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An Introduction To Non-aristotelian Systems And General Semantics.

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156 IV. STRUCTURAL FACTORS IN A LANGUAGES
in expressing organism-as-a-whole notions; we had to grope about in establishing the beginnings of a suitable vocabulary before we could approach problems which were antecedent in order.
It is necessary to notice a rather curious structural similarity between theandsystems. In both cases, we deal with certain velocities about which we know positively that they are Unite. The velocity of light in the -system was assumed to be infinite, although we know it is not so, and so 'simultaneity' had absolute meaning. The systems introduced the finite velocity of light by ordering events, which happens to be true to facts, and thus 'simultaneity' lost its absolute character. Likewise in the-system and language, the velocity of nervous impulses was assumed to te infinite, to spread 'instantaneously'. And so we had most perplexing 'philosophical' rigmaroles about 'emotions', 'intellect'., taken as independent separate entities. When we introduce explicitly the finite velocity of nervous impulses (on the average, 120 metres per second in the human nerves), we are able to reach a perfectly clear understanding, in terms of order, of the spread of impulses. Some 'infinite velocity' does not involve order. Conversely, by considering the order of events, we introduce finite velocities. We shall see later that 'infinite velocity' is meaningless and so all actual happenings can be ordered. The above is an important factor in our s.r.
Let us give a rough example. Assume that Smith has had a bad dinner. Some nervous impulse, originating from the bad dinner, starts going. At this stage, we may call it an 'undifferentiated' nervous impulse. It travels with finite velocity, reaches the brain-stem and the approximately central part of his brain, which we call the thalamus; is affected by them and is no longer 'undifferentiated' but becomes, let us say, 'affective'. In the cortex, it is affected again by the lessons of past experiences. It returns again to the lower centres and becomes, let us say, 'emotion'; and then anything might happen, from sudden death to a glorious poem.
The reader must be warned that this example is rough and oversimplified. Impulses are reinforced and 'inhibited' from a complex chain of nervous interconnections. But what I wish to show by this example, is that, by accepting the finite velocity of nerve currents, in terms of order, we can build up a definite vocabulary to deal, not only with the 'organism-as-a-whole', but also with the different stages of the process. This is important because, without some such ordinal scheme, it is structurally impossible to evade enormous verbal and semantic difficulties which lead to great confusion.