Australian General Semantics Society



AGS Monthly Seminar


June 2009 at Gavan's


"Developing Skills for Applying

General Semantics Formulations"


Led by David Hewson


1. Catching-up

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

This month it was .


2. Introduction

This was a day of application practice, starting off with the application of simple formulations to easy issues then progressing through to more challenging topics.  

3. We started with Ross Gittin’s SMH article about the advantages of positive thinking. 


The article suggested that from a psychological viewpoint one could usefully be slightly more optimistic about things than they actually are.  Laurie disagreed with this stating that things should always be correct symbolism to fact (i.e. one's maps should be as accurate as possible)


Then we went onto to discuss "How many in this group think that they are above average drivers?"  and   "How many in this group think that they are above average students of GS for this group?" as extensional examples of how we behave relating to Gittin's article.  Most in the group thought that they were above average drivers but below average GS students.


4. We then discussed the GS formulation we would practice during the day: 


a) Identification,

b) Projection,

c) Either/Or,

d) Viewpoints,

e) Extensional devices (date, index, etc, quote, hyphen),

f) Allness,

g) Bypassing, etc. 


And three questions that GS people find useful:


a) What do you mean?

b) How do you know?

c) And what then?  I.e. formulations from the basic books.


For each formulation we did:


a) A quick review of the basic formulations.  The name and definition of each of the formulations.
b) What is wrong in the old Aristotelian system that relates to this formulation?
c) How to use it or not to use it (E.g. do not beat people over the head with it.)


An example of our discussion was the formulation of "Either/Or", thus:

Instead of using "Either you are good or you are bad", the New Zealand Police use three categories of:  good, neutral and bad. 

In an experiment, someone left a $10 note on car seat of parked car with window down and the door unlocked.  Well .. 

a. 10% of the people who walked by, closed the window and locked the door or did something similar to reduce the risk of theft of the note. (The good)

b. 80% of the people just walk on by ignoring the note. (The neutral)

c. 10% of the people nicked the note.  (The bad)

So this shows up the limitation of using just two categories "Either good or bad" where 80% of the people's behaviour fits into neither.


5. Then we looked at combinations of formulations.


E.g. “the grass is green”-projection and “the salt shaker is on the right”-viewpoint. Then the combination is “The green salt shaker is on the right.” –a combination of projection and viewpoint.

E.g. “Laurie is a very intelligent man.” Can be broken out into “Laurie is very intelligent”-projection and “Laurie is a man”-identification. 

E.g. “The racing car’s engine is making a high pitch. No its making a low pitch.  No its a middle pitch.”  -Three viewpoints each projecting.


6. Then we tried applying GS to common situations.

E.g. Wilma and Fred Flintstone have just got married.  They are having a big argument.  Fred has cooked lunch and he ate by himself as Wilma was out.  Then Fred just left the dirty dishes and pots on the kitchen bench to watch his favourite NRL football team “The Bed Rocks” on afternoon TV.  Wilma has just come home and is in a rage about this because she wants him to clean up so that it will be easier for her to the cook dinner.  He said  “You are anal.  Chill out baby.” in response. 

So what is your abstract description of this situation?  How would GS help this situation?


7. And we also tried to find problems (from a GS viewpoint using the above formulations) with the following statements.


E.g. “Should parents teach their teenage children to drive?” 

E.g. “Religion is the root of all evil”

E.g. “Our primary purpose is to merge knowledge and morality to create individuals with noble morals that reflect the teachings of our great religion…”

E.g. “Us Aussies are not racist Sol.  We just don’t like you.”
E.g. “The King is dead, long live the king.”

E.g. “Do unto others what you want others to do unto you.” and compare to “Don’t do unto to others what you want them to do unto you, as they may have different tastes.”



8. Finally we looked at Guttman's (1983) three main categories of errors and how they could relate to use of GS formulations:


a) Errors of omission - where the required action(s) is not carried out

i) Entire task omitted.
ii) Step in task omitted


b)Errors of commission - Where the required action(s) is performed incorrectly

i)Selection error - Wrong object/method selected, object mis-positioned or wrong command or information issued.
ii)Sequence error - Acts carried out in wrong order.

iii)Timing error - Acts carried out too early or too late.  E.g. "Bolting the stable door after the horse has bolted."

iv)Qualitative error - Acts carried out to too great or too little extent, or in the wrong direction.  I.e. the degree is incorrect


c)Extraneous acts - Wrong or unnecessary acts are performed.


9. We had planned to try evaluating some complex situations which need multiple techniques but we ran out of time.



10. 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.    Plans to meet some AGS enquirers in Melbourne in July.


7. Close


Next Meeting: Mid-July, to be presented by Laurie Cox.


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 (Updated 19 July, 2009)

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