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Selected Books by Edmund Blair Bolles

  • Galileo's Commandment: 2500 Years of Great Science Writing
  • The Ice Finders: How a Poet, a Professor, and a Politician Discovered the Ice Age
  • Einstein Defiant: Genius vs Genius in the Quantum Revolution

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giorgio marchetti

I think that Bolles has had a good idea in sketching the diagrams. Diagrams make things clearer, even if sometimes they oversimplify the situation. Obviously, they are sketched the way they are because they have to fulfill some aim: so no wonder if something is missing.
I have just a few suggestions concerning the top diagram, which I think could improve it.

In my opinion, two major points should be taken into consideration, because they heavily condition both the speech and the speaker’s behavior.

Firstly, when a speaker speaks, he focuses his attention not only on a topic, but also on himself who is speaking (to control what he is saying, if he is using the right, appropriate words, in the right way and so on) and on the listener, to control if the latter has understood what he is saying. This “game” of attention is very important, because it can redirect the speaker’s attention making him use different words, and even change the topic.

Secondly, the topic is not always so well established from right the beginning. Sometimes, one knows what one really wants to say only after that one has spoken a few words: I mean that (sometimes) the topic takes its final form only at the end of the speech. This is not immediately evident from Bolles’ diagram because, in my opinion, one important distinction is missing: conscious vs. unconscious. Topics, as well as perceptions, usually are, for a great part, constituted of unconscious elements: I mean that only part of what we perceive become conscious.

In my opinion, an unconscious element becomes conscious only when it receives sufficient attention. Under a certain level of attention, unconscious elements remain unconscious. When we speak, our bigest effort is to make conscious what we feel, have in our head, etc, the “topic”, which usually is not yet expressed and conscious (unless of course, before speaking we prepare our speech). The topic is for its most part unconscious until we speak.
So one can see that attention contributes (for the two reasons above) to build and shape the topic. Attention constitutes (via words) the topic.

Giorgio Marchetti
BLOGGER: I agree with the criticisms and offer only the feeble defense that diagrams simplify. I can attest to the truth of the claim "the topic is not always so well established from right the beginning. Sometimes, one knows what one really wants to say only after that one has spoken a few words." This is almost always true for me. When I first began to write I became very alarmed to realize that I spent my first draft putting things more or less randomly on the page until I eventually discovered my topic and could move on to a more coherent next draft. That process still holds, but it no longer bothers me.

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