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Consciousness of abstracting
"The true battlefield is within."
— Mohandas Karamchand "Mahatma" Gandhi

"The animal is ignorant of the fact that he knows. The man is aware of the fact that he is ignorant."
— Victor Hugo, "Thoughts," Postscriptum de ma vie, in Victor Hugo’s Intellectual Autobiography, Funk and Wagnalls (1907).

"Consciousness: that annoying time between naps. "
— Bumper Sticker

"An unconscious consciousness is no more a contradiction in terms than an unseen case of seeing. "
— Franz Clemens Brentano, Psychology from an Empirical Standpoint, tr. Antos C. Rancurello et al., p. 102, Routledge & Kegan Paul (1973).

"The term 'consciousness', taken separately, is not a complete symbol; it lacks content, and one of the characteristics of 'consciousness' is to have some content. Usually, the term 'consciousness' is taken as undefined and undefinable, because of its immediate character for every one of us. Such a situation is not desirable, as it is always semantically useful to try to define a complex term by simpler terms. We may limit the general and undefined term 'consciousness' and make it a definite symbol by the deliberate ascribing of some content to this term."
— Alfred Korzybski, Science & Sanity, p. 413, Int'l Non-A Pub. Co. (1933)

"We can now define 'consciousness of abstracting' as 'awareness that in our process of abstracting we have left out characteristics'. Or, consciousness of abstracting can be defined as 'remembering the "is not", and that some characteristics have been left out'. It should be noticed that in this formulation, with the aid of the Structural Differential, we have succeeded in translating a negative process of forgetting into a positive process of remembering the denial of identity and that characteristics are left out. Such a positive formulation makes the whole system workable and available for the semantic training and education."
— Alfred Korzybski, Science & Sanity, p. 416, Int'l Non-A Pub. Co. (1933)


The practice of general semantics brings consciousness, at silent levels, of the process of abstracting. We saw some of the main tools in these pages (extensional devices, Structural Differential, etc). Consequently we know that we should index this term to specify their meanings: consciousness of abstracting what, where-when, of whom, etc.
When an event (silent) occurs, that I would evaluate (verbally) by the sentence "I see the blue binder":

Etc.

 Typical errors about Consciousness of Abstracting 

There is no typical error about consciousness of abstracting, since it seems so mysterious to most people. Once we have grasped the general semantics meaning of "abstracting", consciousness of abstracting is not very difficult to grasp, verbally at least. What is more difficult is getting that consciousness of abstracting on non-verbal levels. It requires some years of training, using extensional devices, the SD, etc.

What consciousness of abstracting is not: abstracting consciously, a kind of superpower, a kind of introspection, etc.


© ESGS, 2002.