Australian General Semantics Society Inc.


Saturday 11th May 2024 10am-1pm Sydney time   (by Zoom)

"Introduction to General Semantics (GS) Formulations for Sceptics"

Facilitator: David Hewson

An introduction to general semantics(GS) formulations,
useful for evaluating topics that you are skeptical about.

Solving problems is a practical art and a skill like: swimming, riding a bike or playing a piano.

If you wish to learn to swim you must get into the water and try to swim.  If you wish to become a better problem solver you have to try solving problems.

The same is true for solving evaluation problems with GS formulations.

Today we had several new visitors from far and wide, coming into our meeting by Zoom!

Following the usual preliminaries, we considered a number of general semantics formulations, including:

* Word meaning is not in words, but in the people who use them
An example was where we asked the group to define the word “Agnostic”,
and we got the following different definitions (among others):
   - Not certain about religious ideas,
   - Sceptical about some ideas,
   - No belief in the spiritual,
   - Fence sitting about religious issues,
   - No faith in what religious leaders preach,
   - Non believer,
   - Does not find the question “Does God exist?” a scientifically meaningful question,
      if “God” is defined as “an omnipotent, omniscient and omnibenevolent being”.

* Expect to misunderstand and be misunderstood, in communication due to differences in word meaning.

* “What do you mean?” and “How do you know”, is used to clarify communication
   and avoid the jumping to faulty conclusions and immediate argument that might follow.

* Map – territory analogy, and how maps relate to the territory they are supposed to represent.

* Assumptions / premises / postulates, including the general semantic premises of:
    - The map is not the territory,
    - The map is not all the territory,
    - Maps can be made of maps.

* Abstracting process goes via deletion, distortion, and generalising.
  These abstracting processes were shown by a series of Visual illusions.

* Fact – inference confusion example was also given showing up an identification of different abstracting levels.

* Korzybski’s "Extra factor" idea, was covered with a few examples.
  The most common extra factor with ideas is that of viewpoint.

* Verbal problems from old terminology, like “sunrise” and “sunset”.
   Then we looked at problems with some other words like “is”.
    For example: Projection of an attribute onto the world, Identification of different members
    in a group, e.g. “Australians” are “Australians”, implying we are all the same.

* Either / Or problems were discussed with “degree” and “probability theory”,
   as a useful reminder that binary maps are not always that useful.

* Alternative hypotheses were discussed and the “etc”, reminds us of these.

* "Post hoc ergo propter hoc" (error) => "comes after this therefore because of this".

* Scientific method was discussed and how it uses independent observers
  to help overcome some of our personal abstracting errors.

* Is science perfect? No. But we see it as the best method, so far, for getting reliable public knowledge.

* Modern independent support for GS formulations was given, e.g. “Women, Fire and Dangerous Things” book,
   from Cognitive science, shows up some of the problems with Aristotle’s classical categories.

Next meetings: 

* Sat 15 June 10am: Meeting Professor Lance Strate,
   visiting from International Society of General Semantics, NY.

* Sat 20th July 10am - 1pm (Sydney time)  by Zoom 

   "Disinformation: a General Semantics Perspective" - John Gillam


This "summary" is a collection of notes provided by the presenter and/or derived from our discussion by a number of means.  It is by no means a scolarly dissertation on the subject(s) as presented.  It does not purport to be the "policy of AGS".

Comment and criticism (constructive and otherwise) is welcome.

If anyone has been misquoted, copyrights infringed or confidences betrayed, please
contact us.


Australian General Semantics Society

Updated by Robert james
11th May 2024