SCIENCE AND SANITY - online book

An Introduction To Non-aristotelian Systems And General Semantics.

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ON ABSTRACTING
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and necessary, and we understand better why an individual cannot be considered entirely sane if he is wholly ignorant of scientific method and structure, and so retains primitive s.r.
For a theory of sanity, all three levels are important. Our 'senses' react as they do because they are united as-a-whole in one living structure, which has potentialities or capacities for language and science.
If we enquire what we do in science, we find that we 'observe' silently and then record our observations verbally. From a neurological point of view, we abstract whatever we and the instruments can; then we summarize; and, finally, we generalize, by which we mean the processes of abstracting carried further.
In our 'acquaintance' with daily objects, we do substantially a similar thing. We abstract whatever we can, and, according to the degree of intelligence and information we have, we summarize and generalize. From the psychophysiological point of view, the ignorant is neurologically deficient. But to 'know' or to 'believe' something which is false to facts is still more dangerous and akin to delusions, as psychiatry and daily experience teach us.1 It is a neurological fallacy to treat science in 'isolation' and disregard its psychophysiological role.
In the building of our language, a similar neurological process becomes evident. If we were to see a series of different individuals, whom we might call Smith, Brown, Jones., we could, by a process of abstracting the characteristics, segregate the individuals by sizes or colours.; then, by concentration on one characteristic and disregarding the others, we could build classes or higher abstractions, such as 'whites', 'blacks',. Abstracting again, with rejection of the colour difference., we would finally reach the term 'man'. This procedure is general.
Anthropological studies show clearly how the degree of 'culture' among primitive peoples can be measured by the orders of the abstractions they have produced. Primitive languages are characterized particularly by an enormous number of names for individual objects. Some savage races have names for a pine or an oak., but have no 'tree', which is a higher abstraction from 'pines', 'oaks',. Some other tribes have the term 'tree', but do not have a still higher abstraction 'woods'. It does not need much emphasis to see that higher abstractions are extremely expedient devices. There is an enormous economy which facilitates mutual understanding in being able to be brief in a statement and yet cover wider subjects.
Let us consider a primitive statement 'I have seen tred', followed by a description of the individual characteristics 'I have seen tree2\ with minute individual description., where tred, tree2., stand for names of