The genesis of this website sprang from idle hands trying to constructively deal with a severance period in 1999. It seemed like a worthwhile use of my time to learn about domain names and web hosting providers and HTML. The domain name came to me while trying to think about differentiation, differences, uniqueness, primarily in conjunction with the word is not the thing, the symbol is not the thing symbolized, etc. And, of course, the map is not the territory.
- this ________ is not that ________; two apparently ‘identical’ items differ at some level of observation or analysis
- this ________ in 1999 is not the same _________ in 2019; every single thing we can observe changes in some respect over time
- this ________ seen from my perspective is not the same _________ as seen from your perspective
- and neurologically, as Heraclitus allegedly observed, you can’t step into the same river twice; in other words, every single experience we have cannot be repeated exactly.
Sometimes these differences are trivial and immaterial. Sometimes, however, they do indeed make a difference. That’s what ThisIsNotThat.com is about … differences that make a difference.
A World of Differences
The world in which we live is a world of differences. When we disregard differences, we generalize. When we generalize inappropriately, we stereotype, forming biases and prejudices. Troubles inevitably follow.
We need to learn how to more critically differentiate, or discern, between:
what actually happens in our lives; i.e., our experiences,
how we respond to our experiences,
and how we think-and-talk about our experiences.
Since 1999, this site has promoted an ongoing awareness of differences that make a difference. It advocates an informed, open, and tolerant world view, deliberately derived from what we currently know from integrating knowledge from the sciences, arts, and humanities … without deference to dogmas, traditions, or what passes for culturally-dependent “common sense.”
The world in which we live is a world of differences. Of course it’s also important to recognize similarities — that’s the basis for our human capabilities to create and manipulate symbols for language and thinking. When we ignorantly or intentionally disregard differences, however, we don’t behave as humanly as we are capable.
The Premise of ThisIsNotThat
What we perceive as ‘the world’
is not ‘the world out there’;
what we perceive is merely an abstraction of ‘the world out there,’
mediated through each individual’s nervous system.
Those are my words from my 2009 eBook, Here’s Something About General Semantics. But if you doubt the neurological validity of this statement, here are similar conclusions from four experts:
Neurobiologist Christof Koch (The Quest for Consciousness: A Neurobiological Approach, 2005): “Conscious perception is, in a sense, a con job of the brain. It suggests there’s a stable world out there and there’s a very simple relationship between what’s out there in the world and what’s inside our head but in fact it’s a very complicated relationship. It’s actively constructed by our brain.”
Jeff Hawkins, founder of Palm Computing (On Intelligence, 2004 with Sandra Blakeslee) and founder of the Redwood Center for Theoretical Neuroscience: “Your perception of the world is really a fabrication of your model of the world. You don’t really see light or sound. You perceive it because your model says this is how the world is, and those patterns invoke the model. It’s hard to believe, but it really is true.”
V.S. Ramachandran, MD, Director of the Center for Brain and Cognition and Professor with the Psychology Department and Neurosciences Program at the University of California, San Diego, and Adjunct Professor of Biology at the Salk Institute (A Brief Tour of Human Consciousness,2005): “Our brains are essentially modelmaking machines. We need to construct useful, virtual reality simulations of the world that we can act on.”
Nobel Laureate Francis Crick (Astonishing Hypothesis: The Scientific Search for the Soul, 1995): “What you see is not what is really there; it is what your brain believes is there… Seeing is an active, constructive process. Your brain makes the best interpretation it can according to its previous experiences and the limited and ambiguous information provided by your eyes.”
Consequences and Implications
- We live in a continually-changing, process-oriented world, much of which we have no means of directly observing or experiencing.
- What we do experience is therefore partial and incomplete; we abstract only a small portion of what’s there – and there is always more.
- Different people abstract differently from their own individual experiences, based on their backgrounds, capabilities, interests, biases, etc.
- As we become more conscious of this abstracting process, we learn how to become more tolerant and accepting of our own – and others – limitations and potentialities.
- We recognize the distinctions between the sensory or non-verbal world in which we sense and experience, and our verbal world in which we use symbols and language to talk about our experiences.
- The methods of a scientific approach provide us with a basis for evaluating and modifying our attitudes, behaviors and beliefs.
If you deliberately apply these principles in your behavior, the potential consequences include:
- More effective, discriminating communications with others, and with yourself
- More appropriate, and desirable, reactions, responses and adjustments to the inevitable “accidents waiting to happen” in your four ‘worlds’
- A more tolerant, inquisitive, open-minded, “matter-of-fact” outlook that is less prone to prejudice, stereotyping, and dogmatic generalizations
- A greater degree of moment-to-moment awareness of your own, and others’, different perspectives.
How we use language determines the way we evaluate our relationship with ourselves, others, and our world. Many human problems can be traced to our ignorance of the ways we use language and the ways language influences us. — Alfred Korzybski