Australian General Semantics Society Inc.



2020 Seminar Summary

Sunday 26th July 2020
11 am - 2:00pm on-line (by ZOOM)

"Effective Communication - a General Semantics Approach"

Presented by Mr David Hewson

Our Seminar
was hosted again on-line, courtesy of the Covid-19 virus!
We continue to miss the customary hospitality of Gavan and Pauline at Bonnet Bay :-(.

Catching Up
Sharing of triumphs and tragedies and miscellaneous yarns.

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.

From Alfred Korzybski ...

“In the "old" two-valued system, agreement is theoretically impossible; so one of the main, and perhaps revolutionary, semantic departures from the old system is the fact that a non-el multi-valued [non-A]-system, based on fundamental negative premises, leads to a theory of universal agreement, which is based on a structural revision of our languages, producing new and undisturbed s.r, which eliminate the copying of animals in our nervous reactions.

... a theory of universal agreement, in the broadest sense; namely, agreement with one's self, eliminating internal 'conflict', and with others, eliminating family, social, and international conflicts. , is neurologically not only possible, but also a necessary semantic consequence of using the human nervous system in its structurally appropriate way.”

So my aim for today’s talk, is not for us to come to some agreement
but for you to learn some of the GS tools that can be used to help you to come to some agreements, in the future.

*** * ***
We refered (inter alia) to:
  * ETC 75:1&2 p47
Communication: The Act and Art of Taking-For-Granted” (Also on Youtube)
     by Corey Anton
* ETC 75:1&2 p 210
     “Relationship Miscommunication…”
     by Dallas Lee, Shannon Lee and Mary Lahman
* "Operational Philosophy"
Anatol Rapoport, chapters 1,2,3,5

Following Anton’s paper, we will consider application of some general-semantics formulations, such as:
  * Abstracting,
  * Consciousness of abstracting,
  * Dating,
  * Delayed reaction /evaluation,
  * Either/Or distortion,
  * Etc – what’s left out e.g. Alternative hypotheses,
  * Expectations (expect to misunderstand and to be misunderstood),
  * Fact – inference confusion,
  * Identification (“is” of identity) and indexing,
  * Map is not all the Territory,
  * Map is not the Territory,
  * Maps can be made of maps i.e. reflexive map making and meta maps,
  * Meaning context dependent,
  * Mind reading,
  * People have meanings for words, not meanings reside in the words,
  * Projection (“is” of predication.),
  * Proposition / propositional function.


Some graphical items that we considered:

Some casual jottings by R.J. ...

 * Map is not ALL the territory: Examples for discussion
     Example: A smart young man, on his second date, sent a message,
     like "Well we could go to a restaurant, or to the movies, or ... ", and the ...
     was "misconstrued to imply some intimate connotation far beyond what was intended!

 * You must see the classic "Four Candles" sketch by the Two Ronnies!

 * And who can forget the old walnut:
    Message went from the battlefield to HQ: "Send reinforcements, we're going to advance",
    and was relayed-on and received as "Send three-and-fourpence, we're going to a dance!"

 * Newspaper puzzles depicting a number of structures of coloured blocks,
     seen from different perspectives,
    "with the challenge: "Determine which two structures are the same.

 * successful presentation of the puzzles (Different views).

 * One participant told of presenting sister with a gift copy of "The da Vinci Code" book,
    to be angrily told, "Why did you give me that - are you insulting my religious views?

 * Someone spoke to their neighbour on an aeroplane, but the other didn't answer!
    "Obviously too snobbish!
    or, on application of GS principles, maybe it was because they ...
    didn't speak your language, or were asleep, or otherwise unconscious, or dead, or ... etc.?

 * An exercise: Should the "Coon cheese" brand be changed,
    beacase of the allegedly racist connotations of that name?  

 * How could we explain the meaning of "white" to a blind person?
    Trouble is, we need some shared experience to start with.
    For example,
      "Like snow" - "Ah yes, so it means 'cold' ",
      "Like a bunny rabbit" - "Ah yes, so it means 'soft' ",
      "Like porcelaine" - "Ah yes, so it means 'hard' ",
      "Like paper" - "Ah yes, so it means 'crinkly' "   ...  etc etc.

 * Use of jargon -
often necessary, eg in technical communications,
    but what about in explaining general semantics?  Do the words just get in the way?

 * How to use language (and other symbolism) that is accurate but still accessible?
    Milton prefers a seminar environment to a street-passing encounter.

 * What about non-verbal communication, such as the "universal language" of music,
    What about art therapy, helping people express trauma to work through for themselves?

 * P
ropositions as opposed to propositional functions:
      "2 + 2 = 4"  is a proposition (which is true),
      "2 + x = 4"  is a propositional function (where the truthfulness depends on value of x).

 * "Does God exist?" - a propositional function, whose truthfulness depends on one's meaning/definition of "God" and "exist",
      e.g. 20 definitions of “God” and 5 definitions of “exist” means you have 20*5=100 meanings for the question.
      Many arguments of this type are due to our meaning bypassing each other, as we have different interpretations of the question.

 * The power of words, eg:
      When Derek Bently, when confronted by armed police,
      instructed his 16 year-old partner-in-crime "Let him have it, Chris",
      did he mean "Hand over your gun to the policeman.", or "Shoot the policeman."?

 * We laboured on the "relativity of meanings" vs the "variance of meanings":
    Right from one perspective means Left from another perspetive.

 * The tricky question of implied consequence:
    President Trump said "The reason that we have such a high reported virus death rate
    is because we so much testing - perhaps we should reduce the testing!"
    Who, indeed, could argue with this "logic"?

 * Other "common-sense" illusions -
    Are two nearby plumb-bob lines parallel? 
    What about the towers on the Golden Gate Bridge?

 * How can we ever "know the truth" about anything -
      Do we trust the author? (eg my best friend, or an "expert witness"),
      Do we have relevant experience? (When I let go of an egg, it always falls to the floor).

  * Where does our ëxperience" come from?
      Pictures on paper / TV screen / Computer,
      Sounds from radio / wax roll / "the horse's mouth"?  

 * How do we determine the "meaning" of figures of speech -
      "Raining cats and dogs", "Going down a rabbit hole", "You must be mad"  etc.

 * How much of our language / symbolism is operationally meaningless -
      "The King is dead - Long live the King!


Next Meeting:

Covid-19 has driven us on-line

TBA - "Watch this space"!
11 noon on-line (by ZOOM)

Note that the AKML this year will be on-line, rather that at the Princeton Club in New York.

The 2020 Seminar Programme is evolving - "Watch this space" !


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
26th July 2020