Friday, 23 October 2015

Is My Writing Meaningless?

Is there meaning behind the words I write?

This year in Philosophy we have been studying what makes statements meaningful. We looked at Ayer's Verification Principle which says that statements must be true by definition (analytic propositions) and that it must be possible to empirically test them to prove them to be true or false (synthetic propositions).

I won't go into detail about the impacts this has on all sorts of language, but the idea of what makes language meaningful got me thinking.

Normally when I write I actively try to get an idea across. For me, it's not just about telling an interesting story but really bringing something new to a conversation. In my AS English coursework I wrote a short story on society's attitude to the mental illness of a young girl. Her illness was inspired by Alice in Wonderland Syndrome but the story was filled with magic realism and with the idea that nothing is as it seems. Nevertheless, the commentary on the lack of acceptance of mental illness was still there and so I believe it had meaning. Even in the trilogy I am planning/writing I am trying to subtly address inequality and how whole communities can disregard and belittle the views of another.

The points I make don't have to be my own viewpoints, but I feel as though it is important for different viewpoints to be heard. So is it wrong if a book does not have even the subtlest commentary on an aspect of life?

The examples I gave were some of the strongest elements of 'meaningfulness' I could find in my own writing. But not everything I write is that like this. It is mainly my interest in Philosophy and Ethics that makes me feel the need to often address complex ideas, or ideas that have meaning to me. But I've also written short mystery stories for the sake of the mystery, with no other intentional meaning behind it that it could be commented upon. Does this mean that works such as these should entirely be regarded as meaningless? Does it matter?

I'm no Aristotle - so in some sense all of my creative writing is meaningless because it is fiction as I am not directly producing or commenting upon new ideas. Are there even any new ideas to bring to the table?

So many rhetorical questions, but they are rhetorical because I don't actually have the answers. My own opinion is that different people can find meaning in different things - almost akin to Wittgenstein's Language Games theory which says that suggests statements are meaningful within the correct context (except he talks about being immersed in particular 'Forms of Life' which is a little different). For example, I might read a book and think it is just another soppy love story, but someone else could see a commentary on the complexity of human nature and relationships. One book could have multiple interpretations and in that way it can have more meaning to some and less to others.

My main topic of discussion here is whether or not writers should actively try to put meaning into the words they write, or if they should write just for the sake of writing with no regards to the impact their words can have on people.

I want to hear your opinions, so comment and we can start a conversation.


  1. I've recently stumbled across your blog, but will definitely be back more often if you keep writing posts like this one! Wow, what a great post. I've thought a lot about this lately, as I've looked at the two (2!!) big boxes of journals filling my closet. Part of me wants to have a big bonfire and let go of the awkwardness that is my teen years, forever immortalized on those pages. To me, all those words feel meaningless, because they were written for no one but myself. But then there's another part of me that won't let go because those journals DO mean something. They're a forever record of who I was, which is still a part of who I am.

    1. Thank you! I'm really glad you liked my post - the subject of meaning is such an interesting one. I too have diaries that would burn before letting myself read them again. Even though no one will ever read them but myself, I somehow feel embarassed by my younger self because it was like I was a whole different person. But no matter what happens to what we've written in the past (weather it be journal entries, prose, poetry - anything), the meaning doesn't really go away. It had meaning (even though Ayer may disagree), and even though that meaning has changed, it is still there.