HIGHER ORDER ABSTRACTIONS
Seen happenings (unspeakable)
(First order abstractions) .............
Description ( Second order abstractions) .............
Inferences, conclusions, and what not.
(Third order abstractions) .............
Creeds and other semantic reactions....
Let us illustrate the foregoing with two clinical examples. In one case, a young boy persistently did not get up in the morning. In another case, a boy persistently took money from his mother's pocketbook. In both cases, the actions were undesirable. In both cases, the parents unconsciously identified the levels, x was identified with B(x), and confused their orders of abstractions. In the first case, they concluded that the boy was lazy; in the second, that the boy was a thief. The parents, through semantic identification, read these inferences into every' new 'description' of forthcoming facts, so that the parents' new 'facts' became more and more semantically distorted and coloured in evaluation, and their actions more and more detrimental to all concerned. The general conditions in both families became continually worse, until the reading of inferences into descriptions by the ignorant parents produced a semantic background in the boys of driving them to murderous intents.
A psychiatrist dealt with the problem as shown in the diagram of the ideal observer. The net result was that the one boy was not 'lazy', nor the other a 'thief, but that both were ill. After medical attention, of which the first step was to clarify the symbolic semantic situation, though not in such a general way as given here, all went smoothly. Two families were saved from crime and wreck.
I may give another example out of a long list which it is unnecessary for our purpose to analyse, because as soon as the 'consciousness of abstracting' is acquired, the avoidance of these inherent semantic difficulties becomes automatic. In a common fallacy of 'Petitio Principii',