SCIENCE AND SANITY - online book

An Introduction To Non-aristotelian Systems And General Semantics.

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CONSCIOUSNESS OF ABSTRACTING                415
by looking over a box of matches, and by noticing the peculiar individuality of each match. But since, by definition, we expect that when we strike a match it should ignite, we may disregard all other characteristics as irrelevant for our purpose. A similar process is at work in other phases of life. We often live, feel happy or unhappy, by what actually amounts to a definition, and not by the empirical, individual facts less coloured by semantic factors. When Smith marries Smith2, they mostly do so by a kind of definition. They have certain notions as to what 'man', 'woman', and 'marriage' 'are' by definition. They actually go through the performance and find that the Smith and his wife, Smith2, have unexpected likes, dislikes, and particularities - in general, characteristic and semantic reactions not included in their definition of the terms 'man', 'woman', 'husband', 'wife', or 'marriage'. Characteristics 'left out' in the definitions make their appearance. 'Disappointments' accumulate, and a more or less unhappy life begins.
The above analysis applies to all phases of human life, and appears entirely general because of the structure of 'human knowledge'. Characteristics are discovered when it is too late. The not knowing or the forgetting of the relations explained above does the semantic havoc. On verbal, 'definitional', or doctrinal semantic grounds, we expect something else than what the experiences of life give us. The non-fulfillment of expectation produces a serious affective and semantic shock. If such shocks are repeated again and again, they disorganize the normal working of the nervous system, and often lead to pathological states. An indefinitely large number of experimental facts fully supports the above conclusions. Many of them have been supplied during the World War. Curiously enough, when the soldier did expect horrors, and later experienced them, he seldom became deranged 'mentally'. If he did not fully expect them, and yet had to experience them, he often broke down nervously.
The attack of hay fever at the sight of paper roses, referred to already, gives a similar semantic example. The attack followed from the semantic 'definition' of 'roses', of 'hay fever', and from the situation as-a-whole, and was not due to inspection of the objective 'roses', or to the physico-chemical action of the 'roses'. If the patient had been blindfolded when the paper 'roses' were brought into his presence, no attack would have occurred.
We are now ready to define 'consciousness of abstracting' in simpler terms; namely, in terms of 'memory'. The term 'memory' is structurally a physico-chemical term. It implies that the events are interconnected,