SCIENCE AND SANITY - online book

An Introduction To Non-aristotelian Systems And General Semantics.

Home | About | Philosphy | Contact | Search

But a felt 'contrary' is consciousness in germ. . . . Consciousness requires more than the mere entertainment of theory. It is the feeling of the contrast of theory, as mere theory, with fact, as mere fact. This contrast holds whether or no the theory be correct. (578)         A. N. whitehead
A language, to be most useful, should be similar in its structure to the structure of the events which it is supposed to represent. The language of 'abstractions of different orders' appears to be satisfactory in point of structure. It is a non-el language, since it does not discriminate between 'senses' and 'mind',. It is a functional language, since it describes, by implication, what is going on in the nervous system when it reacts to stimuli. It is a language which can be made as flexible and as sharp as desired, thus making it possible to establish sharp verbal differences, of both horizontal and vertical type, between the terms 'man' and 'animal'.
The last semantic characteristic of potential sharpness is extremely important for a theory of sanity. Evidence of 1933 leads us to conclude that, under the influence of external stimuli, the most primitive and simplest forms of life were moulded, transformed, and influenced in the process of survival, and, therefore, of adjustment. In this way, more and more complex structures evolved. It should be emphasized that organisms represent functional units, and that an additive change in structure does not necessarily involve a simply additive change in function. By physico-chemical, structural, colloidal necessity the organism works as-a-whole. Being a relative whole, any additive structural factor becomes a reactive and functional factor which influences the working of the whole. This is, perhaps, best illustrated by the boy who was born without a cortex, but with no other obvious defects. He was incomparably more helpless and unadjusted than animals who have no cortex, or even no nervous system at all. Although we could speak in additive terms of the difference between this boy and a normal boy, as one having no cortex and the other 'plus a cortex', yet the functioning was so different as not to be expressible in a 'plus' language.
Similar remarks could be generalized to all life. We must be very careful in building sharp distinctions, since the anatomical differences alone are unreliable. If we want to have more reliable differences, we should look for functional differences.