The Meaning Of Great

Peter Oye Sagay

Aug 25, 2018

The concepts words describe predate the words that describe them. Consequently, if a word is to be contextually invariant (i.e. absolute in meaning) in all human spaces, the spaces must agree, in general, on the mapping that maps the word onto the concept it describes. This agreement on word-concept mapping is the basis for language.

The word great is used frequently by many people in various languages and in various contexts. So, one can posit that it is not a word that is contextually invariant. However, two of its variants: large and exceptional are often part of spoken and written presentations. The latter variant is often verbalized especially by politicians and it is the focus in this presentation.

When is the claim of greatness in the context of exceptionalism valid? There are some who do not want to acknowledge the existence of greatness. The truth is that greatness exists and the story of human progress is conditioned on the existence of greatness. Any original discovery is a great discovery and the discoverer is great. Can greatness be ranked? Yes. The ranking of greatness is based on the fundamentality of the original discovery and its universal benefits. In other words, the more fundamental and universally beneficial an original discovery is, the greater the discovery and the discoverer. However, this ranking must be contextual. For example, it is appropriate to say that country X is the greatest country technologically (militarily, economically, etc) but inappropriate to say country X is the greatest country because fundamental original discoveries that are universally beneficial were not all discovered in any one country.

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