Australian General Semantics Society Inc.




Seminar Summary - 29th March 2015


"The Enlightenment"
The "Age of Reason" ("The Enlightenment") in the 17th - 18th Century was a movement emphasising reason and scientific method, challenging ideas grounded in tradition, superstition and faith. Sounds familiar? We considered the historical context of Alfred Korzybski's work, and what is really "new" about it.
Presented by Mr Robert James

We started, as usual, with "catch-up" on the life and times of the participants, who hail from near and far for today's gathering.  There is clearly a significant "social" component in the motivation of our members, who make a considerable effort to be here each month.

GS Diary
In the spirit of "applying general semantics principles" to our lives, as opposed to dwelling in theory, we considered members' accounts of observations and applications relating to the principles and formulations of our discipline.  Today, these included:

 a. A speech by Barry Jones decrying the decline in the standard of public debate on matters of national interest, and particularly references to "abandoning the values of the Enlightenment", and excessive use of the verb "to be" in public discourse (see 14:20 sec in the above speech).  Consider, for example:
  *   "It's time" (Gough Whitlam),
  *   "There is a threat ... ",
  *   "I am not a quitter ... " ... etc.

b. The powerful symbolic appeal of the hash-tag "I'll walk with you", stemming from the Martin Place siege. This was in response to the perceived threat of an anti-Muslim backlash, which did not eventuate in Australia.

c. Responses to the slogan Je_suis_Charlie, stemming from the terrorist attack on a publishing business in Paris - Can we really "be Charlie" ... ?  Most people in Australia like the idea of "free speech", but would not welcome the Charlie Hebdo magazine in this country.

Application vs Theory

Correspondence with our good friend Milton Dawes was reviewed and discussed.  This included in particular a warning against excessive focus on historical and theoretical material, as opposed to maintaining a good balance with application of principles.

We considered a video from our 2010 Melbourne Conference, wherein our founder, Laurie Cox (now deceased), addressed this very issues.

More personal stories emerged, and we referred again to Milton's set of posters containing a great stock of GS material.

Video-1 on "The Enlightenment"

A brief movie account of Enlightenment history and key contributors.


Gavan and Pauline's cuisine is always an attraction, along with strolling in Sydney's balmy Autumn sunshine at Clifftop View.  A number of parrots, kookaburras and currawongs shared the occasion with us.

Personalities of The Enlightenment

We studied (superficially) the life and work of a number of Enlightenment personalities, comparing the content of some of their quotations with the principles and formulations of General Semantics.

We particularly sought to understand what GS contributes to our stock of experience and wisdom, beyond the work of these great figures.

Video-2 on "The Enlightenment"

Building on the perspectives of the earlier presentation, and our deliberations on contributions of the Enlightenment entities, we looked at the contributions of several more of them, and how their lives and experiences relate to the world as we now know it.

Lessons and Plans

We surveyed what we could draw from these lessons of history, how we might “stand on the shoulders" of these “giants of the Enlightenment”).

Business Meeting

The usual: Plans for the year: Dates and places of meetings, international liaisons, finances etc.

Next Meeting:

Sun Apr 26
"Strategy and Tactics in Problem Solving"
We will look at methods that go beyond critical and divergent thinking techniques in the development of innovative strategies to meet your personal or business goals.

So expect a day on problems solving where we aim come up with robust solutions and plans using general-semantics. Strategy concerns translating your mission statement (main goals) into achievable milestones (subgoals) and tactics goes into more detail about the actions required.

This is like the abstraction process in reverse.
Presented by Mr David Hewson

WritingThis is a "living document", subject to ongoing evolution as recollections re-emerge from our memories of the event, and are re-evaluated in light of ongoing experience and reflection.  It will never be "the full truth and nothing but the truth", or "a map that expresses everyone's notion of the territory"!

Disclaimer: This "summary" is a collection of notes derived from our discussion by a number of means.  It is by no means a scholarly dissertation on the subject as presented.  It does not purport to be the "policy of AGS".  Comment and criticism (constructive or otherwise) is welcome.  If anyone has been misquoted, copyrights infringed or confidences betrayed, please Contact us.


Updated by RJ 29 March 2015

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