Friday, June 13, 2008

Forerunners to the Time-Binding Notion (Part III)

Korzybski’s study of the humanist tradition of Europe, strongly represented in Poland, probably exerted a direct effect on Alfred’s formulation of the time-binding notion. Renaissance thinkers like Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1518) showed how one could acknowledge and learn from the past to develop one’s excellence in the present and in this way contribute to future generations. In his 1902 biographical novel, The Romance of Leonardo da Vinci (English translation 1928), Russian writer Dmitri Merejkowski described a passage from da Vinci’s notebooks:
Once, desiring to present the development of human spirit, he drew a row of cubes: the first, falling, knocks down the second; the second, a third, the third, a fourth, and so on, ad infinitum. Underneath he wrote: “One jolts the other.” And he also added: “The cubes designate the generations of mankind and the stages of its knowledge.” On another drawing he represented a plough, turning up the earth, with the inscription: “Persistent Rigour.” He believed that his turn, too, would come in the row of falling cubes, — that at some time or other men would respond to his summons also. (p. 345)
Korzybski had long had the habit of reading a book by studying its author. His formulation of time-binding generalized this and thereby continued the humanist theme of the human origins of human culture. It implied that any aspect of culture had an author—in fact multiple authors. In his later writing and teaching, Alfred would often emphasize art, mathematics, religion, science, etc., as “manmade and nothing but.” This didn’t necessarily make them dependant on entirely arbitrary foundations but, on the contrary, seemed to provide a necessary approach for understanding, appropriating, and using them more effectively. And revising them when needed.

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