My question is actually this: What does the question: "what is the purpose of meaning" mean?

Questions that may arise in answering this question may include: What kinds of things can have purpose? (and is meaning such a thing).

  • Where does this question come from? In case it is a quote, please give a reference. - I stumble on the term purpose. There is a well-known essay by Hilary Putnam entitled The Meaning of ‘Meaning’. But I do not know whether it meets your point.
    – Jo Wehler
    Nov 6 '15 at 11:45
  • Not that the source of this question is important. But here it is: youtube.com/watch?v=ni3sEhVDL14 It is immediately at the beginning. Nov 6 '15 at 12:00
  • It might be pertinent indeed to know the meaning of meaning. Nov 6 '15 at 12:02

In your comment you write "It might be pertinent indeed to know the meaning of meaning."

In 1975 Putnam published his essay „The meaning of ‚meaning‘“; see Putnam, Hilary: Mind, Language and Reality, Philosophical Papers Vol. 2, 1975, p.215-271

Putnam deals with a traditional problem from philosophy of language. His aim is to find for the two concepts

  • meaning = intension
  • extension

a definition which relates to our common understanding and use of these terms. Notably, the definition should determine how both terms relate to each other.

His running example is the word water. He designs a fictious world, called Twin Earth, with a liquid different from H2_O, which nevertheles is indistinguable from water on earth - as long as no chemical analysis is made. The inhabitants of the fictious world name their liquid water alike to us, who name water our liquid on earth .

Putnam proposes to distinguish the meaning on earth of the word water from the meaning on Twin Earth of the word water. Because the extensions of the word are different on earth and on Twin Earth. In short, he proposes to express the meaning of 'meaning' to be a normal form which comprises four components. Accordingly, the normal form of the word water is:

  1. Syntactic marker: mass noun, concrete
  2. Semantic marker: natural kind, liquid
  3. Stereotype: colorless; transparent, tasteless, thirst-quenching, etc.
  4. Extension: H2_0 (on earth), Different chemical formula (on Twin Earth).

Hence both meanings of water differ in their extension and a posteriori also in their meaning.


I am not sure if I am correct.But, I think it might..logically

Everything/Anything has a meaning when its created, It reaches/attains its purpose when being utilized for the purpose its been created.

Thus purpose does create to mean the meaning of purpose when the purpose of creation is attained...This should have been the general principle of creation.

But, how does one understand the exact purpose of one's creation and others which have and are being created?

Do we have credible knowledge to understand creation or can we exactly identify the purpose of one's creation/created..we still do not know anything as we are just being created for the purpose for unknown meaning.

  • Can you please fix and or clarify this sentence "Thus purpose does create to mean the meaning of purpose when the purpose of creation is attained...This should have been the general principle of creation." ? Nov 6 '15 at 17:31
  • simply saying - the purpose of a creation cease to exist when the creation is being put into that use. Thanks.
    – Rajesh
    Nov 6 '15 at 20:00
  • Let me test if I understand this. If I live in a house (for which the creation (a house) was intended) then the purpose of that house ceases to exist? In the sense that the house no longer has the purpose that I (or anyone else) would live in it? (As I interpret it here I think I am interpreting you wrongly) Nov 10 '15 at 0:53
  • Purpose of creating a house is to live in it, its purpose starts to cease when someone starts living in it..it may at a point of time cease itself (Ex-destruction of some kind) or someone will try to recreate it with new one, cease to exist does not literally mean it would destroy/die immediately..one might take it as the purpose it has 'attained' for which it has been created for..of course there are lot of things which are not put into purpose which it's been created for,I am still searching answers to lots of my question's as you are..at least we might realize our existence before we exit.
    – Rajesh
    Nov 10 '15 at 15:45

This is a really oddly worded question.

It seems as though it's equivalent to "What is the purpose of meaning?" and moving it up one level to "'What does the purpose of meaning?' mean?"doesn't really change the question.

To answer it, you need satisfying answers to "purpose" and "meaning." Here's a shot.

  1. As a living thing, one has preferences, which are "states or situations that one seeks above others."
  2. "Purpose" is the relationship that a given person, object, event, or idea has with the thinker's preferences. It's shorthand for "the use that the subject under discussion has in seeking the preferences of someone else." Unless specified, that "someone else" is "the speaker, or an imagined person based on the speaker."
  3. Preferences are either biological urges (oxygen, food, water, sleep, breeding, heat) or personal values (learning, interest/fun, justice, confidence/achievement/respect, personal relationships, or freedom). These things will be different depending on who the "one" is in statement #1.
  4. "Meaning" is inseparable from preferences. An object has meaning to us only if it affects our preferences. That doesn't mean that we can't care about impractical things, since interest/fun is a huan value, only that nothing wholly disconnected to our values can have meaning to us. Meaning is inherently relative, which I know is a word that most of the kind of people that care about philosophy hate/fear. It is, though.
  5. So, meaning means "the effect that something has on one's preferences," and purpose means "the use that something has on our attaining one's preferences." They're closely linked.
  6. One step further, if we consider knowledge itself as but one more tool to seek preferences, than the distinction between meaning and purpose collapses totally.
  7. However, that's not really satisfactory, right? So, let's go at it from a slightly different angle.
  8. A thing has meaning if it affects our preferences, which means if it helps us decide what to prefer or helps figure out how to get them. How does it do that?
  9. The biggest obstacle to attaining one's preference is ignorance, ignorance or which preferences are best and ignorance of how to get them.
  10. A mind or brain can be said to be smarter if that mind or brain is better at making predictions about the future than some other mind or brain (the same one a year ago, for example). You're smarter than someone else if you are better at making predictions than them about something that you both regard as worthwhile.
  11. People make predictions by assuming that the future will be like the past to the degree that it is similar to the past. Of course, that also means that the future will be different from the past to the degree that it is different from the past.
  12. Making a prediction, then, involves consulting one's mind and trying to find the closest match one has for the situation that one wishes to predict, and then making corrections for the way in which that past situation is different from the to-be-predicted one. No two situations are identical, of course, and so this is an inherently imperfect science.
  13. So, the meaning of anything is simply where the mind stores it. First, it involves placing it in a category of other things that share one or more attributes, and then distinguishing it from everything else in that category.*
  14. The important thing to notice here is that the process of making predictions is analogous to the process of defining a term. This isn't accidental, of course, because things have meaning to us to the degree that they help us make predictions about the future.
  15. So, the relationship between meaning and purpose is like the relationship between blueprints and building materials. However, since we can regard the blueprint itself as a tool, meaning is can also be understood as a subset of purpose. Categories, though are imaginary groupings, and in saying that meaning can be seen as a subset of purpose, can be is a key phrase.

    • My definition of meaning comes from my (admittedly secondhand) understanding of the work of Francis Bacon. Everything else in here is my own reasoning, though I assume I was preceded by about 10,000 smart people.

Sounds like a "non-phrase" typical of "postmoderns". Of course meaning exists as a natural part of language. Does one need to be "deaf, dumb and blind" to ask the purpose of language?

  • Thank you. The question is not post-modern, it is analytical. I think that meaning is not restricted to language. (Though it is inherent to communication in general). Nov 9 '15 at 12:50
  • Where do you think there is meaning outside language?
    – Rodrigo
    Nov 9 '15 at 13:35
  • For example a house. The thing itself signifies something. (Shelter from cold, warmth, rain, snow, etc.) A family picture of you, your parents and your grandparents. A kiss: the kiss can signify affection for example. (It then means I love you or something like that). A telescope or microscope. The thing itself has some meaning, in this case purpose, in the sense that from the object itself you can infer something else. By a sign you signify something. By the object you can infer its intended usage for example. Basically: meaning lets you infer one thing from another. Nov 10 '15 at 0:48
  • Ok, really there is meaning outside language. But "purpose of meaning" still sounds to me as illogical as "purpose of matter" or "purpose of up"...
    – Rodrigo
    Nov 10 '15 at 1:35
  • Suppose we define meaning as: the "thing" that connects a sign with that thing which is signified. For example: meaning connects the word apple, with a "thing" which is called apple. One other way to repeat it: meaning connects the symbol to the thing it symbolizes. There is nothing which we can understand in terms of itself. We can only understand a thing in terms of other things. For example: Suppose there was a immaterial intellect observing a house and nothing else existed. He would have nothing to understand the house. (Shelter etc. wouldn't be categories in which to understand a house) Nov 10 '15 at 12:56

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