Academic journal article ETC.: A Review of General Semantics

Epistemological Background for Knowing and Naming

Academic journal article ETC.: A Review of General Semantics

Epistemological Background for Knowing and Naming

Article excerpt

WILLIAM J. WILLIAMS [*]

"In certain ways, the creation of special subjects of study and division of labor was an important step forward. It enabled us to reduce our difficulties to manageable proportions. Nevertheless, the ability to separate the environment from ourselves, and to divide and apportion things, led to a wide range of negative and destructive results."

ANY FULL DISCUSSION or rigorous, meticulous, qualitative analysis has to include, if it is to be meticulous, something on the origins and emergence of views, tools, and language for the selection of new symbols.

In the first instance, an evaluation of the present symbols, ideas, and language being used is automatically done with "types" of abstracting. However, the criteria for choosing new constructs and formulations to supplant them or present innovative ideas resides specifically in a kind of perspective (worldview and mindset) and an epistemological method.

The following will clarify, to some extent, how to view the present symbols and develop new symbols and formulations.

Epistemological Perspective for Knowing and Naming

Art, science, and human work, in general, are divided up into specialties, each considered to be separate from the other. Becoming dissatisfied with the state of affairs, we set up interdisciplinary subjects intended to unite specialties, but we end up creating separate fragments. Society as a whole has in the same way broken up into separate nations and religious, political, economic, social, and racial groups. The natural environment has thus been seen as an aggregate of separate, existent parts. Each human being has been fragmented into a large number of separate and conflicting compartments. It has always been both necessary and proper for humans to divide things up and separate them into parts. In certain ways, the creation of special subjects of study and division of labor was an important step forward. It enabled us to reduce our difficulties to manageable proportions. Nevertheless, the ability to separate the environment from ourselves, and to divide and apportion things, led to a wide range of negat ive and destructive results. We extended the process of division beyond the limits within which it works properly. The process of division is a way of thinking about things useful mainly in the domain of teaching and mechanical logical "common sense" activities; for example, dividing up a piece of land, building an engine, and assigning people to areas of work. When this mode of thinking is applied more broadly to parts of ourselves and the whole world in which we live (worldview), the divisions are not useful or convenient tools. Guided by a fragmentary self-worldview, we act and break up the world according to our thinking. The fragmentation we create takes on an autonomous existence.

There appears to be two different lines of operation. For example, the word health in English is based on an Anglo-Saxon word "hole" meaning "whole." To be healthy is to be whole. Likewise, the English "holy" is based on the same root as "whole." This suggests that humans have sensed that wholeness is an absolute necessity. However, we have generally lived in fragmentation. Since our thought is pervaded with differences and distinctions, it follows that such a habit leads us to look on these as real divisions, so that the world is then seen and experienced as actually broken up into fragments.

Thought and Reality

The relationship between thought and reality is in fact far more complex than that of a mere correspondence. It is about theory. Thus, in scientific research, a great deal of our thinking is in terms of theories. The word "theory" is derived from the Greek "theoria," which has the same root as "theater," in a word meaning "to view" or "to make a spectacle." Thus, it might be said that a theory is primarily a form of insight; that is, a way of looking at the world, and not a form of knowledge of how the world is. …

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