Erasing Meaning

a. Addressing the Question’s Lack of Clarity: Securing a Non-linguistic Usage of “       ”
One option for addressing the clarity problem is to retain the use of the word “       ” and to secure a usage that applies to non-linguistic phenomena, given that in asking the question of life’s        , one is not asking for the semantic         of the word “life.” This strategy is especially concerned with finding a natural interpretation of the question through a plausible employment of the term “       .” “       ” has multiple        s, and at least some of the more prominent ones mitigate its usefulness in the context of trying to formulate the intuitions driving the question of life’s        . Indeed, if one is asking for the semantic         of life rather than “life,” then the accusation of incoherence is plausible. We ask for the        s of semantic constructions, but not of things like physical entities, events, or life in general. The problem then is that “       ” is a term which appears to most naturally find its home within a linguistic context. However, life itself is not such a context. That is to say, in asking the question, one is not asking for any sort of definition of “life” or a description of this term’s usage. But then, what is being asked? This is where the problem lies.
The problem is solvable, though, given that asking what something means need not be a request for a definition or description. There are additional non-linguistic contexts in which the locution, “What is the         of x?” makes perfect sense (for example, intentional signification, non-intentional signification (that is, natural signs), and so forth.) (see Nozick 1981). Some of them even share family resemblances to the question of life’s        . One in particular is especially relevant.
The question, “What is the         of x?” functions naturally in the largely non-linguistic context in which we seek to know how something fits within a larger context or narrative. We naturally and legitimately invoke the formula, “What is the         of x?” in situations where x is some fact, event, or phenomenon we encounter and of which we want to know the fact’s or event’s or phenomenon’s “. . . implication in the wider world within which this notion [or fact, event, or phenomenon] makes the sense it makes” (Wright 2003: 719). This “wider world” Wright considers to be a worldview, metanarrative, or something similar.
To make his point, Wright uses the example of how one comes to understand the Easter Event (that is, the putative bodily resurrection of Jesus of Nazerath). For example, a well-educated Roman soldier who comes to learn of the event may contextualize it, and therefore “fix” its        , through the myth ofNero redivivus, the idea that Nero had come back to life in order to return to Rome in all his glory. The event means something different for him than for, say, Saul of Tarsus. The wider worldview framework or narrative (or even simply a more localized narrative which is, itself, part of a larger worldview narrative) will play a heavy hermeneutical role, then, in “discovering” (some may prefer determining) what any given fact, event, or phenomenon means. Discovering this         will be a product of asking and answering questions like: In what larger narrative(s) does the sentence (intended to refer to a fact, event, or phenomenon) belong? What worldviews do such narratives embody and reinforce? What are the universes of discourse within which this sentence, and the event it refers to, settle down and make themselves at home – and which, at the same time, they challenge and reshape from within? (Wright 2003: 719).
In terms of the         of life, one could argue that we are trying to find the “wider world” (i.e., worldview, metanarrative) in which the existentially salient elements and accompanying questions of life fit. These existentially salient elements and accompanying questions of life, for which the word “life” is a marker, are perennial         of life themes. They are what often prompt in us the grand question: “What is the         of life?” and include:
(1) Fact—something exists, we [humans] exist, and I exist / Question—Why does anything or we or I exist at all?
(2) Question—Does life have any purpose(s), and if so, what is its nature and source?
(3) Fact—we are often passionately engaged in life pursuits and projects that we deem valuable and worthwhile / Question—Does the worth and value of these pursuits and projects need grounding in something else, and if so, what?
(4) Fact—pain and suffering are part of the universe / Question—Why?
(5) Question—How does it all end? Is death final? Is there an eschatological remedy to the ills of this world?
(1) – (5) constitute the cluster of considerations that track discussions of life’s        , even though reasonable debate will exist about the details. In asking, “What is the         of life?” it is plausible to view this as the request for a “wider world” (that is, worldview, metanarrative) through which to secure answers to these questions. Viewed as such, this renders the question, “What is the         of life?” coherent and intelligible by securing a usage of “       ” that fits naturally within a non-linguistic context.


  1. With my bifocals, I often mistake "eschatological" for "scatological" and "whirlwind" for "worldview" which makes reading a surprising " ."

  2. I read "Saul of Tarsus" as "Soul of Taurus." Too much astrology on the brain~