General Semantics Concluded My Search for Truth


It came to me the other day: the lure of general semantics.  The attraction.  Why did it make such an impression on me back in college?  Why did it amaze me, its observations?  What did it offer me that I was wanting?  What exactly was this stuff?

It started to become clearer to me that what general semantics provided me was “the truth.”  It clarified for me what beliefs were false and why, and pointed to other beliefs that were true and why.  It taught me about how we process, how we abstract, how we don’t mention those aspects as we talk about the world, and why we should.  I had an underlying search for truth in college, and probably still do, and when I discovered general semantics, it gave me an edge, because with general semantics, I felt I was learning truth.

But it was also very practical.  In learning the truth, I was learning about what was false, so when I was discussing something with someone, arguing, debating, or just writing a paper, I could confidently make true statements rather than false statements, and thereby circumvent another’s ability to undermine my perspective.  General semantics taught me ways to tweak what I said in order to move from making a false statement to making a true statement.  Just a small change in language could do this, and general semantics taught me these things.

But it wasn’t just a language tweak: By forcing myself to change my language, I was forcing myself to take on different thinking.  With general semantics, I started to think in true terms rather than false terms.

Maybe that’s why so many people have remarked to me that I “think different.”  Perhaps I speak in a more truthful way than most people.  I avoid exaggeration.  I qualify my statements with to-me-ness.  I press people for facts when they state opinions.  I point out the difference between inference and fact.  Etc.  I’m not perfect in my practice, but I damn do it a lot.  General semantics is very much a part of my behavior now, and while I still have the ability to have facts off, as least I’m less wrong more often.

I’m betting I’ll have more to say on this in the future.  But if you are searching for the truth right now, general semantics may be the next field you want to study.

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