Sunday, August 31, 2008

From Korzybski's Scrapbook, 1936 "A Distinguished Visitor"

Korzybski and his wife kept scrapbooks where they pasted newspaper clippings, articles, and other items related to their work. Here is an item from one of Korzybski's scrapbooks from April 1936: the front page of a mimeographed newsletter from the Marlboro State [Psychiatric] Hospital, where Korzybski lectured on April 9 of that year. This was almost three years after the publication of his book Science and Sanity, and two years before the founding of the Institute of General Semantics. The newsletter, the "Marlborogram" appears to have been intended for staff and patients. The account of Korzybski's talk under the heading of "A Distinguished Visitor" seems notable for its brief depiction of his work, which actually manages to convey quite a lot, and jibes with other accounts of his platform presence at the time:
Count Alfred Korzybski delivered a two hour lecture at the hospital before an audience of some fifty people last Thursday afternoon, April 9. Those present included the Staff doctors, representatives from the Central Department and the Business Department, nurses, patients and their friends and relatives. The Count, author of Science and Sanity, gave his lecture in the interests of the work in Semantics which is being developed in the Hospital by one of the Staff doctors.

To many present its was a memorable occasion. The speaker had a dashing and colorful personality. His energy was unbounded. Within the two hour period he gave clearly and forcefully a succinct account of his system of
General Semantics which, in his book Science and Sanity, requires over seven hundred pages for a detailed presentation.

As pointed out by the Count, our difficulties, both personal and public, are caused by false knowledge. Since knowledge is chiefly a question of proper language response, all that is needed to remove false knowledge with its attendant evils is to revise the structure of our present antiquated language with its primitive metaphysics. To do this one has to utilize only three basic facts – 1. the Map is not the Territory, 2. the Map does not cover all the characteristics of the Territory, 3. the Map is Self-Reflexive. What may be said of maps can also be said of Language. Utilizing certain devices from Mathematics, which he declares to be the finest language man has yet produced, one is then able to prepare a map-language which is similar in structure to the world in which we live. And when we have a language similar in structure to our world and our nervous system then false knowledge is removed with its resulting consequences.

Following dinner at the home of Dr. Graves the Count returned in the evening to his residence in New York City.

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