The Humanity Of Words - online book

A Primer Of Semantics

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KORZYBSKI
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recognize the inescapable fact that silent experience with the thing cannot be reached by words alone.
If life passes us by, perhaps it is because we do not, we cannot, we will not live it on the silent wordless unspeakable level of objective experience; on that level which F. S. C. Northrop calls the level of "pure fact."
2. The vertical index can help us enormously in our interpretation of facts and the value judgments that we make. Again, it is a semantic error to fail to distinguish between two levels of abstraction.
The level of abstraction that was designated as bone3 is the verbal level that is closest to the un-speakable level of firsthand experience with the thing. This is the descriptive level of abstraction. Here is a sample of such language:
J saw a man come out of that door with a package under his arm, look to the right and to the left, and then run to that alley.
From this descriptive level, we move to the level of inference. Here is one interpretative inference that could be made from the above description:
The man was afraid of being seen.
And how easy it is to move from this interpretative inference to the valuative inference:
I saw the thief come out of that door and run down the alleys
All of us move from description to inference. Every time we interpret a descriptive statement, we make an inference. There is no other way. But it is important to note, as Korzybski points out, that the descriptive level is not the level of inference. If we react to an inference as if it were
23 See William M. Sattler, "Inference and Prediction as Communication Barriers," The Personnel Journal XXXVI, No. 4, September, 1957.