The Meaning of Meaning

You might say that happiness is … happiness, or that happiness is complicated and beyond a simple definitions, that it is difficult to articulate what happiness is. True, it is hard to know what is the meaning of the word happiness. But then we think about why semantics matters. It matters because words must have a meaning, when we talk we should mean something.

A few years ago I asked my students in Chemistry class to ask me a question, any question. All stayed quiet for what it appear to be a long time, a very long time, until one asked the following questions: “What is the meaning of life?”! What a question! I thought. A question that for sure requires a thoughtful answer. An answer that had to be articulated after a long and deep mental effort and exploration. Not easy task when the question was completely unexpected.

Unable to help students get to the answer to this question, which by the way has been raised many times by many important philosophers during centuries, I decided to keep thinking and doing research about it. As we research about the meaning of life, we will find that often the problem circles around the word “meaning”. Many authors talk about the purpose as synonym with meaning. The problem with this approach as with the way dictionaries resort to circular definitions (for example: “Meaning” what is meant by a word, text, concept, or action or like according to “Meaning” what is intended to be, or actually is, expressed or indicated.” Not much help at all!

So how can we go around it? Will describing context help to see what we mean?

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