5    On maps and territories


Speaking only for myself ...


I promised discussion of some of the tools I've found helpful in developing some skill at thinking critically.

In some later sessions I intend to give some space to Chris Argyris' concepts and processes.  His work, alone and with Don Schon, has been influential on my own practice.  However, in this and the next occasional piece I intend to take up some of the ideas of the "general semanticists".  They, too, have had an influence.

My early exposure to their ideas was through reading some of the work of S.I.  Hayakawa.  Foremost among these works for me was the book "Language in thought and action".

I've since found that some modern general semanticists downplay Hayakawa's importance.  Some of them think he has misrepresented the views of Alfred Korzybski, who was the founder of the discipline.  I didn't know this.

In any event, I found Hayakawa's ideas compelling and practical.  It was there that I came across the notion that "the map is not the territory".  The idea, or concept, or theory, or model, is not the reality.  Some of you may have come across it more recently in the literature of neurolinguistic programming, which has made the concept its own.

If I remember that the map is not the territory ...

I find it easier to remember that several different maps may capture well enough important features of the same territory.  Different ideas are not necessarily competitors.

I find it easier to acknowledge that most (all?) maps are incomplete.  (That is their virtue.) I can therefore remain more open to revising my maps in the light of experience.

I can expect others to hold different maps of our common experience, and not attribute this to their malice or ignorance.

In short, I can think more critically about my own ideas.  I can think more critically about my emerging interpretations as I do what I do.  I can be more open to learning from the ideas of others.




Copyright Bob Dick 1997-2000.  May be copied if it is not included in any
material sold at a profit, and if this and the following notice are shown

This may be cited as:   Bob Dick (1997) On maps and territories.
Occasional pieces in action research methodology, # 5.  Available
online at http://www.scu.edu.au/schools/gcm/ar/arm/op005.html

Version 1.2;  Last modified 20000101


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