SCIENCE AND SANITY - online book

An Introduction To Non-aristotelian Systems And General Semantics.

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Similar semantic processes are to be seen in the racial developments as given by anthropology, and are reflected in the structure of the languages. In the archaic period of one-valued 'pre-logical thinking', which is found among primitive peoples, the 'consciousness of abstracting' is practically nil. The effect produced by something upon an individual inside his skin is projected outside his skin, thus acquiring a demonic semantic character. The 'idea' of an action or object is identified with the action or the object itself. Identification and confusion of orders of abstractions have full sway.
The paralogical stage is a little more advanced. In it the identification is based on similarities, and differences are neglected (not consciously, of course). Levy-Bruhl describes this primitive semantic period by formulating the 'law of participation', by which all things which have similar characteristics 'are the same'.1* A primitive syllogism runs somewhat as follows: 'Certain Indians run fast, stags run fast; therefore, some Indians are stags'. This semantic process was entirely natural at an early stage and laid a foundation for the building of language and higher order abstractions. We proceeded by similarities, much too often considered as identities, with the result that differences were neglected. But in actual life, without some primitive metaphysics, we do not find identities, and differences become as important as similarities. The former primitive emphasis on identity, later enlarged to similarities, must, at some stage of human development, become semantically disastrous and the optimum adjustment an impossibility.
In building a-system, we have to stress differences, build a 'non-system' on 'non-allness', and reject identity. The older semantic inclinations and infantile or primitive tendencies were a necessary step in human evolution. For sanity, we must outgrow these infantile semantic fixations. Similarly, for civilization, we must grow out from primitive structural fixations, primitive metaphysics, taboos, and other primitive s.r. These primitive habits, languages, and structural metaphysics and reactions have been extremely ingrained in us through the ages, and it requires effort and new semantic training to overcome them.
In the 'mentally' ill we find sinister and very close parallels to the behaviour of the primitive man and the infant, not only in the 'mental' and 'emotional' responses, but even in physical behaviour, postures, drawings, and other modes of expression. These parallels are today recognized by practically all scientific workers and are analysed in many excellent volumes.
We should notice that in this maze of observational material, one general rule holds; namely, 'consciousness of abstracting' offers a full