Reply to Dot Tassone

Before color monitors were everywhere, monochrome monitors came in the original white on black, green on black, and amber on black. Past ergonomic studies showed that green light was the most visible. My background is actually a star field that is symbolic of the "xenodochy" orientation on the site.

Regarding general semantics levels:

I like to use the metaphor of the swamp with the following levels:

  1. Innocent: Never heard of the swamp.
  2. Hearsay: Heard of the swamp but does not know anything about it.
  3. Sign post: Knows where the swamp is, but has never been there.
  4. Visitor: Has been to the swamp, but has never been in it.
  5. Tourist: Has been guided through the swamp, but could not go alone.
  6. Hiker: Is able to navigate the swamp alone, but cannot lead others.
  7. Guide: Can lead others through the swamp, but cannot teach them to navigate alone.
  8. Instructor: Can instruct others to navigate the swamp alone, but cannot teach them to guide others.
  9. Teacher: Can teach others to lead others through the swamp, but cannot teach them to teach others.
  10. Mentor: Can teach others to teach others how to find, navigate, lead, guide, and teach, etc.

Anyone can "parrot" without understanding, and many can teach others to "parrot" without understanding. For a demonstration, just ask a door-to-door Jehovah's Witness to explain the quotations they spout. Few, in my experience, have been able to do anything except spout more quotations, often simply repeating word-for-word the original.

The degree of successful application of general semantics in daily life will have some dependency on how well the person understands the principles behind the prescribed behaviors. Following prescriptions, such as "use the extensional devices", can be misapplied as well as applied, and understanding the theory behind it provides for better application of the principles. See, for example, my article, E-Prime: The Spirit and the Letter.

If you wish to be a hiker, you must be taught by an instructor. A hiker cannot learn from another hiker, the teacher must be an instructor or higher.

As to being "highly trained in scientific and technical concepts and methodologies", I would say that the level of understanding you have would depend upon the degree to which you understand the scientific and philosophical background of general semantics. For an illustration, look at the difference between a human and a computer reading and understanding text. The computer bases its replies strictly on following a limited set of rules for behavior, because computers operate at the level of syntax. The human has much more to go on, and you know how easily and how badly a computer can screw things up. Learning just the "rules" or "guidelines" of behavior for general semantics, and being unable to explain why each rule is appropriate, seems like the above mentioned Jehovah's witness. Under these condition "general semantics" as a community eventually degenerates into a cult. To prevent this we need a percentage of the community functioning at the mentor level who thoroughly understand the math, logic, science, philosophy, psychology, neurology, etc., that forms the basis for general semantic, and the principles need to be updated as new knowledge is gained.

That does not mean that everybody needs to be a mentor in general semantics, but we seem to have too many hikers who incorrectly presume that they are instructors or higher.

Example: There is a strong tendency for a novice general semantics to look for and "catch" others making assumptions, with a response something like, "Ah ha! You made an assumption!". Some appoint themselves as "assumption police" to catch others making assumptions. While this "stage" may be useful in helping novices become aware of assumptions, its a wrong approach. Later learners will understand that assumptions are not "bad". Awareness that we make assumptions, and awareness that they might be incorrect is the level to approach. Being prepared to take the discovery of an incorrect assumption in stride and correcting the course appropriately without "emotional baggage" associated with the discovery of the incorrect assumption is the later stage of development. Does someone need to know about Popper's Philosophy of Science in order to do this? Not at the hiker level. Does someone need to know about Popper's Philosophy of Science in order to function as an instructor? Perhaps not. But without knowledge of Popper's Philosophy of Science, ways of dealing with assumptions, even the "correct" ways, simply become a set of rules to follow, albeit a somewhat complex set of instructions for dealing with assumptions "correctly".

So, you can follow a set of "rules" and "guidelines" for dealing with assumptions without understanding the difference between modus ponens and modus tolens or the workings of the logic involved, but you cannot effectively explain why these "rules" and "guidelines" for dealing with assumptions are necessary to a potential mentor without that philosophy, logic, and science.

I hope you find something useful on the site, but remember that my perspective can be expressed as a concern that general semantics is not being updated, as Korzybski said it should be, to include new scientific knowledge.

Best regards, and thanks for commenting.

This page was updated by Ralph Kenyon on 2009/11/16 at 21:22 and has been accessed 7255 times at 39 hits per month.