Who’s Changing The Meaning?

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Richard S. Waguespack, Ph.D., LCSW

In Who’s Changing the Meaning?, Dana Pope explains in striking clarity the importance of integrity in language and its relationship to what is at stake in western civilization.  While meanings do expand and multiply over time through normal transitions, today our language is undergoing revision by many whose primary purpose is not to communicate honestly, but to spin and manipulate!  

The contemporary focus on external change, constructing language and platforms to accomplish self serving or ignoble agendas, often handicaps internal growth,  trust, and the capacity for quality bonding with others.  We must be more aware that entire industries are organized and led by extremely intelligent ‘masters of manipulation’ willing to teach their craft to others.

Today, we can find numerous sites and platforms such as Changing Minds governed by an ethos of changing others.  “Welcome to ChangingMinds.org, the largest site in the world on all aspects of how we change what others think, believe, feel and do.”  Assuming that the potential for some good may be present in these objectives, they never-the-less signal a dire need to be wary and to question the ends and means of major catalysts and calls to action.  Dana has consequently written a book to address the issues of language manipulation by unscrupulous actors in virtually all walks of life. 

Put simply, Dana is motivated to expose what has happened to our language and communication — and continues unabated at an alarming rate.  Believing that our most basic moral compass and capacity to communicate authentically requires thoughtful re-calibration, she cites Webster to underscore the virtue of prudence as necessary to avoid further abuse and erosion.  Noah Webster (1758-1843) was profoundly in tune with the ethos of the founders of our country.  “Webster states that prudence is, “more in foreseeing and avoiding evil than in devising and executing that which is good”  (Chapter 8).

From a linguistic or epistemological perspective Dana tends to be a strict foundationalist.  From the onset of the book, she hold firmly to this construct, often taking absolute positions about preserving early frames of meaning. She advances with the assumption that such pristine references often contain a higher level of implicit morality.  While there may be limitations in application, there is no question that reference to such a paradigm is very needed for reform in education and so many other venues that extend from it – and more critically — back into it.

The book routinely points out trends of thought and behavior narrating the perilous times we live in — where the self serving habitually orchestrate public communication containing all manner of malfeasance. Their focus is to frame agendas in such as way that the “sheeple” just go along to get along.  They utilize the powers of societal pressure and much more.  To perk our powers of observation and defense, Dana cites Nathaniel Hawthorne to call our attention to the power of  “Words – so innocent and powerless as they are, as standing in a dictionary, how potent for good and evil they become in the hands of one who knows how to combine them”  (Chapter 4).

While reading this book it is virtually impossible to escape from the poignant realization for which there is abundant evidence:  Our basic foundations for adequate and holistic communication, and indeed our basic freedoms are often imperceptibly threatened by the questionable wordsmiths (lawyers, politicians, advertisers and promoters) who so often serve the corrupt objectives of public, nonprofit and private sectors — without batting an eye.  

From corporations wanting to foist harmful products to government agencies and officials seeking to illegitimately (unlawfully) empower themselves at the expense of the people, we find actors pushing agendas that are not at all in keeping with sacred principles regarding the dignity of the human person, the best interest of humanity and its inalienable rights.  Dana is acutely aware that the favorite targets of most nefarious  target freedom to live out Christian teachings protected by God, our Constitution, Bill of Rights and related documents.  The remaining list of countless works inspired by these catalysts make up the great good in our culture — with the potential to truly enhance and benefit so many people of good will around the globe — and YET, also subject to considerable risk of suppression, misrepresentation and misalignment.

Certainly life within the Church and its mission are threatened by misapplications of language.  While I cannot agree with Dana’s interpretation of Martin Luther’s interaction with the Church and the essential variables that pertain, she has many other sections with really helpful insights pertaining to Scripture, relativism in the Church, and more foundational definitions of critical words such as “hate” and “meek” that we do well to examine.

Dana submits early on in Chapter 2:

“Of all the words in the dictionary, Webster was known to have only coined one. The word was demoralize, meaning, “to corrupt or undermine the moral of; to destroy or lessen the effect of moral principles; to render corrupt in morals.” Noah used the word in the context of the demoralization of the language. Even at that time, the language and the meaning of many words were changing. Webster questioned that if there was not a standard of reference, how will students be able to study America’s history and literature? This was an important focal point for Noah Webster. So sure of himself, on June 4, 1800 he placed an ad in a Connecticut newspaper stating his intention of creating a Dictionary of the American Language. Never-the-less, People spoke out against this.

By the end of book, Dana suggests a new agenda.  Having routinely demonstrated a penchant for analyzing historical changes or compounding meaning of various pivotal words in our language, she ends the book with a section: “New Words Needed”.   The outgrowth of strict foundationalism in a developing society is constructionism.   Rather than load up multiple meanings in one word, let’s create a new word for every meaning.  While such a black and white approach may have drawbacks, it is something to weigh in many situations where precise meaning and epistemology is unduly compromised.  There is more this challenge than can be explained in this book review.

If nothing else, Dana has established herself as a premier contemporary foundationalist, a virtually unrivaled textbook example.   Such a frame may warrant critical notice of philosophers and certain textbook writers in various fields.  The typical reader will not walk away without noticing limitations,  but few readers can work through this publication without learning many new things and thinking through some very critical and pivotal issues in education, linguistics, political messaging, epistemology, public and private life and commerce.

In the end, its about communicating within constructs that both motivate and are wide enough and perhaps even fuzzy enough for multiple interpretations… and hence we must accept that the tools of language are much more about intent than their construction per se.  Still, there is something about a good construction that tends to move individuals, groups and societies in the right direction.  Of course the opposite is also demonstrably true.

The bottom line is more publications, scripts and  public communicators need to be held to account. If we regularly allow those with questionable or nefarious agendas to abuse the system, we won’t trust enough to have optimal communications.  Functional teams in think tanks, education and advertising will appreciate reminders and reorientation towards foundational structures as well as opportunities to serve as reputable constructionists… in this way the best of the old and new meet and shake hands and the imposing imposters are set at bay… how about those apples for a new day?  

A good read for the educator, business leader, social thinker and more!  [Updated   9.9.18]

Pope, Dana Lynn (2017-05-05). Who’s Changing the Meaning? Dana Lynn Pope, LLC. Kindle Edition.

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Dana creates business systems for start-up businesses and large companies in need of a turn around.  This is accomplished by working with organizations on their distribution process, financial planning, trend analysis, inventory flow, along with management and employee building, to improve gross margin. She attributes network marketing as providing the knowledge needed for success.

Dana lives in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metro area.   See LinkedIn Profile

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Who’s Changing The Meaning?

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BEING BECOMING

NOTES (Part I)

BEING BECOMING: INTEGRATIVE PARADIGMS

CONSTRUCTS FOR INTERDISCIPLINARY ONTOLOGY

Richard Waguespack, Ph.D., LCSW

     Few argue against fuller explanations about what constitutes our being and purpose.  Being Becoming explores the conditions of our essence and potential and dynamics of existence influencing our self-concept, goals, mission, volition, and the way we participate in relationships.  These include marital, family, church, school, workplace and the extended physical, quantum, morphic, metaphysical and spiritual interfaces of our environment.

    Working assumptions in Philosophy, Medicine, Psychology, Social Work, Science, Technology, Business, Sociology and other disciplines are based on variables we think we understand and the meaning, relationships and value we assign to them.  The composition of our being reflects the contingencies between our essence and the potential that extends from it.   The conscious employment of will and volition emerges from our essence and potential which in turn are influenced by our values and the way we integrate perceptions, experiences, consequences and benefits. 

    One interdisciplinary vision of Being Becoming is to attempt to fathom what constitutes the fullness of being so that our approaches to serving others will correspond more holistically to the real conditions of their personhood.  In other words, we need to possess an adequate orientation to help facilitate human development in a way that does the most good and avoids doing harm.  If our criteria for personhood, good or harm are not sufficiently developed because we do not fathom the nature of being, essence, potential, existence and more, then how do we presume to posture ourselves as primary agencies, authorities, gatekeepers, facilitators, therapists, managers, executives and the like?  

    Our quest begins by examining key aspects of physiology with an eye towards integrating a wider range of interacting components than typically demonstrated in conventional scientific models.  Here we consider Ontological and Epistemological implications of being expanding outside a materialist framework to being in Being – a foundation for interpreting our actual makeup, modalities of function, life force, experiences, development, motivations and organization of perceptions.  

    One early goal of this work was to improve the depth, quality and comprehensiveness of working theory that orients the developmental consequences decision making.   I was motivated to introduce a series of paradigms with the power to draw practitioners, researchers, educators and managers to a place where they could no longer casually restrict ‘working assumptions and dialogs’ into materialist’s pet frameworks but would themselves be restricted if the refused recourse and reference to an interdisciplinary framework that respects metaphysics and well sourced spirituality.  The specific rules of logic, reasoning and reframing may depend on the context, but once a construct of knowledge enters a prescribed interdisciplinary conduit, it can no longer retain its protective cocoon or imply an exclusive leading role confined to positivist presumptions. 

    Along with recognizing existence tethered to variables outside of three dimensions, it is also very important to fathom that such an expanded mindset must navigate with the help of Ontological frameworks grounded to the transcendent nature of humankind as well as a foundational ethos supporting well-being – including proper utilization of conscience and intellectual faculties.   We must also understand that broad pastoral explanations, insights and guidelines cannot be ignored and scuttled by the atheist and agnostic if he or she wishes to participate in collaborative work in a leading theaters.

   The Being Becoming Series is in designed to persuasively overcome conceptual impasses binding individual professionals to entrenched biases that are unhealthy, problematic intellectual frameworks that create various kinds of impasses and highly powerful and manipulative reward systems.  It is formulated to revive the potential and quality of  emerging interdisciplinary theory as well as practice in the face of prevailing orientations that may at times be adverse to reasonable integrations within an improved paradigm. 

      With barriers to certain categories of improvement, both upstream and downstream, entrenched systems and wrongful political ideologies tend to create conditions fostering unnecessary double talk, submerged duplicity and other quagmires amongst a wide variety of paradigms in philosophy, science, medicine, education, social service, public health and much more.  Therefore, it is necessary to equip those who wish to improve conditions with high quality insights, approaches, questions and proposals for integrated knowledge that leads to more holistic and trustworthy conversation, mission and purpose.  

      If you have read this far, you are probably quite concerned about the consequences of scientists, health professionals, corporate leaders, technology experts, teachers and administrators remaining in the shallows.  At the same time, you may be looking for examples of historically relevant individuals who were accomplished in the sciences and at the same time were able to reframe their knowledge within quantum, morphic, metaphysical and spiritual domains.  

   A central figure to weigh is 1963 Nobel Laureate in Physiology and Medicine – Sir John Eccles (1903-1997).  If one examines his published works from 1932 (Reflex Activity of the Spinal Cord) to 1994 (How the Self Controls Its Brain), we see a gradual progression towards a view that expands from the strictly physiological to the metaphysical and spiritual dimensions of humankind – including a credible effort in resolving the so called mind – body problem that he interfaces with and extended beyond Cartesian Dualism.   In sum, in this last book, he offered the concept of “Psychons” as metaphysical mental units in interaction with  “Dendrons”, fundamental physical units reflecting bundled formations in the Cerebral Cortex.

     Though Eccles’ work at all stages had a wide audience, it certainly shifted and expanded over time, some in scientific fields found reasons to break ranks after he published Facing Reality: Philosophical Adventures by a Brain Scientist (1970) and continued to pull away as he continued to produce books that pressed for a more comprehensive model of mind-brain.  One of his predecessors, German physicist Friedrich Beck (1927-2008), tended to walk the fence on Eccles’ models, especially after his death, offering neural transmission explanations from the nomenclature and models of quantum physics.  He was primarily known for his “quantum tunneling” interpretation, plausibly stretching outside of three dimensions, but not necessarily. 

     A sense of meaning and purpose cannot be divorced from how one perceives his or her development in the context of being in community.  Indeed, the models and language we use tend to be heavily influenced by our relationships and those who have influence on our lives.  “Validation” received from ‘carrot and stick management strategies’ in the science lab or business focus group, research funding sources and other controlling players with reductionist assumptions may seriously undermine the potential for thorough self-examination, productive self-direction and growth.  They may also cause a given group of people to prostitute their faculties to accomplish research designed to reflect certain implied outcomes rather than coming to terms with a holistic understanding of the truth.  

    The Being Becoming Series offers an understanding of human potential and essence that keeps open the doors of metaphysical and related interfaces.  A developmental model like Waguespack’s Three Essence Theory can help establish working paradigms to help influential players realign baseline assumptions and conversational scope about what makes up the human person.

     Are you aware of certain psychological, medical, scientific, and philosophical modalities of assessing phenomenon, individuals and groups that may currently be considered “mainstream”, but believe the nomenclature and underpinnings shortsighted and reductionist, often suppressing or perverting the potential for optimal growth and the fortification of potentialities, essence(s) and being? As a ’systemic thinker’ are you motivated to consider a presentation purposed to target key areas of philosophy, science, medicine and Theology relevant to becoming whole and helping others to be the best versions of themselves – and at times from harming themselves? 

     Perhaps you have considered integrating material from a wide variety of sources within an effective interdisciplinary synthesis, but have been discouraged by the effort required to credibly integrate the material in a way suitable for public consumption.  Keep in mind that most colleges and universities have opportunities for interdisciplinary studies at every level.  Many have interdisciplinary departments.  This approach has evolved significantly over the past 50 years and will continue to do so.  Welch (2011) explains in his abstract of “The Emergence of Interdisciplinarity From Epistemological Thought”:

–Interdisciplinary studies has positioned itself as an innovative approach to comprehending, navigating, and transforming knowledge. The emphasis in recent scholarship upon complex systems and integration of insights from disciplinary perspectives mark decisive progress toward the development of a cohesive theory of interdisciplinarity. Such a theory would entail establishing an epistemology of complexity through epistemological negotiation. I argue that the interdisciplinary approach to knowledge is a logical evolution of the history of Western thought…(p. 1)–

     He suggests that “such an approach to knowledge requires a metacognitive awareness to the way truth itself is formed” (p. 2) and that complexity has become the cornerstone of interdisciplinary theory (p. 32).  This approach moves away from reducing knowledge to simple structures or idealized models and acknowledges its dependence on context, focusing on relationships between systemic elements (p. 32).  He points out Derrida who suggests that “différance enables complexity itself, and allows for the possibility of epistemological progress without ignoring the way in which it problematizes itself” (p. 33).  

      Developments in the neurosciences, chemistry, physics, math, technology, computer science, database management and engineering possess greater and greater magnitude in their social and environmental ramifications — for good or for ill.  The theoretical underpinnings and sometimes troubled dynamics within these venues as well as many areas of medicine, management and human resources often signal an increased need for interdisciplinary checks, balances and cooperation.  This work strives to offer a common nomenclature with the potential to increase unification across these diverse fields without diminishing the importance or quality of production of any given discipline.

     The interdisciplinary synthesis of this Series offers a very wide range of content relevant for linking and expanding standard paradigms to highly relevant dimensions of physiology as it may be interfaced with, quantum, morphic, metaphysical and spiritual realms. My hope is to draw our minds towards making room for notions that expand conventional physiology without giving undue weight to any sphere of influence.  The issues may often come down determining how much weight should be afforded a given concept, construct, theory or paradigm in the overall schema.  This is why modern epistemology cannot be totally divorced from consensus building and some level of negotiation, not for the sake of negotiation, but for the sake of better clarifying the limitations and merit of any given representation at any given interval in any given context.

      Many are responding to invitations to reexamine what their professions are evidently conveying and not conveying to themselves and those they serve.  In some instances, critiquing what they do not recognize and fortify can be almost as important as examining what they do.  For example, if a group of social workers in a conference on domestic violence appear to give inordinate weight to the notion of “rights” and situational problem solving via dissolution of marriage within a radically feminist schema of service and gatekeeping, then society at large has a problem and there is probably no effective recourse in singling out one or two people for correction or disciplinary action.   How does society respond to subgroups of professionals who tend to grossly discount the relative value of marriage and family preservation and radically overweigh their angry sentiments against males with impoverish backgrounds or otherwise, trapped in cycles of abusive behavior towards spouses. 

   Blind spots, cognitive distortions, group think and problematic approaches found in disciplines administrated in relative isolation or in reference to wrongful collective assumptions can often be exposed and remedied through constructive interdisciplinary dialog fortified with concepts generated from “the outside”.  Ideally, such exchanges will help set the stage for improvements emerging from “the inside” as well.   Often the process and outcomes will not be formally established and explicitly rectified, but graduated in the context of mutually beneficial interdisciplinary and more constructive internal dialogs.

   Each venue of professional life presents a unique set of challenges that relates to needs, opportunities as well as various types of suppression.  The most general is human resources. It is rather basic to understand incentives for management to orchestrate work conditions that facilitate outcomes of reliable, effective and efficient productivity.  Many have demonstrably understood and responded to the need to encourage holistic lifestyles with sufficient private reflection, time with family and recreation.  These accommodations have certainly been instrumental in helping large numbers of employees function in accordance with the expectations of management. 

    What is especially critical to spot are sources that inform and perhaps rank higher but who are themselves questionable leaders alienating the wrong people and promoting the wrong people.  Of course, the “right” and “wrong” relates to the mission and values of the organization.   At times one must recognize where the most pivotal shortcomings are as well as their systemic effects.  Sometimes the remedies and corrections are not straight forward but must be implemented within a larger strategy for the good of the organization.  When might it be appropriate to change the vision and mission of an organization and when is it critical to hold onto it at almost any cost?  How does one go about examining and challenging a given set of assumptions, often part of the culture but difficult to identify and articulate in a way which would draw consensus and validation of finding(s)?

    Critical paradigm shifts are taking place, but progress is uneven and unpredictable, with much resistance. American physicist and philosopher Thomas Kuhn (1922-1996), the man who coined the term “paradigm” in the 1960s did so in order to describe contexts and frameworks associated with scientific revolutions throughout history. In our time, the revolution pertains to the philosophical and scientific challenge of merging the best of each discipline towards a progressive interdisciplinary synthesis that goes beyond science per se. It is about science recognizing its place and proper role in the scheme of mankind’s development.  Similarly it may be about an organization coming to terms with its existence and criteria for optimal future development.

    We choose our scientific research and define the questions it is supposed to answer.  We establish mission statements for rehabilitating mental illness or corporate dysfunction, often with very specific goals in mind.  “What else” are we and those we interface with  attempting to establish and accomplish?  The “facts” are often going to be assembled within these paradigms and they may not necessarily reflect the most conscious awareness or objective reality –  remote configurations beyond our grasp.  How can we narrow the gap?

    At this point in the history and philosophy of science and other related venues, we are often offered perspectives that suggest reality often accommodates or even resembles the fabric of our individual and collective beliefs, motivations, plans and actions.  Through manifestations of being, we influence the pathways of particles, give life or death vibes to plants and even ice crystals.   The lasting impression most of us have is that the smartest and wisest among us are limited human beings who have made excellent cases for their impressions, perceptions, inferences and beliefs.  In virtually every case, the sands of time have worn down at least some of what they offered and often they have been found inadequate or have been quietly forgotten.

      How often do we look at the big picture on a philosophical level, really studying and thinking deeply?  How often do we ‘strategically modify’ our orientations to “adapt” to the expectations of individuals who themselves are not well invested in an optimal mission or purpose in their own leadership?  This book offers a number of windows, as remote as prime matter and as close to home as conscience to better understand and construct a model of ourselves and those we serve — what are we about anyway?  What are we made of and how do we best develop?  What should be our own “developmental agendas” and those we affirm in others? 

END OF NOTES PART I OF 2

Please note that this book contains a “working Glossary” for the reader to glance through before and during reading…

GO TO NOTES PART 2 of 2

“Interdisciplinary studies has positioned itself as an innovative approach to comprehending, navigating, and transforming knowledge. The emphasis in recent scholarship upon complex systems and integration of insights from disciplinary perspectives mark decisive progress toward the development of a cohesive theory of interdisciplinarity. Such a theory would entail establishing an epistemology of complexity through epistemological negotiation. I argue that the interdisciplinary approach to knowledge is a logical evolution of the history of Western thought…(p. 1).”

Welch (2011).  The Emergence of Interdisciplinarity From Epistemological Thought.  Issues in Integrative Studies. No. 29, pp. 1-39.  

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