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Systems and relationships

In our post-industrial consumer culture, the question of what meaning is, or what it means, has become increasingly difficult to define. It can encompass many things to many people while at the same time nobody can pinpoint how. This brief essay will tackle this difficult subject and it will attempt to relate meaning to value in our contemporary culture. According to the Princeton University online dictionary, meaning is “the message that is intended or expressed or signified” (Wordnet). Humans understand the world through sign systems and relationships.

A person’s subjective experience relates to the objective world of signs through language and relationships. Individuals try to come to terms with the significance of our lives by forming relationships that can help us to understand the significance of objects as well as subjects. This is why we form relationships, but people also want to understand how we relate to society at large. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines value as “Something (as a principle or quality) intrinsically valuable or desirable (Value).

The conversion of meaning into value occurs when relationships evolve to form shared understandings of the world and how people should relate to it, for example through religion or education. These values then get re-incorporated back into the meaningful language. Philosopher Ian Heath states this significance, “Meaning can transform the individual, while values can transform relationships (Heath). What this means is that this process cannot be accomplished only through critical personal intellectual engagement, but it is crucial to develop meaningful relationships to create values that can guide societies in general.

It is up to us to invent what that will mean.

Works Cited

Heath, Ian. (2003). Meaning and Value. A Modern Thinker. Retrieved December 12, 2008, from http://www.modern-thinker.co.uk/Value. (2008). Merriam-Webster. Retrieved December 12, 2008, from http://www. merriam-webster. com/dictionary/value%5B1%5D Wordnet Search. (2008). The University of Princeton. Retrieved December 12, 2008, from http://wordnet. princeton. edu/perl/webwn? s=meaning

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