SCIENCE AND SANITY - online book

An Introduction To Non-aristotelian Systems And General Semantics.

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CHAPTER XXIV
ON ABSTRACTING
... to be an abstraction does not mean that an entity is nothing. It merely means that its existence is only one factor of a more concrete element of nature. (573)                                                         A. n. whitehead
Aristotle, in building his theories, had at his disposal, besides his personal gifts, a good education according to his day and the science current in 400-300 b.c. Even in those days, the Greek language was a very elaborate affair. Aristotle and his followers simply took this language for granted. The problems of the structure of language and its effect on s.r had not yet arisen. To them, the language they used was the (unique) language. When I use the expression 'the language', I do not mean anything connected with the language, as Greek; I mean only the structure of it, which was much similar in the other national languages of this group. The language Aristotle inherited was of great antiquity, and originated in periods when knowledge was still more scanty. Being a keen observer, and scientifically and methodologically inclined, he took this language for granted and systematized the modes of speaking. This systematization was called 'logic'. The primitive structural metaphysics underlying this inherited language, and expressed in its structure, became also the 'philosophical' background of this system. The subject-predicate form, the 'is' of identity, and the elemental-ism of the-system are perhaps the main semantic factors in need of revision, as they are found to be the foundation of the insufficiency of this system and represent the mechanism of semantic disturbances, making general adjustment and sanity impossible. These doctrines have come down to us, and through the mechanism of language the semantic disturbing factors are forced upon our children. A whole procedure of training in delusional values was thus started for future generations.
As the work of Aristotle was, at his date, the most advanced and 'scientific', quite naturally its influence was wide-spread. In those days, no one spoke of this influence as 'linguistic', involving s.r. Aristotle's work was, and still is, spoken of as 'philosophy', and we speak mostly of the influence of A 'philosophy' rather than of the A structure of language, and its semantic influence.
As we have already seen, when we make any proposition whatsoever we involve creeds, or metaphysics, which are embodied silently as structural assumptions and in our undefined terms. The use of terms not
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