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Some General Semantics Principles

© Milton Dawes


Korzybski, valued science and mathematics as models of “human thinking at it’s best” (in terms of predictability). He created-offered “General Semantics” as generalized science and mathematics. An important characteristic of science and mathematics involves “time-binding”: reviewing, modifying, abandoning, and refining previously held views, opinions, beliefs, paradigms, theories, definitions, experiments, actions, etc. Expanding our vocabulary, and modifying our behavior based on scientific and mathematical terms, we can develop clearer thinking about ourselves and others; and improve our understanding of ourselves-and our relationships in the world we live in: A way to extend our horizons.

Applying general semantics principles especially consciousness of abstracting” can be considered advanced thinking”…advanced in the sense that in our thinking, reasoning, and meaning we give, we cannot invalidate or go beyond the principles of “non-allness”, “non-identity”, and “non-elementalism”, and others. Attached are some math. and science terms. (For elaborations on these principles and some ways to apply them, visit < >)

1. Consciousness of abstracting involves: conscious application of the principles of “non-allness, non-identity, non-elementalism”, and others): Remembering that whatever we imagine, think-feel, say, etc., we have not, and cannot include everything: Conscious abstracting: Being attentive to what we think, believe, imagine, say and do; consciously listening and consciously observing; especially listening to, and observing ourselves: Conscious abstracting a “precursor” to consciousness of abstracting: to change, modify, learn from what we are doing, we have to be aware, witness, attend to what and how we are doing.

2. Principle of “non-allness”:  We cannot imagine, think, say, understand, know all about anything or anyone—including ourselves. Where applicable, modifying our thinking with words including “some”,sometimes”, “some”, “usually”, probably, and others, can help us avoid ‘allnessing’. (See non- elementalismbelow.

3. Conscious time-binding: An approach to living involving “learning and improving. Building on what we learn from ourselves and from others. Do what we do, to learn about what we are doing; to learn from what we are doing; to improve what we are doing; to discover ourselves in our doings.

4. The map is not the territory. The map is not a map of all the territory. (principles of non-identity and non-allness) Our words, ideas, beliefs, meanings we give etc., can be thought of as ‘maps’--behavioral guides. A great deal of our problems arise from following out of date, and ‘inaccurate’ map-guides.

5.  The word is not the thing (principle of non-identity). A label, or name, is not the thing labeled and named. ‘Things’ are not what we think, say, imagine, believe, them to be. Words, things, situations, etc. do not in themselves have meanings: We give meanings. (See article on “Meaning and Truth” at <>

6. Non-elementalism. We live in a world of relationships. To be, is to be in relationships. Non- elementalisminvolves not separating verbally and conceptually what is actually not separate: thinking-feeling, matter-energy, intellect-emotion, action-consequences, mind-brain, belief-behavior, observer-observed. Thinking in term of relationships, we make better decisions, and arrive at more effective solutions to problems…among other consequences.

7. Heuristica let’s try and see what happens approach: An orientation based on “consciousness of abstracting, time-binding, non-allness, and non-identity”. Doing what we do, to discover that we are doing, to learn more about what we are doing; to learn from what we are doing; to learn how to do what we are doing better.

8. Intensional/extensional thinking: We think intensionally, when words, labels, names, definitions, beliefs, ideas, opinions, stories, theories, are more important to us, than what they are about. Thinking extensionally, we give more importance, higher priority to how things work, their structures and relationships.

9. Etc.: A way to remind ourselves that there is always more to what we think, believe, define, know, understand, imagine, see, hear, etc. When we ignore or forget the factor of “more”, we set ourselves up for shocks, disappointments, distress--among other factors.

10. The scientific approach can be thought of as “A heuristic cumulative enterprise evolving from wonder, curiosity, and imagination: Through careful observations, hypotheses, experiments, theories, predictions, and a time-binding self-correcting process of learning involving revisions, and refinements of theories, Scientists seek to create ‘maps’ (theories, explanations, patterns of relationships, etc.) that most accurately represent territories mapped.”” In developing a scientific orientation, we can anticipate significant improvements in our ventures. We can be creative and artistic without becoming ‘artists’. We do not have to become ‘scientists’ to develop a scientific orientation.

11.                                                                                                           Milton Dawes/ 2013

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