Monday, September 27, 2010
Talking Means ... What?
A new beautiful rock circle left in the wilderness by Hot Springs Wizard
On September 23rd, Montana posted a comment on the last posting which I think is very important. One part of his comments; “what about when we string an entire sentence together with each word in the sentence interpreted according to the experience each has with that word. see what i mean,? in reality there is no truth in actual comprehension as to what another says,”
What I take that to mean is that we can never really understand what another person is thinking by what they say, or write for that matter.
I have touched on this subject before, several times. I want to examine this in a bit more detail. Montana, if I put it out there different than you see it and misrepresent what you said let me know. Anyway, this is my expansion in my own style on the subject.
I assert that communication between humans is tenuous at its best. This statement is based on what Montana said and my own experience and study of the process.
All language is a system of symbology, that is, sounds strung together that mean something relating to the external reality we experience.
This symbology is unique to the individual person due to the fact that all of our individual experiences are normally unique events relating to the individual, with same exceptions. But, in almost all cases, the interpretation of those events will be different than other individuals sharing the event. This has been tested over and over again to the same conclusion.
There are thousands of volumes written on the study of what people mean when they are communicating. Copi and his “Symbolic logic” I consider one of the best.
This symbolism gets in the way of understanding and can have disastrous consequences.
The only solution I can see to this problem is for human to develop absolute empathy, that is, the ability to know what another person is feeling or thinking when talking or writing. Doesn’t appear this will happen, at least in my lifetime.
It does appear to me that the understanding of another person’s use of verbal symbols can be very enhanced by close association for an extended period of time, depending on similarity of experiences and interpretation of those experiences.
What this lack of understanding of the symbology in communication lends itself well to what we call propaganda. That is, the convincing of people to accept a particular notion of reality by the twisting, spin, redefinition of words, and the way the words are strung together to produce an emotional reaction. We are being besieged by this in the news in all its various forms, but principally TV. Look at how the advertising industry uses this. With little exception, we are presented with something for sale that is associated principally with some aspect of sex, or inadequacy, or fear, of desires, or---, on and on. We are whipsawed back and forth by this propaganda to experience fear, hopefulness, anger, sexual frustration, caring and a multiplicity of other abstract emotions as a means of control of our perceptions of the reality around us. In all cases that I can think of, this propaganda always contain assumptions that are not presented as such. This appears consistently in religion, politics and personal communication. If a person is attempting to truly point out his perceptions of reality, he must also include his assumptions. An assumption is a statement that can be backed up by observations, (the most common way of making assumptions) empirical testing, or even theoretical assertions, and is hardly ever addressed. We are all guilty of that omission. There is good reason for this. It would complicate communication by orders of magnitude, and the assumption is that there is a common experience that can be included and drawn upon, which I have shown above to be complete nonsense in almost all cases that can be sited. So we abbreviate our communication by making assumptions that the listener has a shared experience and perceives it the same way. Thus, as Montana says, “in reality there is no truth in actual comprehension as to what another says,” Also, notice how words are twisted around to mean something else. I had a very good friend that once insisted that greed is a very good thing; we have greed for food and for air etc. I never did get a response to the question as to where in hell he got that definition nor that the common usage of the word had nothing to do with that concept. I’m old enough to notice that over my life time, principally from the main stream media, how key words have been spun into meaning something quite different than the original meaning. That particular process seems to be speeding up in my perception. Notice what the word “terrorist” now means. Go ahead, look it up in a dictionary older than 20 years and compare it to a new dictionary. Wikipedia goes on for pages in the discussion on its meaning. There evidently is no agreed upon definition internationally. And yet, the word is slung around within the media and conversations and assumed that the reader/listener knows what you are talking about. The operational meaning from old dictionaries and old political science texts indicate it is a means of scaring (terrifying) civilian populations into compliance by threats or use of violence, principally killing. In its discussion of “terrorist” it says; “In November 2004, a United Nations Secretary General report described terrorism as any act "intended to cause death or serious bodily harm to civilians or non-combatants with the purpose of intimidating a population or compelling a government or an international organization to do or abstain from doing any act". And; "Criminal acts intended or calculated to provoke a state of terror in the general public, a group of persons or particular persons for political purposes are in any circumstance unjustifiable, whatever the considerations of a political, philosophical, ideological, racial, ethnic, religious or any other nature that may be invoked to justify them." One more; A definition proposed by Carsten Bockstette at the George C. Marshall Center for European Security Studies, underlines the psychological and tactical aspects of terrorism:
Terrorism is defined as political violence in an asymmetrical conflict that is designed to induce terror and psychic fear (sometimes indiscriminate) through the violent victimization and destruction of noncombatant targets (sometimes iconic symbols). Such acts are meant to send a message from an illicit clandestine organization. The purpose of terrorism is to exploit the media in order to achieve maximum attainable publicity as an amplifying force multiplier in order to influence the targeted audience(s) in order to reach short- and midterm political goals and/or desired long-term end states."
But I guess that is just plain old collateral damage to accomplish a political end. Now days, a “terrorist” insists on adherence to Constitutional principles. How weird is that?
Here is a report that is worth while going through. http://www.foia.cia.gov/2025/2025_Global_Governance.pdf
Want some more? Take a look at this little news story and tell me who is being a terrorist if you haven’t read about it yet.
As I stated above, it appears to me that long association with others can lead to a better understanding of what they actually mean in the verbal symbols they use. Maybe what Jesus really was talking about when he stated that you should love another as yourself?
Of course we still have to deal with the psychopaths that are going to be found in any human society. And god knows, our supposed leaders are not going to be concerned with shit like this. They consistently manipulate verbal symbols to get the reaction they desire from the listeners. It’s all about manipulating perceptions. Dig Obama, a very charismatic speaker, but he is no less guilty of this than Bush or any other elite out there vying for power and money. At least he knows how to use a complete sentence.
So where does this leave us? Because we don’t really have alternatives, as I see it, those people that are aware of the problems in communicating with symbols (language) will continue to try and clarify and define the mental processes behind the symbols so that the people they are trying to communicate with have some understanding of the points made. Notice how long the regulars of this blog site have been around and how much change has gone on in perceptions. It appears to me that we have achieved at least partial understanding of what is being said. None of us will ever have total understanding; our backgrounds are just too varied. But, we keep edging toward the total understanding. I suspect that as this kind of understanding increases, emotional closeness also increases between people and that is an anathema to those that hold power over our lives since their goal is to divide and conquer, which they have for the most part been successful.
All of this leads me to question whether or not I actually understand Henny Penny (our oldest hen) when she talks to me. Sigh. Just how much common experience do we really have? Lol.
So now, your assignment if you choose to accept it, is to go through this posting and look at the assumptions I have made, (remember the old TV series Mission Impossible?). Are they common to your experiences or not?
A lovely setting sun captured by our own Montana Freeman..