International Journal of Existential Positive Psychology

The Meaning of Meaning

Jordan Peterson


The world is too complex to manage without radical functional simplification. Meaning appears to exist as the basis for such simplification. The meaning that guides functional simplification may be usefully considered as consisting of three classes. The first class consists of meanings of the determinate world. These are meanings based in motivation, emotion, and personal and social identity. First class meanings are grounded in instinct and tend, at their most abstract, towards the dogmatic or ideological. The second class consists of meanings of the indeterminate world. These are meanings based on the emergence of anomaly, or ignored complexity. Second class meanings are also instinctively grounded, but tend towards the revolutionary. The third class consists of meanings of the conjunction between the determinate and indeterminate worlds. These are meanings that emerge first as a consequence of voluntary engagement in exploratory activity and second as a consequence of identifying with the process of voluntary exploration. Third class meanings find their abstracted representation in ritual and myth, and tend towards the spiritual or religious.

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