IGS Discussion Forums: Learning GS Topics: Structural Obsession
Author: Ralph E. Kenyon, Jr. (diogenes) Monday, October 15, 2007 - 09:15 am Link to this messageView profile or send e-mail

Here is an analogy for you.

Consider the process of taking a photograph and giving it to someone else.

The further away from the subject you are the less detail can be seen in the picture.

Does this remind anyone of something in general semantics? No? Yes? How about levels of abstraction.

The more abstract one's level of abstraction at verbal levels, the less detail is included - the less "extensional" information and correspondingly the more ambiguity in the message.

Take a photograph which is closer or further from the subject corresponds to lower or higher levels of abstraction.

What level of abstraction - what degree of closeness to the subject - satisfies whom?

To look at this aspect of it, relate this to common road maps. What level of detail or level of abstraction functions best? It depends on the purpose of the individual concerned.

If you want to get from New York to California, you get a small scale - large area map that cover only the major roads - leaving out most of the details. But, when you get to your destination you need a larger scale - smaller area map that includes the local roads.

When you take a photo, and you want to show it to someone else, the distance from the subject needed will depend on how much detail you want to show.

The level of detail, then, serves the purpose of providing the ability to communicate a picture that has the details the speaker is concerned about "clearly visible". Too far corresponds to using words that are too abstract. Pointing the camera in a direction that does not have the main subject in the center of the photo corresponds to picking words that are less specific and corresponds to using a structure of the verbal map that does not correspond as accurately to the structure to be communicated and representes "errors" in the mapping process.

Recall, the map is not the territory. The photo is not the object, the words are not the intended communication.

The map covers not all the territory. The scale of the photo does not allow seeing the intended subject.

Some people don't care about either "accuracy" or "precision" in communicating; in many such cases the "intent" or "hidden agenda" behind the communication is not to communicate about the ostensible subject. They often have purposes drives by ego needs, political purposes, emotional motives, or a host of other reasons not closely related to the ostensible subject of the communications.

Now that I have "obsessed" sufficiently about "the" structure of communication (as I see it) and included the general semantics "to me"ness obsession, I have to note that we must also be aware that other do not necessicarily share our own particular perspective with repsect to how extensional (how much detailed structure) is desirable in a communication. Some don't care about details and they don't care to examine if details actually are consistent with the abstract choices. This is borderline intensional orientation - an unwillingness to take the abstract to its logical conclusion. But it is only taking that step that allows us to get to the level of prediction that can be used with Popper's falsification principle to corroborate or disconfirm the abstract "theory laden" proclamations that some make.

If you have checked my general semantics website lately, you may (or may not) have noticed that my particular project is the careful analysis of general semantics principles, proclamations, sayings, etc., for precision, "accuracy", consistency, scientific corroboration, and more.

So you may choose to lable my interest and concern as an "obsession with structure", if you so choose, but you must be prepared for me to continue my project - the continued analysis of and evaluation of the theoretical structure of general semantics at many levels of detail, likely often more detailed that most others are willing to pursue.

Some of you may be satisfied with an out-of focus picture that shows only the grossest of outlines of general structures, but I want more.

How many have seen the movie that has been shown at general semantics seminars about "slime mold"? Several experiments showed that the mold stayed alive only at a narrow range of "stimulation". Too little structure and it liquified and died. Too much structure and it coagulated and died.

While I was attending Institute seminars, there was a concern that general semantics was loosing too much structure, in the form of too much "to me"ness and too little common time-binding usage. It was on the road to liquifying.

If you take nothing else away from this diatribe take this. Consider the relation between "to-me"ness and common usage required for time-binding. Too much "to me"ness detracts from time-binding because each is talking about something different. This is not communication, and it is not time-binding.

Just like the fact that the structure differential is totally inadequate for any more detailed analysis of general semantics, choosing words with less respect for their time-binding usage fails to function as effective time-binding and it violates the time-binding ethic directly to the degree that the chosen words differ from words the time-binding record shows to be more precise.

Author: Ralph E. Kenyon, Jr. (diogenes) Monday, October 15, 2007 - 09:32 am Link to this messageView profile or send e-mail

The map covers not all the territory. The scale of the photo does not allow seeing all the intended subject.

Author: Ralph E. Kenyon, Jr. (diogenes) Monday, October 15, 2007 - 02:45 pm Link to this messageView profile or send e-mail

David, The sentence you asked about was not a stand-alone sentence; it had a specific qualifier.

Some people don't care about either "accuracy" or "precision" in communicating; in many such cases the "intent" or "hidden agenda" behind the communication is not to communicate about the ostensible subject. They often have purposes [driven] by ego needs, political purposes, emotional motives, or a host of other reasons not closely related to the ostensible subject of the communications.

In such a case neither accuracy nor precision with respect to the ostensible subject may serve the (hidden) purpose behind the "communication".

Consider the behavior described in "Games People Play as the "game" "Yes, but.", described as a game between a victim role and a rescuer role. It does not matter what the rescuer says in response to anything the victim says; the victim keeps changing to another "problem" so as to keep the rescuer providing attention.

So, a qualified yes, "some people do not care to be understood about the literal content of their formulations, and the circumstances when this may happen can be quite varied.

In a great many cases, the campaigning politician cares not a whit about whether you understand his or her formulations; often he or she prefers that you do not, because he or she just wants you to vote for him. For that, literal understanding is not required. In fact, literal understanding may even work at cross purposes.

Author: Ralph E. Kenyon, Jr. (diogenes) Monday, October 15, 2007 - 10:51 pm Link to this messageView profile or send e-mail

David wrote, "... yet it is unlikely they will ever develop the habit of choosing words or grammatical constructions that satisfy your opinion of what's accurate or precise.

This remark, as worded, appears gratuious - due to the unfortunate choice of the word 'your'. Although it might be interpreted as a direct response to me, the absence of direct address allows it to be interpreted as directed at anyone presumed to have a strong idea as to how others should speak.

This is also unfortunate since my first two uses in this topic put both words in "scare" quotes.

With respect to the use of words, "precision" for me refers to a "tight" normal distribution in the historical or time-binding record such that varying dictionary definitions only have minimal overlap.

"Accuracy" is a "problem" I have written about somewhat more extensively in the context where the "territory" cannot be directly measured or compared to the map, and such is the case with words that refer to "what one understands". In the normal case "accuracy" is understood in terms the arrow and target metaphor. But, in general semantics, with cognitive territories as well as with what is going on, the metaphor must have the target forever hidden behind a curtain that we are not allowed to move or go behind.

Suppose we rephrase your statement: yet it is unlikely they will ever develop the habit of choosing words or grammatical constructions that satisfy everyone's opinion of what's "accurate" or "precise".

Aside from the triviality of "everyone", what "accurate" and "precise" mean are opague.

But let's suppose that the absence of the quotes in David's retort takes these words out of my original context and imbues them with David's own meaning - no longer what I personally said - and we give them the conventional meanings: metaphorically "hitting the bullseye, when the target center location is verifiably known", and "consistently clustering close together" respectively.

David asks "How should a GS practitioner interact with those people?"

What level of [general semantics] practioner?
Which people - the ones who demand David's "accuracy" or David's "precision"?

For such a generalized question, Don Kerr provides an answer. Find out what experiences the recipient has, formulate your communications to evoke those experiences. If the respondent does not have or appears not to have the requisite experiences, provide them.

Author: Ralph E. Kenyon, Jr. (diogenes) Tuesday, October 16, 2007 - 09:25 am Link to this messageView profile or send e-mail

As previously noted: "Find out what experiences the recipient has."

Author: Ralph E. Kenyon, Jr. (diogenes) Tuesday, October 16, 2007 - 12:18 pm Link to this messageView profile or send e-mail

The direction of "to-me"ness contrasts with conventional usage as recorded in the time-binding record. You may choose to consider them related along a dimension that has completely idiosyncratic use at one end and absolute rigid conformity at the other end.

A good place to start is with the standard dictionary definition, but being prepared to alter that by degrees, giving lesser and lesser weight (more and more uncertainty) with the increasing "distance" from standard usage.

Author: Ralph E. Kenyon, Jr. (diogenes) Tuesday, October 16, 2007 - 10:43 pm Link to this messageView profile or send e-mail

Well, I'm using "to-me"ness somewhat loosely. To be more precise, I'm referring to the degree of idiosyncratic difference from standard usage. But yes, the way I'm using that "label" "to-me"ness is as a variable distancee from standard usage, so your paraphrase is quite reasonable.

My concern, however, is the more the distance from standard usage, the more variation is introduced into the ongoing time-binding record, and the greater the variation, hence uncertainty, in future back references. Intentionally using terms differently, without an accompanying intensional definition or a specific example fails to conform to the so-called "time-binding ethic" of "conscious time-binding" - that is, to promote time-binding by facilitating the communication from generation to generation.

Wendell Johnson, in People in Quandries is in the middle of a discussion of "projection" in the sense of attributing a personal judgement to an external object. "She's beautiful", projects one's own judgement, and Johnson calls for the addition of "to me", to remind one that one is projecting one's own judgement. Johnson states, "For convenience, then, we may refer to consciousness of projection as to-me-ness."

In my case, I'm referring to a person's using a term differently, especially when a person asserts, "to me, such and such means ...". My usage is similar to Johnson's in that the user has awareness, but the object of the awareness differs. Johnson's usage is projecting a value, my usage is variation in usage of a term. Hence my usage is the variation. I needed something, but I did not come up with "idiosycratic usage" at the time. Chalk it up to my occasional "word retrieval deficit" which I used to call the "tip-of-the-tongue error".

Author: Ralph E. Kenyon, Jr. (diogenes) Thursday, October 18, 2007 - 06:39 pm Link to this messageView profile or send e-mail

David wrote, "General Semantics will be assimilated by the very system (Aristotelian) it was developed to improve on.

General semantics includes the so-called Aristotelian system as its core of logical consistency at the level of theory in verbal formulations. Remember, "non-Aristotelian" is not related as "anti-Aristotelian"; these are not a "binary distinction" where one uses only one of Aristotelian or non-Aristotelian, and not both. Aristotelian is a SUBSET of non-Aristotelian. The validity of all multi-valued logics and probability theory, as well as the relation between theoretical models or maps and their putative territories is one of the binary relation of disconfirmed or not disconfirmed. The consistency of theoretical models is the province of valid rules of inference, and that depends strictly on truth preserving logic and its associated mathematics. The semantic of relations between such consistent theories and the application of them, however is subject to the limitations of abstraction, and that means applying Popper's approach.

The key words here for general semantics is "improve on", and that is NOT "replace", which many, many, novice and other naive would-be general semanticists continually fail to assimilate in their enthusiam for general semantics and their inadequate logic and mathematics training, as well as failure to fully assimilate and appreciate Korzybski's writings with respect to mathematics.

Recall my Levels or perspectives on the use of language. Validity and conditional truth (truth relative to axioms) applies to the second level. "Truth" as the relation betwen statements and the objects referred to (Tarski's semantic definition for truth) applies at the third level. The problem with this, outside of the mathematics of model theory where object can be completely specified, is that we simply do not know what the objects or strutures that we apply the models to are, so, we cannot have semantic "truth" between statements and "reality", what is going on, "what there is", etc., because we do not have perfect epistemology. As a result we have Popper's terminology; semantic "false" is replaced with "disconfirmed" and semantic "truth" is replaced with "not-yet-disconfirmed". Therein lies one of the "infinities" that complexifies our extension of the so-called Aristotelian system to "reality". The infinity valued, grey rather than black-and-white, uncertain, etc., comes in with the use of nice clear logically conditionally truelogic theory statement that we hope is Truesemantically, but the best we can do is not-yet-confirmedbinary truth applied in a non-binary fashion- that is conditionally accepted until disconfirmed.

Binary truth values apply to the logic level, but the truth valuse are simply two markers "T" and "F".

Binary truth values apply to the semantic level in the case of formal semantics and mathematical model theory where the objects are completely specified. It was this kind of "truth" that Tarski developed. It was intended as a formal theory to "inform" our notion of a correspondence theory of truth.

When however, as in "reality", we can no longer formally say that a general statement about the external world is "true" in either the logical or semantic sense. A specific statement, such as "it rained three inches in one hour at such an such a rain gage during such an such a period on such an such a date." is classified as an observation statement, and semantic truth values apply. But the general relationship between general statements and events in reality in one of uncertainty. We index in order to get to the specific. But when statements are theory or conditional or abstract generalizations, then we can no longer use semantic true and semantic false. We must, a la Popper, use not-yet-disconfirmed and disconfirmed.

This perspective is well understood and broadly known among philosophers of science and a large percentage of scientists, philosophers of logics, philosophers of mathematics, some general semanticists, epistemologists and some metaphysicians. It's probably understood by marketing specialists, lawyers, politicians, and some others, but not necessarily with the languge of the philosophy of science.

If we lose control of, or the general public does not adopt, some of the parochial and esoteric language of general semantics into the mainstream, or if they do, but do not remember its source, such as with the phrase "levels of abstraction". [Google finds 1,570,000 hits but only 1,510 hits in conjunction with "general semantics" 1045:1. (Another: Consciousness of abstraction 11,400, without, only 395 with "general semantics" 29:1)]

"General semantics" may be "swallowed up" by society, but it will not be "eaten from within" by its own core".

Subject for a new topic should anyone care to start it. Does it matter if sane reasoning spreads if it does so without specific general semantics terminology?

Author: Ralph E. Kenyon, Jr. (diogenes) Friday, October 19, 2007 - 09:27 am Link to this messageView profile or send e-mail

I tend to use "statement of fact" and "fact of the matter" related as "map" and "territory" respectively as is consistent with philosophical usage, where "statement of fact" refers to a metaphysical proposition - a statement about what (putatively) "is" the "fact of the matter" -metaphysical state of existence. But I rarely use "fact of the matter" outside of philosophy; for that I use the qualifier "putative" to indicate that we project.

This is not the same as a "fact" as determined by the legal process. In that context "facts" are statements which may include inferences to the best explanation given the evidence. In the legal case a grand jury or a jury (in America) takes testamony and then formulates "findings of fact" after considerable deliberation, as in the case of many other types of investigations, notibly the National Transportation Safety Board with respect to airplane crashes.

Typically the word fact seems to be use ambigously to refer to an event or a statement of an event, particularly when witnessed and recorded, although quite often commonly accepted "theories" are asserted to be "facts".

There are many kinds of inferences.
There are logically valid inferences.
There are logically invalid inferences.
There are abstractions from data.
There are abstractions from experience.
There are guesses based on bare shreds of evidence.
There are guesses based on hearsay.
There are signal reactions.

In the context of general semantics, the term inference is usually applied to verbal levels to describe abstraction from descriptions to the next higher verbal level when what is abstracted is not just reducing the number of descriptions.

I saw white swans in every country in Europe.
I infer all swans are white.

This has actually been a subject of philosophy.

That "all swans are white" is an inductive (not mathematical induction) inference. It might be true, or it might be false, but, as a map of "reality", we would never know until the end of the universe and time.

Then black swans were discovered in Australia,
Now the statement is known to be semantically false. The "theory" statement "IF x is a swan THEN x is white" has been shown by counter example (modus tolens) - the existence of a single black swan - to be semantically false, at least within an unspecified range of time. The theory is disconfirmed.

It's also an inference to say that "the next swan that I see will be white". This inference can be confirmed (verified or "truthified") when the time comes, but it can also be disconfirmed (falsified), assuming "when" is replaced by the actual time and place in the formulation.

In this post I described several kinds of "truth". Weinberg needs to be explained in more detail. In the aforementioned post, I stated that we "hope" that a theory (inference) is semantically true, but I pointed out that we can not ever know that. We can only hold the theory conditionally on its being corroborated until it is disconfirmed. Once it is disconfirmed, we then know that is is "semantically false" (correspondence theory a la Tarski). Do not confuse metaphysics (semantically true or semantically false) with epistemology (knowledge of the foregoing). We can know falseness, but we cannot know truth with respect to inferences or theory. For that we are reduced to "corroboration" - a weaker condition which we could describe as lot of evidence in favor of, no contradictory evidence (yet).

Just for symmetry we (I) use.
SYNTAX: "T" and "F".
SEMANTICS: "true" and "false" (a la Tarski and model theory)
SCIENCE observation: Witnessed and recorded as so, witnessed and recorded as not so, and not witnessed or recorded.
SCIENCE theory: "corroborated" and "disconfirmed"

Author: Ralph E. Kenyon, Jr. (diogenes) Friday, October 19, 2007 - 05:22 pm Link to this messageView profile or send e-mail


I differentiate between projection and inference with regard to non-verbal level. Our nervous system "projects" what it computes we are likely to experience.

Can you say something to describe or bracket something other than a neurological projection that we might experience at non-verbal levels?

The first and most obvious example that I can think of is the trapezoidal window experiment where some of use "see" a three-dimensional "rectangular" window oscilating back and forth from certain vantage points but see a flat trapezoidal window drawing rotating from other vantage points.

The nervous system "infers" (as you use it) in this case that the event level is rectangular and that's how we "see" it.

I do not call that "inference"; I call that projection based on experience - like other illusions.

Other than such illusions, can you describe other circumstances to which you would apply the word 'inference' at non-verbal levels?

Author: Ralph E. Kenyon, Jr. (diogenes) Sunday, October 21, 2007 - 09:44 pm Link to this messageView profile or send e-mail

Technical precision:
"Has actually occurred" - metaphysics - not the province of general semantics.
"Was reported to have been observed." - epistemology - the province of science and general semantics.

It is, to my understanding, a basic tenent of general semantics as "modern, open, applied, epistemology" that "has actually occurred" refers to the event level rather than to any observation statement about it. We can only "know" about what is going on through the process of abstraction, and that requires, with regard to any event, a report (time-binding record - verbal or written) of direct observation (through the abstraction process of the observer).

A "too-casual use of words" does not qualify as an "event" that "happened" and was "observed"; it qualifies as a judgement made as an abstraction from an observation by an observer. An allegged "report" of such an event is not a report of what was observed; it is a report of a judgement about what was observed.

Also, "an unrecognized underlying assumption" "is" also not an event; it too is a judgement about an event. Exactly who observed what, and how was that abstracted (by somebody) into a judgement that it was the result of something else which is also judged to have been an assumption, as well as having a "causative" relation to what was observed (presumably by the one doing the judging).

Author: Ralph E. Kenyon, Jr. (diogenes) Sunday, October 21, 2007 - 11:57 pm Link to this messageView profile or send e-mail

Hi Ben,

Many years ago I started describing general semantics with a simple "gem" metaphor, as having many facets. I just had a nostalgic look at my notebook from back then. It has my copy of the original 1947 Institute by-laws with the 1954 revisions. In 1978 I re-wrote the bylaws to express them in language consistent with the theory of general semantics. (I'll read that later.)

Each facet of a gem projects outward in a different directions, and projects inward to its central core. The facets all interlock to form a composite whole. Some facets are connected to - interact with - others, but some are separated from each other by yet others. But without all the facets, properly connected to each other, there is no gem.

Author: Ralph E. Kenyon, Jr. (diogenes) Monday, October 22, 2007 - 09:50 am Link to this messageView profile or send e-mail

David wrote, "Is obtaining the speaker’s agreement part of the criteria you use when concluding a speaker's application of a word is unacceptable?

In order to obtain the speaker's ageement" with respect to a word use presumes prior agreement on other word usages. As such this notion is inherently circular. Modern computer science gives us the notion of recursion, in which each "level" is defined in terms of a lower "level", provide that there is a base level which is not defined in terms of any lower level and the process of going from one level to the next lower level is guaranteed to terminate in the base level case.

Applying this notion to our "ordinary" natural language (in the context or language of general semantics) dictates that each step in the "recursive" process "drop down" to a lower level of abstraction and be more extensional and it has to end in words that permit agreement without depending on other words. This ultimately "means" that we must be able to understand the notion of "agreement" without the use of words as well as apply this understanding to the use of various base or undefined terms, for example, uttering a name in the presence of a "thing" or "event", pointing, and using the base notion of "agreement". Recall, in this circumstance, however, that a "thing" or "event" (event level) is not the "object" that each abstracts differently from that "thing" or "event". (Which is why there is the uncertainty that the respondent may "take the finger for the moon".)

What we may actally obtain is verbal or non-verbal assent (a nod, etc.), and that is something much weaker than "agreement". This is why we had the exercise at general semantics seminars that resulted in everyone mutually agreeing as to "what was said", but subsequent discussion revealed that everyone was "agreeing" to something different.

David's question included, "concluding a speaker's application of a word is unacceptable?"

"Unacceptable" is not a property of a word; it is a judgement ("conclusion") by a person. "Unacceptable" also raises the question "to whom?". It may be judged by the hearer that the aforementioned usage is "unacceptable" to the hearer. It may also be judged by the hearer that the aforementioned usage is "unacceptable" to the speaker, particularly in the case of speakers using a second language, contingent on the hearer "explaining" to the speaker what the "common usage" of the term in question "is" (has been). The "same" situation may apply between an "expert" in the field and a "lay" speaker using technical terms.

In the current context it's reasonable to presume that it's the hearer's judgement, made prior engaging in back-and-forth clarifying communications. (Note that I did not say "obtaining agreement".)

In ordinary communication it is much more "efficient", though not always "effective", to "assume" that time-binding usage applies until such time as one detects an apparent anomoly in interpreting the overall communication. "Huh?" "Wait a minute; that contradicts what you said before."; "It's clear you used that word very differently than 'I do', 'you did before', 'the dictionary', 'the author', etc."; "Wrong!", etc.

The foregoing provides the reasoning behind my view that "obtaining the speaker's agreement" "is" incompatible with "'concluding' the speaker's application of a word is unacceptable".

The "back-and-forth" communication process may begin with the process of presenting an analysis, such as I have just done; the respondent can ask one or more questions of the original speaker; he or she can ask for additional information; he or she can ask for examples (lower level of abstraction); etc. These choices are strictly up to the respondent (but the original speaker has no obligation to be "satisfied" with how the respondent chose to proceed). Nothing dictates that any response be "objective and unemotional" (or even relevant), except, possibly, some hypothetical "general semantics ethic."

David wrote "I'm a bit confused about the "doesn't mean you can count on others here accepting your application of that word" part."

I noted above that efficient (though not always "effective") communicating depends on the beginning assumption that each is using terms consistent with the time-binding usage (and or recent context usage). If we choose to use a term differently than that, we cannot "count on" others recognizing that we have used said term differently let alone inferring how we did use it. Through our own consciousness of abstracting we should expect them to presume that we have used it in the "ordinary" (time-binding) way, or at least in the way we have communicated effectively how we are using it differenly from the time-binding way.

Why do we need to commuicate "efficiently" rather than "effectively"? Just imagine if everybody communicated all the time in ordinary circumstance like I do in this forum.

Author: Ralph E. Kenyon, Jr. (diogenes) Monday, October 22, 2007 - 09:02 pm Link to this messageView profile or send e-mail

David wrote, "Ralph, may I conclude from your response that agreement of the speaker is not part of your criteria for deciding when one's usage/application of a word is acceptable or unacceptable? In other words, for you, the decision is a unilateral one. Is that a correct interpretation?

You may conclude what you like, but your abstract paraphrase goes beyond the level of abstraction at which I operate.

I do not decide that one's usage is "acceptable" or "unacceptable", that is a judgement beyond the level of abstraction of my perspective. I decide if it makes sense to me, in a number of possible model ways, or if it does not make sense to me in any way that fits any of my experiences. The emphasis is NOT a judgement as to its "acceptability" in general or to me. The emphasis is on whether or not it fits any of a number of ways of modeling its usage in the context. "Acceptability" is an even higher level of abstraction - beyond modeling - to judgement.

What "is" "unilateral" is my choice of how to respond. Consequently, your question does not get a yes or no answer, because it asks for a judgement at a higher level of abstraction; I don't go there.

In addition, I just pointed out that "agreement of the speaker" is a circular notion, that we can get explicit assent, but not really know what that assent is to. I consider stating the question using the very word I described as "inoperative" not very productive, as it's not a question I can answer.

"Agreement" of the speaker does not occur on the basis of a listener hearing (reading) the speaker's words. Such can only occur if the listener speaks back to the original speaker, and the original speaker utters an explicit ascent to the response of the listener. Your question, on the basis of a single utterance (without subsequent transactions) can not apply because "agreement" requires explicit ascent at a minimum in a second original speaker utterance following an utterance of the original listener.

Now if you allow a sequence of a conversation involving two persons with at least three one-way exchanges, that is the mimimum that can permit original speaker agreement.

Blond at a bar to patron, "Are you single?"
Patron on next stool, "By "single", do you mean unmarried and not in a relationship?"
Blond: "Yes".

In this case the speaker (blond) exhibited "agreement" that the lister (patron) found the speaker's usage of the word 'single' "acceptable". Upon hearing "yes" the original listener (patron) is in a position to "judge" that the patron had the "agreement of the speaker" with respect to the "acceptability" of the Blond's (speaker's) usage of the term 'single'. After all, the speaker explicitly "agreed" by uttering assent by saying "yes".

As you can see, in an explicit, extensional, low level of abstraction example, the application of the notions of "agreement of the speaker" and "acceptable" use of a word seem a little "forced" - precisely because they are abstract notions.

Certainly "agreement of the speaker" can not even apply to a single utterance. It requires external structure, and prior context.

Do you have something else to say? - something that can be formulated without using metaphysical assumptions with respect to what "is"?

Author: Ralph E. Kenyon, Jr. (diogenes) Tuesday, October 23, 2007 - 11:43 am Link to this messageView profile or send e-mail

It depends on the model that the words as used in context fit. I can't rememeber using the words "too casual", other than to classify it as a "judgement" in in this post, and I asserted that I do not got to that level of abstraction, so "I judge" that you should have been able to infer that I would not be making such a judgement, so why did you ask this particular question?

To assert that someone has not recognized an underlying assumption is also a judgement level of abstraction. You may have also noticed, by the verbosity of my posts that I do not assert that another person has not recognized an "underlying assumption"; I present, in laborious detail, my assumptions and understanding.

Author: Ralph E. Kenyon, Jr. (diogenes) Wednesday, October 24, 2007 - 01:26 pm Link to this messageView profile or send e-mail

Ben opened this thread with "It occurs to me that of the drawbacks of general semantics, I sometimes witness a person developing a hyperinterest in accurately characterizing the structure of things, to the point that a person becomes obsessed with accurately characterizing the structure of something, reducing progress in communication and thus straining and limiting communication.

Let's look at some of this "structure" in "obsessive" detail. :-)

"witness a person developing a hyperinterest"

I think it reasonable to "infer" that "interest", including "hyper" interest, refers to an internal brain orientation of a person. As such, I do not think it can be "observed". What we "observe" is behavior; from the behavior we form an abstraction that can be "characterized" (pun intended) as a surmise, guess, hypothesis, "inference" (in quotes, since I normally reserve 'inference' for logic), etc. It can also be characterized as a "judgement" in the simpler, more general, (and without prejudice - Note the oxymoron.), etc., kind - one that brings in neither "good" nor "bad", but as to the "facts of the matter". The alegged "observer" forms an abstracion that qualifies as an hypothesis as to what is going on (in the other person's head).

Extensionality dictates reporting the "actual" behavior "observed", and consciousness of abstraction dictates carefully distinguishing the observed (object) behavior from any abstraction as to what that observed behavior "means".

Let's look at "accurately characterizing the structure of things".

The paradigm case metaphor for "accuracy" is hitting the bullseye in a target with an arrow. This means that we must be able to know the shape and size of the target, where it is, and be able to deterime where the arrow lands. As I have noted elsewhere, the relationship between words and what is going on is more like the case where some unknown shaped target is hidden behind a curtain. We cannot know, directly, where it is.

We can, however, recognize a weaker notion, that of "precision", but the same metaphor applied to precision simply has multiple arrows all clustered closely together, whether they are in the bullseye, or whether they are off to one side.

Consider "structure of things". I personally reserve the word 'thing' for when I want to talk about the territory - what is going on, and I generally qualify it with "putative" to indicate that we are projecting a hypothetical structure onto "what is going on". In keeping with the target metaphor, "putative" indicates the dashed arrow in the structural differential.

The word characterize suggests the abstraction process, consequently, "accurately characterizing the structure of things" indicates building a model the characteristics of which "hit the bullseye" in what is going on. This verbal strructure contains a presumption that the putative structure "is" the "actual" structure in what is going on, and that we can locate it precisely. ("Locate" "moves" the cluster onto the bullseye.)

As an aside, if I am copying a drawing, the process involves my abstracting from the drawing, performing some action to create part of the copy, and subsequently abstracting from the copy. I then compare internal to my nervous system my two abstractions, and abstract from that differences to drive more actions, repeating the process as I continue. We can achieve a level of consistency in our abstractions. Counterfeiters do it very well. The "moral" of this little aside is that any "similarity of structure" is strictly internal to our evaluative process after parallel abstractions.

To be more precise, we have no way to compare the structure we abtract with what is going on itself; we can only compare abstractions with other abstractions. That means that "characterizing the structure of things" cannot occur; we can create structures from abstraction, and we can corroborate such structures with other structures - also created by abstaction.

Recall that "structure" an undefined and multiordinal term in general semantics operates at multiple levels of abstraction, consequently, corroboration can be sought at multiple level of abstraction.

Consider how "obsessive" can be characterized; we normally mean "always" or "more and more" focus on something. If we apply that to "structure", then "more and more" would indicate relative levels of abstraction or detail, as well as more and more corroboration.

One can apply "more and more" to corroborating a putative structure at one level of abstraction and to adding levels of abtraction. Since higher levels of abstraction generally involve less detail, "more and more" would seem to indicate adding successively lower levels of abstraction - extensional details.

But this is all simply descriptive. "Excessive" implies a judgement of "too much", and any "judgement" of this type is a value applied by a person. So "excessive" is a judgement by a person with respect to how much depiction of structure; what's more, it must be relative to the individual, and you know what that means. One person's excess is another person's insufficiency.

Can there be any "absolute" standard for "excess"?

Well, Ben seems to say that there may be a criteria of some sort to measure the excess when he asserts "obsessed ... [to the degree of] reducing progress in communication and thus straining and limiting communication.

"Reducing progress" seems to mean slows down. The grammar of the formulation relates "slowing down" as a causative factor ("thus") in "straining" and "limiting". This seems to go against the general semantics principle of "delayed reaction", which seems to imply that slowed down communication "is" "better" by arguing it produces the difference between a "signal reaction" and a "symbol response". So, I don't think we have an established relation betwen slowing down communication and "straining" and "limiting" it.

True, taking more time can be "limiting" in the faces of time constraints, in that one may not be able to accomplish as much in the alloted time. But from the tenor of the rest of Ben's post, I don't think that is what he had in mind for "limiting", especially when he paired it with "strained" in the context of emotional respones.

Since "muchness" inheres in people's attitudes, as does emotional reactions, it would appear that "strained" would indicate a person's emotional orintation to "get on with" what that person thinks the "point" "is" or with that person's personal agenda, bringing into the equation a focus by the listener/reader on a personal agenda taking priority over "carefully understanding the presented communication" based on a preliminary abstraction and judgement of the beginning portion of a communication. (We all do this nigh all the time. Ever interrupt somebody in mid sentence, confident you "know" what they are talking about?)

Note that NASA's space program can serve as an example where great precision in both modeling structure and communicating about it "is" absolutely necessary for the success of the Endeavour.

Many people, it seems to me, are simply not interested in either precion or "accuracy"; they operate at a higher level of abstraction irrespecive of lower levels. Their "personal agendas" do not include increasing the precision of their models. I have expressed this in other contexts in the following way. When learing something, people come up against "the interest barrier" long before they come up against "the ability barrier". And, of course, these "interest" and "ability" "bariers" both differ from person to person.

If we apply the notion of "personal freedom of choice" one always has the option of choosing if, when, and how much to respond to anyone else's communication - all based on our own person desire, tolerance, etc., for detail and complexity. None of us has the obligation to "justify" our choices to another, let alone even answer anything we think does not meet our own needs and purposes - regardless of any (inherently unknown) intent of the other.

Author: Ralph E. Kenyon, Jr. (diogenes) Wednesday, October 24, 2007 - 02:20 pm Link to this messageView profile or send e-mail

Nora wrote, sometimes, at least in my view, the "main" point of a thread stems from a too-casual use of words or an unrecognized underlying assumption.

Allow me some "obsessive structure". :-)

Sometimes the main formulation of a thread "is" sufficiently abstract that a careful analysis using standard dictionary definitions, even allowing for context, results in apparent inconsistency or apparent incoherence.

[This indicates that the formulator (or reader) has one or more idiosyncratic "meanings" for one or more words in the formulation, has committed one or more instances of what high school English teachers correct as "word choice" errors, has not applied consistency checking to the formulation, is not attempting to communicate structure, makes guesses about what is being formulated - not tested for consistency, does not understand the formulations being emitted, is talking for other reasons than to communicate or understand structure (undefined), and possibly for other reasons we have not thought of (etc.).]

Nora followed that with "How exactly does one carry on a discussion of a topic when one suspects a misunderstanding at the root of the initial problem statement?

Isn't that mostly the whole point of general semantics with respect to effective time-binding?

If we model the perceived anomolous communication in a particular way, [including "Huh?"] then we most likely have a strategy for proceeding - assuming we have the interest, ability, and inclination to do so.

Would we like to classify the ways that communications can go wrong? Would we like to prescribe a strategey for how to proceed in each case? --- Not me.

[Is there a single tool that works in all cases - such as "asking questions"?] (That's a rhetorical question.)

Author: Ralph E. Kenyon, Jr. (diogenes) Thursday, October 25, 2007 - 10:22 am Link to this messageView profile or send e-mail

Hi Vilmart,

Ben implicitly stated that use of general semantics, with it's focus on how language structure affects people, effectively "inhibits" communication.

This is not true.

What it does do, however, is provide a "filter" that screens out the people who are less interested in working harder to get a more effective communication and understanding.

People want "things" (including communication) quick and easy. General semantics offers neither.

The system is complex and sophisticated.

It is not for the simple minded, not for those who want what they want as quickly as possible with as litte effort as possible.

General semantics teaches one ways to recognize uncertainty in communication. It is then up to you how (or if) your proceed to reduce the uncertainty.

Before you recognize uncertainty, you think communication is simple. The conduit metaphor applies. Something from your mind goes through a pipe (words) direct to another's mind (unchanged). This is overly simply and just plain wrong, but it is how many people model communication.

When you learn and apply general semantics, you replace this simple model with one that is much more complex. That means you have to work harder.

Once you recognize uncertainty, asking questions is only one tool. You also add tools when you are speaking and writing - to help others. These include the extensional devices - quotation marks ("scare quotes"), the hyphen, and "etc.".

You will have to work to find your own way of putting all the pieces of general semantics together into a composite whole. To put it simply, "It ain't simple.". :-)

Author: Ralph E. Kenyon, Jr. (diogenes) Thursday, October 25, 2007 - 10:34 pm Link to this messageView profile or send e-mail

In this context "obsessive" is a value judgement made by one person about the activity of another person, and, like all maps, it reflects the map maker. Unless such a "judgement" is made by a qualified expert using "accepted standards", and the judgement is documented with accepted measuring techniques, for example, a "diagnosis" by a qualified psychiatrist of OCD, the application of the term reflects the attitude of the person doing the speaking about the other person's activities; it is not a "property" of the accused; it a subjective judgement of the accuser. It shows to an external observer, that the "interest" of the "accuser" does not match the activities of the "accused". It does not show why that difference "exists", and it does not show what the difference is.

Claiming that pursuit of precise linguistic and semantic detail in an effort to communicate "gets in the way of communicating" presumes a connection based on the metaphor of "standing back and seeing the big picture" and the notion that looking at details obscures the big picture. "Can't see the forest for the details." In my book an "expert" in a field is one who has a grasp not ony of the "big picture" but of the details that make it up, and how they relate to the overall view. This requires multiple levels of abstracting (big and small), as well as a well modeled structure depicting the relation between levels.

There are those who do not abstract well, and the adage "can't see the forest for the trees" might apply to them. There are also those who cannot deal with details, and the addage "can't get down to basics" might apply to them.

I know of no study that shows that, as a rule, getting into the details results in some loss of understanding of the abstract. That does not mean that there are not any such studies.

Consciousness of abstraction (and levels of abstraction) should allow us to keep the two in sync better, but I know of no studies on that either. I would think that it's the business of the Institute to encourage such studies and to even fund some of them.

As I noted earlier, its how much effort a person is willing to invest in following another's pet theory that determines when a listener has "had enough" and fails to take responsibilty for his or her own reaction by labeling the other person "excessive".

"It's more than I want to accept (here-now) [anywhere-ever]."

Author: Ralph E. Kenyon, Jr. (diogenes) Friday, October 26, 2007 - 07:21 am Link to this messageView profile or send e-mail

Don't you just love overly abstract aphorisms?

They are like modern art. One can "mean" anything and the reader can get a sense of "there might be something profound here.", but neither knows what the other is "really" about.

Author: Ralph E. Kenyon, Jr. (diogenes) Sunday, October 28, 2007 - 01:37 pm Link to this messageView profile or send e-mail


One notable person on whom Korzybski drew, and who knew something of Korzybski's work, and didn't think much of it, was Albert Einstein, according to Blanche Weinberg, wife of Harry Weinberg, a student of Korzybski's, who wrote the excellent Levels of Knowing and Existence: Studies in General Semantics. She and Harry were boating on Lake Saranac when they spotted Einstein and his sister in a small sailboat. I have a photograph that Weinberg took of that; and I often tell people, "You can tell which one is Einstein's sister, because she has the larger mustache." They look remarkably alike. Harry asked permission to take the photograph which I just mentioned . He identified himself as a student of Korzybski, and asked Einstein what he thought of Science and Sanity, at which Einstein said, "Dot's ah krrrazy boook!" But I remind you of Einstein's rejection of statistical methods in quantum mechanics, and what he called "that Bohr-Heisenberg tranquilizing philosophy". So, despite his reputation, Einstein wasn't always right. Sometimes he was scared on the formulational level.

Source: Alfred Korzybski Memorial Lecture 2000, The Impact of Korzybski at the Planetary Level: The View From 2000, delivered At the Yale Club of New York City, Friday, November 3, 2000 by Bob Pula, in the General Semantics Bulletin Numbers 65-68, pp 48-9.

Author: Ralph E. Kenyon, Jr. (diogenes) Sunday, October 28, 2007 - 07:15 pm Link to this messageView profile or send e-mail

"Knowledge by Authority" has been discredited by science. Venerating Einstein, or anyone else, because they got something apparently right or at least better than their predecessor, does not mean that they got everything right. In fact, it does not mean they got anything else right. To suggest that somebody who got something special right, therefore something else they said is also "right" and special commits a fallacy not unlike an ad hominem argument, except in this case the implied trasfer is positive instead of negative.

The nature of science and time-binding is that we can in principle re-do the empirical evidence trail for ourselves. You are cautioned not to accept anything anyone says unconditionally; accept it (or not) only conditionally on your own ability to reconstruct it. Always "identify" your citations of your "authorities", so that any reader can re-check for himself. Including me. Just because I've a Ph.D. in philosophy specializing in the philosophy of science, epistemology, and mathematics, do not give my claims any special consideration. Go research the topic yourselves.

You may expect to find that citing a result obtained by an authority that has much corroboration is generally accepted, but the accptance of assertions, proclamations, and quotes, especially those less related to the specific result obtained by that authority, constitute a reverse ad hominem argument. I do not believe there are any infallible human beings. Moreover aphorific quotes taken out of context lose the grounding in meaning provided by the context.

Quotes by Einstein, that are not his work or theory, both positive and negative are for me, sometimes a possibily interesting diversion, but they hold no logical credibility.

There are plenty of sheep who will label almost anyone a bellweather and follow them without question. Thinking persons picks their own way, even though it may coincide with the path of many sheep.

Author: Ralph E. Kenyon, Jr. (diogenes) Monday, October 29, 2007 - 01:35 am Link to this messageView profile or send e-mail

"Danger" has nothing to do with the discredit.
Knowledge by authority suffers from infinite regress with no starting point. Religions postulate a "first cause" in the form of God. See Gödel Escher Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid.

Knowledge of any kind can be put to use that endangers people; recall Hiroshima as an example. It can also be put to use that saves lives; for example, the knowledge of how to manufacture vaccines. Do not confuse judgementslevel+2 ("dangerous") of how "knowledge" is usedlevel+1 with knowledgelevel0 "itself".

Did you miss this link in my previous post?

Citing an Einstein (authority in one area) aphorism (often quoted statement) without any discussion or argument as to how to apply it amounts to treating the statement as "knowledge" by "authority" - a reverse ad hominem argument and a fallacy in reasoning. Supplying a discussion or argument as to how to apply it would provide some communication as to how you see the quote as applicable, and you would not need the "Einstein" name to "give it some additional weight through the "reverse ad hominem" association.

So, unless you take some time and explicitly show how you think it applies, which you did not, it has no bearing on the previous discussion. The technique is rhetoric using inuendo.

The phrase "perfection of means and confusion of ends" suggests "excessive" emphasis on the structure while losing sight of the ends, and it could be interpreted as supporting Ben's initial suggestion. "Wondering if it applies here" is inuendo rhetoric, and adding Einstein's name adds the "weight" of "authority" by the device of the reverse ad hominem argument.

Now, if you had no intention of even hinting as such an outcome, your consciousness of abstraction and knowledge of English language connotation seems rather undeveloped. On the other hand was my "dismissal" that immediately followed.

And, yes Loel, I too can enjoy aphorisms - when they do not appear in a context that suggests that they are used for the purpose of rhetoric and inuendo, both of which are almost never acknowledge and are frequently denied when confronted.

Author: Ralph E. Kenyon, Jr. (diogenes) Monday, October 29, 2007 - 09:35 am Link to this messageView profile or send e-mail

One cannot communicate a large amount of data with a short low baud rate transmission, unless the structure is pre-arranged, and pre-arrangement requires prior transmission of large amounts of data.

David's "In my view, the quote applies to this situation because it suggests a myopic focus on perfecting the form/structure of communication (means) can lead to confusion about or subversion of the purpose of communication (ends)." restates Ben's original these and suggests that it applies to one or more posts in this thread, following a similar inuendo. It does not describe how it applies to which post(s).

If you want to say that you judge that one or more of my posts are specific examples of Ben's discredited claim, do so explicitly. It would be a personal opinion judgement with no value in clariying the issues, and not worth responding to.

If you believe "[You] point at the moon, and [I] respond with a critique of [your] manicure.", you just may have to do a better job of pointing.

Author: Ralph E. Kenyon, Jr. (diogenes) Monday, October 29, 2007 - 10:41 pm Link to this messageView profile or send e-mail

In general I'm not against the use of aphorisms nor am I against crediting the source. It is when they are used to support judgement, particularly in a learning context, such as this formum, that I think the argument supporting the use of an aphorism needs to be explicit. They should not be used "in place of" such an argument or explicit connection. But the "Authority" of the source becomes logically relevant only when the quotation is in the area of expertise of the author. Barring that connection, the "credibility" of the "expert" does not transfer any additional "weight" to the use of the quote.

Author: Ralph E. Kenyon, Jr. (diogenes) Monday, October 29, 2007 - 10:58 pm Link to this messageView profile or send e-mail

Gary wrote, I don't know how you can "implicitely state" something*,.

Something is "implicitly" stated when it is presumed. Here's an example from the Scientific American published article on the fallability of Eye Witness testamony. Witnesses were asked, "What color was the getaway car?". This gramatical construct presumes that there was a getaway car. That there was a getaway car was "implicitly stated" in the question (but in the experiments, there was no getaway car). Ben's original phraseology that "implicitly" introduced the "statment" was "of the drawbacks of general semantics". What's more, Ben went on to say that he actually sometimes "witnessed" said "drawback", although that statement is "false" in that what was asserted to be "witnessed" is a higher level abstraction of the character of an "inference or judgement" about what he actually witnessed, which was an exchange of words.

Anytime one uses a grammatical construct that presumes rather than explicitly states a "fact", "inference", or "judgement", one "implicitly" states the afformentioned "fact", "inference", or "judgement" (three different levels of abstraction).

As an aside, that is one of the problems with E-prime; most translations into E-prime render an assertion into an implicit or presumtive grammatical contruct, and people, in general, much less often recognize lest challenge such presumptions. (In the eye witness experiments, a large percentage of respondents supplied not only the color, but many other characteristics of the presumed but non-existent getaway car.)

Author: Ralph E. Kenyon, Jr. (diogenes) Tuesday, October 30, 2007 - 06:06 pm Link to this messageView profile or send e-mail

David wrote "an observed pattern of subordinating utterance purpose (ends) to a critique of utterance structure (means)

This is not an "observed pattern"; what can be observed are formulations. Abstracting from those patterns produces a personal judgement - a higher level of abstraction than simple observation. Judgemental "inferences" as to what the purpose of the original communication may have been, judgemental "inferences" as to the intent or purpose of the response communication, and judgemental "inferences" that the response purpose is "subordinate" to the originator's purpose.

One can not "observe" "judgements" not explicitly stated. One abstracts from simple observation to form "inferences" or guesses as to the meaning, purpose, and intent of the speaker, and further at yet another level of abstraction, one makes "judgements" about those abstractions.

As I noted before, if you are making such a judgement about specific formulations, so state, but try not to "cloak" such judgements by misdescribing them as "observations". We "observe" events and objects - formulations, and that is at a lower level of abstraction of even classification, let alone "inferences" or "judgement" as to what these event or objects "mean".

Author: Ralph E. Kenyon, Jr. (diogenes) Tuesday, October 30, 2007 - 11:21 pm Link to this messageView profile or send e-mail

David wrote Einstien said: "Perfection of means and confusion of ends seem to characterize our age".

I wonder if "perfection of means and confusion of ends" applies here.

followed by

In my view, the quote applies to this situation because it suggests a myopic focus on perfecting the form/structure of communication (means) can lead to confusion about or subversion of the purpose of communication (ends).

When you quoted Einstein, you cited or "appealed" to him as an authority, invoking the content of his quote as the "knowledge" that this authority provided.

Consider if you had written, "someone once said, 'Perfection of means and confusion of ends seem to characterize our age'.". Doesn't have quite the same semantic reaction, does it?

In this case the content was not knowledge, and it was in an area in which the cited "authority" is not an authority. It's mere opinion, and an extremely abstract "word bite" at that.

As for your "justification" for citing the quote... Note that the word "suggests" indicates that what follows is not an observation, but an inference or judgement.

Reformulated as a theory statement:
IF one myopically focuses on perfecting the form/structure of communication (means) THEN such behavior can lead to confusion about or subversion of the purpose of communication (ends).

To apply this theory the hypothesis must be satisfied. That presumes that there exists someone who "myopically focuses on perfecting the form/structure of communication". Moreover it "identifies" by the device of parenthetical objective complement "form/structure of communication" with "means".

"Confusion" is a state of (lack of) understanding by a person. "Subversion" is (generally conscious) activity by one person to prevent a second person from achieving the second person's ends.

Because "purposes" inhere in people, it is not the case that there is "the" purpose of communication; there is each person's purpose, and they differ. Moreover, the above "theory statement" identifies a presumed singular purpose of (an individual for) communication with "ends", again by the device of a paranthetical objective complement.

Because when there are two people there are two different purposes in communicating, there is not "the" purpose of communicating. Granted, each may be confused about the other. Moreover, each may have as a purpose different agendas. Because there is no primacy of one person over another, the "concept" of "subversion" cannot apply; "subversion" implies a process of attempting to prevent an authority from accomplishing its ends. In a communication there is presumably equal status - neither is "the" authority.

The presumption in the professed "theory statement" refers in this case to the content of the mind of another person as "focus on perfecting". This is not something that can be observed. It's an "inference" or "judgement".

To reiterate, there is not "the" or even "a" purpose of communication. "Purposes" are not a property of communication. People have "purposes" directly, and "things" have purpose only when so given by persons. The same applies to communication - an act that people engage in. Consequently there are at least two purposes in two persons involved in a communication.

"Myopic", or "near sighted" applied to "purpose" qualifies the scope or "size" envisioned by a person communicating, and, since it means limited vision, as in seeing only a part of what might be seen, it implies that the person so "afflicted" can "see" only a limited "short-sighted" purpose.

That perspective applied to "purpose" as constrained by two persons each having purposes transforms "myopic" to a comparison of the purpose of the one communicator relative to the possibility of "seeing" more "purposes" seen by the other communicator. Since "purpose" is the province of the individual, and the choice of this matter is solely at the discression of the person, "relative" "muchness" (as in other purposes) dictate a "comparison" with another set of "purposes", and the only place that can come from is a second person. Consequently, the contruction implicitly, by its structure, implies that some other person has a larger set of purposes which include or is different from the one person.

Since the term "myopic" brings with it a negative connotation, the focus of the one person now has an association with negative judgement with respect to the scope of the purpose relative to the other person. Moreover, said judgement can not come from the one person, but from the other person - seeing "more" than the one person judged to be "myopic".

Given that each person has the absolute right to dictate his or her own purpose and focus, the introduction of a negative judgement indicates a pejorative judgement on the part of the "not myopic" person. All this is completely without regard for the content of the focus, but it illustrates that the conclusion statement is literaly incoherent, as it presumes conditions not valid (singular purpose, just to note only one).

We know that getting down to objective examples - to a low level of abstraction is needed to reduce the ambiguity of abstract statements - which includes judgements.

I've already dealt with the assumption that precision in structure in communication aleggedly inhibits "communication". However, I'll add a bit here. You asserted an alignment of structure of communication with means and purpose of communicating with ends. While communication may be in the service of ends desired by a communicator, we cannot claim that "communication" is an "end" in itself, as an "end" is a desired outcome by a person. Moreover, the content of the communication is not the end itself. Just look at "Please pass the salt." Moreover it is the structure of the communication that facilates achieving the ends. Conformity to known or standard structure, using known or standard words in a culturally accepted format aids rather than inhibits communication. Consequently precision with conventional is, contrary to Ben's claim, a facilitator rather than an inhibitor of understanding.

As I said before, if you judge that I or someone else "is" "obsessing on structure", have the guts to come right out and assert it, and take responsibility for your judgement, but do be extensional and clearly identify exactly which post(s) you make the judgement about.

It might help to review this post.

Author: Ralph E. Kenyon, Jr. (diogenes) Wednesday, October 31, 2007 - 12:07 pm Link to this messageView profile or send e-mail

David writes I do; however, claim to observe a pattern of subordinating utterance purpose (ends) to a critique of utterance structure (means).

This is not an observation; it is a judgement as to what the observed formulation mean. We can see or observe formulations explicity. ANY paraphrase of those formulations "is" an abstraction from them.

When we read words, we "observe" or "see" explicit formulations. We do not "observe" or "see" patterns. We form a higher level abstraction and "identify" it as a patten. We "infer" or "judge" that what is actually observed - the formulation - can be intepreted as having a (putative or projected) underlying "structure" that we evaluate as a "pattern" - a structure created in our abstractions.

As to the formulation you use to express that judged pattern, you use the word "subordinating", which is a high leve abstraction in its own right. "Subordinating" - a gerund form of the verb to "subordinate" dictates that an animate entity puts one "thing" metaphorically below another - in this case, gives "lower priority to". The phrase "utterance purpose" combines "utterance", something a person said, with "purpose" an internal "attitude" towards some "end". The "utterance" does not have the purpose, a person making the utterance does, and the "ends" are what is desired by the person; this is not to be identified with the communication itself. We cannot "observe" the purpose or "desired end" that is internal to another person. We can only guess, hypothesize, "infer", judge, etc., what such an end might "be", and that is strictly "inferential" - a higher level of abstraction than anything that can be observed. If a person explicitly states what his or her goal is, AND we take that assertion "at face value" (not withstanding the possibility of duplicity), then we can say (loosely) that we "observed" (heard or read) his or her goal, but strictly speaking we observed his or her formulation of his or her goal. Without including "formulation" we are "identifying" two distinct levels of abstraction - the observed formulation with the presumed internal purpose.

Similary we cannot equate the structure of the utterance with "means". The utterance itself may be described as the speakers "means" to an effect which he or she infers might or might not "move towards" his or her desired outcome or result.

Any "structure" of that utterance may contribute towards that end, or it may work against that end; the "structure" of an utterance can not automatically be assumed to be "means"; the utterance in toto is the alegged means; but its structure may work either towards or against that means. A non-native speaker who gets syntax and word choices "wrong" when communicating in a second language to a person with low ability to provide error correction has the structure of his or her communication which works against his or her ends. A "critique of this form/structure - providing corrections - highly desired by most non-native speakers that I'm personally aquainted with - improves their communication; it does not "subordinate" criticism of means to ends; it facilitates their achieving the ends.

One can not "observe" in any direct way a "pattern" in a set of utterances; one can only "infer" or "judge" that the inferences can be accounted for in terms of such a pattern. This is judgement - a higher level of abstraction. Moreover, one cannot "observe" such internal attitudes or motivation of a person such as "subvert" or "subordinate"; one can only judge or infer that such a modus operandi is operating. Utterances do not have purposes, except as transitively imbued by the speaker. One especially cannot observe that any given speaker is intentionally directing a conversation to form, grammar, structure, without regard for the desire, end, goal, of another speaker. One can only guess, "infer", or judges that such is the case, irrespective of the actual facts. A "troll" in a discussion group would have (by the defintion of "troll") a covert purpose of disrupting all communications, closing down the topic, denegrating it and all participants, etc, such as "Dick Jones" in another general semantics bulletin board. He was extremly obvious, flaming virtually every posting.

I observe formulations. I analyze the formulations in terms of meaning1 and meaning2, and I sometimes "infer" meaning3 recognizing that my inference is not meaning3 in the other's brain.

In addition I draw on my experience with the philosophy of language and artificial intelligence research in natural languge processing. Many of the structural relations I cite sometimes come from those sources. Specific examples from that experience include when I say that a particular word "requires and animate subject", or "words don't have "purposes"; people do".

We can observe a "scatter diagram" showing various points on an X-Y graph. We can see the location of individual points. We can see the relation between individual points. Some are higher, some are lower, some are left, some are right. But a "pattern" in these points is an abstrction from the points - an infrences as to correlation or central tendence, which we label in mathematical terms as inferental statistics. We calculate a "central tendence" and label an "average", a "mean", or a "mode". We calculate a "rank order correlation". We note that there are "more" (a judgement) points higher on the right than on the left, and we "infer" a rising tendancy metaphorically moving from right to left. From this type of abstraction we form a judgement that a "pattern" of rise from left to right characterizes the data. It is still a higher level of abstraction than describing the points.

So I would assert that you cannot observe a pattern, let alone a pattern in internal motivation. We can only judge or "infer" such a structure from multiple observations of formulations.

Ben defined "structural obsession" as:

1... believes in a single structure for something
2... then tries to find the single word for that structure
3... upon finding that word, feels a certain level of satisfaction
4... until at some point learns of more structure for that something, meaning he "must" find a new word
5... and repeat the process.

1 through 4 all refer to unobservables internal to persons. He has not provided any extensional means for measuring such. Ben used the word "exhibits" when the above unobservables are engaged in. But none of them are "observable" so the use of "exhibit" which requires one to put on display or to show cannot be satisfied.

You have claimed more than once in this formum to have "observed" patterns. While our visual system abstracts "edges" as lines from the input, these are not verbal level processes. It would appear that your ability to distinguish direct observation of formulations from higher level abstractions from them is lacking, since you seem to "identify" a higher level abstraction (judgement, "inference", as to what is going on) with a lower level abstraction "simple observation" when you claim to "observe" a "pattern" of (a person) subordinating (internal motivation).

Anything I might say you are doing, feeling, thinking, working towards, "mean", etc., are all hypothetical inferential abstractions at levels of abstractions above any observed formulations.

I critique what others formulate by showing what one can infer, using conventional (time-bound) definititions and connotations, from those formulations. This is intended ultimately to facilitate coming to agreement as to formulations, from which we may "infer" some "common understanding". The topic area includes what formulations express what general semantics "is", how it "should be used", what its principles "are", where these come from and "clarifying" its foundations, consistency with science and the philosophy of science, to name a few areas.

Suffice it to say I "see" differently than others; I've traveled a different path. My view is not fixed or written in stone; while I'm not from Missouri, I still need to be shown - in exquisit detail, and I return the favor.