Uncritical Inference Test

This uncrticial inference test is based on the work of William V. Haney.

Carefully read the brief story which follows. Assume that all of the information presented in the story is definitely accurate and true. Next, read the statements following the story. If the statement is definitely true based on the information presented in the story, check the TRUE column. If the statement is definitely false based on the information presented, mark it FALSE. If the true or false answer cannot be determined based on the information presented, check NOT SURE. You may refer back to the story whenever you wish. But you must answer the questions in order, and once answered, you can’t go back and make changes.

Stephanie and her friend walked into the music store after lunch. Stephanie wanted to buy the new CD by the group, “No Girls Allowed”. There was only one other person in the store when Stephanie and her friend arrived. Stephanie asked, “How much is this CD?” Stephanie’s friend said, “Here, let me see it. I don’t think he heard you. This tag says it costs $11.99.”

Statement TRUE FALSE NOT SURE
1. Stephanie wanted to buy a CD.
2. Stephanie and her friend ate lunch together.
3. Stephanie owns a CD player.
4. There was only one boy in the store.
5. Two girls walked into a music store.
6. There are no boys in the “No Girls Allowed” group.
7. Stephanie and her friend are teenagers.
8. The store’s owner didn’t hear Stephanie because the music was too loud.
9. Stephanie had enough money to buy the CD.
10. The “No Girls Allowed” CD cost $11.99.
11. The owner of the store is a woman.
12. Stephanie wanted to buy a CD as a gift.
13. One of the CDs costs $11.99.
14. There were two boys in the store.
15. The clerk was hard of hearing.

Pretty easy? Did you notice how you projected information into this simple story which wasn’t stated as ‘fact’? In every encounter or situation we face, we bring our past experiences to it in the form of unstated, usually unconscious assumptions and premises. We draw inferences based on these assumptions about the situation as if they were fact. Many times we cause problems for ourselves and others when we confuse our inferences with the ‘facts’, and when we don’t recognize our projections as projections.

Calling Out the Symbol Rulers

ETC Cover 62-1(Published in ETC: A Review of General Semantics Volume 62 No. 1, 2005)

Nothing illustrates the power of symbols and language quite like a presidential election. Of course, those of us who know a little bit of general semantics recognize that this ‘power’ lies not in the words and symbols themselves, but in the motivations, intentions, reactions, and evaluations of the individual human beings who speak, write, see, hear, and read the words and symbols.

Alfred Korzybski emphasized that we must vigilantly maintain an ongoing awareness that symbols (or “maps”) are not the things symbolized (or “territories”). He underscored the potential consequences of confusing symbols with their referents when he cautioned that, “Those who rule the symbols, rule us.” (1)

Who rules your symbols?

With this issue we introduce a new regular feature, “Calling Out the Symbol Rulers.” Each quarter we will highlight examples of how rulers rule by symbols, and how we let ourselves be ruled by symbols. This feature will succeed to the degree that you and other readers participate in the process by corresponding with us — we seek your responses, reactions, analyses, opinions, and examples you find pertinent to this topic.

Whom might we classify as potential symbol rulers? By our definition, just about anybody who participates in a communicative transaction could be considered a symbol ruler. We might start by carefully observing people of influence such as politicians, bureaucrats, teachers, bosses, parents, supervisors, coaches, advertisers, priests, preachers, rabbis, mullahs, commentators, columnists, reporters, etc. How do they generate, manipulate, frame, and convey their messages? What techniques do they employ to influence our judgments and decisions?

You might apply some of the principles of general semantics in your analyses:

  • Do they confuse facts with inferences, judgments, or beliefs? (And by what standard are facts differentiated from non-facts?)
  • Do they over-simplify complex issues into easy-to-understand but misleading either-or, black-or-white, right-or-wrong polarized choices?
  • Do they attempt to attribute only one cause to an event or one consequence of an action, rather than recognizing multiple causes and multiple consequences — some of which we may never know?
  • Do they generalize from one experience or one person’s anecdotal evidence as if that were the only possible or the ‘right’ universal experience?
  • Do they take responsibility for their own statements and judgments, recognizing what Wendell Johnson referred to as “to-me-ness,” or do they attempt to speak for a group or with the authority of a group?
  • To what degree are they saying something beyond the simple application of a label? (“All you need to know about him is that he’s a liberal!”)
  • Do they objectify high order abstractions such as truth, justice, moral values, security and speak about ‘them’ as if ‘they’ were ‘things,’ rather than inherently inexact, personalized, and even arbitrary notions?
  • Do they concentrate on similarities at the expense of ignoring differences, and vice-versa? Do they exhibit attitudes of allness (or none-ness)?
  • Do they fail to apply Korzybski’s extensional devices — specifically, indexing (Muslim Leader1 is not Muslim Leader2), dating (Senator Phlops views on de-regulation1980 may not represent the Senator’s views2005), and et cetera, (the et cetera, or etc., means that more can always be said; we can never know all there is to know about anything).

Remember … these same principles that you apply critically to others, you can apply to yourself. And we want to emphasize that in general semantics we are not so concerned with the words as we are with the underlying human thinking-feeling and evaluating processes, judgments, perspectives, etc., that are conveyed by the words.

          NOTE

  1. Alfred Korzybski, Science and Sanity: An Introduction to Non-Aristotelian Systems and General Semantics, p.76.

De-Mythifying Meaning:

Proposal for the NCTE Annual Convention, November 18-21, 2004, Indianapolis Convention Center

Title: De-Mythifying ‘Meaning’

50-word Annotation:

Four educators apply principles of general semantics to debunk common myths regarding ‘meaning.’ Such ‘meaning myths’ inevitably lead to communication breakdowns, media manipulation, unrealistic expectations and slow self-development. Participants will takeaway practical methods to guide students toward more mature, responsible and self-aware attitudes about their own ‘meanings.’

500-word Description:

The American pragmatist philosopher C.S. Peirce is credited with the observation that, “You don’t get meaning, you respond with meaning.” Nobel physicist P.W. Bridgman expressed the notion in more operational terms when he stated, “The true meaning of a term is to be found by observing what a man does with it, not by what he says about it.”

Nevertheless, in our popular culture, in our mass media, in our personal communications, and even in our classrooms, we continue to perpetuate unproductive and potentially harmful myths about ‘meaning’ such as:

  • the “single meaning myth” – that there is a single meaning, the meaning, rather than possible multiple meanings depending on context, circumstances, and the backgrounds of those involved.
  • the “impersonal myth” – that ‘meanings’ occur or exist apart from the individuals who generate ‘meanings,’ that “things mean” or “words mean” rather than “people mean.”
  • the “meaning = definition myth” – that a dictionary definition dictates how a term must be used and what it ought to ‘mean’ in the future, rather than noting how that term has been used in the past and how its current usage may be changing.
  • the “meaning is spoken myth” – that the significant ‘meanings’ we experience in life can be verbalized, that we can actually describe “how it feels.”

General Semantics, a system for evaluating our language and behaviors, provides practical methods to aid teachers and students debunk, or ‘de-mythify,’ these and other commonly held but unproductive and potentially harmful notions about ‘meaning.’ This panel offers presentations from four professionals representing the fields of journalism, theater arts, communications, and management. Each presenter has applied the principles of general semantics in his/her own classroom environments.

Each presentation will offer practical demonstrations and exercises that can be immediately applied in the classroom to help students learn:

  • They should expect to misunderstand others, and expect to be misunderstood by others; this “communicator beware” attitude will help avoid problems of presumed understanding due to an over-reliance on what the words ‘mean.’
  •  What words, or events, or other symbols ‘mean’ is a function of how each individual interacts with and responds to the word or event; each ‘meaning’ carries with it an aspect of “to-me-ness” determined by the individual.
  • How to become an informed consumer of mass media, to discern the ‘facts’ of a news report vs. the reporter’s own interpretation of what the story ‘means.’
  • How to avoid leaping to conclusions, or rushing to judgment, as to what another person ‘means’ by his/her statements, actions, attitudes, etc.
  • That we ought to temper the meanings that we generate or the judgments we make with some degree of tentativeness and uncertainty. We cannot know ‘all’ about another’s motivation or intent, just as reporters cannot convey ‘all’ the details of a story in a limited amount of space.

By learning these and other critical distinctions, students can develop their individual abilities to respond with ‘meaning’ in their daily lives, and respect the ‘meaningful’ responses of others.

Berman Lecture

Speaking notes (not a transcript) and videos from the first annual Berman Lecture at the University of Nevada Las Vegas, endowed by a gift from Dr. Sanford I. Berman.

Calling Out the Symbol Rulers

Introduction (5:34)

Some Benefits of General Semantics (4:22)

Application of Knowledge (3:19)

Calling Out the Symbol Rulers (42:53)

1. About General Semantics

About general semantics, from our Capital Campaign Brochure, statement from Charles Russell, retired management consultant, professor and academic adviser at the University of Toledo:

I have enjoyed introducing General Semantics to hundreds of students who frequently asked, “Why have I just now learned the most significant things in my life?”

So how is it that general semantics can be labeled as significant and even most significant?

I think it relates to something from the Spanish philosopher and educator Jose Ortega y Gasset in his 1930 collection of essays titled, The Mission of the University, stated that one of the purposes of the University was to teach people to live “at the height of the times.”

General Semantics increases our understanding and awareness of the role that our language and other symbolizing behaviors play in the “heights” that we can achieve.

There are many ways to define General Semantics and to describe what it’s about. I’ll say that we can describe GS as dealing with how effectively we manage our symbolizing processes. In other words, how well we:

  • Perceive what is going on, our experiences are incomplete.
  • Integrate our perceptions of what goes on with our past experiences.
  • Create and generate ‘meanings’ that result in our actions, language, attitudes, etc.

Leonard da Vinci: All our knowledge has its origins in our perceptions.

Charles Sanders Peirce: We don’t get meaning, we respond with meaning.

When we are conscious of this process, when we’re practicing the methodologies that general semantics advocates, we have a greater chance of living “at the height of the times” in that:

  1. We’re less prone to hold unrealistics expectations,
  2. Less prone to jump to conclusions,
  3. Less prone to perpetuate prejudices and stereotypes,
  4. Less prone to mistake our own opinions and beliefs as ‘facts’ or ‘truths’,
  5. Less prone to respond automatically to symbols and labels.

On the positive side, when we’re most effectively aware and living near the “height of the times” we tend to:

  1. think-feel-and-act in the here-and-now, in the moment-to-moments of daily living rather than re-living the past or dreading the future [anybody “here” but not really … “here”? okay to daydream, let your mind wander];
  2. think, speak, write, read and listen more deliberately, more discriminatingly, and more productively;
  3. more effectively analyze and solve problems, resolve conflicts and maintain relationships;
  4. feel free to ‘be ourselves,’ to promote individuality and appreciate diversity;
  5. more accurately and more productively integrate and build upon all of our knowledge and share that knowledge with others (“time-binding”).

General Semantics isn’t just about “knowing” things, but it’s about how we apply what we know. GS is always asking, “So What?” How does it matter? What difference does that knowledge make? Is it a difference that makes a difference?

There are three quotes that underscore different aspects of ‘knowledge’ or ‘knowing’:

Old Persian proverb: “He who learns and learns and yet does not what he knows, is one who plows and plows yet never sows.” — do we apply what we ‘know’?

American Psychiatrist William Alanson White: “The trouble with people isn’t so much with their ignorance as it is with their knowing so many things that are not so.” — how much of what we think we know, isn’t really so?

Mark Twain: “We should be careful to get out of an experience only the wisdom that is in it — and stop there; lest we be like the cat that sits down on a hot stovelid. She will never again sit on a hot stovelid, and that is well. But she will also never again sit on a cold one.” — do we recognize the limits of what we ‘know’ from our own experiences?

General Semantics advocates what we can call a ‘scientific orientation’, it’s based on scientific thinking rather than we can call “pre-scientific thinking.” Not just a collection of principles or concepts but an integrated system or methodology for how one views the world.

Continuum of how to view the world, spectrum of orientations …

Example: Astronomy vs. Astrology, two sides of the river valley … Mercury in Retrograde …. Galileo … persistence of astrology

For those of us who study and practice general semantics, it’s very important to understand this symbolization process, of how we perceive what we experience, how we integrate our experiences, and how we generate ‘meaning’ from our perceptions and experiences.

It’s so important that Alfred Korzybski stated in Science and Sanity that: “Those who rule the symbols, rule us.”

So … who’s ruling your symbols? Let’s talk about that.

2. Calling Out the Symbol Rulers

We typically think of a “symbol” as simply something that stands for something else. But in a more general sense we can talk about our thinking and our communicating as the symbolic manifestation of our what’s going on in our brains. I want to talk not just about “symbols” but how we as individuals use symbols, how we respond to symbols, how we get meaning from symbols, and how it might be possible that we end up getting “ruled” by symbols.

    Bombarded from infancy with symbols – words, numbers, figures, colors, etc. from:

  • Parents, siblings, friends
  • Teachers
  • Preachers, priests, rabbis, Imams, clerics CONDITIONED
  • Doctors, lawyers, politicians
  • Advertisers, reporters, broadcasters
  • Musicians, artists, writers, poets, actors

Each affected differently, each form our own unique neural networks, each develops our own unqiue way of viewing the world based on our value system of symbols, meanings, etc. We each have our own unique orientation …. (degrees of disagreement à agreement)

  1. You’re either with us or against us.
  2. You can’t change human nature.
  3. Everything happens for a reason.
  4. Clothes make the man.
  5. Nice guys finish last.
  6. In the end, we all get what we deserve.
  7. You get what you expect.
  8. There’s nothing new under the sun.
  9. Time heals all wounds.
  10. Everybody has a right to his/her own opinion.

You bring this orientation into each new life experience and you perceive, integrate and evaluate your experiences as a function of this orientation. We determine what’s important, what we choose to pay attention to, what we allow things to mean.

Examples:

  • Stacy, social club bias, now President of Women’s Club Council and Class Favorite
  • Dating: “I’ll be glad to get my Passat back. I just hate these loaner cars.”
  • Other examples of “status symbols” … to some degree, every symbol serves as a status symbol or some type of significance — clothes, cars, neighborhoods, music

In GS we have a term: “Identification”: responding to symbols AS IF we were responding to the ‘thing’ the symbol stands for; in other words, when we fool ourselves or allow ourselves to be fooled by symbols … not just verbally fooled, but fooled on neurological, physiological levels:

  • food biases, how many don’t like certain foods that you’ve never tried?
  • Reacting to a food after you’ve been told what it was?
  • Stacy, three years old reacting to the Golden Arches
  • My “Sixth Sense” movie experience, experiencing chills upon seeing the thermostat
  • My allergies, Paper Rose anecdote
  • Mandalay Bay roulette, 11 Black in a row, 23 of 28 black spins

Other examples of symbols that ‘mean’ something, in which we easily presume something based on the symbol:

  • Degrees
  • Credentials: Liz Phair, “Rock Me”, you’re potential without credentials
  • Job titles
  • Brands
  • Flags
  • Medals
  • Concepts such as “freedom” “equality” “justice” “liberty”
  • “marriage” (“sancitity of the institution” must be “protected”

Consequences of how symbols are used and abused:

Taylor Hess … “weapon” …. “threaten” …. “zero tolerance”

Jack Beers … six-tenths of a second

Swift Boat Veterans for Truth ad

Factcheck.org – who fact checks the fact checkers?

So the question is, who rules your symbols? Do you rule your own symbols, do you form your own judgments and opinions and beliefs about your experiences? Or are your symbols ruled by others, are your opinions shaped by others or determined by the past? Do you believe what you see … or do you see what you believe?

Conclusion

Anecdote about Hemingway in the early 60s, Postman/Weingartner, Teaching as a Subversive Activity: “In order to be a great writer, a person must have a built-in, shockproof crap detector.”

Was he talking about being able to detect the crap that was going on around him … or the crap that he himself was writing?

In a way you can think of general semantics as an all-purpose “crap detector”, remember that it’s always more effective when used by yourself on yourself in your own symbolizing efforts.

Close with quote from ART, Yasmina Reza:

If I’m who I am because I’m who I am and you’re who you are because you are who you are, then I’m who I am and you’re who you are. If, on the other hand, I’m who I am because you’re who you are, and if you’re who you are because I’m who I am, then I’m not who I am and you’re not who you are.

I submit that it’s near to impossible to be yourself, for yourself, if you don’t rule your own symbols. So I’m calling you out here to become your own symbol ruler, and I wish you success in learning how to live at the height of these times, and all times in the future.

Thank you.

Eating Menus

ETC Cover 61-1(Published in ETC: A Review of General Semantics Volume 61 No. 1, 2004)

This issue of ETC marks another transition in the organizational evolution of a discipline. Published from 1943-1948 by the Society for General Semantics, then from 1949-2003 by the International Society for General Semantics, ETC now falls under the stewardship of the Institute of General Semantics.

Twenty-seven years ago, this journal experienced a different type of transition. The late Neil Postman, remembered in the previous issue of ETC, began his 10-year editorship of this journal with a clearly articulated point of view in the first of his ‘themed’ issues, “The Roots of Fanaticism.”

He diagnosed that, in 1977, there existed a “state of mind which banishes reason and generates frenzy, [that] has accompanied mankind throughout our history and gives no sign that it is wearying of the journey.” He observed that this “state of mind” had produced “the odor of a kind of intellectual decadence that some of us have smelled before.”

Postman predicted that “the study of symbolic processes will be a pre-eminent intellectual enterprise for the remainder of this century.”

To whatever degree ‘we’ have, since 1977, engaged in “the study of symbolic processes,” it doesn’t appear to me that we’ve succeeded in diluting what Postman sniffed as the “odor of a kind of intellectual decadence.” Indeed, I contend that this ‘odor’ lingers, wafts and seeps even more persistently and pervasively in 2004 than in 1977.

Consider the issues that, on a given day, dominate our national interest as evidenced by newspapers, media talk shows, and the Internet. Many of these current (March 2004) issues represent deeply-rooted conflicts that concern “symbolic processes” and the “intellectual decadence” of rulers and/or the ruled, who lack the means to differentiate symbols as symbols, rather than things, values, or truths.

  • A piece of paper generated by a local government official that symbolizes a societal practice that, in English, we call marriage has become a touchstone issue for the 2004 elections, undoubtedly to affect every level of elected office.
  • The issuance of the piece of paper that, in English, we call a marriage certificate has become the object of a movement to generate another piece of paper that, in English, we refer to as an amendment, that will change another piece of paper that we, in English, call the Constitution of the United States of America. The intent of this amendment is to define exactly what marriage is, and by extension, what it most definitely is not.
  • The cultural buzz focuses on the recent release of Mel Gibson’s movie, The Passion of the Christ. This film presents his (Gibson’s) creative interpretation of the Apostles’ descriptions of their recollections of the events leading to the crucifixion of Jesus. Much of the buzz deals not with the film as a film, but with Gibson’s motivations, with what some perceive as his anti-Semitic point of view, and with the question of “Truth” in his creative depiction—is it indeed “as it was”? (Except for the special effects, of course—I assume no actors actually suffered or were subjected to inhumane treatment during the filming.)
  • The French National Assembly has voted to ban clothing and jewelry that constitute “ostensibly” religious symbols from that nation’s public schools.
  • The ramifications of the “wardrobe malfunction” that revealed part of Janet Jackson’s right breast during the Super Bowl halftime continue. Some major media conglomerates have taken actions to curtail or terminate indecent and obscene programming, even prior to governmental direction or market demands.

It seems to me, then, that our susceptibility to all things symbol-related, and our vulnerability to those who manipulate the symbols (and labels, words, morals, attitudes, beliefs, etc.) has not ameliorated significantly in the quarter century since Postman’s editorial. We still, as individuals, groups, and cultures, exhibit behaviors that amount to “eating the menu,” so to speak. We still confuse flags with freedoms, bumper stickers with beliefs, and appearances with ‘realities.’

So what, then, about the relevance of general semantics? Does our discipline bring anything to the table of “intellectual enterprise” for this 21st century? You may correctly presume that I, as the new Executive Director of this ‘new’ organization, would answer in the affirmative.

Twenty-seven years ago, Neil Postman wrote about the consequences of the “symbolic stench” (my term) that pollutes what passes for contemporary cultural, political, and social discourse. Alfred Korzybski warned us over seventy years ago that “who rules the symbols rules us.” The current ‘issues’ that exist on verbal and symbolic levels will divide us politically in this election year, even as our living existence is threatened on quite visible non-verbal levels in New York, Baghdad, Madrid and other cities inevitably to be named later.

Our challenge as students, practitioners, publishers and advocates of an extensional, scientific orientation is to forthrightly address the threats to sane, time-binding behavior as we can, using the methods and tools at our disposal.

Otherwise, we will continue to be fed menus, and eventually not object to the taste.

On Mindfulness

On Mindfulness: A Report on the 46th Annual Alfred Korzybski Memorial Lecture by Ellen J. Langer, October 1999

ETC 56-4 Cover(Published in the Winter 1999-2000 edition of ETC: A Review of General Semantics.)

If you’ve participated in any social discussions regarding general semantics — among folks who would admit to having actually read Korzybski — you’ve probably heard the inevitable sigh, ” (sigh) Somebody needs to re-write Science and Sanity in language that normal people can understand.”

Relax. Nobody has, to my knowledge. However, Ellen J. Langer has achieved something almost as significant. Ms. Langer, Harvard Professor of Psychology, author, and guest lecturer at this year’s Alfred Korzybski Memorial Lecture, espouses an orientation based on a notion she refers to as “mindfulness”. Her findings, derived from thirty years of research and study with various colleagues, parallel much of what Korzybski proposed almost 70 years ago as the benefits of a general semantics orientation.

In her 1997 book, The Power of Mindful Learning, Ms. Langer summarizes the distinctions she makes between “mindful and “mindless:

A mindful approach to any activity has three characteristics: the continuous creation of new categories; openness to new information; and an implicit awareness of more than one perspective.

Mindlessness, in contrast, is characterized by an entrapment in old categories; by automatic behavior that precludes attending to new signals; and by action that operates from a single perspective.

Drawing primarily on research and anecdotes contained in The Power of Mindful Learning and her 1989 book, Mindfulness, Ms. Langer engaged the audience in a lively, sometimes passionate, discussion regarding her findings. Many of her stories came from research conducted with the elderly in nursing homes. A key conclusion derived from these studies concerns the benefits of allowing, if not encouraging, aging individuals to make decisions and choices for themselves. As her data showed, those individuals challenged to make even seemingly-trivial decisions for themselves exhibited much more mindful behavior, as reflected by testing and — perhaps not coincidentally — longer lives.

Although she herself had not read Korzybski or other general semantics authors, Ms. Langer did state to Marjorie Zelner, Executive Director of the Institute of General Semantics which hosts the annual lecture, that several of her colleagues had read Korzybski. On the one hand, as a student of and advocate for general semantics, I would have wished Ms. Langer had some familiarity with Korzybski. On the other hand, however, I find a certain validation and confirmation that her research and conclusions should so closely overlay those proposed by Korzybski.

For example, in my reading and listening of Ms. Langer, I noted the following similarities with general semantics formulations:

  • She emphasized the importance of a scientific approach, or method, to how we think and act. We need to mindfully revise our theories and beliefs to fit the facts instead of mindlessly looking to find data to validate beliefs.
  • She began her interaction with the audience aided by overhead transparencies to illustrate how projection influences our perceptions. She showed several dual images familiar to students of general semantics, such as the “old woman or young woman or old man”.
  • She emphasized the importance of creating new categories, new labels, new ways of categorizing, reminiscent of Korzybski’s admonition to avoid “hardening of the categories”.
  • She noted how much of our behaviors and attitudes come from traditions, with no more “mindful” consideration than “that’s the way we’ve always done it.” She related an anecdote I first heard from a participant at the 1994 IGS seminar-workshop, who perhaps had read Langer’s book. A young woman used a third-generation recipe for cooking a pot roast, which including slicing off both ends of the roast. When someone asked the woman why she sliced off the ends, she replied, “I don’t know. That’s how my mother did it.” Her mother was then asked the same question, to which she responded, “I don’t know. That’s how my mother did it.” The young woman’s grandmother was tracked down and asked why her family recipe for pot roast included slicing off both ends. The grandmother replied, “Because my pan was too short to hold the roast. So I cut off both ends to make it fit.”
  • She spoke about the importance of context, the individuality of experience, and the ever-changing process nature of the universe.

She made the somewhat provocative claim that people should strive for mindfulness at all times. While admitting the unlikely achievement of this, she qualified her position somewhat by allowing that in every situation we encounter, we should either manifest mindfulness, or maintain the potential for mindful behavior.

Of the five AKMLs I’ve had the pleasure to attend, I found Ms. Langer by far the most engaging, informative and personable speaker. (I would still reserve the “most entertaining” label for Robert Anton Wilson in 1997.) I definitely recommend any one of her numerous books, especially those two referenced above, to anyone interested in the application, and benefits, of general semantics.

That said, however, I temper my otherwise enthusiastic review of Ms. Langer’s work with two critical observations. First, although she made an excellent presentation of her research, findings and implications regarding the benefits of mindfulness, I didn’t get a sense that she offers any explicit prescriptions for what one needs to do to achieve a mindful orientation. I failed to find a parallel, for example, to Korzybski’s extensional devices. Secondly, she seemed to dismiss the work of neuroscientists as of a different domain, with questionable relevance to that of psychology – she sounded content to let them (neuroscientists) do their thing, while she does hers. This struck me as a bit elementalistic, from my general semantics background.

Prior to Ms. Langer’s lecture, Jeffrey Mordkowitz, IGS Trustee and Master of Ceremonies for the evening, presented the 1999 J. Talbot Winchell Award to Robert Wanderer. The J. Talbot Winchell Award annually recognizes individuals who have significantly advanced the cause of general semantics. Mr. Wanderer serves as a Director of the International Society for General Semantics, Membership Secretary of the San Francisco Chapter for the San Francisco Chapter, and edited The Map for thirty-eight years. He has also compiled “A Compendium of Definitions” of general semantics, located on the ISGS website at: link no longer available.

Following the AKML on Saturday, October 23, the IGS and the Straus Thinking and Learning Center at Pace University co-hosted a one-day colloquium to further develop notions related to “mindfulness”. The agenda included presentations by Rachel Lauer, Allen Flagg, Milton Dawes, a Sensory Awareness panel comprised of Charlotte Read, Louise Boedeker, Betty Keane, Mary Alice Roche, and chaired by Jeff Mordkowitz, and wrap-up discussion led by Roben Torosyan.