proposals; they raise, point out and advocate a certain possibility. But also,like hypnotic suggestions, they also casts a little spell. The secondarymeaning is important, because many of the suggestions put to us are not processed consciously, and may not be so easy to reject: Apart from theobjective cost in refusing a suggestion from your boss or your spouse,there is usually some emotional hook or 'spin' that makes them easier to goalong with than to turn down. Typically, a suggestion not only requestsyour consideration, but also creates a little field of perception and emotionthat must be overcome (if only by a stronger suggestion) before it can berejected. The art of loading suggestions in this way was the classical studyknown as
– indispensable for anyone aspiring to a career in politics or law, or any position of leadership.The well-framed suggestion not only proposes something, but propagandizes and lobbies for it – as I am doing here in writing this piece.As everyone is doing all the time, with every utterance they make.
suggestion vs information
We often think of communication as a transmission of information. For engineers, interested only in the
of the messages being sent butindifferent to their
, the mathematical definition in terms of bits and bytes is useful and appropriate. But for the theory of human relationshipsit will not do at all. Typically, human (and animal) communication is not areduction of uncertainty, but a directing of attention to some thing or possibility combined with an endorsement of some kind – a kind of pointing, fraught with an emotional tone. Politicians communicating withtheir constituents, managers communicating with their workers, teacherscommunicating with their students, parents communicating with their children, friends just chatting over a cup of coffee, are not reducing oneanother's uncertainties – at least, not until some definite alphabet of possibilities is pre-agreed upon. Corresepondingly for biologists, psychologists and social scientists, s
isthe proper unit for the inter-communicating systems that they wish tostudy. The communication exchanged between a newborn and its mother is highly suggestive, and therefore meaningful, for both of them. Theyexchange suggestions and "make themselves understood" long before theycan exchange anything that could be parsed or quantified as information.As Mary Midgley points out, it’s this innate suggestive communicationthat makes informative communication possible.I will not further belabor this point,
but take it for granted here that allcommunication can be seen as a presentation or exchange of suggestionsin the above sense. Rather, I use the present essay to focus on someimplications of this idea – first for the concept of
, and then for thetheory of society and government.
2Having already done so in two previous books: