SCIENCE AND SANITY - online book

An Introduction To Non-aristotelian Systems And General Semantics.

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The little word 'to be' appears as a very peculiar word and is, perhaps, responsible for many human semantic difficulties. If the anthropologists are correct, only a few of the primitive peoples have this verb. The majority do not have it and do not need it, because all their s.r and languages are practically based on, and involve, literal identification.1 In passing from the primitive stage of human society to the present slightly higher stage, which might be called the infantile stage, or infantile period, too crude identification was no longer possible. Languages were built, based on slightly modified or limited identification, and, for flexibility, the 'is' of identity was introduced explicitly. Although very little has been done in the structural analysis of languages in general, and of those of primitive peoples in particular, we know that in the Indo-European languages the verb 'to be', among others, is used as an auxiliary verb and also for the purpose of positing false to facts identity. With the primitive prevalent lack of consciousness of abstracting, and the primitive belief in the magic of words, the s.r were such that words were identified with the objective levels. Perhaps it is not too much to say that the primitive 'psychology' peculiarly required such a fundamental identity. Identity may be defined as 'absolute sameness in all respects' which, in a world of ever-changing processes and a human world of indefinitely many orders of abstractions, appears as a structural impossibility. Identity appears, then, as a primitive 'over-emotional' generalization of similarity, equality, equivalence, equipollence., and, in no case, does it appear in fact as 'absolute sameness in all respects'. As soon as the structurally delusional character of identity is pointed out, it becomes imperative for sanity to eliminate such delusional factors from our languages and s.r. With the advent of 'civilization', the use of this word was enlarged, but some of the fundamental primitive implications and psycho-logical semantic effects were preserved. If we use the 'is' at all, and it is extremely difficult to avoid entirely this auxiliary verb when using languages which, to a large extent, depend on it, we must be particularly careful not to use 'is' as an identity term.
In 1933, the amount of knowledge we have about the primitive peoples is considerable. Anthropologists have gathered an enormous number of descriptive facts, on which they practically all agree, but the several schools of anthropology differ widely as to the interpretation of these facts. Roughly speaking, the British school tries to interpret the facts from the point of view of ascribing to the primitives the deficient 'psychology' and 'logic' of the white man. The French and Polish schools avoid these unjustified tendencies, and attempt to reconstruct the original primitive 'psychologies' and 'logics' which could be responsible