Academic journal article ETC.: A Review of General Semantics

"Structuring" to Make Sense of Our World

Academic journal article ETC.: A Review of General Semantics

"Structuring" to Make Sense of Our World

Article excerpt

This map, this live picture of a portion of the ongoing world of processes, is not of the same order of existence as the territory, as the world of processes itself. It is something different, something brought into existence by our own activity.

--J. Samuel Bois, The Art of Awareness, p.84


A Definition of "Structure" as a Noun

We tend to regard "structure" as a thing, a structure. In concrete terms "structure" can mean a physical entity, an assembly of parts, a bridge, or a building. In the abstract, we often use "structure" to indicate certain interrelationships: the structure of a novel or symphony, or the structure of language. Even if used in relation to a design, plan, or model, the word "structure" suggests something stable and fixed. Dictionaries define "structure" as both a verb and a noun, e.g., Webster's Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary defines (1) structure as a noun, and (2) structure as a verb.

A Definition of "Structure" as a Verb

It is this second definition, the dynamic, active, happening aspect of structuring, constructing, putting together, that I will explore in this paper--structuring as something we do. Our structuring, as an activity of our nervous systems, makes it possible for us to us apprehend, comprehend, and understand our world. I have made the following definition:

   structuring as verb (transitive). A proposed definition based on
   general semantics principles. A self-conscious act involving
   imaginative, verbal, graphic, manipulative, etc., ordering
   (arranging, visualizing) of a thing-situation-process into
   interrelated and interactive components--with an awareness that
   our structuring-process exists as only one of indefinitely many
   other possible structurings, and that our structurings are not,
   and cannot be the same as (identical with) whatever object of
   our 'attention' we are structuring.

We also note that:

* as a map is not the territory, so a structure is not the structure we have structured.

* structuring as presented here involves the assumption that all thing-processes 'existing' in different space-time frames are unique.

In structuring mode, we are aware that words, theories, opinions, explanations, mathematical formulae, news, gestures, and other forms of representation, are not the thing-processes-territories that they represent. In structuring mode we are aware of differences between what we think, feel, say, expect, etc., and what is going on. In structuring, we give the highest priority to our self-conscious awareness that there are limits to our representational (mapping) abilities, limits to the accuracy of our representations, and limits to what we can know. In structuring, we improve our communication as we become aware that our thoughts represent only one point of view, that there are many possible points of viewing, and that no one can think or say all about anything. When we do our structuring in this way, we can often avoid conflict, stress, and hostility.

If we are not being fanatic and obsessive, we can talk about and 'map' a situation from many points of viewing. Similarly, we can structure a situation from many different perspectives--psychological, political, scientific, technological, religious, economic, ethical, artistic, comedic, etc. (To avoid elementalism, we must remember that to some degree these activities are interrelated.)

"Structuring" as an Activity

This paper will,

(a) outline the benefits of developing awareness of the "structuring" we do

(b) show how to improve awareness of "structuring" by

(i) using techniques based on the calculus

(ii) using the general semantics formulation of non-identity/identification (and other related formulations)

(iii) developing ongoing awareness of the space-time interval as related to non-identity/identification and "structuring. …

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