Australian General Semantics Society



AGS Monthly Seminar


Sunday 14 March 2010


"Sharing and Teaching GS"


How to bring S&S to the masses –

Do we start with ourselves?

What have outstanding GS teachers to offer that we can use?

Led by Robert & Laurie




  1. Catching Up & Introductions

  2. GS Diary Reports - "Our GS Experiences"

  3. What "is" GS (Again)?

  4. The Formulations

  5. "Learning", "Applying", "Teaching" and "Promoting/Marketing" GS?

  6. ~ Luncheon ~

  7. Conventional Wisdom (Time binding) on Teaching GS

  8. K-12 Programme - How can we use it?

  9. Milton: - "Who would be interested?"

10. AGS Business - Plans for UN and AGS Conferences in September!



1. Catching-up

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


2. GS Diary Reports - "Our GS Experiences"

Some of us experienced events in the month past, which demonstrated the value, and perhaps some limitations, in the applications of GS principles.  Sharing of these is a valuable part of our time together.


3. What "is" GS (again?)


An objective of today’s deliberations was to bring together some threads of material on this old question, that we sometimes have trouble answering.  We considered a few sources, thus:


a. From our very own AGS Website:


GS involves ... a deliberate and consciously abstract point-of-view, based on a scientific approach to language-as-behaviour.


We can describe it as the study of how we perceive, construct, evaluate, and communicate our life experiences.


b. From the ISGS Brochure/Card


General Semantics is:

* How we perceive, construct, evaluate and communicate our life experiences,

* a study of the inter-related effects of language and symbols

   on our attitudes and behaviours,

* an interdisciplinary system with practical applications for everyday living,

* a methodology of guided awareness to better understand and evaluate

   our experiences and reactions,

* a deliberate point of view that applies a scientific way of thinking

   to the challenges of everyday problem-solving,

* a teachable framework for critical thinking,

   media literacy and personal responsibility.


c. "What is GS?" - Ralph Kenyon


General semantics is a new paradigm.


A synthesis of the methods of science and the functioning of the human nervous system yields a new, non-Aristotelian, system of evaluating.


Just as Euclidean geometry is a special case of non-Euclidean geometries and Newtonian physics is a special case of relativistic physics, the standard system of evaluating is a special case of general semantics; general semantics is fundamentally more general.


As with any new paradigm, belief systems and values may change when viewed through the perspective of general semantics.


d. "What is GS?" - Paul Johnston


Sometimes when people ask "What is General Semantics?" -
I don't want to answer!


My reluctance to categorise general semantics arises from the general semantics principle of non-identity. This postulates that no two things are identical

in all respects.


Suppose I say, "Pat is a politician."

Such a sentence uses a form of "is" called the is-of-identity.

It violates the non-identity principle.


In effect, I've said, individual noun (Pat) equals class noun (politician), 

X is identical to Y,

"Pat is identical to politician."

This seems harmless, you say.    - Not so!


e. "What is GS" - K12 Communications


"General Semantics"

refers to a general system of evaluation -

that is to say, a systematic methodology

for individuals to use in understanding:

  * how they relate to the world around them,

  * how they react to this world,

  * how they react to their reactions,

  *and how they adjust their behaviour accordingly.


You could also say that general semantics is concerned with the continual processes related to how we perceive what goes on, how our nervous systems construct those perceptions into some kind of cognitive experience, how we evaluate or respond to the experiences, and then how we communicate our experiences.


f. "What is GS?" - George Doris


General Semantics is the study of the relations

between language, "thought", and behaviour:

between how we talk, therefore how we think, therefore how we act."


The specific 'language' dimension is now too often relatively neglected in personal growth activities, in favour of a largely non-verbal focus.


And yet the 'problems' of so many of us are rooted in our inadequate or false verbal 'maps', which need to be 'identified' and worked on.


We have too many experiential immersions

without enough formulational rub-downs.


Fifty years on, Korzybski's formulations have still an immense contribution to make

in our progress towards sanity.  


4. A Very Quick Revisionary Look at the GS Principles (“formulations”)


Last month we workshopped the formulations, quickly thinking of about 33 of them.

We understand that 175 GS principles have been formulated,

but the principal “hubs” were identified as follows:

Abstracting process
Structural similarity between maps and territory
Degree orientation v’s Either/Or
Extensional devices:






Map territory analogy
Structural differential
GS assumptions

Map is not the territory,

Map is not all the territory,

Maps are self reflexive

Happiness formula / IFD
Earlier experience affects later evaluating - order & context


And the group emphasised ETC, to say that there are many more!


5. Learning, Living, Teaching, Promoting/Marketing GS


This month we’re looking at “Sharing GS”, but we cannot share what we do not have!

So we need to take this in stages:


a. Learning GS


A little survey of seminar participants and people we know revealed several ways that we have come to know and use General Semantics:


  * Discovery of “Science and Sanity” or other GS books in a library, bookshop or elsewhere.  We expressed great admiration for anyone who can “learn” GS from “Science and Sanity” alone, but there are many good and accessible works available now to supplement the Master’s Tome!


  * Personal Referral: Several of us have been introduced to the discipline by someone who active, energetic and charismatic in promoting GS.  This was mostly accomplished in an institutional context such as in a tertiary educational programme.


  * AGS (or other) website: Websites have been effective in drawing together people already familiar with the field, and facilitating the “GS community”.  However, they do not seem to be effective in inspiring people to undertake serious study or ongoing work with the discipline.


  * University courses etc:  Many people have learned GS at college and university in the USA, but not so far in Australia.


b. Living GS


Students and practitioners of GS report that it has been useful (some say “transformational”!) in their personal and professional lives.


AGS has provided weekly and monthly seminars for over 20 years, in which we share personal experiences, triumphs and tragedies and applications of the GS principles. 


c. Teaching GS


There is a great supply of GS materials for learning and teaching. AGS posses a library of these, which is always growing.


d. Promoting/Marketing GS


This month’s groups considered various means of promoting GS.  We noted the success of our website in attracting enquiries, and considered how to best follow-up and satisfy these expressions of interest.


Our participation in the UN NGO Conference, and our own AGS National Conference present a special opportunity to promote GS this year.


We considered the need to face “objections” from enquirers, One of these is the perception of GS as a “cult”.  Rather than becoming indignant and “denying it”, we thought it better to consider some of the characteristics of a cult, eg:

  * Dominance of a charismatic leader,

  * Lack of transparency, especially with respect to money management,

  * Dogmatic adherence to a set of non-mainstream teachings,

  * Resistance to accepting change and development with new research,

  * Strong “bondage” of adherents, and barriers to them “leaving”,

  * Attempts to break adherents’ connections to other communities of interest,

  * etc …


We did not consider that GS fitted this profile at all.


However, “perceptions are important”, and we considered ways of managing perceptions, such as being careful to use “common language” when expressing AGS principles to people unfamiliar with the jargon.


6.~ Luncheon ~


Gavan and Pauline provided a sumptuous “traditional Sunday Roast” lunch, to sustain us through a strenuous afternoon session!


7. K-12 Programme - How can we use it?


We considered the substantial collection of teaching material available from the ISGS Learning Centre, and how it might be used in our own work. 


This material is now available in hard-copy format in our Library.


8. Milton: - "Who would be interested?"


Milton Dawes graciously supplied us with some thoughts as to how we might consider who would be most interested in undertake study and work in GS:



Those potentially interested in GS might include:

·        Individuals with a heightened sense of curiosity--wondering about things, and wanting to make sense of things; searching to arrive at a better understanding of themselves and what's going on.

·        Individuals with a bent towards self-improvement.

·        Individuals with a deep concern for clear thinking.

·        Individuals concerned with critical thinking and seeking to become more critical thinkers.

·        Individuals who want to improve their communicating skills.

·        Individuals who want to improve relationships (at home, in the office, among friend, etc.)

·        Individuals who want a general method they can use to make improvements in any area.

·        Individuals with a philosophical bent...someone who just likes to think about things.

·        Individuals whom have been wondering even from childhood days, if there was something 'wrong' with them and their way of thinking.

·        Individuals concerned with our human situation.

·        Individuals wondering how come their way of thinking about things is/seems so different from those around them--And have a negative viewing of the label "visionary".

·        Individuals who think the world could be a better place ...that our human situation could be improved...and wondering if there is any hope.

·        Individuals with a feeling that in terms of their unusual views, they were born in the 'wrong' century. They feel out of place.


The above can be put in the form of questions such as :

·        “Are you the kind of person that...?”

·        “Do you think you are the kind of person who would like to ...?”

·        “Do  you think you are a person with a heightened sense of curiosity?”;

·        “Are you concerned with the human situation?”;

·        “Do you want to become a clearer thinker.....?

·          and so on …



This gave us plenty of food for thought, debate and discussion!


9. AGS Business


a. UN Conference in Melbourne 30 August – 1 September: “Global Health”

Our hard-working GOD (Global Operations David) reported on his correspondence

with Marty from the ISGS, and arrangements with the UN.


We confirmed our commitment to participate, with role-options including:

  * Just attend the events,

  * Operate a table / booth / stall,

  * Deliver some presentations, with Q/A and discussions.

More anon.


b. AGS National Conference in Melbourne 27-29 August,

Robert reported on the venue etc for our Conference.  Tortuous debate (during which some participants lost consciousness) produced a suggested title/theme:


“Live Long and Prosper

Through Effective use of Language in Thought and Action”


(Have you ever heard those words before?!)

Further Conference Bulletins will report on progress of the arrangements.


10. ~ Close ~


Next Meeting:

Sun 18 April 2010
Non Violent Communication (NVC)

NVC techniques help people to communicate with greater compassion

and clarity and avoid naming, blaming, and shaming.
NVC can also help "teach" people how to resolve conflicts peacefully.

I will base the talk on an "E-Prime and EMA and NVC" article by Lois Einhorn,

 a Professor of Rhetoric at Binghamton University

Led by David


(Updated 15 March 2010)

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