SCIENCE AND SANITY - online book

An Introduction To Non-aristotelian Systems And General Semantics.

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It is the old that becomes 'unthinkable' and incomprehensible, because it gives ■uch a structural mess.
Something similar might be said about a feeling deep-rooted in all of us namely, the 'plus' feeling. In all the advances of science we struggle against it. For instance, the example of the green man-made leaf given previously shows clearly that man-made affairs may with some plausibility be considered as 'plus' affairs, but not so with non-man-made natural leaves, which appear not as 'plus', but functional affairs, where the greenness was structurally not added but happened, or became. As a structural fact, the world around us is not a 'plus' affair, and requires a functional representation. In chemistry, for instance, does hydrogen 'plus* oxygen produce water, H2O? If we mix the two gases, two parts of hydrogen with one of oxygen we do not get water. We must first pass a spark through the mixture, when an explosion occurs and the result becomes water, a new compound quite different from its elements or from a mere mixture of them. Does one gallon of water and one gallon of alcohol make two gallons of a mixture? No, it makes less than two gallons. Does light added to light make more light? Not always. The phenomena of interference show clearly that light 'added' to light sometimes makes darkness. Four atoms of hydrogen, of atomic weight 1.008, produce, under proper conditions, one atom of helium, not of atomic weight 4.032, but of atomic weight 4, The 0.032 has somehow mysteriously vanished. Such examples could be quoted endlessly. They show unmistakably that structurally this world is not a 'plus' affair, but that other than additive principles must be looked for.
The struggle against this 'plus' feeling is quite evident, but often unsuccessful, in scientific literature. Man 'is' an animal 'plus' something. Life 'is' 'dead matter', 'plus' some 'vitalizing principle',. In scientific literature we find curious expressions: as for instance, 'It is impossible to express the conduct of a whole animal as the algebraic sum of the reflexes of its isolated segments'; or, 'The individual represents heredity plus environment'; or, 'That the abstraction does not merely take away from a number of engrain groups some components and combine the rest into one sum, but forms thereby a new psychic Structure is self evident and is in no way peculiar to the psyche. Thus a clock work is as little the mere sum of its little wheels as a human being is the sum of his cells and molecules'; and later on, 'to be exact the ego consists of the engrams of all our experiences plus the actual psychism'. There is endless material that might be quoted, but for our purpose these few samples will suffice. We do not give them with the purpose of citing authoritative examples of the need of non-plus considerations. Far from it. We do it to emphasize the astounding fact that, although the best men in their fields have vaguely felt this necessity, yet even they become a prey to this very old structural linguistic semantic tendency. In all three cases quoted the authors were of the best we have. They have fought all their lives against the 'plus' tendency and methods; and yet, if they succeed in eliminating this tendency from one part of their subject, they plant it quite obviously somewhere else. We see that