SCIENCE AND SANITY - online book

An Introduction To Non-aristotelian Systems And General Semantics.

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ON SYMBOLISM
83
most of the old 'philosophical' fights and arguments. Bitterness and tragedies follow, because many 'problems' become 'no-problems', and the discussion leads nowhere. But, as material for psychiatrical studies, these old debates may be scientifically considered, to the great benefit of our understanding.
We have already mentioned the analogy between the noises we make when these noises do not symbolize anything which exists, and the worthless 'cheques' we give when our bank balance is zero. This analogy could be enlarged and compared with the sale of gold bricks, or any other commercial deal in which we try to make the other fellow accept something by a representation which is contrary to fact. But we do not realize that when we make noises which are not words, because they are not symbols, and give them to the other fellow as if they were to be considered as words or symbols, we commit a similar kind of action. In the concise Oxford Dictionary of Current English, there is a word, 'fraud', the definition of which it will be useful for us to consider. Its standard definition reads: 'Fraud, n. Deceitfulness (rare), criminal deception, use of false representations, (in Law,. . .) ; dishonest artifice or trick (pious fraud, deception intended to benefit deceived, and especially to strengthen religious belief) ; person or thing not fulfilling expectation or description.' * Commercialism has taken good care to prevent one kind of symbolic fraud, as in the instances of spurious cheques and selling gold bricks or passing counterfeit money. But, as yet, we have not become intelligent enough to realize that another most important and similar kind of fraud is continually going on. So, up to the present, we have done nothing about it.
No reflecting reader can deny that the passing off, on an unsuspecting listener, of noises for words, or symbols, must be classified as a fraud, or that we pass to the other fellow contagious semantic disturbances. This brief remark shows, at once, what serious ethical and social results would follow from investigation of correct symbolism.
On one side, as we have already seen, and as will become increasingly evident as we proceed, our sanity is connected with correct symbolism. And, naturally, with the increase of sanity, our 'moral' and 'ethical' standards would rise. It seems useless to preach metaphysical 'ethics' and 'morals' if we have no standards for sanity. A fundamentally ww-sound person cannot, in spite of any amount of preaching, be either 'moral' or 'ethical'. It is well known that even the most good-natured person becomes grouchy or irritable when ill, and his other
♦The first italics are mine. - A. K.