There has been a great deal of misunderstanding in the general semantics community about these, so much so that anti-Aristotelianism runs rampant throughout the community.

Walter Stuermann, who was Professor of Philosophy at the University of Tulsa, and also an Associate Editor of ETC. In 1962 he laid down a challenge to general semanticists: to reassess our theoretic foundations, particularly our claim to have a non-Aristotelian system. That claim, he said, is an oversimplification; what we need is to go back to formal logic. Hence the title of his article inETC. was: “Science, Logic, and Sanity”[1].He did not think that our usual attack on a two-valued

orientationshould be turned into an argument against a two-valuedlogic, because he believed that logic is “the indispensable tool by which the meaning and power of a scientific system is brought to bear upon human behavior and the world”, a tool which is necessary to join the two aspects of science, the rational and the empirical. By the rational we mean theoretical, high-level abstractions, which have to be expressed in universal propositions, of the type: “For all x, if x is A, then x is B.” “For all x, if x is a planet, then x has an elliptical orbit.” The important thing about this is that it states something for all x’s.[1] Stuermann, Walter E., "Science, Logic, and Sanity", 1962, Oct. ETC., A Review of General Semantics 19, 299-314

Stuart Mayper

I dare say that the challenge has gone unmet.

A two-valued *orientation* presumes that there are only two
possibilities. Two-valued *logic* is based on using two truth values.

*Logic* deals with the consistency of relations among sentences. It is
not a tool for dealing with the "real world". Too many general
semanticists fail to understand this relationship.

*Semantics* deals with the relationship between words and statements and
their referents, where as *logic* only deals with the relationships between
the words and statements among themselves.

In this regards, logic can be thought of as having only two levels, the level of the words and the level of the truth values of statements. Semantics, on the other hand, has the level of the words and the level of objects as well as the relationship between the words (and statements) and the objects they represent. Where "truth values" come into play in semantics is to differentiate some words and statements from others, specifically if there are objects that satisfy the statements.

In logic, truth values are arbitrarily assigned to statements for the purpose of determining if a set of statements is consistent.

In semantics, truth values are assigned depending on whether or not there are objects which satisfy the statements.

The truth values in semantics are not arbitrarily assigned. They are
assigned on the basis of investigation of the properties and behavior of the
objects. The process can get to be quite complex, but essentially the statement
"X exists." is given a value true if and only if an "X" can
be found and seen, where 'X' is the name of the "X". Such
statements as "x_{1} is bigger than y_{1}", can be
evaluated as "true" if the appropriate measurement process gives a
bigger number for x_{1} than for y_{1}. If after hundreds
of such tests, every observed x_{n} has been bigger than the
corresponding y_{n}, then someone might formulate a general law of the
form "every x is bigger than its corresponding y". Such a statement is
a "universal" statement.

*Proper* names - the name of a specific individual person or thing - are
unambiguous with respect to that which they are the name of. The
"truth" of whether or not an item is the item for which the proper
name applies is simply a two-valued question, and using it does not presume that
the person using it has a two-valued orientation. However, the name of classes
or groups, especially those that are defined in terms of some general set of
characteristics, can be quite ambiguous. In such a case, determining
whether or not an object fits in the class can be somewhat problematic. The
person who says "either it does or it does not" fit in the class is
exhibiting a two-valued *orientation*. A multi-valued orientation could
consider other possibilities, such as "indeterminate" or even go back
to question the defining structure of the class, the motives of the person
constructing it, etc., etc.. If the rules and criteria are specified
precisely enough, and the observation method sufficiently exact, then it may be
possible to objectively make a determination using the observed characteristics
and the specified criteria in order to disambiguate the possibilities and arrive
at an *evaluation* of either yes, it fits, or no, it does not fit, in which
case the two-valued truth values of binary logic can be assigned to the
statement about class membership. Following such a procedure, does not,
however, mean that the person performing the evaluation has a two-valued
orientation. He, she, or it, may have full consciousness
of abstracting regarding the formulating and evaluating process that *assigns*
one of the two truth values to the statement under evaluation.

General Semantics and Related Topics

This page was updated by Ralph Kenyon on 2009/11/16 at 00:27 and has been accessed 1535 times at 0 hits per month. |
---|