Meaning and Syntax

Meaning and Syntax October 21, 2007

Perhaps the meaning in life is its syntax. The meaning of DNA comes not from the four letters of its ‘alphabet’, but from their interpretations in longer ‘sentences’. Likewise our words take on precision and depth when joined with other words.

Syntax is not something added to the words, but something that arises from their being placed together in frameworks of meaning. Perhaps the same is true in our relationships to one another. There isn’t another substance added to the relationships, something we could examine and analyse. There is just meaning in the arrangement.

The question then becomes whether this meaningfulness, the existence of which few of us would doubt, depends on a higher level of organization that ‘reads’ the sentences of our lives.

In other words, meaning seems not to require what we might call a belief in the ‘supernatural’, in a dualistic sense. But it does seem to require the existence of the transcendent.

DNA cannot see its own meaning. Cells cannot observe the organism of which they are a part. Words cannot understand sentences. But if they could think, and reflect, as we do, would they have the ineffable religious experiences that many human beings have had, the sense of connectedness with a greater reality, that gives their existence meaning?

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