Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Consequences of Time-Binding (Part I)

With his behavioral definition of humanity and his exponential formula of Progress in hand, Korzybski sought to draw out the social-cultural implications of time-binding. For one thing, he now had an answer to the second question that had bothered him for so long: “Why do our social institutions collapse while bridges mostly don’t?” (Except for some rewriting for brevity, form and order, most of his analysis in the first draft found its way into the published book.)

Our social institutions continued to collapse because of the growing gap between our increasing knowledge of and power over the ‘physical’ world (exemplified by bridge-building technology) and our inadequate and/or inadequately-applied knowledge of ourselves and our social relationships. According to Korzybski, this growing gap accounted to a significant degree for the continuing cycle of wars and revolutions, as humans unsuccessfully attempted to cope with the effects of increasing technological progress. He predicted that more and greater disasters would ensue—collapsing social structures—until humans somehow managed to narrow the divide between science and human affairs.

A major step in narrowing the gap would occur according to Korzybski, when we abandoned supernatural and zoological definitions of ourselves. He insisted that humans could not understand themselves adequately if they continued defining themselves as some additive combination of supernatural (‘soul’,‘spirit’, etc.) and ‘animal’. To Alfred, this view (man as an animal plus a 'divine' spark) appeared to make a comprehensive scientific study of humanity impossible.

Neither could humans understand themselves adequately if they insisted on viewing themselves simply as ‘animals’ destined to play out brutal competitive games for goods and territory. This view—“man is an animal”—diminished humanity and could justify the worst kind of behavior as “survival of the fittest.” Rather, viewing ‘Man’ as a time-binder would naturally include altruism:
..."survival of the fittest” for human beings as such––that is, for time-binders––is survival in time, which means intellectual or spiritual competition, struggle for excellence, for making the best survive. The-fittest-in-time—those who make the best survive––are those who do the most in producing values for all mankind including posterity. (1)
(1) Manhood of Humanity (1921), pp. 147-148.

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