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An Introduction To Non-aristotelian Systems And General Semantics.

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ON ABSTRACTING
375
Because of this factor of experience, the response of each individual to similar external stimuli is individual. We can only agree on colours, shapes, distances., by ignoring the fact that the effect of the 'same' stimulus is different in different individuals. Besides that, we have no accurate means of comparing our impressions.
The 'time' factor enters, in that we cannot become acquainted with our pencil on all sides at once. Nor can we observe the outer form and the inner structure at the 'same time'. We may even neglect to examine the inner structure entirely. Even more important is the fact that all our means together give us only a partial and personal acquaintance with the 'pencil'. Continually we invent extra-neural means which reveal new characteristics and finer detail. Nor is this process ever completed. No one can ever acquire a 'complete' acquaintance with even so simple an object as a pencil. The chemistry, the physics, the uses of the varieties., offer fields of acquaintance that can be extended indefinitely. Nature is inexhaustible; the events have infinite numbers of characteristics, and this accounts for the wealth and infinite numbers of possibilities in nature.
I used the word 'acquaintance' deliberately, because it seems vague, and, as yet, el gambling on words have not spoiled this term. I had to avoid the el terms 'senses' and 'mind' as much as possible in this analysis. If we recall the example of paper roses in the case of hay fever, we shall realize that the terms 'senses' and 'mind' are not reliable, particularly in humans. As a further instance, we have but to remember the experiment with newspaper headlines, also cited earlier.
We become better acquainted with the object by exploring it in manifold ways, and building for ourselves different pictures, all partial, and supplied by direct or indirect contact with different nerve centres. In these explorations, different nerve centres supply their specific responses to the different stimuli. Other higher nerve centres summarize them, eliminate weaker details, and so, gradually, our acquaintance becomes fuller while yet remaining specific and partial, and the semantic problems of evaluation, meanings, begin to be important.
If we try to select a term which would describe structurally the processes which are essential for our acquaintance with the object, we should select a term which implies 'non-allness' and the specificity of the response to the stimuli.
If we pass from such a primitive level to a level of 1933, and enquire what we actually know about an object and the structure of its material, we find that in 1933 we know positively that the internal structure of materials is very different from what we gather by our rough 'senses' on the macroscopic level. It appears of a dynamic character and