General Semantics as Social Science


Keeping with the recent thread of discussion looking at general semantics socially, it starts to seem to me that general semantics, at least in part, falls within the general field of social science.

This classification would be new to me.  Usually, general semantics is sorted into the general fields of linguistics or communication.  Aspects of general semantics support these classifications with general semantics’s care for how we communicate and its interest in particular language modifications.

Yet, it seems to me that with its roots in the passionate desire to benefit humankind and its progress, general semantics isn’t just a language study or a communication study.  It’s a study of society (and, even more generally, a study of humanity).  General semantics is not looking just at how you speak, but how people speak, and the results that happen when a lot of people speak in the same ways, sane or unsane.  Its recommandations are for you, but they’re also for others, aiming for the cumulative effect that comes when you all follow the recommendations: saner interactions, saner social circles, a saner society, a saner humanity.

In the past, I’ve proposed “personal engineering” as another name for general semantics.  In keeping with the social thread herein, it would seem that that name for general semantics would shift to “social engineering.”  That is, perhaps another name for general semantics would be “social engineering.”  But that term is somewhat disparaged, plus, Alfred Korzybski’s original name for his work and discipline is similar, and perhaps more apt: “human engineering.”

There should be a point made in such names, though, because of the deprecation that may trail its use: The “engineering” involved is constructive, not malicious.  General semantics might be called “constructive social engineering” for there isn’t anything malicious about its recommendations.  General semantics does not advocate language modifications for some kind of illicit gain; its recommendations are for the benefit of society and humanity and the scientific and social progress that it inherently wants.  It is for the benefit of future generations of people, who rely on our achievements for the construction of their own futures.

We’re like the inventors of printing presses for the future generations’ laser printers.  We’re like the inventors of calculators for the future generations’ smartphones.  If we don’t achieve now, the future generation will be burdened with achieving then.  General semantics aims to engineer society in order to settle now and provide for the future, as opposed to settling into unsane practices that will impede progress and expend the future.

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