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Terminology studies (deduction)

If experience is the best teacher, does that mean "deductive" resources like

classes in specialized terminology, dictionaries and other reference materials, and

theoretical work on terminology management are useless? Not at all.

The important points to remember are: (1) everything is experience (we are never

not experiencing things, even in our sleep); and (2) some experiences are richer

and more memorable than others. Working in a specialized field is an experience;

so is reading a highly abstract theoretical study of the terminology used in that

field. The former is more likely to be memorable than the latter, because interacting

with people in actual use-situations and seeing the practical applicability of

the terminology to real objects and people and contexts provides more "channels"

or "modes" or "handles" for the brain to process the information through; in neurological

terms, abstract theorizing is relatively stimulus-poor.

But this does not mean, again, that the more abstract channels for presenting

information are worthless; only that we must all work harder, teachers and students,

writers and readers, to infuse abstract discourse with the rich experiential complexity

of human life.

This may mean teachers offering students, or writers offering readers, hands-on

exercises that facilitate the learner's exploration of an abstract model through several

experiential channels — visual, tactile, kinesthetic, auditory. This is sometimes

thought of as "pandering to the worst element," mainly because abstract thought is

considered "higher" than holistic experience; in fact it is simply "pandering" to the

way the brain actually learns best.

Or it may mean students and readers employing their own holistic techniques

to work out in their own practical hands-on experience how the abstract model

works. This is how the "best" (i.e., most linguistically, logically, and mathematically

intelligent) students have always processed abstract thought: unconsciously they

flesh it out with sights and sounds and other visceral experiences from their own

lives. This is in fact the only way that anyone can make sense of an abstract model

or system: all deduction must make a detour through induction; all theory must have

some mode of access to practice; all abstraction must derive from, and be referrable

back to, the concrete. Abstract theoretical thought, deduction as the highest form

of logical reasoning, provides an economy of expression that the rich repetitions

and circumlocutions of experiential and practice-oriented induction can

never match. But for that very reason this sort of thought is difficult to apprehend

without practical applications. Abstraction is a shorthand that saves enormous

amounts of time — but only when one knows the language that it shortens and

can refer each squiggle back to a natural word or phrase that has meaning in reallife

situations.