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In this episode Joel and Antonia talk about Alfred Korzybski’s ideas around General Semantics and how it can help us better understand each other as humans.

  • This podcast episode talks about creating distinction on language and how creating better distinction fosters better understanding.
  • The English language’s flexibility in the parts of speech is the main key to its popularity. However, due to its flexibility, we seemed to lose a lot of distinction on the language we use and this can cause a lot of misunderstanding.
  • When communicating with other people, sometimes we expect that they will perceive the same representation or picture inside our head which is not true. Words that have no physical representation can be very challenging to picture because they lack the physical component
  • Alfred Korzybski – the map is not the territory.
  • General semantics (originated with Alfred Korzybski) is the concept that the language we use to transmit or express our ideas, feelings and thoughts in the world are always lacking and insufficient. The words we use are simply a way of trying to convey information to each other and when we mistake that words are ultimate and definitive, misunderstanding occurs.
  • Unfortunately, we end up getting more attached and dependent to words, and we mistake words for the ultimate thing.
  • If we over generalize people and oversimplify, it will lead to unhappiness because we only see the world in just one dimension.
  • We need to come up with better ways to speak in order to represent reality.
  • You will not see the solution to the problem when you generalize and over simplify. The words we choose to define reality are very important. If you are an English speaker, there’s limitation the language because it doesn’t have much distinction. Hence, we need to define more frameworks and subsets especially when solving problems. These distinctions are very important to best way to customize your growth as a person.
  • Other languages have many representations of a single word. In the English language, subsets can be introduced in order to categorize different sets of definition.
  • In relation to Personality Development, the more distinction you acquire and learn in personal psychology, the more you understand yourself and grow.
  • Nothing should be considered absolute and static. General semantics is a powerful tool to see the world. It is intended to be a finer tune instrument for making evaluations. The language we use is not reality. The more understanding we can create, the more problems we can solve.
  • Check out our previous podcast episodes in iTunes.

In this podcast on general semantics you’ll find:

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  • Bradley Jones
    • Bradley Jones
    • November 21, 2018 at 6:05 am

    With the numbers strategy, I find even that to be too generalising unless you assign a number to each instance you come across, at which point you may as well use names. So for example, instead of “Homeless 1, homeless 2, homeless 3” I’d say “Homeless James down the street, Homeless Janette the couch hopper, homeless Tommy the famine affected child”.
    But at the same time I can see how that could be impractical for someone trying to find ways to solve issues for large groups of people.

    Personally in the enneagram system I’m a type 9 of the intimacy/sexual instinct, so classifying each instance of a group as its own thing comes naturally to me. My unwillingness to generalise and ability to see things for what they are without applying a bunch of personal assumptions is strengthened by my Sensation, since I am an ISFP.

    I imagine that it would be easier for someone like an ENTJ if they used the numbers strategy you talked about, since they likely know a lot of people and don’t necessarily have time to memorise every detail about every single person they come across. I suspect it’d come more naturally to organise them into similar groups and work with that, still being aware that each individual is different but not concentrating on the individuality as much as I would.

    What do you think?

  • Barry Jennings
    • Barry Jennings
    • November 9, 2018 at 1:00 pm

    On the surface, I must concur with your assessment of semantics and the limitation of the English language. On a slightly deeper level, the limitations may not be solely the language. Vocabulary and comprehension are limiting factors that have a far greater impact. I fear that this is only going to worsen as time passes. If you compare the similarities between language use and personality typologies, you will notice that the majority of people tend to use language horizontally. The accurate and constructive use of adjectives and adverbs along with the most accurate nouns and verbs move the English language into the vertical realm. Keeping the language vertical will provide for enriched communication and enhanced understanding.

  • Bruce I Kodish
    • Bruce I Kodish
    • February 20, 2018 at 1:10 am

    For more on Alfred Korzybski:

  • Antonia Dodge
    • Antonia Dodge
    • March 2, 2015 at 1:38 pm

    Or maybe by the time we actually could keep people perpetually alive, if we allocated our minds full blast toward it as a species we’d come up with currently unimagined solutions!

    The point of this particular podcast wasn’t to lobby for nanobot technology to live forever. That’s not a reality right now, but as we mentioned ‘a possible implication’ of burgeoning technology.

    The point was that (in our opinion) there are far more interesting subjects to think about and cool things on the horizon than to keep wasting our time, effort and energy as humans trying to solve problems using the same outdated language technology that created them the first place.

    A conversation about the implications of nanobot technology… Well, that would be an entire podcast all by itself. :)

    Thanks for the comment!


  • Loving Couple
    • Loving Couple
    • March 2, 2015 at 12:52 pm

    Really enjoy the information but your talk of grossly oversimplifying situation with the story about nano robots that can allow us to live forever as a good thing seemed to grossly oversimplified world hunger overpopulation and poverty. This seemed a break from logic to me.

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