Concepts that Apply to Everything: Being and Meaning

Concepts are rules for dividing things into two groups: the things that fall under the concept and the things that don’t fall under the concept.  So if you possess the concept “horse” you are able to distinguish between horses and non-horses.  If you are unable to so distinguish, you lack the concept horse.

What about being?  Is that a concept?  According to the above you should be able, if you possess competence at the concept “being” to distinguish between things that are things that are not.  The only problem with this is that there are no things that aren’t, as they aren’t.

A similar issue seems to come up with the concept “meaning” or “meaningful”.  If you possess the concept “meaning” you should be able to distinguish things that are meaningful from things that are meaningless.  But what if everything were meaningful?  Then there would be no example of the meaningless to discriminate from.

Suppose I ask you for an example of the meaningless and you say “Gazblaba”.  Is Gazblaba meaningless?  No, it isn’t. You have just proffered it as an example of meaninglessness, and therefore it has meaning.

So is the definition of “concept” wrong?

Or is the concept of meaning meaningless?

If the concept of meaning is meaningless then so is the statement “the concept of meaning is meaningless”.

If the definition of concept given above is wrong, what is the correct one?


5 thoughts on “Concepts that Apply to Everything: Being and Meaning

  1. “[T]here are no things that aren’t” calls to mind the old ontological joke:

    1. Describe the Universe.
    2. Give two examples.

    Given that “Does meaninglessness exist?” is so resistant to a simple yes or no, would “It is available” (paraphrasing DSE? p. 175) be a more honest answer?

    Or does meaninglessness serve as its own meta-meaninglessness (out to infinite levels of regression), in rough analogy to the way that the Limitless can be said to be its own meta-Limitless (inasmuch as, having withdrawn from a region and thus rendering it Limitless-less, it nevertheless continues to encompass it)?

  2. Mikey says:

    How about this:
    Concepts are tools for separating things on a spectrum: the things that most fall under the concept at one end and the things that fall under the concept least at the other.

  3. Mikey says:

    Because even something as binary seeming as ‘horse’ is a bit on a spectrum. Like a pencil is not a horse, but if your child picks up the pencil and says “neigh” and bounces it around then, yeah, it’s now picked up a bit of horseiness.

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