also relevancy (-ven-sê) noun
1. Pertinence to the matter at hand.
2. Applicability to social issues: a governmental policy lacking relevance.
3. Computer Science. The capability of an information retrieval system to select and retrieve data appropriate to a user's needs.
Abstract relations: Relation:
relevance, logical relation,
logicality, logical argument, reasoning
chain of reasoning, thread, argumentation
just relation, due proportion, conformance
suitability, point, application, applicability, appositeness, pertinence, propriety, comparability, fitness
case in point, good example, classic example, poor example, palmary instance, role model, example
relativeness: logical relation (see relevance)
fitness: relevancy, pertinence, admissibility, appositeness, case in point, good example, relevance
meaning: relevance, bearing, scope
I at least have so much to
do in unravelling certain human lots, and seeing how they were woven and
interwoven, that all the light
I can command must be concentrated on this particular web, and not dispersed
over that tempting range of relevancies called the universe.
George Eliot (1819-80), English novelist, editor. Middlemarch, bk. 2, ch. 15 (1871).
Wherever the relevance of
speech is at stake, matters become political by definition, for speech
is what makes man a political being.
Hannah Arendt (1906-75), German-born U.S. political philosopher. The Human Condition, Prologue (1958).
Existence is no more than
the precarious attainment of relevance in an intensely
of past, present, and future.
Susan Sontag (b. 1933), U.S. essayist. Styles of Radical Will, "'Thinking Against Oneself': Reflections on Cioran" (1969).
It is not altogether wrong
to say that there is no such thing as a bad photograph- only less interesting,
less relevant, less mysterious ones.
Susan Sontag (b. 1933), U.S. essayist. On Photography, "The Heroism of Vision" (1977).
One cannot be a good historian
of the outward, visible world without giving some thought to the hidden,
private life of ordinary people; and on the other hand one cannot be a
good historian of this inner life without taking into account outward events
where these are relevant. They are two orders of fact which reflect each
other, which are always linked and which sometimes provoke each other.
Victor Hugo (1802-85), French poet, dramatist, novelist. Les Misérables, pt. 4, bk. 7, ch. 1 (1862).
May we agree that private
life is irrelevant? Multiple, mixed, ambiguous at best- out of it we try
to fashion the crystal clear, the singular, the absolute, and that is what
is relevant; that is what matters.
May Sarton (1912-1995), U.S. poet, novelist. Hilary Stevens, in Mrs. Stevens Hears the Mermaids Singing, pt. 2 (1965).
Don't give your opinions
about Art and the Purpose of Life. They are of little interest and, anyway,
you can't express them. Don't analyse yourself. Give the relevant facts
and let your readers make their own judgments. Stick to your story. It
is not the most important subject in history but it is one about which
you are uniquely qualified to speak.
Evelyn Waugh (1903-66), British novelist. Tablet (London, 5 May 1951), in review of Stephen Spender's autobiography, World Within World.
The word 'relevant' derives from a verb 'to relevate', which has dropped out of common usage, whose meaning is 'to lift' (as in 'elevate'). In essence, 'to relevate' means 'to lift into attention', so that the content thus lifted stands out 'in relief'. When a content lifted into attention is coherent or fitting with the context of interest, i.e., when it has some bearing on the context of the relationship to it, then one says that this content is 'relevant'; and of course, when it does not fit in this way, it is said to be 'irrelevant'.
As an example, we can take the writings of Lewis Carroll, which are full of humour arising from the use of the irrelevant. Thus, in _Through the Looking Glass_, there is a conversation between the Mad Hatter and the March Hare, containing the sentence: 'This watch doesn't run, even though I used the best butter.'
Such a sentence lifts into attention the irrelevant notion that the grade of butter has a bearing on the running of watches - a notion that evidently does not fit the context of the actual structure of watches.
In making a statement about relevance, one is treating
thought and language as realities,
on the same level as the context in which the statement is made, looking
or giving attention both to this context and to the overall function of
thought and language, to see whether they fit each other. Thus, to see
the relevance or irrelevance of a statement is primarily an act of perception
of a very high order similar to that involved in seeing its truth or falsity.
In one sense the question of relevance comes before that of truth,
because to ask whether a statement is true or false presupposes that it
is relevant (so that to try and assert the truth or falsity of an irrelevant
statement is a form of confusion), but in a deeper sense the seeing of
relevance or irrelevance is evidently an aspect of the perception of truth
in its overall meaning.
Clearly, the act of apprehending relevance or irrelevance cannot be reduced to a technique or a method, determined by some set of rules. Rather, this is an 'art', both in the sense of requiring creative perception and in the sense that this perception has to develop further in a kind of skill (as in the work of the artisan).
Thus it is not right, for example, to regard the division between relevance and irrelevance as a form of accumulated knowledge of properties belonging to statements (e.g., by saying that certain statements 'possess' relevance while others do not). Rather, in each case, the statement of relevance or irrelevance is communicating a perception taking place at the moment of expression, and is the individual context indicated in that moment. As the context in question changes, a statement that was initially relevant may thus cease to be so, or vice versa. Moreover, one cannot even say that a given statement is relevant or irrelevant, and that this covers all the possibilites. Thus, in many cases, the total context may be such that one cannot clearly perceive whether the statement has bearing or not. This means that one has to learn more, and that the issue is, as it were, in a state of flux.
So when relevance or irrelevance is communicated, one has to understand that this is not a hard and fast division between opposing categories but, rather, an expression of an ever-changing perception, in which it is possible, for the moment, to see a fit or non-fit between the content lifted into attention and the context to which it refers.
At present, the question of fitting or non-fitting is discussed through a language structure in which nouns are taken as basic (e.g., by saying 'this notion is relevant'). Such a structure does indeed formally imply a hard and fast division between relevance and irrelevance. So the form of the language is continually introducing a tendency toward fragmentation, even in those very features whose function is to call attention to the wholeness of language and the context in which it is being used. As already stated we are, of course, often able to overcome this tendency toward fragmentation by using language in a freer, more informal, and 'poetic' way, that properly communicates the truly fluid nature of the difference between relevance and irrelevance.
Bohm - _Wholeness And The Implicate Order_