The term “meaning” can refer, broadly speaking, to two different things: the relationship between signs or symbols and what they signify, or the general feeling of having a purpose in life.

In fact, I suspect that these two senses of the word are really the same. When we look at an object in the external world (assuming naïvely that such a thing exists), it induces an internal phenomenon. This phenomenon is more or less identical to the meaning of the thing—or rather, the phenomenon is itself a second-order image of the meaning, such that the meaning is what mediates the object’s being and the final phenomenon induced in consciousness. Or, to put it yet another way, the subjective phenomenon is one particular variation or reflection of the object’s meaning, which contains (so to speak) the potential of all possible phenomena inducible in all conscious beings under all possible circumstances.1

Nihilism is both the absence of felt meaning and the metaphysical claim that it is impossible for anything to exist objectively. I don’t think nihilism is correct, but I do feel it, and I consider it a serious problem.

See also

  1. Don’t get distracted by the use of the metaphor “contains” in reference to what does not yet exist and may never exist. The point is that phenomena are a particular realization of meanings, where the meaning is in the object and the phenomena in the subject (or else, the meaning is the mediating force between the subject and the object).