The abstracting process

The mechanism of abstracting was described by Korzybski in a diagram called "Structural Differential".

It allows to visualize the process and to differentiate silent and verbal levels.

This differentiation is fundamental in general semantics:

"As we know already, we use one term, say 'apple', for at least four entirely different entities; namely, (1) the event, or scientific object, or the sub-microscopic physico-chemical processes, (2) the ordinary object manufactured from the event by our lower nervous centres, (3) the psychological picture probably manufactured by the higher centres, and (4) the verbal definition of the term." Alfred Korzybski, Science and Sanity (p. 384)
This described the first levels of the process. From there, it is possible for us to continue the verbal process indefinitely. For example, starting from 'apple', we can produce 'fruit', then 'food', etc. This possibility clearly distinguishes us from the animals.

At each stage of the process,

The natural order of evaluation (from event to object, object to descriptions, descriptions to inferences, etc.) is often reversed because of our aristotelician education. It should then be restored, which is possible by using the tools of general semantics.

This practice leads to consciousness of abstracting and allows us to eliminate the harmful effects of identification (confusion of orders of abstractions) on ourselves.

© ESGS, 2001.