National Seminar on “Pedagogy and Method: General Semantics in Other Human Sciences,” 16-17 March 2015, The Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda, Vadodara
Balvant Parekh Center for General Semantics and Other Human Sciences in collaboration with Department of Linguistics, The Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda, Vadodara organized a two-day national seminar on “Pedagogy and Method: General Semantics in other Human Sciences” on 16th and 17th March, 2015, at the Faculty of Arts, The Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda, Vadodara.
Balvant Parekh Center, which over the years, has researched on the intellectual premises of General Semantics, now, sought to find its relations, connections, continuities, discontinuities (if any) with the other human sciences in dealing with the primordial questions and inter-disciplinary concerns (if any) addressing questions on rationality, human nature and the problem of social order. The comprehensive task of realizing such an inter-disciplinary effort as a pedagogical tool in trying to understand epistemological concerns formed the essence of this two-day national seminar.
The inaugural session chaired by the Dean of the Faculty of Arts, The Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda, Vadodara, had speakers Prof. P. C. Kar, to give the welcome address, Mr. Ajay Sarvaiya for the introductory speech, Prof. Lajwanti Chatani for the thematic introduction to the topic of the seminar. Prof. P. C. Kar spoke of the relevance of a seminar of this sort which was challenging in its theme and undertaking of the concerned topic. Mr. Ajay Sarvaiya welcomed all to the seminar on behalf of the Department of Linguistics, and Prof. Lajwanti Chatani from the Department of Political Science then explained the theme of the seminar and initiated the participants into this seminar on how to perceive it and what the discussions and deliberations intended to achieve. It opened up questions and concerns which possibly could be addressed in our perceptive understanding of the topic, based on Alfred Korzybski’s General Semantics and the whole debate on its (im)possible/ possible academic incorporation into other human sciences.
The Dean of the Faculty of Arts, Mr. R. K. Panda appreciated the efforts of the conveners, Mr. Sarvaiya and Dr. Chatani, in bringing forth such a space for deliberation on a theme so unique and intellectually – enriching.
In the first presentation of the day, made by Mr. Devkumar Trivedi, titled “Thinking Thoughtfully,” he outlined the importance of communication and how it has resulted into formation of civilization. He talked further, about associating meanings to words, which are something purely contextual and generated. He considered General Semantics, a transparent pedagogical tool in being an effective toolkit in overcoming the limitations of the outcome of an Aristotelian thinking and explained in detail the four stages of knowledge production and reforms needed in language structure which could help one practice General Semantics ‘naturally’.
Prof. P. C. Kar, in his presentation titled “The Role of Language in the Perceptual Processes” spoke on the importance of language as a structure in the process of visualization and perception. Korzybski’s spiral metaphorical usages like ‘time binding’ shows how he’s opposed to positivistic progressive linear consciousness or arriving at a closure when it came to dealing with revelation or creativity, hence, the idea of surplus in language which can’t be ‘said’, yet reflect and predict.
In his presentation, “How do I say that…: General Semantic and the Art of ‘Thinking’ without the ‘Meant’”, Prof. Pravesh Jung Golay presented a comprehensive analytical view of the concerned theme. A critical analysis of General Semantics, right from its slow picking in the academia to how Korzybski’s ideas were similar to Nietzsche’s perspectivism, to the inherent flaws within it such as it not being a response to an epistemological crisis, thus making it illegitimate in failing to provide answers to post-thesis question ‘so what’ (for the proposition – map is not a territory.) He also said General Semantics could enter philosophy if it addressed the question of solipsism because it’s been a serious problem in philosophy.
Mandakini Jha, in her paper, “Sociology and General Semantics,” talked about the possibilities of connections which could be drawn between general semantics and sociology taking into account the similarities in concerns shared by both the schools. She also talked about Weberian model of sociological analysis and the use of language from a sociological point of view, to justify the connections.
Bini B.S. presented a paper that looked at how literature participated in time-binding process and analyzed historically some possible ways in which literature had facilitated the time-binding process. By examining literature in diverse spatial temporality in the writer’s political aesthetics and ethical negotiations, she sought to make sense of the time-binding as a mechanism in the production and reception of literature. She also historically evaluated controls and censorship on literary expressions and opined that rather than worrying about how literature could turn into an instrument for negative time-binding, one should be concerned about the curtailment of the freedom of expression and what it does to time-binding.
On the last day of the seminar 17th March, 2015, Prof. Lajwanti Chatani, in her presentation titled “From the Undesirable to the Impossible: General Semantics and Politics,” examined critically and analytically the two trajectories Political Studies and General Semantics and sought to theorize the impossible injunction of General Semantics into Political Studies which contradicts not just the primordial concerns of the discipline but also doesn’t seek to legitimize itself as a whole discipline, thereby reducing it to a methodological tool addressing humanitarian concerns without addressing the questions of why and how was it relevant.
Y Samuel P. Wesley, in his paper “General Semantics and History: The Historiography of the Holocaust,” said how the history of any event depends upon objectivity, subjectivity, outlook, values, logical orientation. He explained how the general semantic conception of ‘dating’ has helped to objectively look at holocaust from a historical perspective, to historically scrutinize the extracted histories of looking at the holocaust, including holocaust denial which debunked holocaust as a myth or an exaggerated reality.
Dipesh Karmarkar, in the paper “Geography and General Semantics: Increasing the Burden of Awareness” talked about critical thinking and general semantics and its relation with the discipline of geography through a critical search. In this search of finding whether GS was related to geography, it was found that geography could be applied as a method or tool towards understanding the substantiveness of general semantics. For instance, the cartographic understanding of map-territory relation in general semantics is using a metaphor from the discipline of geography. The paper also explored works in geography that has made tangential references to General Semantics after 2000.
Shipra Upadhyay, in the paper, “Material Culture and Remnants of the Past: Archaeology as a Tool in Construction, Elaboration and Interpretation of History” talked about how the general semantics method of understanding history and archaeological perception of building history had many inter-relations and similarities that benefitted each other both as methodological devices as well as in addressing their respective epistemological concerns.
Aparna Vijayan, in the paper titled, “Political Science and General Semantics: Some Reflections” sought to analyze the relation between Political Studies and General Semantics on the grounds of primordial concerns Political Science faced in dealing with questions related to language structure, understanding the meaning of human actions and problem of social order.
Ajay Sarvaiya in his paper “Cognitive Semantics and General Semantics,” about how relevant it was to look at the possibilities of General Semantics from the disciplinary point of view of linguistics as it formed the spatial connection between all areas of language and the social sciences. He talked about how an art of time-binding could be cultivated by a ‘proper’ use of language and better structural revamping of the existing patterns and usages.
The seminar gave ample space for discussions and rethinking on general semantics’ ongoing dialogue with disciplines and methods.
Aparna Vijayan, Department of Political Science, The Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda.