Academic journal article et Cetera

A General Semantics Glossary (Part XXII)

Academic journal article et Cetera

A General Semantics Glossary (Part XXII)

Article excerpt


Korzybski's Structural Differential with variations. We have come to the end of our General Semantics Glossary. Not to the end of formulations that could be included. Surely not to the end of what could be said about korzybskian generalsemantics. Just to the end of what I have decided is a necessary minimum of terms and formulations that a student of general-semantics needs for a solid foundation for her/his studies; a platform from which to securely launch their flights and explorations into an epistemology sharply informed and illuminated by high-order consciousness of abstracting. As I wrote at the beginning of this exercise in 1991

(!), I assume that we all consider ourselves lifetime students of general-semantics. And 'everything' else.

Presenting a Synthetic Summary

My intent here is to present a synthetic summary of what has gone before (Glossary entries 1 through 21) by means of the Structural Differential and adaptations-explicationsextrapolations I have made of the diagram over the years, primarily for my teaching sessions in Institute of General Semantics seminar-workshops. For this text, I have drawn on the typescript of my book, The Non-Identifying Person: Conscious Self-Restructuring for the Extra-Planetary Era (I love those brief, snappy, eighteenth-century type titles!). (1) Let's proceed. (You may want to first review glossary entry 3, "abstracting," in ETC., Vol. 49, No. 4, Winter 1992, pp. 470-473.)

A Seeable Model of the Process of Abstracting

Korzybski was keenly aware of the importance of visualization for perceiving and understanding relationships. Perhaps visualization is so powerful a tool for learning because of the massive optical connections (fibers, billions of neurons, etc.) of the eye-brain system (eventuating primarily in the occipital lobe) as compared to that other main portal of learning the auditory cortex. Recognizing this, he struggled to come up with a seeable model of the process of abstracting and system building. He was especially pushed (stressfully) to invent such a model in advance of his presentation at the New School for Social Research, New York, in early 1923 before such luminaries as the "instrumentalist" philosopher and educator, John Dewey, and the behaviorist psychologist, J. B. Watson. (2) Korzybski said he wanted to "make good." And so he did.

Figure 1 represents a modification of Korzybski's "Structural Differential,' a diagram for differentiating structure (the only 'content' of knowledge), especially with regard to abstracting. The diagram constitutes a relatively static representation of a very dynamic process. The structures of a process universe (the dynamic plenum/fullness) are of necessity dynamic; but for understanding, we humans need to make relatively static representations, remembering that we do that while we're doing it, so that we can, in our understanding of the process being represented, 'set it back in motion'.

The parabola shape at the 'top' of the diagram was chosen because the 'arms' of the parabola extend indefinitely and we are representing an indefinitely extended, vastly complex process whose limits (if any) are not known (1998). The ragged ('broken off) line at the top indicates that the model maker, though wishing to represent an 'infinite' structure, cannot make an 'infinite' model. Besides, he has to fit the diagram on the quite finite page! The jagged edge represents the model maker taking responsibility for his model qua model - the signature of the model maker. As I have told seminar students for more than thirty years, "An artist may fall in love with his model, but a scientist may not."

The parabola represents the process-plenum-fullness, the non-verbal, silent event level of happenings in and of the universe ; the levels of inferred subatomic, atomic, molecular, etc., structures - the stuff of which everything we know of, including humans, is made. …

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