Extensional processes

Five principal extensional tools are used in general semantics:

Theoretical and Practical Implications.

The simplicity of the extensional devices is misleading, and a mere "intellectual understanding" of them, without incorporating them into our living evaluational processes, has no effect whatsoever. A recanalization and retraining of our usual methods of evaluation is required, and this is what is often very difficult for adults, although comparatively easy for children. The revised structure of language, as explained briefly here, has neuro-physiological effects, as it necessitates "thinking" in terms of "facts," or visualizing processes, before making generalizations. This procedure results in a slight neurological delay of reaction, facilitating thalamo-cortical integration, etc.

The old Aristotelian language structure, with its subject-predicate form, elementalism, etc., hindered rather than induced such desirable neuro-physiological functioning. It led instead to verbal speculations divorced from actualities, inducing eventually "split personalities" and other pathological reactions.

We may recall the pertinent statement by the outstanding mathematician, Hermann Weyl, who wrote in his "The Mathematical Way of Thinking": "Indeed, the first difficulty the man in the street encounters when he is taught to think mathematically is that he must learn to look things much more squarely in the face; his belief in words must be shattered; he must learn to think more concretely" (47).

Healthy normal persons naturally evaluate to some degree in accordance with the extensional methods and with some "natural order of evaluation," etc., without being aware of it. The structural formulation of these issues, however, and the corresponding revision of our old language structure, make possible their analysis and teachability, which is of paramount importance in our human process of time-binding.

There are many indications so far that the use of the extensional devices and even a partial "consciousness of abstracting" have potentialities for our general human endeavor to understand ourselves and others. The extent of the revision required if we are to follow through from the premises as previously stated is not yet generally realized. Our old habits of evaluation, ingrained for centuries if not millenniums, must first be re-evaluated and brought up to date in accordance with modern knowledge.

Alfred Korzybski, The Role of Language in the Perceptual Processes
© ESGS, 2001.