two valued orientation and two valued logic

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 in ETC. was: “Science, Logic, and Sanity”[1].

He did not think that our usual attack on a two-valued orientation should be turned into an argument against a two-valued logic, 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 "x1 is bigger than y1", can be evaluated as "true" if the appropriate measurement process gives a bigger number for x1 than for y1.  If after hundreds of such tests, every observed xn has been bigger than the corresponding yn, 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.


Annotated bibliography of general semantics papers
General Semantics and Related Topics

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