General Semantics Advanced Thinking
A System-Discipline Concerned with the Sanity of the Race & the Individual
Cognitive Development

by Milton Dawes

Speculating on a possible course of cognitive development in the area of interpretation, from a general semantics point of viewing …

  • Time (1) Observer reads a text, hears a speaker, or has an experience.
  • Time (2) Observer experiences puzzlement. She is not sure that she understands what was written, said, or experienced. Observer wonders what the words mean; or what the writer or speaker means; or what the situation means.
  • Time (3) Observer infers, speculates, interpolates, generalizes, judges, etc., and concludes that the words mean “X”; or that the writer orspeaker means “Y”; or that the experience means “Z”.
  • Time (4) (A jump in cognitive development) Observer, in a self-reflexive mode, wonders about the accuracy of her interpretation and conclusion. She treats her questions as ‘objects of inquiry’. She questions her questions, interpretations and conclusions.
  • Time (5) Observer assumes that her interpretations, conclusions, her meanings, etc., are different from (i.e., not identical with) what the writer or speaker meant. She infers that the meaning of the situation is not identical with the meaning she just gave.
  • Time (6) Observer generalizes and concludes that her meanings are not in ‘words’ or ‘things’. She gives her own individual meanings to what she reads, hears, experiences, etc. She recognizes that ‘words’ did not put their own ‘meanings’ in dictionaries.
  • Time (7) Observer decides not to ask what someone means, or what something she reads or hears means, but rather, “What meaning can I give, what meaning am I giving, to what I see, read, hear, experience, etc.?”
  • Time (8) Observer generalizes and asserts that “If two things (no matter what) exist in two different places, they cannot be identical (the same in all respects).” She further generalizes that whatever meaning she gives is a function of the specific time of her observation and interpretation. She recognizes that the meaning she gives might change as more information, more analytical and interpretative skills, more experience, training, etc. is acquired.
  • Time(9) Observer resolves to take responsibility for the meanings she gives to what she reads, hears, sees, feels, etc. She resolves to seek ways to verify, whenever possible, the accuracy of her interpretations, judgments, conclusions, etc.
  • Time(10) Observer becomes conscious of abstracting. She realizes that when she says someone, something, or some situation means so and so, that she is acting elementalistically by leaving herself out of the meaning-giving process. When she does this, she inappropriately identifies her meanings with whatever meaning the speaker or writer intended to convey.
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