Comments on Validity and Truth

Date: Sat, 18 Dec 2004 19:17:53 -0500
From: Ralph E. Kenyon, Jr.
To: Phil Ardery
Subject: Validity and Logic
Cc: distribution list

Hi Phil,

Thank you again for sending me the copy of Bob Pula's article "Validity and Logic". Some "real life" events kept me from finishing my analysis earlier.

When I read the article I was greatly disappointed. I had expected much more of Bob. I was especially disappointed to see that he really confused the issue more than clarified it. I understand now why he never responded to my proddings for him to expand on his four levels of language handout from the seminars.

I have written a discussion with analysis and correction that points out the failings in Bob's article. Hopefully my paper can clarify the distinctions. I have finished what could be called a smooth draft, which I have put on my website.

You can read my response at http://www.xenodochy.org/gs/validtrue.html

I welcome any comments from you and our fellow general semantics correspondents.

Best regards,

-- Ralph E. Kenyon, Jr.

From: Milton Dawes
To:
Ralph E. Kenyon, Jr.
Cc:
distribution list
Subject: Re: Validity and Logic
Date: Tue, 21 Dec 2004 10:41:07 -0500

I am writing this from a general semantics non-Aristotelian frame of reference. (Note, not "anti-Aristotelian")

Not having any training in formal logic systems, I cannot comment on the validity of Ralph's arguments. I thank Ralph for presenting his overview of "true" and "valid". And I have a few questions.

Below is a copy of the opening paragraph of Ralph's article.

Why do general semanticists exhibit a confusion about the difference between "true" and "valid"? There seems to be a number of reasons, not the least of which is the rampant "anti-Aristotelian" orientation running amuck  in the community. "True" and its opposite, "False", epitomize Aristotelian logic, and most general semanticists seem to think that there is no place in modern evaluation for these notions. Unfortunately, Bob Pula's article Validity and Truth did more to cloud the issue than to clarify it. On page 88, Bob describes 4 levels or perspectives on the use of language.

Following the specification that "Only statements can be "true" or "false""...

Question. Ralph, Would you consider it a true statement (at any level of abstraction or logic system you choose) that "general semanticists exhibit a confusion about the difference between "true" and "valid""? Are you saying "all" 'general semanticists', or just some...and more accurately, some you have met?

Question. Ralph, Would you consider it a true statement (at any level of abstraction or logic system you choose) that there is "rampart "anti-Aristotelian" orientation running amuck in the general semantics community"?

Questions. Ralph, How many 'general semanticists' have you met over the years? Do you think you have met "most"? Do these individuals claim to be, or label themselves, or identify themselves as "general semanticists"? Have you considered the possibility that individuals involved with general semantics are involved at different levels of understanding of the system?

Question. Ralph, Would you consider it a true statement (at any level of abstraction or logic system you choose) that "most general semanticists" seem to think that there is no place in modern evaluation for these notions? (Notions: "True" and its opposite "False" as you wrote.)

Question. Ralph, Do you think Bob's article "did more to cloud the issue than to clarify it" for everyone?

Question. Do you think my questions "valid"? (I do. I consider them "valid" (well grounded and justifiable) based on my present understanding of the arguments of general semantics.)

Milton

Date: Tue, 21 Dec 2004 14:16:55 -0500
From: Ralph E. Kenyon, Jr.
To: Milton Dawes, Phil Ardery
Subject: Re: Validity and Logic
Cc: distribution list

Hi Milton,

I see my introductory "attention getter" got your attention. I'm also disappointed that it appears to have thoroughly distracted you from the problems with Bob's article. Let's say that the paragraph you quote represents my impression from decades of association as a member of the general semantics community, including the institute, the ISGS, the NYSGS, six full institute seminars, other short ones, conferences, and workshops, some of which we attended together. My readings include a good deal of the literature, including decades of Etc, the Bulletin, Glimpse, newsletters, correspondence groups, email lists, other books, etc. I do believe that my "statistical sampling" of my inputs as a proportion of the total material available has been more than enough to satisfy the validity concerns for statistical sampling, as I have interacted over decades with the directors and significant individuals involved in the ongoing guidance of the community. The last several years have shown a significant change in this regards, as the helm has turned over and the administration has undergone significant changes, but the materials coming out of recent conferences gives me no evidence to suggest that my impressions need to be revised yet.

Don't you think it's time you studied Tarski seriously enough to be able to instruct others in his basic theory? After all, it does form a significant source area for general semantics, and you function as a teacher of general semantics.

Your admitted lack of training in formal logic systems has allowed you to miss the point of the following statement.

Following the specification that "Only statements can be "true" or "false""...

It was in regard to logic level of discussion, not general world descriptions.

In formal logic, only a "well formed formula" (statement) can be "true" or "false" where "true" and "false" are in quotation marks to indicate that is is specifically the "true" or "false" that is defined for and restricted to logic levels of discourse. As a result, when you ask me questions below indicating that you expect an answer using these restricted domain terms, you are stepping outside the bounds of the universe of discourse in question. Logical statements in formal languages do not, I repeat, do not, have the "same" truth value as discursive commentary about people, their activities, and the world.

Is my opinion justified by an adequate experience? Are my statements such that they have a reasonable probability of applying to a significant percentage or majority of individuals? I believe so. Can they be said to be "true" (or "false")? This is a wholly inappropriate attempt to see the world not in terms of imperfect maps, but in terms of "absolute" truisms and falsehoods, which I do not subscribe to and haven't since my teen age years when I first learned better.

For you, let me rephrase my criteria.

What I "meant" by "statements can only be 'true' or 'false'" was context sensitive.

At logic level of discourse, a well formed formula, which we call a "statement" can have truth values of "T" or "F". In model theory - Tarkian formal semantics - a well formed formula, which we call a "statement" can have the values of "true" or "false", and in this context the meaning of these two terms is very precisely stated. If the objects under the assignment function (specified in the model) of the object language tokens in the well formed formula satisfy the relation under the assignment function (specified in the model) of the relation language tokens in the well formed formula, then the well formed formula is said to be "true" (in the model).

It's much easier to write it in symbols.
Let M be a model consisting of Language L and objects and relations O under an assignment function Z, where Z(f)=F, Z(a)=A, and Z(b)=B.
Then, For all F, A, B, in L and all f, a, b, in O, {F(A,B) is "true" <==> (a,b) is in f}.

So any statement, (F(A,B)) can only be "true" or "false" IN THE SPECIFIED MODEL .

Asking me if any statement that I make about people in the world can be "true" or "false" in this way is to try to take "true" or "false" completely out of the model theoretic context. It would be like asking if marriages are "green" or "red".

You did said at any level of abstraction I choose.

So I would not even consider the words "true" or "false" to apply. Think in terms of "statistically justified opinion" about a sampling involving a significant involvement. We have my decades of personal experience and interactions involving many different sources of information, including discussions, private conversations, public events, as well as reading. I have done the same thing that you and nearly everyone else who has ever personally attended a general semantics gathering could have done - formed an opinion about the community of which our interaction was a sampling, an opinion that has grown and changed over the years as more and more exposure has provided more and more information, including the impression of what direction the community has gone in and seems to be heading in. I did it. You did it.

That you have some possible disagreement with my assessment simply shows that your opinion and mine have differences - as is to be expected as we have had different experiences. I have a very strong science, mathematics, and philosophy background, some of which I developed as a direct result of my exposure to general semantics, and much of which I share with Korzybski himself. Math, science, military, philosophy, engineering are all common background experiences. Korzybski had more exposure to language as he was quadra-lingual prior to learning English. He also had much more experience with the theories of mental disorders.

What was my main interest in general semantics? Its theory and how that relates to science and philosophy, so as to put the practical aspects of it on a secure foundation. What happened to the general semantics community? Hayakawa concentrated on pragmatic application, as an English teacher, so much so, that it created a schism in the community that lasted for more than half a century. The institute continued to follow what could be called the Sufi model requiring direct instruction by the first generation followers of Korzybski after he died. But they weren't Korzybski. Kendig was probably most knowledgeable. Stuart Mayper was another who was solidly grounded in the mathematics and philosophy. Tom Nelson also had a strong science background. Many of the others had their own areas of specialization but were inexperienced to the depth that Korzybski was in the overall picture. Charlotte Reed specialized in "organismic self awareness" - following from her dance background. Bob Pula was charismatic and loved by "all", but he had is own demons and lackings. Logic was, unfortunately, one of his shortcomings, as is clearly evident in his article (as well as private conversations).

Applying two valued logic to life situations was and still is largely irrelevant, but it has a clear and precise place in the foundations of the theory of general semantics the philosophy of science, and the conduct of experimental research. My impression that I have formed over these decades of interaction is that, for a good percentage of people, those who perhaps have had some difficulty with math, general semantics talk about multi-valued logics is simply a good excuse not to learn the foundations. As a result, people who talk "non-Aristotelian", are often making statements without any reasonable foundation in the subject. For many that I have met even the words seem to evoke negative signal reactions.

What are my interests, desires, and goals vis-a-vis general semantics? I'd like to see more evidence that people understand what logic is and how it is a foundation for genera semantics, that when used properly, it provide solid support for the basic principles of general semantics. That non-Aristotelian is built on and an extension of logic. General semantic does not "replace" logic, as is my impression that many seem to think.

Your questions reflect your point of view, and that makes them reasoned and reasonable to you. I would not use the term 'valid' in the present context, especially in double quotes, as my purpose was to clarify the technical use of the terms 'valid' and 'truth', which Bob's article failed to do. Bob tried to make them synonyms for 'inference' and 'fact', and that confused levels of abstraction and made an identification between the semantic and general semantic levels of discourse.

So, since your questions do not deal with logic, but life, they need to be translated from the logical level format in which they are stated to a form more consistent with general semantic level format. "True" and "false" go away. Map and territory come into the picture.

Question. Ralph, Would you consider it a true statement (at any level of abstraction or logic system you choose) that "general semanticists exhibit a confusion about the difference between "true" and "valid""?

How would you state the above question in terms of maps, territories, etc? As it's presently stated it sounds like a non-general semanticist asking the question, even with the abstraction level qualifier.

I have my map, a map based on experience, and I believe my map is quite reasonable. I didn't say "all" (but I didn't say 'some' either). Both of these are quantifiers from quantified logic, and a statement in normal English is normally taken to assume the universal qualifier "all", so when you immediately ask the question "all", following the above question, you are asking a quantified logic level question - not a general semantics - or non-Aristotelian level question.

So, can you rephrase your questions in general semantics level terms? To do so you would not ask me about the "truth" of my statement, only about their map-territory relations.

Thanks for taking the time to comment, even if it was not about the substance of my paper. I'll make some minor editorial adjustments based on your (implied) suggestions to make it appear less absolutist.

Best regards,
Ralph

Date: Wed, 22 Dec 2004 20:08:43 -0500
From: Phil Ardery
To: Ralph E. Kenyon, Jr.
Subject: Re: Validity and Logic
Cc:
distribution list
Subject: Re: Validity and Logic

Ralph -- Since I first met you in 1974, I have held you in very high regard.

Like Milton, other leaders of the general semantics organizations "should" respond to your substantive lifetime contribution, of which yesterday's note is not unrepresentative (my opinion).

I wish to comment on the paragraph below:

What was my main interest in general semantics? Its theory and how that relates to science and philosophy, so as to put the practical aspects of it on a secure foundation. What happened to the general semantics community? Hayakawa concentrated on pragmatic application, as an English teacher, so much so, that it created a schism in the community that lasted for more than half a century. The institute continued to follow what could be called the Sufi model requiring direct instruction by the first generation followers of Korzybski after he died. But they weren't Korzybski. Kendig was probably most knowledgeable. Stuart Mayper was another who was solidly grounded in the mathematics and philosophy. Tom Nelson also had a strong science background. Many of the others had their own areas of specialization but were inexperienced to the depth that Korzybski was in the overall picture. Charlotte Reed specialized in "organismic self awareness" - following from her dance background. Bob Pula was charismatic and loved by "all", but he had is own demons and lackings. Logic was, unfortunately, one of his shortcomings, as is clearly evident in his article (as well as private conversations).

Comments:

(1) Charlotte Read, not Reed.
(2) Charlotte emphasized attention to "the silent level," and you may tell me that my statement here merely re-phrases what you said about her without adding new emphasis.
(3) You ask, "What happened to the general semantics community?" Fast-forwarding to today, Steve Stockdale quit his mainstream job and is invigorating "organized" general semantics, a multi-year and perhaps a lifetime project. Bruce Kodish has written multiple serious books. Sanford Berman, whose written work I have not yet read, brilliantly embodies and communicates the GS extensional message: this, I assert from having sat in the front row at his 2003 AKML. Allen Flagg leads a Julian Jaynes study group and consistently brings to GS the non-mainstream insights that vitalize. I know and am in debt to others in your distribution list, e.g. Jeff Mordkowitz, whose index to the AK 1948-49 lecture tapes I consulted as recently as this morning

I cannot know how it "feels" to be primarily interested in GS as theory. Sorry there's so little discourse in that GS channel , the one you are tuned to. Thank you, Ralph, for your expansiveness, for your secondary interest in GS as relating to others. Please keep writing and sharing what you write.

Regards,

Phil

Date: Thu, 23 Dec 2004 01:22:47 +0000
From: Mike Levine
To:  Ralph E. Kenyon, Jr. (Abstract Systems, etc.)
Subject: Agreement

Hello Ralph,

I feel very pleased that Phil has openly written a supportive note to the "community" regarding your open reply to Milton. I hope others on the cc: list openly express their appreciation of your analysis and equally thoughtful contribution to General Semantics.

I'm sending a note to Steve requesting that your web-site is included in links section of the www.time-binding.org web site.

Well done Ralph! Mike www.modalities.org


There's more to be posted -- if you're in a hurry to see it, contact me, and I'll give putting it up priority.


Annotated bibliography of general semantics papers
General Semantics and Related Topics

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