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INTERPRETATION VS. MEANING

October 8th, 2020

 

The border between interpretation and meaning is non-existent because one is mistaken for the other.  An event occurs and it’s meaning seems obvious to the individual, but status of meaning has been transposed with a personal interpretation.

 

The word interpretation comes from translate, explain.  Our interpretation is our attempt to explain what we see, it’s an attempt to find meaning.  Certainly some interpretations are also the meaning, but this is not necessarily the case, and yet we behave as though it is always the case.  Some odd mutation of free speech has recently crept into the validity of perspective.  This is reflected by new uses of words, like truth.  Instead of truth or truths that are valid between and across all perspectives, there is now my truth and your truth. These aren’t truths of course, but perspectives, they are interpretations of reality.  Meaning and truth exist on an entirely different level - or at least they did.  But for what reason?

 

If truth and meaning collapse down to join the more common concepts of perspective, opinion and interpretation, then conversation as a whole loses something valuable.  With any evolving entity, there is growth, and there is a paring back.  Species may explode in numbers upon the discovery of a new resource, and then the herd is culled by other forces like new predators or environmental changes.  The ones that survive mark a small step in that evolution.

 

We can apply the same situation to meaning and truth within our conversation.  Meaning and Truth are the entities of sense-making that are supposed to endure across generations, first and foremost for our benefit.  If we can establish best practices for the largest possible set of circumstances, then our chances of enduring are higher.   But with the bloat of valid perspectives growing to overtake the status of truth and meaning as shared among many, then our ability to make proper sense of things grows lumbersome and clumsy.  Our ability to make sense of new circumstances becomes weak because we can no longer winnow down our many interpretations to something meaningful, something that might embody the truth of the situation, something that can help the greatest number of people because it’s valid across individual situations.

 

One interpretation of this issue hinges on the idea that we don’t control language, but that it controls us.  Just wonder for a moment: can you willingly create a new word and get it adopted by everyone else with absolute certainty?  Absolutely not.  Such things happen by accident.  It’s the same as asking if you can create a viral meme at will - it’s just not possible.  It’s as though something other than ourselves is asking what shall propagate meaningfully across our many minds.  Perhaps language is it’s own entity, and human minds are its host, and language is bloating into a hysterical and nonsensical form in order to thin our herd.  Viruses evolve by killing off huge swathes of their hosts, and in turn the virus grows stronger by competing with the immune systems of the survivors.  This sort of arms race happens everywhere in nature, all the time, why would we be safeguarded from the wandering vicissitudes of evolution?  Who says that evolution is relegated only to organisms?  Certainly ideas and language bloat and compete and winnow and die against one another just as organisms do.  Perhaps the relationship goes beyond that and a symbiotic relationship between words and people creates sticky feedback loops where not all make it through the filter of evolution?  Perhaps it’s not so much that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks as it is the trick evolves and tricks the dog.


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Podcast Ep. 907: Interpretation vs. Meaning

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