Updating the Structural Differential

Copyright 2005-2006 by Ralph E. Kenyon, Jr.

This is a working draft subject to change.


Embracing a scientific orientation means extensional updating. Show me any paper or article from the institute that identifies specific principles of general semantics and shows how research has required Korzybski's original writing must be updated. Example. The structural differential shows a hierarchy of abstraction, with the connection between levels being characteristics abstracted from level to level. There is much talk about semantic reactions, but semantic reactions are not included anywhere in the structural differential.

An abstraction from the environment, at the object level, stimulates memory and brings forth meaningful associations. Those associations form the basis for subsequent levels of abstraction. The language we encode our experiences in no longer contains any characteristics from either the environment or from the object level. But the structural differential insists that each level is built from characteristics abstracted from lower levels. A more realistic model would show that characteristics from the object level stimulate associated memories - activating pre-existing categories and remembered actions taken. New characteristics originating in the memories may be abstracted, but are supplemented by more associations to create the characteristics that are finally encoded in verbal formulations.

\      /
  \  /
   O -s- M -w->  M  (Object stimulates prior memory and is written to memory)
    ^       | |         | |   (Represents abstraction)
    |       S  - >   M   Semantic reaction = abstracted from memory stimulates new memories from updated memory
     \                  | |   (more abstraction leading to recalling words)
        <--------      V   formulated verbal level response to semantic reaction and subsequent additional associations
Each V becomes a new "object, O',  " that stimulates more semantic reactions in a never-ending loop

At any point, the V can be expressed as output, but the loop does not end because of output.

Too much looping with too little new input produces intensional orientation, because the verbals in the loop dominate over incoming sense data.  Circularity of Knowledge and projection are both inherent in the looping, so drawing a dashed arrow from the center of the loop back to the parabola would indicate this. It can draw its inputs from both the V and the S.


A sophisticated understanding of the structural differential by bringing to it many different experiences with various aspects of general semantics together with developed consciousness of abstracting allows one to remember that the simple picture of the structural differential is overly abstract, and that we must supply the indexes and differentiation "in our consciousness" as we look at it and in our speech as we talk about it. These "meanings" and semantic reactions are in the nervous system of the beholder. The beginner and novice general semantics initiate does not have these developed capabilities, and our visual memories provide the cues to recalling the "teachings". If it isn't in the map, we have a tendency not to be reminded, even knowing that the map is not the territory. Look at all the discussion of characteristics and multiordinal. The simple suggestion of changing the strings from a homogeneous representation to a two-phase heterogeneous representation would show these in the simple map. I also suggest that we change the representation of characteristics to: miniature broken parabolas in the event level, miniature circles in the object level, and miniature label shapes in the verbal levels. In my new representation above, the memory and characteristics in memory should be represented as brain shaped.  Doing this will greatly enhance the beginner and novice ability to assimilate "characteristics" as multi-ordinal and different from level to level. The label to label strings in the older simplified version should still be two-phase.

Recall the adage: If I hear, I forget; if I see, I remember; but if I do, then I understand.

So a beginner trainee explaining the structural differential as modified will understand when he or she talks about the miniature shapes - different at each level - as "characteristics", and the shape differences will remind him of the multiordinal character of "characteristics".

But, like has happened at the many seminars I attended in the past, explanations of the existing structural differential, even by the "experts", has neglected to mention that "characteristics" are different at each level of abstraction. According to my recollections, they have even been explained at such seminars as representing "invariances" from level to level, and this is part of the teaching that that explained how our mapping produces maps with "structure similar to the territory" - by "relative invariance under [abstraction] transformation" from level to level going "down physically" (up in abstraction level) the structural differential levels. It is a nice neat simplification, but it introduces overly simplistic errors that result is subsequent difficulty with multiordinal.

Some more notes:

Energy from the environment impinges the interface (senses) of the organism.

Abstraction occurs in that only a few frequencies with a narrow range of amplitudes activates sensory responses.ses.

The activation of sensory processes creates an "object" - representing a mapping of aspects or characteristics of the environment.

Simultaneous activation of sensory processes creates a "self" - representing a mapping of the state of the organism's current action state.

The integrated combination of the self and object is created - representing a mapping of the self in its environment..

Annotated bibliography of general semantics papers
General Semantics and Related Topics

This page was updated by Ralph Kenyon on 2009/11/16 at 10:54 and has been accessed 2162 times at 19 hits per month.