Dose 11: Meaning Originates in Design

The Horseshoe Crab, a well established Design, though granted, “Its World” is probably very limited by comparison to ours.

All meaning starts with “design”, and not just any design but a certain complexity of design. Living Things are the key to a well rounded philosophy of The Universe.

With the origin of Life came a design complex enough to realize a Point of View. For the first time, a form was internally complex enough To Seek To Reproduce itself and To Have Interests of Its Own, To Have “Goals”. This Design of inanimate materials suddenly, and, so far as we yet know, without explanation, had these new kind of abilities. It now “Referred” to ‘the world’ beyond it in its own terms; terms that were not all inclusive, but inclusive enough to serve Its Purposes. To Persist and To Survive, this living design and its perceptions had To Work. It had To Function, and many of them did and did so well.

(THE AMAZING DESIGN OF THE ALBATROSS, it Works very well! Capable of living up to 50 years, it has the widest wing span of any bird, up to 3 meters, or 11ft. It uses the principle of “Dynamic Soaring” and is capable of using wind currents to fly hundreds of kilometers without flapping its wings a single time! It can sleep in the air!)

The above paragraph should be no shock to us; we have very strong intuitions (at the least) of its accuracy. The Terms of Design are all the capitalized words and phrases: “to function”, “to persist”, “to have goals”, etc. Every designed thing is autonomous and the origin of the behaviors it is designed “to perform”. This is the reason, or the basis, for Persons rightly thinking of themselves as Free and Responsible. It is the reason we are confused to think that birds are caused to fly. The flight of a bird, just as much as the behavior of a scientist in her lab, is Informed by the design of that bird, and the acts of the scientist are informed by the standards of good experimental design and good scientific practice. They are not caused.

A great deal of time and effort has been taken on this site to argue for the importance of Causal Explain and its Limitations. Here is that limitation. Designed objects, as stated above, are not caused to behave according to their design, they are Informed in that behavior. A hawk dives to capture its “prey”. It received “signals”, “cues” to do so, which is a form of Communication or meaningful interaction between its parts. A “predator” has its “prey” as a part of it as much as any other of its vital organs. A hawk flies because (but not caused) its entire physical structure is formed to do so. The “air” in which it flies is, again, an externalized organ. In this sense, an animal does not eat atoms; it eats “food”. Designed things function in an environment that is significantly “theirs”. In this series, we have called this “seeing” the world “from the inside” (Doses 5,6). This is where Meaning lies. And this is not a scientific view; it is a well-rounded philosophy.

(The Belief that Causes Explain Our Life)

Now, we do take these kinds of integral functional relations and use them as the Data to be analyzed to find the causal mechanisms that service these purposes. This is to “see” the world from “the outside”(Dose 9). It is ‘to put the cart before the horse’ to then think that causal mechanisms are then ‘more real’ than the purposeful and functional relations they represent. They are simply more scientific, and not ethical or artistic or practical representations. They are one representation among many, but–admittedly– a very good one.

Also, we understand Design well, because we design many functioning things ourselves. These designs often possess marvelous capabilities to achieve things in the world in accordance with their design parameters. This is its Information. A design is a closed system. An aircraft is designed not by reference to the existence of neutrinos and quarks, much less the behavior of a quantum wave; it is designed in relation to the fluid-like qualities of “air” and our practical and engineering knowledge of combustion engines, materials, and even the common kite and a bird’s wing as they played a role in the entire evolution of aircraft design through the History of aviation. Atoms and quantum waves do exist, but their significance to an animal or an aircraft is highly abstract and relegated only to a distant background.

Meaning resides in all the layers of things we find relevant between ourselves as Persons and and The Universe as a quantum wave. For example, Plant Life is relevant to us and as such a meaningful comparison to our life as persons.

Acquilegia, the Columbine
German Breaded Iris
More Columbine with seed pods.

(The backyard sanctuary returning to form. It’s Spring! photos by GWW)

The phrase, “The World”, is an idealization. What we, Persons, always have is Our World in its many Forms. The Ideal of “The World” functions to sort out the Best, the most Useful ( usually for some specific purpose), the most Agreed Upon, and the most Coherent versions of our various “takes on Life”. That can become “The World” as we best understand it now. This is how we are Designed to function “To Know” and “To Believe” TRULY.

An Example of Design at the Level of Persons

Statesman, scientist, philosopher: 1561-1626

Sir Frances Bacon, wrote the first important scientific and philosophical works in English. Once imprisoned in the Tower of London, he is rumored to have authored “Shakespeare’s plays”. Known for his description and advocacy of an Empirical and Inductive Method for gaining “knowledge” of nature. He helped science establish its Information.

As much as we marvel at the laws and objects discovered by Scientists, more so we should recognize science as A Form of Meaning: an agreed upon approach with a set of standards and public review. It is an ethic, and yields one of our highly respected representations of our world.

We secure and advance the Meanings of Life by contributing to the furtherance of Our Most Cherished Forms of Action — kindness, art, science, honesty, family, craftsmanship, politics, ethics and even religion– but with the recognition that Reform is almost always needed in light of Their Values, New Times, and Our Necessary Agreement and Coordination with Others: these are Our Surest Light Forward.

German Bearded Iris: Nurturance is a very Meaningful Relationship to Our World.
Nature Religion at The Connection


——-Andrew, thank you for your appreciation!

——-Dear Mr. Bulls#!+, I don’t know how to take your “Like”. I hope you do like the piece but if not—–Please inform me more specifically from where the stink doth arise. I would love to discuss it, while you held your nose, of course.

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