Le Chanson Sans Fin: The Comparison Process–Introduction, Pt. 1
By Herb Wiggins, discoverer/creator of the Comparison Process//COMP Theory/Model, 14 Mar. 2014, USA.
“Every fundamental advance in physics was preceded by an epistemological advance.”–Albert Einstein
“Almost anything which jogs us out of our current abstractions, is a good thing.”–Lord North, Alfred Whitehead, co-author of the Principia Mathematica.
“Ignothi seauton.” Know yourself.–Socrates, 5th C. BC
“There is no royal road to understanding. You have to do the work.”–Anon.
The Comparison Process (COMP) is likely to be the predominant, high level, cortical function/process of the brain, which subsumes language, thinking, creativity, visual perceptions, associations, and perceptions of laws, morality, music, creativity and many other high level cortical functions. It lies directly on the neurophysiology/cortex interface between brain & mind.
The COMP is very simple. From this simple process, languages of any kind can be created. Education, teaching, learning, discovery and creativity can arise from COMP. It is basically a strategic, active process used in the cortices of the brain to do everything from operation of the motor and sensory cortex, to consciousness & the conscience and much else besides. The COMP does not create the emotions, altho the cortex clearly modulates and can control them. It’s a very simple process, recursive & reiterative, not a thing or object, but an active function, and from this simplicity all the rest can be built.
Einstein wrote that no time nor space was absolute. In order to measure time and space we must start with a fixed reference point, a point relative to which we measure, a point which is arbitrary and then measure from there. In the same way, our cortex starts with the sensory inputs and compares them with each other to create our consciousness, language, and much else. For instance, when we use words we use the COMP, largely. We hear sounds as babies, and begin to imitate them as our mothers teach us to talk. She corrects & develops our language from the simple words, to the more complex by example, correction and addition of words. By the time we are in our teens we have a good command of the language, and can create and add to it on our own. As ontogeny recaps philogeny in our bodies’ development from infant to adult, so do our basic language skills develop by adding more and more words, and more and more language skills, from the simple, to the complex vocabuaries of language.
The COMP is there from the first in the cortex and is the built in structural process of all languages, which is why babies from any race/locale can learn any language. The method is built into the cortex and is the COMP. When we hear words we compare those to words in our verbal Long Term Memory (LTM) and we understand what a word means by comparing it to those already there. If not, then we ask the person to tell us what the word means, by using other words with which we are already familiar. i.e., we compare the words we already know for a definition of the new word. Definition is COMP. No word is an island. No word stands alone, to paraphrase John Donne. Each word is given meaning by other words, and each word is & can be defined by other words. Each word must be compared to other words for meaning, otherwise there is no meaning. Words are highly contextual for this reason. A language is probably a complex system of related words.
For instance, take a noun, a verb and the object following the verb, the usual grammatical sentence.
The Tree stop orange.
It makes no sense at all. Still the grammar is there, a noun subject, a verb, and an object. But it makes no sense despite that proper grammatical construction. Now why? Because none of the words relate to each other at all. Without these relationships the words are meaningless in this case. Change the sentence to “The orange tree stopped growing.” and anyone can see the line is understandable. All the relationships are there. It’s a tree, an orange tree. Living trees can stop growing for many reasons. It makes sense now because the words can all be “compared” to each other using the COMP very quickly, and we have a normal, comprehendable sentence. We created the sense by arranging a set of words which allowed those “meaningful” relationships to be read and understood.
Grammar does NOT necessarily create meaning. That’s the point here. It’s the relationships among the words which do that. Whatever creates a meaningful sentence must create a meaningful relationship among the words. No one can talk about “steely” when talking about tree bark. But about a person’s eyes? Again, highly contextual, created by the COMP creating relationships among the words to give meaning.
In “Jabberwocky” by Lewis Carroll, we read the words:
“Twas brillig and the slithy toves did gyre and gimble in the wabe. All Mimsy were the borogoves and the mome raths outgrabe.”
Again, all of the grammar is correct, but there is absolutely no meaning. It has form, but like in the first sentence, no meaning. Grammar does NOT create meaning. and this has been the crowbar in the metal gears for trying to understanding language. Get rid of the sole “grammar” requirement, and everything starts to make sense.
Contextuality is the capacity of words to have many meanings depending upon their context, i.e,, the words around them which they can be compared to.
CF.: “I CAN do it.”; The beans were in the CAN.”; (Another, but rather rude phrase “CAN” related to the WC); and lastly, “He saw the Can-can.”
There it is. Understanding of language is based upon the relationships among the words for meaning and context. The grammar is a red herring, a false lead, a distraction.
When my beloved g’ma had a stroke affecting her speech output area, Broca’s, she could still talk. She’d say something like ” I go sit.” meaning she wanted to sit down. The grammar is bad, but the meaning was still intact. These instances show that it’s the relationships of the words which give meaning, NOT grammar, which can give form, but not meaning, necessarily.
When one uses the COMP all of this becomes clear, as well. When we speak we are constantly comparing the words to each other to make sense. That means the active process of the COMP is being used all the time to imbue the string of words with meaning. And if the right words are used, then meaning will result from the relationships among them which are possible despite the bad grammar.
Take a look at our dictionaries. They use words to define words. They define each word by comparing it to others of known meaning. The dictionaries provide Synonyms, the words which mean much the same, with their mostly connotated differences, The large books called Thesauri are made up of whole collections of these Synonyms, all based upon the COMP. The Antonyms, which are opposites, again COMP. & then there are the Homonyms, pun forming, sound alike words/combinations, which can create the double entendre and are the source of much humor. Again, another instance of an unsuspected new kind of word, wherein the words create far more than was in them from the beginning.
The dictionary is organized by alphabetical means. This means a word starting with a “c” is compared & located to the 3rd section beginning with all such words. The next letter is found, an ‘o” and then one turns to the “c” words followed with an “o” after the “C”. The next letter, is searched for, comparing the words until one gets to “com”, and so on until one gets to “comparison”
The method is self-consistent and reflexive. Comparisons can be compared, endlessly. It’s very self organizing. Because there is no absolute meaning, and all words must be compared to other words for their meaning, it makes complete sense. No word is an island. No word stands alone.. Meaning is best gained by comparison of words to others, i.e., definitions. In the same way we derive distance, speed & time by comparing to fixed, but arbitrary standards, so do the meanings of words rely upon other words. We define words by other words, comparing the meanings of the phrases to create the definitions. No word can possibly stand alone. What would it mean? Meaning is created by comparing to other words with meanings.
And so the list of words grows & grows as more and more categories are recognized, filled with words which fit into each category. Overall, this is COMP. It creates words by showing us new events/new relationships, and so forth. It builds new words by discoveries of new events, new meanings, and so forth. The structure function- relationship is itself a comparison. Definitions are comparisons. Contrasting and differences in meaning are established by comparison.
Essentially, we use words to communicate with others, not ourselves.. It’s a social activity. The words created and learned are then stored in the LTM, which creates a stable, recallable, recognizable entity, a word, which reflects a concept/idea/image or event in existence. These are models for events in existence and is the way our higher cortical functions in our brains are organized. It is nothing less than the fundamental way we process information, i.e., think. This may well mean that in practice, language is a complex system. With literally 100,000’s of words in most technical and advanced languages, the complex interactions of these words with other words in sentences, often creating new meanings and new discoveries, very likely shows this.
When we recall words wrongly, wanting to say cryolite and instead say rhyolite, These errors show us how words are stored in our verbal memories. When trying to recall words, we often get words which are near to it, but not it. Koskiusko, or tabasco or something similar for “capsaicin” the active ingredient in chiles. Note that this means that most words are stored by sound. They may rhyme, or sound similiarly, and so when reaching for a word we want from verbal memory, we refer to a storage cache of similar words, and get the wrong one, time to time. The words can be stored in many different ways and categories, too. Thinking of States in the South, we get a different word storage cache from States on the east coast. All of these associations of words that we know and the ideas behind them are likely mostly stored this way.
Any kind of error, be it a genetic error creating a disorder, or other conditions, creates a new opportunity to compare that genetic disorder to the normal. Any new finding which can be compared to normals or other conditions, can create new insights, simply because it allows the COMP to be used again in a new way. In some mouse models, researchers use mutagens to create genetic changes. Then they back cross the offspring of that mouse to bring out the recessives created by the mutagens. This often results in interesting findings, by this method of genetic error creation, which is little more than one more of the myriads of types of COMP. Any difference from what we see normally, any finding which is unusual can be of this value, simply because it permits the COMP to be used on one more event, one more situation, to enlighten us.
Encyclopedias are organized the same way as dictionaries. This is not a trivial example of the COMP, either. When we speak, we find words in our LTM (Long Term Memory) which we use to express our thoughts. The words give language via our LTM a stable platform from which it can grow. When we view the dictionary, when we listen, the same process goes on. We hear words, compare them to those we know and derive meaning from the multiple, fluent, automatic comparisons we make. When we read, we see letters/symbols which phonetically correspond, ie. compare, to words we already know. When we write, we reverse this process, finding words in the verbal LTM which we then write down and create writing. From start to finish when we speak and think and hear using language, we are constantly comparing each word to other words & their meanings AND relationships, which we already know.
When we see something familiar, it’s familiar because we have a LTM item which allows us to recognize it. Recognition is a COMP. Whenever recognition is seen, it’s COMP in every testable case. Everyone uses the COMP 1000’s of times daily in these instances. When we see a face, we compare it to our library of faces in the right inferior temporal cortex where those are found. If this area is damaged badly, we will not be able to recognize faces. If verbal memory is damaged by strokes or other injuries we lose parts or all of speech. If visual cortex is damaged we can no longer do the comparison processing of the images to see. If motor/sensory cortex is damaged we can no long move or feel on the affected side relative to the brain injury. If the right hemispheric sensory strip is damaged, we might not even realize we HAVE a left side at all!!
In every case there is a structure/function relationship between the COMP to cortical functions in the brain. If there is a function, such as sight, or sensation, or movement of a body part, or smell, or hearing, there exists a corresponding part of our cortex which subsumes these higher functions. In this way, by comparing those persons with damage in specific areas of the brain, we have found this to be an inviolable rule. For every function of the brain we can detect, there is a corresponding area(s) which create that function. Therefore we can be sure that the COMP resides in the cortices of the brain, and that it operates there wherever there is intact, functional cortex.
From this simple COMP, operating in many different ways, all based upon the simple 100’s of 1000’s of cortical cell columns, again, massively reduplicated, we find higher level cortical functions, such as speech, hearing, music, memory, motor/sensory functions, thinking and processing of information of all sorts. In most every case, it’s COMP or a variant of it. For instance, when we classify all species of living forms, we have created an immensely complicated classification system, based upon the COMP. Every organism we see, unless it’s a new one, can be classified by observing it, noting its size, shape, color and other major characteristics, including genetics, and then refer by COMP to the classification of all biological forms, and find it. Each part of this immense, organized, well ordered system was built up by using the COMP on a massive scale. Every single known species has been observed, studied, and compared to many others, to find out where it fits. This is massive COMP. As there are millions of such bacteria, plants, microrganisms, and animals, this is millions of instances of confirmations of the use of the COMP. It shows that from the simple COMP a huge, orderly classification scheme can be organized & ordered/created from disorder.
COMP creates order from chaos. It shows how categories are created by the COMP to hold vast numbers of events within each of them. From trees to bacteria to the huge numbers of millions of insects, mostly beetles, the Coleoptera. All this vast order, like language, has been created simply by comparing each form of life to the others. It can be repeated and referred to endlessly. It can be made to include extinct life forms as well. It can be done without limit, just like our words and number systems, also created by the COMP without limit. The COMP has created our entire system of classification of all living things simply by the COMP used again and again. This is not a trivial proof.
In the Hertzsprung Russell Diagram of the stars, literally 10,000’s of stars have been compared to each other to establish the Main Sequence of stars and upon this scheme almost all stars can be fitted. A similar system exists for the galaxies and all those other event such as planets, comets, nebulae, nova/supernoava remnants, etc. Literally, the COMP can be used to catalog and organize everything we can observe, and it has & continues to do so. Inside All of us, Everywhere.
The elements and chemical compounds based upon them are compared and classified extensively by the rules of the IUPAC system. The Periodic table of the elements and isotopes is the result of this. Many of the elements, such as the noble gases, the halides, the highly reactive gases such as flourine, chlorine, iodine, and the ferrous metals, to name just a few, have close relationships to the other similar elements. This is 10’s of millions more confirmations from each chemical found and so classified by comparing it to the rules & structures in chemistry.
The COMP underlies our creation of & reading of maps, which are set up to compare to physical landmarks & guide us about. For every landmark, address, or other characteristic, there has been this COMP function used. and when we use/read the map, we look to the physical references we see around us and then compare them to the map to see which way to go. Using a compass is much the same thing.