The Epistemology of Murder, continued
According to Washburn, “J. Samuel Bois elaborated on Korzybski’s scheme, incorporating aspects of the work of Gaston Bachelard. In one of his last books, Breeds of Men, he describes five stages in mans epistemological the evolution: the primitive, the classifying, the relational, the postulational, and the participatory. These can be most quickly illustrated by expanding the familiar anecdote of the three umpires. The first umpire says ‘I calls them as they is,’ illustrating the stage of primitive identification. The second umpire says, ‘I calls them by the book,’ which shows his dependence on categorization. The third umpire says, ‘I calls them as I sees them,’ taking into account the relations between the observer and the observed. The fourth umpire says, ‘They ain’t nothing happens until I calls them.’ He asserts the postulational nature of all games and, by implication, symbol systems in general . The fifth umpire says, ‘No matter how I calls them, it’s a great game!’ Bois describes this fifth stage as the cosmic sense of participation in the creation of the universe….”
“Each of these five stages establishes a different kind of rationale for behavior. What is routine for a man at one stage may be unthinkable for a man at another. A motive that is intelligible to one sort of person will seem odd or even mad to someone living in a different psycho-semantic frame of reference.”
“From the point of view of general semantics, murder, then, represents a terrible misevaluation. It not only violates the spirit of mutual interdependence and support upon which our survival as a life form depends but, upon close scrutiny, it frequently is seen to epistemologically undersound. The murderer commits himself to an irreversible action as though his abstracting – his understanding of the situation – is not significantly different from the situation itself. He cannot see himself and the events which provoke him with enough clarity to know that his experiences are to a large degree illusory. He is like a man having a dream who does not know that he is dreaming.
The role of language in generating illusions which underlie violent acts is enormous. To a great extent, awareness depends on the symbol system which gives it form. Every language embodies a metaphysics, a set of structural assumptions that exercise a powerful unconscious influence on perception, evaluation, and behavior. Every murderer gives an account of the meaning of his act to himself – usually in words.”