IGS Discussion Forums: Learning GS Topics: Approaching S&S with an Analytical and Evaluative Objectives
Author: Ralph E. Kenyon, Jr. (diogenes) Wednesday, July 11, 2007 - 01:52 pm Link to this messageView profile or send e-mail

There seems to be as much trouble with "formulation" as with "concept".

In accordance with the third umpire, marks on paper, vibrations in air, patterns of light and dark on a screen, are not "formulations" until he says so. In order, however, for that to "be the case", we must include the context. We are born into what we learn to call a society, and we use what we learn to call "words" doing what we learn to call "communicating" (from generation to generation, from person to person, and within ourselves from moment to moment).

Each of us, of course, has a unique set of experiences to draw on, and therefore, a unique way of responding to "marks on paper", etc.

(1) The "marks on paper", etc., "convey" no "meaning"; they have no "sense", they "represent" nothing, but when a human being properly trained by interacting with society experiences said marks, etc., he or she responds with marks, etc. (the same or different) and with behaviors that an external observer could correlate with other peoples behavior associated with "the same" marks, etc.

(2) It is the hypothesized external observer who can see correlations between marks, etc., and behavior of those associated with the marks, etc., who can "write" etc., in the observer's tongue "marks", etc., that other observers have learned to respond consistently to. In this external observer perspective, which some might call a "god's eye view" relative invarience over time and the corresponding correlated consistent behavior can be called "time-binding" in a culture.

But each entry into the time-binding community must learn the words and consistent behavior, and once done so, then contribututes to maintaining consistency by "teaching" other new entrants, thus contributing towards maintaining the observable relative invariances.

As time-binders, and particularly as general semanticists noted for thinking in levels, we note the "similarity" of structure between (1) and (2) above, and thus we can say that we are communicating "meaning" metaphorically from one to another once we have learned the patterns.

In the abstraction spectrum from event level up through verbal levels, we go from outside ourselves to inside ourselvels to back outside ourselves again. The words "thoughts", "concepts", "ideas", etc., are, as consistent behavior would have it, "intended" to apply to the "inside" us part of the process, but the word "formulation" is intended to apply to the verbal level after it is emitted by a person into the time-binding record. Once emitted, however, a new time-binder is once again abstracting from "marks", etc., through his or her associations (presumed highly correlated to the behavior of others) back though and outside as emitted formulations. Marks with "the same form" can be agreed on as to "being the same formulation".

So the "analysis" that breaks down (1) differentiated from the "analysis" that breaks down (2) "synthesizes" a multi-level structure correlating both using multi-ordinal formulations, allowing the sense of (2) to "inform" (1). We can thereby say that write or speak "words" which most time-binders "understand" in terms of a more-or-less "dictionary" formulation. "Formulations" are "marks", etc., taken multiordinally together with the correlated potential behaviors.

But when we "divorce" the culturally correlated behaviors with the formulation that "the word is not the 'thing' (referent including culturally consistent behavior), we are in a sense weakening, breaking, divorcing, etc., the relative invariance, and we are, in so doing, directly reducing the effective ability to "communicate". Consistent subsequent observation (2) would detect a reduction in the correlation, and that would allow the "observers" to say, in their own tongue, that the participants (1) are "failing to communicate" becaues they are "using the terms" in an inconsistent manner - inconsistent with the prior cultural (1) experience as well as inconsistent with each other.

"Verbal levels" "supervene" on both event and "object" levels. "Words" indicate high levels of abstraction and "marks on paper" the lower "object" level. Both of these level "(co-)exist" with the more abstract levels in the following manner. "Words" are instantiated in neurological process, and descriptions of neurological process involves organizing perceptions.

Whenever a "word" is being uttered, simultaneously neurological process are occuring. The two descriptions represent different levels of abstracting. "Words" (formulations) do not "exist" without a physical instantiation in terms of "things" (processes) in "what is going on".

In a data processing context, we can describe changing the voltage on a certain line as signalling reading from memory; we can describe the same event as retrieving a variable from memory; we can describe the same event as recalling a datum.

In a human context, we can describe changing the voltage potential and a cascade reaction along a certain path. We can describe this as the firing of a number of neurons. We can describe this as contracting muscles in a sequence. We can describe this as controlling the vocal chord tension and the mouth shape while exhaling. We can describe this as speaking a word.

All these levels of perspective occur simultaneously, and we say each higher level "supervenes" on the lower level. "Reductionism" is saying that only the lowest level is the "correct" or "proper" description.

But the higher levels simply don't exist without the lower levels. The reverse cannot be said.

Author: Ralph E. Kenyon, Jr. (diogenes) Wednesday, July 11, 2007 - 02:21 pm Link to this messageView profile or send e-mail

David writes It is fine with me if you wish to think that changing the way you talk is the best way to change how you think. Personally, I think it is a little backward. Sort of like the tail wagging the dog. I can say that this "Behaviorist" approach does not work well for me. I typically need to change my percepts and concepts before I can change my formulas, and if necessary, the terms I use.

David, what you say does not seem to be consistent with the generally accepted precept of general semantics known as the Whorfian Hypothesis. It says that how we perceive the world is affected by and to some extent determined by the words we have available and use to describe the world. It's but a simple generalization to apply this to words used at higher levels of abstracting.

This does not mean that we cannot experience a sense of inconsistency or contradiction in the use of a single term; it seems to me that that kind of experience is what drives us to invent new terms so as to verbally crystalize and differentiate what seemed ambiguous. It was just such an ambiguity in the use of the word "never" that allowed me to resolve the twenty-five century old problem known as Zeno's paradoxes.

I think in the majority of cases our language does more or less determine our thinking; "thought" has on occasion been characterized or formulated as "interiorized imitation of language". It is however on the rare occasions that we just cannot get the right word that we are forced to invent new ones.

I am personally acutely aware of this, as I have long experienced a mild form of a learning disability known as "word retrieval defecit", which for years I called the "tip of the tongue error". It was particularly bad with dates and names in high school. (I'm also noticing that it seems more frequent now that I'm in my '60's.)

I see the relation between "words" which supervene on neurological processes (my previous post) and "concepts" which have been called "neurological processes" as essentially one and the same, but seen at different levels of abstraction. To say that one "causes" the other seems to me to be another example of the classical philosophical problem with dualism - how does mental "substance" interact with physical "substance"?

For every word we utter we have a neurological process that it may be "reduced" to simply by cutting out the higher level, supervenent, perspective. They happen at the same time. Since "concepts" have been defined as nurological processe, we have no difference in kind between concepts and words. Certainly we may experience neurological process that are not accompanied with the historically experienced musclature involved in uttering sounds that some would recognize as a word.

When we first learn a word, our neurological process have few connections with others and few connections with utterance control circuits.

Experience must connect these by building neurological connections that instantiate them.

The discussion seems almost moot to me. Here's why. How would you scientifically test this "chicken or egg" question?

Author: Ralph E. Kenyon, Jr. (diogenes) Wednesday, July 11, 2007 - 09:45 pm Link to this messageView profile or send e-mail

David wrote, Words are arbitrary symbols that are "associated" with pre-verbal concepts. Concepts are pre-verbal compositions of percepts, and/or other previously composed concepts. My claim was that each are instantiated in the brain as neurological patterns, and that, as such, at that level, they are the same kind of thing. But we do not have access to observe that level. We only have the level of formulations available to observe (some PET scans notwithstanding).

We have access to the printed and written word levels for both "words" and "concepts", but we do not have access to non-verbal leves other than our own private introspective "contemplation", and the only way we can "communicate" is to choose words and formulate. You (or somebody) tells me that a concept is a neurological network in activation. I can get nothing meaningful out of that level of description. Nothing I can use. The same is true if you describe a "word" as a neurological pattern of activity. That's why I think the discussion is moot as to what concepts "are". Give me formulations and definitions - something extensional. If you offer a name and tell me that it is the name of a concept, I need to learn experiences so that you (and others) will agree that I am using the name of the concept consistent with what you (and others) intend. With concepts by intuition, I don't think we can achieve 100 percent agreement. With concepts by postulate, we can. But "concept" simpliciter, well that's not useful to me.

Another haiku:

I point at the moon;
you see the one at the root
of my finger nail.

Author: Ralph E. Kenyon, Jr. (diogenes) Friday, July 13, 2007 - 11:51 pm Link to this messageView profile or send e-mail

David wrote Can you relate your last few posts back to the original topic of inconsistencies implied by some of AK's propositions? This post noted that "words" supervene on neurological processes, whereas korzybski has words abstracted from neurological process via transition from neurological (object) levels to verbal levels.
Event, object, and verbal levels all coexist. There are event level processes outside our nevrous system and there are event level processes within our nervous system. When we project our model onto what is going on that includes the explanation of what is going on outside our nervous systems as well as what is going on within our nervous systems. Our model is much more coherent and precise for what is projected externally to our nervous system than what is projected internal to our nervous system, but they are both models. The words that we assume have meaning or which we learn to have semantic reactions to, are an even higher level that supervenes on the level of the model. All three levels coexist. Relating the structural differential means that as we process what is going on, we change levels of abstraction as a function of time. We talk about the event level at t1, the object level at t2, and the verbal levels at t3+. When we speak of words as "marks on paper" we are choosing to project our model onto what is going on and dropping back to the lower level descrption at t{3+}.

A "word" "is an elementalism", etc., only in so far as a person using it has learned to use it in a manner consistent with what an external observer can conclude is how others used it as Korzybski described.

The "marks on paper" have no meaning, as "meaning " is the semantic reaction that the reader has to the "mark on paper". The reader has the meaning in virtue of his or her past time-binding experience, which began as a babbeling baby, who got rewarded for babbling sounds familiar to parents and others.

In principle, there's no reason that any particular word has any particular "shape"; this is the sense in which words and symbols are "arbitrary". As a practical manner, each of us learns a word through time-binding, and we learn from others who learned from others, etc. Hence the words (both marks on paper and verbal level) is not the "thing" (what is going or the model). The learning process is not "the creation of a perfect copy", so there are idiosyntracies for each person. (More word is not the thing.)

Time binding, however, allows the transmission of formulations in a one to many many to one, and many to many pattern. When multiple variant transmissions interact, a statistical norm can be observed, and Lexicographers formulate such norms, which then become "authoratative" sources for new learners, greatly increasing the coherence of formulations associated with a given word. These "definitions" together with "connotations" (less precise and more varied) can be said to be what the word "means". It is these "meanings", which happen to be a function of both the culture as well as the evolving time that can be described in a culture at a time by virtually every literate member of the culture. Hence words do have relatively invariant "meanings" which affect and influence people's thinking.

The "contradiction" you asked for.

Author: Ralph E. Kenyon, Jr. (diogenes) Friday, July 13, 2007 - 11:55 pm Link to this messageView profile or send e-mail

In order to "abolish" the terminology, you have to abolish all the time-binding and learning that created the terminology and the acquistition of it. Take this away and the ability to talk about or do the "science" appropriate to that terminology is removed. You cannot simply "abolish" the terminology without altering that which it is connected to. So, abolish the terminology and you abolish the science in question.

Author: Ralph E. Kenyon, Jr. (diogenes) Saturday, July 14, 2007 - 12:02 am Link to this messageView profile or send e-mail

Words have power over us, because we acquired the words and we used the words consistently with our past learning. I suggest looking at Edward T. Hall's The Silent Language and pay particular attention to the discussion of formal message systems. I find the "formal-informal-technical" distinctions very informative, and I've referred to it many times.

Author: Ralph E. Kenyon, Jr. (diogenes) Saturday, July 14, 2007 - 12:39 am Link to this messageView profile or send e-mail

Corrected link.

Author: Ralph E. Kenyon, Jr. (diogenes) Saturday, July 14, 2007 - 09:01 am Link to this messageView profile or send e-mail

Ralph wrote: A "word" "is an elementalism", etc., only in so far as a person using it has learned to use it in a manner consistent with what an external observer can conclude is how others used it as Korzybski described.

To which David responded: I think the key word here is "conclude". ... A "jump to conclusion" occurs if the listener does not first hypothesize about the meaning (in each instance), and then test their hypothesis before moving on to a conclusion. In my statement is was not the listener who can made the conclusion. It was an external observer.

My approach to "elementalism" varies from Korzybski, in that I consider the usage as exhibiting an orientation that might be judged by others as elementalistic. I do not exactly agree with Korzybski, the institute (personified) and many other who seem to "identify" "elementalism" as a "property" (characteristic) inherent in certain words, independent of the context of their use.

David also wrote "I'd say that "hypothetical meaning" is the semantic reaction that the reader has to the "mark on paper".

I would not use hypothetical here at all, because the semantic reaction is defined as the response in terms of the meaning to the reactor. we now "know" that a person's brain processes stimuli in a way that involves the predicted or expected input based on a summation of the person's past experiences, and that each instance refines or alters the neural patterns that were responding in both the predictive and abstractive processes. There is no "hypothetical" in that responding pattern unless you apply that to the "predictive" function. The brain automatically activates a higher level context whenever the abstractive process does not accord with the predictive process. Consequently only gross differences between expectations and observations are raised to the level of consciousness. Because, however, that we have a great deal of variance with word usage, as compared to seeing what we keep well organized in our, say, personal wardrobe, we have a high degree of tolerance for responses to words. We automatically bring forth our most probable to us experience (which includes all our past total experiences with the word - including what we were doing and "thinking" at the past times) as our semantic reaction and therefore "meaning" (to us) of any given hearing of any given word. Because the predictive mechanism is a low level unconscious process we rarely question our own automatic semantic reaction to almost all words heard. Tis a rare occasion compared to how many words we use how often, that we even experience any question about how well any particular word used in a particular context fails to meet within our tolerances our expectation in the dynamic context of reading or listening.

David: To move beyond hypothesis, the reader/listener needs to test their hypothesis and be willing to conclude their semantic reaction was wrong (in that instance).

Ah, but that testing can only occur at any conscious level if the reader senses an apparent (to him or her) anomoly with his or her own past experience. The speaker of the words, upon hearing a response from the aforementioned listener is in the better position to "judge" whether the inferred (by the speaker) listener's "understanding" or "agreement" is coherent with what the speaker previously said.

Even without any consciousness, the words as heard by the litener, as understood by the listener, are de-facto tested when the listener responds and the original speaker subsequently responds with more verbiage that the listener may interpret as evidence to alter his or her prior understanding of the speakers prior utterance.

David: Acting sanely involves applying the scientific process to our meaning making.

My earlier reference to Edward T. Hall applies here. The above can only happen for the technical mode; the vast majority of our use of words falls within the formal and informal modes. If communication were handled exclusively in the technical mode, it would be impossible.

David: A semantic reaction should be considered a "hypothesis" that requires testing. It shouldn't be given the status of a "conclusion" without being tested.

Only the tip of the iceberg portion of only a few semantic reactions are consciously available to us in a manner that can be addressed "technically".

However, (and this relates to the original topic also)...
A no longer so recent approach in philosophy is named "genetic epistemology" - my very abstract summary. Consider that our potential semantic reactions for any given word (a possibly generic function of context and experience) may be characterized as some of our representations for a virtual symbolic environment. [Other potential semantic reactions handle our physical environment - and they are not exclusively so, as "context" include both.] "Representations" include templates for action as well as templates for organizing representations (recursively). We use these "representations" by evoking them through the abstractive and the predictive process which can stimulate both the breaking apart of such representations (decomposition), the combining of them (composition) as well as the alteration (mutation or variation) of them. We use the representations in directing our actions - including speaking and writing. Through use and the subsequent feedback from the environment (physical and symbolic - including the behavior of others) these representations are neurologically strengthened or weakened (or essentially unaltered). It is in this use that they are "tested". (And "use" is not limited to physical acting or speaking, etc. It may include contemplation, etc.) To use a logical approach with general semantics and Popper's terminology, "representations" may be said to be "disconfirmed" or "corroborated". If they are weakend (by disconfirmation), their subsequent probabily of use is decreased, if they are strengthened (by corroboration) their subsequent probabily of use is increased. (In both cases it is the "reward" - in behavioral science terms - that affects the subsequent weakening or strengthening.) If we abstract this to the genetic metaphor terminology we can say that "successful" representations "survive" while "unsuccessful" representations "become extinct". Note that "slang" terminology undergoes rapid evolution and may quickly become rare or extinct. Who says "the cat's pajamas" now-a-days?

So we have a direct mapping of brain function to the scientific method through the metaphor of genetics applied to epistemology. Moreover, this model applies at unconscious levels. If we add a conscious level where, through introspection and analysis, we can possibly increase the instances of awareness where the predictive and abstractive functions "match" with greater variation (less precisely). Then we may be able to "intervene" - apply "recombinate dna" techniques to "consciously" choose to alter a portion of the "representation" for a particular word or for a particular experience of hearing another person.

The "power" words have over us inheres, I think, in the "formal" and "informal" modes of culture. To take control of that power, we have to get to the technical mode - that is we have to achieve a high degree of conscious control over the use of any given word in question. Such control is no different from altering any behavior.

Here's my sequence:
1/2. Learn to recognize when we are using / doing it.
2/1. Acquire a desire to change our behavior.

a) Not recognize use - pointed out by others.
b) recognize after the fact.
c) recognize during but not in time to alter.
d) recognize during and able to interrupt.
e) recognize before the fact, but not able yet to substitute, so just stop.
f) recognize before the fact, and able to perform a smooth substitution or change.
g) full internalization - no longer conscious of the new use except when directed to it.

Author: Ralph E. Kenyon, Jr. (diogenes) Saturday, July 14, 2007 - 10:55 am Link to this messageView profile or send e-mail

See "a)" in the sequence.

Author: Ralph E. Kenyon, Jr. (diogenes) Sunday, July 15, 2007 - 10:46 am Link to this messageView profile or send e-mail

Marks on paper are the "reductionist" approach, and they do not address the history of learning a person has associated with said mark. (That history may include trying to ignore associations - a Zen approach.)

When we respond to a word, we respond in unconscious consideration of all our past experiences with the word. The brain picks out though the method of adaptive resonance, the past experience that most closely matches the current context situation, and that neurological activation directs our subsequent acts in conjunction with other circuits that are currently active. It's technically not "the word" that has the "power" but our own memories (conscious and unconscious) that provide the model of what to do (say, believe, etc.) with respect to the word in the context at the time. The "power" is in the fact that the active neurological circuits direct our behavior; they are the substratum level of method that "is" at the grosser level activating our body movements that include speech and actions as well as stimulating other neurological circuits that are associated by the recollection of previously connected experiences.

The "words" that have no power what so ever over us are those that we have never encountered before.

We think we are consciously in control, and for cognitive deliberation using technical manner, the logic and our commitment to it dictates our responses which we feel are totally voluntary.

But it's not just the words. It's the totality of our recorded experiences and the neurological repsonses from previous maps that "direct" our actions - even non-verbally. Words are just a part of this bigger picture.

One approach to behaviorism says that we are not really free, but we "feel" free and that's what's important to us. Think about this: if a choice is totally "free" then we have no reason or incentive to choose one way or the other. If all the positives and the negatives balance each other out, then we also have no other way to decide which action to take.

Power over us implies lack of freedom to choose how to act. When are we totally free? When we have no interest in the outcome or no ability to decide the outcome. Indifference and ambivalence.

Our current actions, of which responding to a word or words is just one example, is "directed" by the confluence of our experiences that are as similar as possible to the present circumstances, including external and internal physical and symbolic envirenment, in conjunction with the variations between the current and the past most similar map and our history of dealing with variances. We may respond with signal reactions, symbol responses, or long delayed behavior, based again on our experiental maps of such procesess.

The activation of neural circuits "is" the lower level description of behaving, and a sense of feeling that our choices are "unpressured" is just part of the connections to our past experiences.

The anticipated physical pain and emotional pain of having been caught with our hand in the cookie jar is just one example of a disincentive that can be carried forward into adulthood and labeled "guilt".

Is this powerful enough?

Author: Ralph E. Kenyon, Jr. (diogenes) Monday, July 16, 2007 - 10:19 pm Link to this messageView profile or send e-mail

"[The semantic reaction] can be described as the psycho-logical reaction of a given individual to words and language and other symbols in connection with their meanings, and the psychological reactions, which become meanings and relational configurations the moment the given individual begins to analyse them or somebody else does that for him. [italics original] (S&S 4th. Ed, p. 24)." (Semantic Reaction)

As I understand it, we can't not have a "semantic reaction" - with the possible exception of something as low level as a kneee-jerk reflect or the jerking away from a painful stimulus. With these possible exceptions, and possibly the experiences of a newborn first opening its eyes, only in the case that there is no prior brain processing records to compare the simulus to is it the case that one would "make no sense" of a stimulus. This presumes that "meaning" is taken somewhat broadly. In processing inputs, the brain, through the mechanism of adaptive resonance, recalls past similar experiences after having constructed models of what to expect based on immediately prior inputs. Consequently any given stimulus, past our formative newborn days, is compared to anticipated experiences producing at the very least "like what I experienced before" or "contains elements that differ from my expectation". In either case we either assimilate the incoming impressions, in which case they evoke a previously existing "meaning" or we accomodate the incoming impressions, in which case we alter our previously existing meanings to create a new understanding. But it's extremely rare that the totality of our experience is wholly unmatched to the predictions.

The case I mentioned before shows an example of how difficult is would be to have a reaction that had little or no semantic component.

For practical purposes, virtually all our responses are semantic reactions. Even when one did not understand what another person said, the reaction is semantic in the sense that one recognized that one did not undestand clearly what was said. Even in the shower with the water running hearing a voice is "understood" as "something" that contained information that one missed. You Know I can't hear you with the water running. (by Robert Anderson)

Let's face it. We "are" semantic reactors.

Even "pain" has "meaning" to us, so the jerking away is a reaction to the meaning - causes pain or injury, and is therefore semantic.

Author: Ralph E. Kenyon, Jr. (diogenes) Tuesday, July 17, 2007 - 11:40 am Link to this messageView profile or send e-mail

Just to add another two cents worth. Any time the reaction or response is not strictly to the intrinsic characteristicss of the immediate object, the reaction is "semantic"; any reaction to one thing it terms of another is a response to the mapping, and that is the primary character of "semantic". When the skin is dammanged by fire, that is a direct reaction. When we yank our hand away from flame, that is a reaction to what it means to keep our hand in the flame, it is a low level "semantic" reaction. A Knee-jerk reflex arc is a reaction that comes from the direct stimulus reflected though the spinal cord prior to any responses getting to the brain. This is non-semantic.

The lowest level "semantic" reactions are those that evolution has provided us with. A baby feeling a touch on the cheek turns to suckle on the breast. This is an evolved pattern that has survival value. The touch on the cheek "means" that's where the food is, and the reaction, though automatic and extremely low level, can be characterized as a reaction to the meaning in terms of survival value as to where the food is. Turn toward it and begin to suckle is the survival response in conjunction with the "meaning" (location of food).

So we have a spectrum or hierarchy of levels for which to apply the, obviously multiordinal, term "semantic reaction".

I would classify the knee-jerk reflex as non-semantic, but many other "reflexes" I would say have a semantic character. I would say that virtually all our conscious responses are semantic. Consciousness of abstracting should allow us to become aware of the levels and perhaps even get a hint of the non-semantic characteristics of the stimulus.

Author: Ralph E. Kenyon, Jr. (diogenes) Wednesday, July 18, 2007 - 09:34 pm Link to this messageView profile or send e-mail

Your interpretation of my words is not at all like what I'm saying.

The reaction is semantic. The core or essential nature of "semantic" is responding to something in terms of something else that is associated with it.

When I say I don't like spiders, I do not mean that I do not like the word 'spiders' spelled 's-p-i-d-e-r-s'. I am responding to the word in terms of the arachnids that I have experienced in the past in association with the word. Those experiences are, at the low level of abstraction description, the activation of various neural circuits.

When a spider moves too fast too close to me I don't just observe it in a detached manner; I'm likely to have a resurgence of my arachnophobia from a traumatic childhood experience with a large orb-web spider. The reaction is very semantic because it is not a pure response to the here-now spider. It is a response in conjunction with my past experiences.

Semantic reactions are responding to stimuly in terms of what that stimuli means (to the person), not purely in terms of the intrinsic characteristics of the stimuli.

A semantic reaction is not only an instantaneous response, although it start out as one. It is the instantaneous response together with the residual abstractions and subsequent patterns of behavior resulting from the stimulus.

An extended analysis that results in an eventual action is a symbol response type of semantic reactions. Revulsion at the sight of a food that one once had a bad experience with is another semantic reactions. Semantic reactions include both signal reactions and symbol responses. The all, however, entail activation of neural circuits.

Some primitive semantic reactions are built in by evolution. Others are learned unconsciously. Still others are a combination that are the result of conscious cogitation.

Example somebody calls me a name using a word I do not know. I am unable to have an immediate "semantic reaction". As a "true" general semanticist, I have a delayed reaction, and I go look up the word. When I understand what the word normally means, that it has a negative judgemental character, I then check out the caller and discover that the caller meant that meaning. Now I choose to be annoyed with the user of the word.

That is an example of a reaction that becomes a semantic reaction. I am reacting to the heretofore unknown word, in terms of the discovered meaning it acquires for me as I look it up.

But when somebody calls me a name that I know the meaning of, I don't have to wait to find out what the word means before I get annoyed. I can get annoyed immediately, because I know what the word means. This is a direct semantic reaction.

Author: Ralph E. Kenyon, Jr. (diogenes) Thursday, July 19, 2007 - 10:14 am Link to this messageView profile or send e-mail

The Sufi say, in effect, that in order to understand something we must first be exposed to it. We cannot "re-cognize" something that we have not "cognized" before. In learning a new discipline, we have the primary method, relating it to a known structure, emphasizing the similarities, and providing analysis of the differences. This is music in the key of metaphor mixing the unfamiliar with the familiar. I highly recommend "Metaphors we live by" by George Lakoff.

Can we even "learn" something that has neither object nor structural similarity to anything we have ever experienced previously? Our abstractive capabilities are extremely complex; can anything come along that is so foreign to our experience that we cannot relate it to somthing we already know? We don't seem to be able to learn dolphinese, even with computer assistance, as we try to relate the sounds they make to our Language experience in a dry-land, earth-bound, fire and technology, written symbology, galactic view, tool using, religion laden, vision oriented, time-bound context.