Correspondence

By Bruff, J. Russell | et Cetera, Fall 1998 | Go to article overview

Correspondence


Bruff, J. Russell, et Cetera


How About "Evaluatics"

Sirs: In getting started in general semantics, I found myself seriously misevaluating the discipline. At first depending solely on the printed word, I progressed but slowly. Gradually I came to understand that I was unconsciously permitting my older evaluation patterns of "the meaning in the word," etc., to block my efforts to develop the new pattern in which the emphasis is placed upon the individual evaluating the symbol. And it became apparent to me that writers on general semantics were often encountering the same difficulty and fostering it by what they wrote. Thus "language" was observed to be linked with "action," implying that language may function as an operationally effective agent influencing the passive object, the individual.

To free myself from this frequent unconscious reversion to the former orientation toward human behavior in signsymbol situations as the outcome resulting from the effective operation of sign and/or symbols upon the individual, and to maintain more constantly the orientation toward human behavior as primarily an evaluation process occurring in an individual, I have found it helpful to avoid the use of certain terms. The words avoided were those which, because of past and present usage, I seemed persistently to associate with the older evaluation patterns.

Among these terms were the words meaning (as applied to symbols), signification, and, most important of all, semantics. The use of these words seemed too often to be associated with a misorientation and a misevaluation when judged in terms of the basic formulations of general semantics. Whenever I used these terms I seemed to be implying that in a situation involving a "human individual in a sign-symbol field" the effective operator causing action was located outside the individual in the signs and/or symbols.

I finally considered the advisability of discarding the label "general semantics." Because much of my own difficulty in getting at the essential features of this discipline seemed traceable to my evaluations when the word semantics was encountered, I now feel that a new term should be selected to refer to this field. This conviction has been reinforced by my experience in trying to explain it to others. …

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