Developing Sanity in Human Affairs

By Susan Presby Kodish; Robert P. Holston | Go to book overview

8
General-Semantics: A Critical and Meta-Critical System

Milton Dawes

A criticism unavoidably involves comparisons: based on explicitly stated or unstated goals, ideas, norms, standard, criteria, premises, frame of reference, expectations, traditions, etc., against which some person, behavior, situation, thing, statement, and so on, is measured. Unfortunately, very rarely does one come across a criticizer, critic, or school of critical thinking that emphasizes the importance of being explicit in stating; or that takes the time to mention the particular criteria, ideals, standards, etc., that ground a criticism; or that supports prescriptions and directions for developing skills in what is called critical thinking. I propose that addressing this neglect is especially urgent for advocates of critical thinking.

If the above is taken as a criticism, a valid question is, "What personal criteria, ideals, etc., stand behind this criticism?" Here is a response. My criticism is based on an assumption that the chief objective in promoting critical thinking is to improve 'ordinary' thinking. But to do this, one would have to study, analyze, and evaluate 'ordinary' thinking, on the basis of some antecedent dissatisfaction, and with a belief that improvement is possible. Following this, it seems reasonable to me to expect anyone promoting critical thinking to show what their studies revealed about the shortcomings of 'ordinary' thinking, and on what grounds they have evaluated certain aspects of 'ordinary' thinking as shortcomings. I would also expect such persons to support their claims that their suggested improvements qualify as improvements. If this does not happen, I am of the opinion that what is promoted as critical thinking will incorporate, at more sophisticated level, much of what was considered unsatisfactory about 'ordinary' thinking. And this could be very damaging as a consequence of the added factors of expertise and institutionalization.

Alfred Korzybski formulated a critical, educative, psycholinguistic, and psychotherapeutic system some sixty years ago. He called his system An Introduction to Non-Aristotelian Systems and General Semantics. Although a

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