Australian General Semantics Society



AGS Monthly Seminar


Sunday 19/04/09 at Gavan's


"The Non-Identifying Personality"


Led by Laurie Cox.


What do we mean by identification and non-identifying?

How would a person who does not identify behave?

And how can we change our behaviour to act in a more non-identifying manner?


1. Catching-up

We “always” allow a little time for review of our lives and activities.

This month it was weddings ‘n property-renewals ‘n stuff.


2. Introduction

Laurie explained that he has been a serious student of GS for over 50 years, with some gaps of time not strongly focussed on the discipline.  However, on “returning to the fold”, he found that he could read “even Science and Sanity” just like reading a novel!


3. Summary of some GS formulations

We looked at some GS formulations, eg:

Semantic reactions

    (“reacting to the meanings”),

Consciousness of abstracting,


Intensional / extensional orientations,


The “is” of identity / predication / existence / auxiliary verb,


Sanity / Unsanity / Insanity,




Agreeing to disagree,


Creative disagreement,




Uncertainty / Probability,


Critical thinking / Critical evaluating,

    (Used constructively!)



Over / under-defined terms

    (a term can be under-defined by intension, over-defined by extension),



    Assuming “absoluteness”,

    Confusing words (“the map”) with the object (“the territory”),

    Confusion of object and verbal levels of abstraction,

    Making concepts etc “concrete”,

    Confusion of descriptive and inferential levels,

    Consequential erroneous evaluations.


Some comments:

“We cannot have a conflict / disagreement without using words.”

“GS is not a form of counselling – It’s a preventative training.”

“In an existing difficulty, GS can minimise the damage.”

“Confusion of ‘the similar’ with ‘the thing’ must be pathological”.

“All conflicts (war etc) relate to our failure

    in using language to reflect the Structural Differential”.


4. Consideration of case-studies from our own experience:

a. Jan (not her real name) heard loud knocking on the door at 10pm, and was confronted by a lady aggressively complaining out Jan’s dog out the front of the house.  Jan called the dog in, and disposed of the visitor with minimal engagement.


We considered lessons to learn, such as not jumping to conclusions (“It must the Police at the front door!”) when something unusual (eg ominous) occurs!


b. Larry was visiting his wife, resident in a nursing home, at lunch time.  The establishment rule was that visitors should pay $10 for meals, but Laurie was often supplied them at no cost.  On this occasion, a staff member refused to supply the meal, and Larry’s wife was arguing with them about this.  Larry became embarrassed and they both left for lunch elsewhere.


We had a job to separate the various issues, eg

·        Should Larry accept free meals when the rule is to pay for them,

·        Was it fair to have such a rule, when the home had a high monthly cost for services anyway?

·        Could we identify any processes of “identification” by the staff / Larry / Larry’s wife?

·        How can mastery of these GS tools assist in managing such conflicts in future?


5. Case-studies from newspapers

The group spent half an hour working in pairs to find and consider examples of identification behaviour in newspapers.


We re-convened to share thoughts on how the newspaper stories revealed examples of identification.  One of these was the current tragedy of a refugee boat en route from Indonesia to Australia, which experienced “an explosion” soon after being taken in tow by an Australian Navy ship.  Three people were killed, two disappeared (drowned?) and 30 or so injured, some very badly.


It was clear that the people-smugglers’ “Guarantee of safe passage from Iraq/Afghanistan to Australia” should not be identified as “the reality” of the service that they were offering.


Our study and discussion of these articles and application of GS principles was considered by some to be the highlight of today’s seminar.


6. AGS Business


We considered possible topics for remainder of the year, based, for example, on:

a.     Revision / application of GS principles,

b.     Issues of “universal” concern to participants, such as health and fitness, long life,

c.     History and status of GS, including relationship to other disciplines,

d.     Reviews and study of published books and papers, eg from Milton Dawes.

e.     Possibility of holding a one- or two-day seminar in Melbourne.


7. ~ Close ~


Next Meeting: Mid-May, probably presented by Robert James.


~ 0 ~


 (Updated 19 April, 2009)

<- Home