The Humanity Of Words - online book

A Primer Of Semantics

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96                    THE HUMANITY OF WORDS
25. The vertical index for a more mature Humanity
We may call the index that Korzybski uses to point to uniqueness the horizontal index. In the horizontal index, the meaning of the class word remains the same. If there were ten boys in a room and we indexed each boy by a distinguishing number, the meaning of the word "boy" would remain the same. And the index would point to the differences left out by that class word.
But it is necessary, also, to understand the vertical in-dex.21 Basic to everything else, Korzybski says, is consciousness of abstracting. The vertical index, which differentiates the orders (or levels) of abstraction, is the device that clarifies the process of abstracting. Attention to the vertical index will help us avoid four common and very obstructive semantic errors.
First, let us examine the vertical index. The model on the opposite page represents my understanding of the abstracting process.
Notice, first, the "circularity of knowledge" The arrows in the model go upward and downward, and upward again.
Now look at the level of bonei. Korzybski refers to the level of bonei as the event"the mad dance of electrons." Though we cannot know this level by direct experience, it represents "at each date the highest, most verified, and most
21 Korzybski devised a diagram, which he calls the "Structural Differential," to show the process of abstracting and to train students in consciousness of abstracting. Korzybski states that consciousness of abstracting includes the recognition of the horizontal and vertical stratification of human knowledge. (See Science and Sanity, p. 476; also pp. 371-490.) Indexing is the device that keeps us aware of abstracting. We must not only index everything to show uniqueness; we must index, also, to show differences in order (or level) of abstraction. I call these two ways of indexing the "Horizontal Index" and the "Vertical Index."