Following up on the recent posts regarding the naturalist’s use of terms that explicitly or by way of reference denote metaphysical/philosophical/theological concepts, I want to address the process of how we come to find things/life meaningful.
First, the process is a dialectical one. When we look at a sunset, fall in love, read a poem, or engage in those aspects of life that especially strike or move us, it is not that we are just assigning meaning to these events as an impersonal, objective, neutral observer but we are being acted upon as well by these events. In other words, the question becomes: Is the universe pregnant with meaning to begin with? Are we just assigning (“creating”) meaning or are we recognizing the meaning that is always and already present? Are we recognizing signs or simply creating signs?
The only way one could say we have to be subjectively creating and making up our “meaning” is if he started with the faith-position or presupposition that there is no God or transcendence/spirit and the universe is an impersonal, accidental, meaningless, purposeless space—it just is. Of course, that is as they say another kettle of fish altogether. This is also why the naturalist’s rationale regarding the supposed necessity of the subjectivity of “created” meaning is nothing more than question-begging as to the greater question of God’s existence.
Putting that 800 pound gorilla in the room aside, the further related question for the naturalist who would answer that there are no signs and no meaning, we have to, rather, create our own “meaning,” is: Why? What would be the point or need to create meaning and signs if none exist outside our minds/wills? How would we know what “meaning” even was and why would we even care? If there is no possibility of a reciprocal communicative relationship between subject and object/sign (the ability to recognize a sign or meaning I didn’t create), if there is no possibility of transcendental fulfillment, if there is no correlative truth to any of the “meanings” outside our own subjective minds, whence the compulsion to keep on “creating” this “meaning?” Especially (if the naturalist is correct), there actually is no meaning to be discovered—or no way for it to align with or find fulfillment outside our minds.
Related to that thread, a universal aspect to all people groups from every historical age is the belief or desire that the world is, or that it be, more than it seems. This stems from two related senses, one, that there is something wrong with this world and, two, the hope of a better world or life now and in eternity. Interestingly enough, the naturalist cannot escape this paradigm. He too feels there is something wrong with this world (just ask a couple of political questions and you will find out just how wrong!) and he has suggestions or a plan for how it could be “better” (again, just ask how he would fix what he just told you was all wrong!).
Of course, at the same time he will tell us that the meaning he is assigning to these areas- he has “created” himself (how? why?-he doesn’t know) out of a meaningless and purposeless universe and if we had created the exact opposite “meaning,” it would all, well, be…rather meaningless…except for the “meaning” we attribute to it…which is still…meaningless…except for…well, you get the point.