Module 6: Review and Reflection

General Semantics: An Approach to Effective Language-Behavior
General Semantics: An Approach to Effective Language Behavior was developed and presented on the Canvas Network by Steve Stockdale, Mary Lahman, and Greg Thompson. It is reproduced here under terms of the Creative Commons Share Alike License as published on Canvas Network from 13 January – 24 February 2014. This page is very long and will take longer to download.

Module Map

Module 1 Pages

Review and Reflection | Converging Competencies | Culture and the Individual |
Suspended in Stereotypes | Living Extensionally | Course Conclusion
Assignments, Discussions and Quizzes | References and Resources

In this final week of the course, we will introduce  one more aspect of General Semantics – an explanation of extensional orientation.

But we also have several articles we think provide a nice wrap-up to review and reinforce some of the broader aspects and applications of General Semantics.

  • First, a reflection on the role that GS played in the lives and works of the “Grand Master” science fiction writer Robert A. Heinlein, and Albert Ellis, father of Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT): Converging Competencies, by Steve Stockdale.
  • Then we have an excerpt of one of the last articles written by Aldous Huxley, from the November 1963 issue of Playboy Magazine in which he extols the benefit of General Semantics: from Culture and the Individual.
  • Steve’s essay on stereotypes ties together the physics insights of Niels Bohr with what we currently know about brain science: Suspended in Stereotypes.
  • Mary’s Living Extensionally Takes a Lifetime, from of her Awareness and Action e-textbook offers some very good tips to students.
  • And then concluding remarks from Mary, Greg and Steve, while allowing Wendell Johnson to have the last  and most apropos printed words of the course: “After You’ve Studied General Semantics.”

Your role in this final week will be to participate in a special Discussion and submit one last 250-word essay.

No time for goodbyes yet – we have a week of work awaiting.

Extensional Orientation

The final GS formulation to cover in this course is one we’ve mentioned and referenced several times during the past five weeks. However, we haven’t really defined or explained it. Perhaps that’s because, without the previous readings and discussions and videos, a description of extensional orientation may not have made much sense.

But since an extensional orientation can be considered as the practical objective of General Semantics in action and practice, let’s briefly explain the differences between extensional and intensional.

Intensional and Extensional

The first thing to understand is that you will not find these terms in a dictionary. Alfred Korzybski used these two words, spelled with an ‘s‘ in the middle instead of a ‘t‘, to denote a continuum of attitude, behavior, or orientation.

Intensional orientations are based on verbal definitions, associations, etc., largely disregarding observations as if they would involve a “principle” of “talk first and never mind the life facts.”

Extensional orientations are based on ordering observations, investigations, etc., first and the verbalization next in importance. — Alfred Korzybski

Similar to the table we used to illustrate the differences regarding Consciousness (or Awareness) of Abstracting-Evaluating, we can consider intensional and extensional orientations as exhibiting the following characteristics in terms of degrees on a continuum.

In Drive Yourself Sane: Using the Uncommon Sense of General-Semantics, Susan and Bruce Kodish explain:

When we orient ourselves by verbal definitions, when we prefer preserving our maps (even maps without territories) to checking them out against ‘facts,’ when we fail to become aware of our assumptions and inferences and to test them out when possible, when we identify different levels of abstracting, we behave intensionally.

When we orient ourselves towards ‘facts,’ when we check our maps against possible territories, when we clarify and test our inferences and assumptions, when we don’t identify different orders of abstracting, we behave extensionally.

Intensional and extensional orientations also exist on a continuum. We know of no one who exhibits a purely extensional orientation. Unfortunately, abundant examples of people near the other end of the continuum exist. Some of them are confined to institutions. Some of them speak, write books, appear on radio and television and run institutions. Most of us appear somewhere in between. (p. 126)

A Map of Korzybski’s General Semantics

Now that we’ve reached the conclusion of this course, the following is a map (my map) of General Semantics. Perhaps it may serve as a helpful review, or give you some ideas for creating your own map.


Module 1 Pages

Review and Reflection | Converging Competencies | Culture and the Individual |
Suspended in Stereotypes | Living Extensionally | Course Conclusion
Assignments, Discussions and Quizzes | References and Resources