Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Quotes from Time-Binding: The General Theory 1924

In Korzybski's 1924 and 1926 Time-Binding lectures he first set forth the theory that later became known as 'general semantics'. He had each lecture printed when he first delivered it. Later, in 1949, the Institute of General Semantics published them together in one booklet which remained on the Institute publication list for many years. Later, they were both included in Korzybski's Collected Writings. They are well worth reading, indeed remain necessary reading for anyone who wants to deepen their understanding of Korzybski's work. As a 'teaser' I'm including a few quotes here from the 1924 paper, that I have underlined in my copy of the Collected Writings[Available from the Institute of General Semantics]. The quotes show the vigor of expression—more typical than not—of Korzybski's prose:
All human knowledge is conditioned and limited, at present, by the properties of light and human symbolism.

The theory of relativity has established another fact, that all we know and may know is a "joint phenomenon" of the observer and the observed.

Man to be a man and think as a man must be a relativist, which is an inevitable consequence of the application of correct symbolism to facts. He knows that he does not know, but may know indefinitely more, that his knowledge is only limited by his own ingenuity and nothing else.

Gross empiricism is a delusion, and he who professes it as a creed is probably more mistaken than the old metaphysicians were.

A "knowing class of life" begins with "knowing," therefore, scientific method and science is not a luxury for the privileged few; it is the very thing which differentiates "Smith's" "thinking" from Fido's "thinking." The consciousness of abstracting which is so fundamental for man, is the awareness of a faculty, and in this special case we can use this faculty only when we are aware that we have it.

He who accepts uncritically the vocabulary made by X, accepts unwillingly and unbeknowingly X's metaphysics. This fact is of very great importance. If we accept the vocabulary made by X and the metaphysics made by Y, we are lost in inconsistency, the world is an ugly mess, unknown and unknowable.

We see that, as the structure of the atom is reflected in a grandiose manner in the structure of the universe, so is the structure of the knowledge of the individual man reflected in the collective knowledge of mankind called science, and vice versa.

Man is ultimately a doctrinal being. Even our language has its silent doctrines, and no activity of man is free from some doctrines, so that the kind of metaphysics a man has, is not of indifference to his world outlook and his behavior.

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