The Theory of Logical Types

Philosopher and mathematician Bertrand Russell developed his 'theory of logical types' in an attempt to help resolve the types of problems which can arise from self-referential paradox and circularity. According to Gregory Bateson (Steps to an Ecology of Mind, p. 202), "The central thesis of [the theory of logical types] is that there is a discontinuity between a class and its members. The class cannot be a member of itself nor can one of the members be the class, since the term used for the class is of a different level of abstraction—a different Logical Type—from terms used for members." For instance, the class of potatoes is not itself a potato. Thus, the rules and characteristics that apply to members within a particular class do not necessarily apply to the class itself (you can peel or mash a particular potato, but you cannot peel or mash 'the class of potatoes').

Including a statement about the class as a whole as one of its members produces a paradox.

All statements inside of this box are false.

All polar bears are tropical animals. The moon is made of green cheese. All rats arc a type of bird.

All polar bears are tropical animals. The moon is made of green cheese. All rats arc a type of bird.

All statements inside of this box

are false.

2 + 2 = 5

All polar bears arc tropical animals.

The moon is made of green cheese.

All rats are a type of bird.

According to Russell's Theory of Logical Types, Making a Class a Member of Itself Produces Paradox

According to Russell's Theory of Logical Types, Making a Class a Member of Itself Produces Paradox

Russell's principle of Logical Types is an example of establishing a self referenced regulating mechanism at a different level' of operation. These types of mechanisms have become the focus of study in what is known as "second order cybernetics." Second order cybernetics often deals with "recursive" loops and processes (such as those involved in autopoietic and self-organizing systems). Recursion is a special form of feedback loop in which the operation or procedure is self-referring - that is, it calls itself as part of its own procedure. "Communicating about communication," "observing the observer," "giving feedback about feedback," etc., are all examples of recursive, self referential processes.

Applying a Belief or Generalization to Itself

The Sleight of Mouth pattern known as "Apply to Self' is an example of verbally applying the process of self reference to help a person reflect upon and reevaluate particular belief statements. Applying a belief to itself involves evaluating the belief statement according to the generalization or criteria defined by the belief. For example, if a person expresses a belief such as, "You cannot trust words," the belief could be applied to itself by saying, "Since you cannot trust words, then I guess you cannot trust what you just said." As another example, if a person said, "It is wrong to make generalizations," one could respond, "Are you sure that you are not wrong to make that generalization?"

The purpose of applying a belief or generalization to itself is to discover whether or not the belief is a congruent example of its own generalization - a type of 'golden rule' for beliefs: "A generalization is only as valid for others as it is for itself." For instance, a person can say, "The map is not the territory . . . including this belief. It is just a map itself, so don't get caught in thinking it is 'reality'."

Frequently, the process of applying a limiting belief to itself creates a paradox, which serves to expose the areas in which the belief is not useful. It is a means of applying the old adage that sometimes you need to "fight fire with fire," by turning it back upon itself.

A good example of utilizing the pattern of Apply to Self to deal with a potential thought virus, is that of the man who was struggling as a participant at an NLP seminar. The man was interested in developing his flexibility in using his voice tone, but he kept encountering a tremendous amount of internal resistance. A part of him knew that it was "appropriate" to become more flexible with his voice, but he kept feeling "ridiculous" whenever he tried to do something different. This inner conflict was constantly leading the man to become self-conscious and stuck whenever he tried to do an exercise. His difficulties in the exercises were leading to an increasing sense of frustration, not only for himself, but also for the other seminar attendees who were trying to participate in the exercises with him.

The man's problems were brought to the attention of the two NLP trainers conducting the course, who decided to use a type of confusion technique to interrupt this pattern of resistance. The man was brought up as a demonstration subject for an exercise on vocal flexibility. Naturally, as he began to attempt the exercise, the inner resistance and conflict immediately began to emerge. At this point, one of the trainers said, "I understand that you think it is appropriate to develop flexibility with your voice, but are worried about looking ridiculous by doing so. The question I have is whether you want to be appropriately ridiculous or ridiculously appropriated Taken off guard by the question, the young man was momentarily unable to answer. The other trainer took the opportunity to add, "It's only appropriate that you are confused by the question because it such a ridiculous thing to ask." The first trainer then said, "But isn't it ridiculous that it is appropriate to respond that way to a ridiculous question?" His fellow trainer responded, "Yes, but its appropriate to ask a ridiculous question when the situation is as ridiculous as this one seems to be." The other trainer then remarked, "That's a ridiculous thing to say. I think it is only appropriate that we are all in such a ridiculous situation, and it is necessary that we respond to it appropriately." The second trainer retorted, "I know that what I'm saying is ridiculous, but I think that, in order to act appropriately, I have to be ridiculous. In fact, given the situation, it would be ridiculous to act appropriately." The two trainers then turned back to the man and asked, "What do you think?"

The man, completely befuddled, stared blankly for a moment, and then began to laugh. At this point, the trainers said, "Let's just do the exercise then." The man was able to complete the exercise without any internal interference. In a way, the confusion technique served to desensitize the man with respect to a problematic interpretation of certain words. This freed him to choose his reaction based upon different criteria. In the future, whenever any issue about the "appropriateness" or "ridiculousness" of his behavior arose, the man just laughed and was able to make his decisions based upon a different, and more effective, decision making strategy.

Another example of applying this pattern is that of a young man who was having difficulties in his business. He kept finding himself taking on much more than he could possibly handle. Upon eliciting his motivation strategy it was discovered that if the young man was asked if he could perform some task or favor by a client, friend or associate he would immediately attempt to construct an image of himself doing what they had asked of him. If he could see himself doing it, he would tell himself that he should do it and would begin to carry out the task requested of him, even if it interfered with other things he was currently involved in.

The young man was then asked if he could visualize himself not doing something that he could visualize himself doing. A rapid and profound trance state ensued as the man's strategy began to 'spin out'. The NLP practitioner who was coaching the young man took advantage of this state to help him develop some more effective tests and operations with respect to his motivation strategy.

A particularly powerful and moving example of how the Sleight of Mouth pattern of 'apply to self was used to save a woman's life is the following account, taken from the Gospel of John (8:3-11):

And the scribes and Pharisees brought unto him a woman taken in adultery; and when they had set her in the midst, They said unto him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou 'i

This they said, tempting him, that they might have to accuse him. But Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground, as though he heard them not.

So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her. And again he stooped down, and wrote on the ground.

And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.

When Jesus had lifted himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee? She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.

Jesus' statement, "He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her," is a classic example of applying the values asserted by a belief statement back onto the belief itself. To do so, Jesus first 'chunked up' "adultery" to "sin," and then invited the crowd to apply the same criterion and consequences to their own behavior.

Jesus' Application of'Apply to Self Saved a Woman's Life

Notice that Jesus did not challenge the belief itself. Rather he "outframed" it, causing the group to shift their perceptual position and widen their map of the situation to include their own behavior.

Try out this pattern on one of your own beliefs. To start, be sure that you state the belief as a cause-effect or complex equivalence statement:

Belief: _ (am/is/are)_because e.g., I am a slow learner because it takes time for me to understand new ideas.

How can you evaluate the belief statement itself according to the generalization or criteria defined by the belief? In what way might it be an example (or not an example) of its own assertion?

e.g., How long did it take for you to learn the idea that this means you are a slow learner?

Perhaps if you took the time to really understand the ways in which that idea limits you unnecessarily, you would be open to internalize some new ideas about how you can learn.

Sometimes you have to be able to think non-linearly and non-literally to apply a belief to itself. For example, if a person says, "I cannot afford this product because it is too expensive," you might need to apply it to itself more metaphorically. This could be done by saying, That may ultimately be an expensive belief to hold onto too tightly," or, by asking, "Are you sure you can afford to hold that belief so strongly, it may prevent you from taking advantage of important opportunities?"

Similarly, if someone says something like, "A diagnosis of cancer is like receiving a death sentence," the statement could be applied to itself by saying, "That belief has spread like cancer over the years, maybe it is time for it to die out."

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