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Alfred Korzybski (1879 – 1950)


Polish engineer, mathematician, and philosopher, most famous for creating the theory of General Semantics.
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Alfred Korzybski
Any organism must be treated as-a-whole; in other words, that an organism is not an algebraic sum, a linear function of its elements, but always more than that. It is seemingly little realized, at present, that this simple and innocent-looking statement involves a full structural revision of our language...
Korzybski quotes
The word is not the thing.
Korzybski
Scientific language, which Korzybski used as his model of sane language, is almost exclusively extensional and denotative, or at least tries to be. The language of the mentally ill, most obviously "un-sane," is almost totally intensional and connotative. This is the language that does not correspond to anything "out there," and this is, in fact, how and perhaps even why the user is mentally ill. Korzybski's concern with keeping the conscious "connection" or correspondence between language and verifiable referents is, for all practical purposes, paralleled by the process of psychotherapy. In this process, which is largely "just talk," the purpose is to foster closer and more accurate correspondence between the patient's language and externally verifiable meanings.




Korzybski Alfred quotes
To regard human beings as tools — as instruments — for the use of other human beings is not only unscientific but it is repugnant, stupid and short sighted. Tools are made by man but have not the autonomy of their maker — they have not man's time-binding capacity for initiation, for self-direction, and self-improvement.
Korzybski Alfred
The map is not the territory ... The only usefulness of a map depends on similarity of structure between the empirical world and the map...
Alfred Korzybski quotes
Humans can be literally poisoned by false ideas and false teachings. Many people have a just horror at the thought of putting poison into tea or coffee, but seem unable to realize that, when they teach false ideas and false doctrines, they are poisoning the time-binding capacity of their fellow men and women. One has to stop and think! There is nothing mystical about the fact that ideas and words are energies which powerfully affect the physico-chemical base of our time-binding activities. Humans are thus made untrue to "human nature." ... The conception of man as a mixture of animal and supernatural has for ages kept human beings under the deadly spell of the suggestion that, animal selfishness and animal greediness are their essential character, and the spell has operated to suppress their REAL HUMAN NATURE and to prevent it from expressing itself naturally and freely.
Alfred Korzybski
Man's achievements rest upon the use of symbols.... we must consider ourselves as a symbolic, semantic class of life, and those who rule the symbols, rule us.
Korzybski Alfred quotes
Such as contribute most to human progress and human enlightenment — men like Gutenberg, Copernicus, Newton, Leibnitz, Watts, Franklin, Mendeleieff, Pasteur, Sklodowska-Curie, Edison, Steinmetz, Loeb, Dewey, Keyser, Whitehead, Russell, Poincaré, William Benjamin Smith, Gibbs, Einstein, and many others — consume no more bread than the simplest of their fellow mortals. Indeed such men are often in want. How many a genius has perished inarticulate because unable to stand the strain of social conditions where animal standards prevail and "survival of the fittest" means, not survival of the "fittest in time-binding capacity," but survival of the strongest in ruthlessness and guile — in space-binding competition!
Korzybski
The main thesis of this non-Aristotelian system is that as yet we all (with extremely few exceptions) copy animals in our nervous processes, and that practically all human difficulties, mental ills ... have this ... component.
Korzybski Alfred
The only link between the verbal and objective world is exclusively structural, necessitating the conclusion that the only content of all 'knowledge' is structural. Now structure can be considered as a complex of relations, and ultimately as multi-dimensional order. From this point of view, all language can be considered as names for unspeakable entities on the objective level, be it things or feelings, or as names of relations. In fact... we find that an object represents an abstraction of a low order produced by our nervous system as the result of a sub-microscopic events acting as stimuli upon the nervous system.
Alfred Korzybski
Following Korzybski, I put things in probabilities, not absolutes... My only originality lies in applying this zetetic attitude outside the hardest of the hard sciences, physics, to softer sciences and then to non-sciences like politics, ideology, jury verdicts and, of course, conspiracy theory.




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