joined: May 2011
Posts: 1064
Thanks: 954
Thanked: 466 times in 388 posts
Gender: None specified

Post Re: Please check in here if you're going to join the "Finding Purpose in a Godless World" discussion!
DWill wrote:
Harry Marks wrote:
One's sense of purpose may be entirely private, but to say something is "meaningful" has connotations that it matters to more than just me.

I might be wading into the semantic weeds to no great effect, but it seems to me that the sense of both purpose and meaning, to the extent that they are separate, is private. Is the nature or origin of that sense different according to a quality of sharedness?
I wouldn't be too puzzled if you said pursuing those goals gave her life meaning, even though my first reaction might be something like, "how shallow." My next thought might be to consider the "different strokes" path to meaning she might have taken.

Thanks for an interesting response. I have to agree with you that casting the same term as "gave her life meaning" does make it more intelligible, even if the oddness is still visible as you say. I fear this is a topic that is "in the semantic weeds" and that the best I can do is argue connotations, which of course tend to differ for different people.

I meant to just explain how I react differently to the terms, in the same spirit as your reaction, but somehow I ended up promoting a particular usage. What a surprise (not).
DWill wrote:
"What matters" is a more graspable idea to me than "meaning" or "meaningful." My approval of Lewis' use of "purpose" (and of Rick Warren's) is based on avoiding a goes-nowhere discussion (or maybe just to avoid difficulty). From purpose, meaning or "matteredness" can derive. But I can't see the equation working with the terms reversed.

I guess I also think "matters" is plainer for emphasizing the sharedness.

I tend to view the derivation of purpose from what matters as more legitimate than deriving mattering from purpose, rather than less possible or less legitimate. I fear that the moralist in me is a strong voice, and I try to recognize the hazards of thinking that way, but in my view modern culture has gone way too far in the other direction. I think much of the culture of the cognoscenti in the U.S., anyway, has taken to worrying about "shoulding on yourself" instead of being willing to criticize their own choices and purposes.

I find myself wondering how much of that is due to academic abdication. Much of the academic enterprise in the humanities has been taken over by people who assume that "critical" means "critical of institutions" rather than ever examining the beam in one's own eye. Rorty has said as much. Combined with a frankly facile assumption that moral choices imply a socialist system, the intellectual ground has been scorched in which normal lay persons (i.e. those not having tenure) might once have grown an inner sophistication about judgments on integrity, virtue and meaning.

I am quite sympathetic to the notion that people will lead better lives if institutions are more just. That, to me, is a basic article of my faith. But the reverse is, of course, also true. If we ignore the value of private caring about what really matters, in social discourse, we overprivatize our perspective on what matters and invite The Sopranos, Breaking Bad and Harvey Weinstein.

This is, in fact, the state of corporate America and American institutions in general. The "forced moves" perceived by people's institutional roles has all but foreclosed the possibility of meaningful discourse about principle. For Brett Kavanaugh to approach questions of jurisprudence with the Senators in the same candor that Robert Bork did is unimaginable, because these days nobody gets to that level who doesn't understand that the forces who put them there will not tolerate failing to follow their directions. If you watch Kavanaugh carefully you can see his personality fracturing under that stress - his urge to be a thinking being is having its last breath squeezed out by the grinding stones that gave us the truly incredible Janus v. AFSCME decision.

DWill wrote:
Victor Frankl's search was for what mattered or what was important, so I'm more than willing to accept these terms as proxies for meaning.
Harry Marks wrote:
If you were going to make a case that the song is meaningful, you would start getting into why it matters that "people talking without speaking" is happening, or that "the words of the prophets are written on the subway walls."

So this is remarkable, how with this insight you've come to a place where purpose is nowhere in sight. How did that happen? Could it be that purpose and what matters have no necessary connection at all? I guess I'll have to rethink and perhaps retract.

Umm, I think we have an artifact here. A different dimension of semantic difference between purpose and mattering (besides the greater sharedness in mattering) is the enacted nature of purpose. Something can sit out there mattering, like climate change, without it giving any purpose to many of the people it matters to. To put it bluntly, they are pretending it doesn't matter. But of course it does. Wait, wait, you might say, as far as they are concerned, it doesn't matter to them. The concepts are tricksy, and this illustrates one reason why it is important not to privatize our vocabulary of values. Yet even in a private context, I may pretend my bank account is going to be fine, but if I keep taking a lot more out than I put in, it matters. What I find matters, or find meaningful, may not be what actually matters, or is actually meaningful.

DWill wrote:
Quote:
the way war fascinates and causes people to set aside differences is seductive. That we seek it all too easily lest we be left with a sense of meaninglessness. Thus the irony is that the meaning can all too easily be false.

In this example the sharedness dimension of meaning is clear. Whether that feeling of meaning can ever be false, I'm not not sure. Maybe you mean that our better angels aren't always called upon when we're mobilized by strong meaningfulness.
Well, I am arguing that what seems to make something meaningful, in our experience internally, may represent a poor map of cause and effect. That if we actually understood, say, that the NRA is just acting as a tool of the armaments industry, it would change what conclusions we reach about what matters.



Tue Sep 11, 2018 4:58 pm
Profile Email
Display posts from previous:  Sort by  
Post new topic Reply to topic  [ 17 posts ] • Topic evaluate: Evaluations: 0, 0.00 on the average.Evaluations: 0, 0.00 on the average.Evaluations: 0, 0.00 on the average.Evaluations: 0, 0.00 on the average.Evaluations: 0, 0.00 on the average.  Go to page Previous  1, 2



Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 2 guests


You cannot post new topics in this forum
You cannot reply to topics in this forum
You cannot edit your posts in this forum
You cannot delete your posts in this forum
You cannot post attachments in this forum

Search for:

BookTalk.org Newsletter 

Announcements 

• Promote Your Fiction Book on BookTalk.org
Sun Jul 30, 2017 7:33 pm

• Promote Your Non-Fiction Book on BookTalk.org
Sun Jul 30, 2017 7:18 pm

• What's next on our Short Story menu?
Mon May 22, 2017 8:29 pm



Site Resources 
HELPFUL INFO:
Forum Rules & Tips
Frequently Asked Questions
BBCode Explained
Author Interview Transcripts
Be a Book Discussion Leader!

IDEAS FOR WHAT TO READ:
Bestsellers
Book Awards
• Book Reviews
• Online Books
• Team Picks
Newspaper Book Sections

WHERE TO BUY BOOKS:
• Great resource pages are coming!

BEHIND THE BOOKS:
• Great resource pages are coming!

PROMOTE YOUR BOOK!
Advertise on BookTalk.org
How To Promote Your Book

Featured Books

Books by New Authors


*

FACTS is a select group of active BookTalk.org members passionate about promoting Freethought, Atheism, Critical Thinking and Science.

Apply to join FACTS
See who else is in FACTS







BookTalk.org is a thriving book discussion forum, online reading group or book club. We read and talk about both fiction and non-fiction books as a community. Our forums are open to anyone in the world. While discussing books is our passion we also have active forums for talking about poetry, short stories, writing and authors. Our general discussion forum section includes forums for discussing science, religion, philosophy, politics, history, current events, arts, entertainment and more. We hope you join us!


Navigation 
MAIN NAVIGATION

HOMEFORUMSOUR BOOKSAUTHOR INTERVIEWSADVERTISELINKSFAQDONATETERMS OF USEPRIVACY POLICYSITEMAP

OTHER PAGES WORTH EXPLORING
Banned Book ListMassimo Pigliucci Rationally SpeakingOnline Reading GroupTop 10 Atheism Books

Copyright © BookTalk.org 2002-2018. All rights reserved.
Display Pagerank