Drive Yourself Sane: Using the Uncommon Sense of General Semantics


General Semantics is a system to retrain our nervous system so that we can keep our sanity, also to become sane again - the scientific method for our personal and social lives. Using GS, we're concerned with understanding how we evaluate, with the non-verbal, inner life of each individual, with how each of us experiences and makes sense of our experiences, including how we use language and how language 'uses' us.

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Key Takeaways

  1. Lead a life with minimal expectations, enjoy the process, embody and act things out (can't just think)
  2. Alfred Korzybski - map not terrain, map no the thing, time binding (ability to build upon previous progress --> culture --> unlimited potential)
  3. Learning = profiting from experience (opposite of insanity)
  4. In today's world, often can't rely on common sense - the common sense that worked for our ancestors is very much outdated in certain fields. We behave "all of a piece." We cannot divorce ourselves from our beliefs. We cannot divorce our actions from our expectations. We cannot divorce our reactions from our environment. Uncommon sense involves recognizing and accepting these connections.
  5. We do best by viewing life and learning as an ongoing process, since we live in a world of change. We do best by holding our conclusions tentatively. As we get comfortable with this notion of "tentative forever", what Korzybski called the "General Principle of Uncertainty", we can use Popper's notion of falsifiability in our everyday problem-solving. Instead of looking for ways to prove our pet theories or beliefs, we can look for evidence that might disprove them. We can look for "black swans". It is much easier to learn, change, adapt when you are not fighting your own beliefs and expectations
  6. To be is to be related - need contrast (mapping) in order to understand, but have to understand that the map is not the terrain and that the map is reflexive (we have to describe language using language)
  7. Contemplation (silence, non-verbal thinking) is key to work into our day
  8. Structure of language so powerful - where do you find yourself coming up with additional words to describe the context? Inuit have dozens of word for "snow", for example. Be mindful of the power of labeling...
  9. For you need a sense not only of your internal landscape, but the external landscape in which it works. - Jerome Bruner

What I got out of it

  1. The connection that learning is the opposite of insanity is powerful  and I like the "tentative forever" mindset

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