Wednesday, November 03, 2010

General Semantics

One of the many things I've been reading up on today, which has some relevance to one of the pieces I've been working on for Immanence of Myth. I am short on brain cells now, so I'm going to cut short the usual amount of commentary I provide on this blog.

A snippet from an article that interested me:
The accusation is not infrequently heard that the scientist, in utilizing submicroscopic 'constructs' (e .g., electrons, atoms, molecules, genes, etc .), is guilty of precisely the sort of exercise that he rejects as invalid when practiced by the layman in regard to metascientific noumena. Such constructs, it is asserted, are in every instance inferentially-reached figments of the imagination and for this reason no more creditable and in many ways less compelling of belief than the spiritual and supernatural concepts long revered by mankind . Responding to this charge, Dr. Johnson points out that the scientific person-to the extent that he behaves as such-is highly conscious of the fact that his constructs are the product of his own imagination and that they are projected into reality by himself . He defines his electrons, etc., very deliberately as to size, shape, weight, composition, speed of movement, etc., assigning to them the characteristics they should have if they are to account for observed events. Above all-and this is a crucial matter he does not hesitate, whenever observed events prove incapable of explanation in terms of electrons, to alter his definition or, if necessity dictates, to abandon the concept altogether. There is for him nothing sacred or inscrutable about that which was designed in the first place for his own convenience . The measure of validity of his concepts consists wholly in the accuracy of the predictions they make possible ...
In Part III, Dr. Johnson proceeds to a detailed examination of general semantics and the contributions it proffers to epistemology in general and to the relations between language and reality and symbol and fact in particular . Before entering upon this inquiry, he finds it expedient to bring the reader a useful answer to the fundamental question, `What is a fact?' He observes that under any circumstance a fact is an observation and that as such it is an act of an individual, a personal affair consisting in large measure of complicated neural, muscular and glandular events taking place in an ever-changing organism whose capacity for observation exhibits decided limitations. It follows that a fact must be incomplete-always-and that it amounts to an abstraction o f something concerning the full-blown character of which the perceiver can but conjecture.
Because of the uncertainties that attach to introspective methods in the effort to distinguish between fact and fancy, a 'fact' cannot properly be said to be established as such unless it has been confirmed by at least one person other than the original reporter. Indeed, its usefulness at any particular time in the biosocial evolution of man depends to a considerable degree upon the extent to which others agree with the perceiver concerning it .
The PDF. (Johnson's "People In Quandries.")

No comments:

Post a Comment


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...