The meaning of meaning

The Search for Meaning by Pylkkänen (editor)

This is a post in my organizing ”between and beyond” series. Other posts are here. The purpose of this post is to explore David Bohm’s notion of meaning in The Search for Meaning by Paavo Pylkkänen (editor).1

The power of meaning is that it completely organizes being.2

Meaning and information
Meaning is inseparably connected with information. Literally ‘to inform’ means ‘to put form into’.3 What is essential for a form to constitute information is that it has a meaning.4 Gregory Bateson said ‘information is a difference that makes a difference’, while David Bohm said ‘information is a difference of form that makes a difference of content, i.e., meaning’.5 Meaning is related to the notion of active information.6 Bohm suggests that the activity, virtual or actual, is the meaning of the information.7 The relationship between active information and its meaning is basically similar to that between form and content.8

Soma-significant vs. signa-somatic activity
The manifestation of soma, which include all matter, has form. And this form (potentially) has meaning. Soma is (quite generally) significant, that is soma-significant. This significance can give rise to further somatic, or signa-somatic, activity. So soma-significance gives rise to a signa-somatic activity.9

Outward vs. inward activity
An activity of meaning can be virtual, as a kind of suspended action. An outward action happens when the action cease to be suspended.10 A suspended outward activity is a kind of inward activity that flows out of the meaning of the information. All action, including inaction, takes place immediately according to the meaning of the total situation at the moment. The apprehension of meaning is the totality of the action.11

Meaning, intention, and action
Meaning indicates not only significance but also intention. Intention arises out of the perception of meaning or significance. A choice to act, or not to act, depends on the significance at the moment. Intention is sensed as a feeling of being ready to respond.12 Meaning and intention are inseparably related. Meaning unfolds into intention, and intention into action, which has further significance.13

Meaning, significance, and value
Value is closely related to meaning and intention. There is a sense of value in that which has significance. Action is weak without a sense of value.14

Being flowing out of meaning
Meaning flows into being, which flows into meaning. Ultimately meaning is being in human life. Information gives rise to activity, which is our being. Action is thus informed. The being flowing out of meaning is infinite.15

Enfolded meaning
Meaning is an expanding structure where all levels and contexts of meaning enfold each other. There is a constant unfoldment of still more meanings. Actions flowing out of each new meaning may be expected to fit what actually happens within limits. Meanings, intentions, and consequences of these intentions, outside these limits will be disharmonic. Meanings can extend to ever greater levels of subtlety as long they are perceived freshly from moment to moment.16

Meaning and matter
The Schrödinger wave field is not to be regarded as a force field, but rather as an information field.17 This implies that an elementary particle, for example an electron, has an inner complexity.18 Each particle is self-active. The form of its action depends on information belonging to the whole system. This information induces organized movement. Organized quantum mechanical behavior tend to be significant mainly in the small scale, but can appear in the large scale under special situations.19 The common pool of information implies a non-local connection. The quantum potential may be regarded as active information. The movements of the self-active particles can be regarded as the meaning of the information. The notion of active information and meaning applies to all matter.20

Indefinitely subtler levels of information
According to the quantum theory, an elementary particle is something that can significantly respond to information from its environment. This response is the meaning of the information, and is essential to what the particle is. As the Schrödinger wave field guides the elementary particles, there may be a subtler level of information that guides the Schrödinger wave field. Such a hierarchy can in principle go on indefinitely.21

Mind and matter
What we experience as mind may ultimately, soma-significantly and signa-somatically, be connected to the Schrödinger way field. This would mean that there is no split between mind and matter. As with information and meaning, mind and matter are two sides of one process. The essence of all being is the flow of meaning. In this flow, everything enfolds everything and unfolds into everything.22 Matter is not dead. Particles respond to information. The structure and form of matter is organized by an active meaning.23

Free flow of meaning
Dialogue is a free flow of meaning between people. What is essential for dialogue is that each person listens with an intent to understand the meaning of other’s view. The free flow of meaning in dialogue allows a group to move together in a coherent way.24 If this could happen on a large scale, it would be a revolutionary transformation.25

Essence of being is meaning
The essence of being is meaning. As the meaning changes so does the essence.26 Meaning and being reflect each other, but have to be seen as essentially one.27 Meaning pervades being.28 For every different meaning there is a different being.29 Meaning completely organizes being, and has power over being.30 Meaning gives value. The perception of new meaning profoundly moves people.31 As meaning develops, purpose also develops.32

1 Paavo Pylkkänen (editor), The Search for Meaning: The New Spirit in Science and Philosophy, (Crucible, 1989), pp. 43–85.
2 Ibid., p. 72.
3 Ibid., p. 43.
4 Ibid., p. 44.
5 Ibid..
6 Ibid..
7 Ibid., p. 45.
8 Ibid., p. 46.
9 Ibid..
10 Ibid..
11 Ibid., p. 47.
12 Ibid..
13 Ibid., p. 48.
14 Ibid..
15 Ibid., p. 51.
16 Ibid., p. 52.
17 Ibid., p. 56.
18 Ibid., p. 55.
19 Ibid., p. 57.
20 Ibid., p. 58.
21 Ibid., p. 59.
22 Ibid., p. 60.
23 Ibid., p. 62.
24 Ibid., p. 61.
25 Ibid., p. 62.
26 Ibid., p. 63.
27 Ibid., p. 64.
28 Ibid., p. 66.
29 Ibid., p. 71.
30 Ibid., p. 72.
31 Ibid., p. 75.
32 Ibid., p. 85.


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