Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Chapter 16 - "Binding Time": Part 4 - The Language and Logic of Nature

Korzybski: A Biography (Free Online Edition)
Copyright © 2014 (2011) by Bruce I. Kodish 
All rights reserved. Copyright material may be quoted verbatim without need for permission from or payment to the copyright holder, provided that attribution is clearly given and that the material quoted is reasonably brief in extent.

The definitions of the different classes of life remained somewhat muted in this first draft, indeed the definitions of plant and animal life are implied but not given explicitly. Korzybski chose to spend considerable time discussing mathematics—“the universal language” mentioned in the original title. Much of the detail of this discussion of mathematical thinking in the first draft was subsequently deleted. However, some of it seems worth noting here. It highlights, perhaps even more clearly than what eventually got published in the book, some long-standing motivational factors which persisted in influencing Korzybski’s subsequent work.

For Alfred, the science of human engineering required embracing mathematics as its main helpmate. The processes and products of mathematical reasoning provided a level of security unattainable anywhere else. He indicated this with the introductory quote from Louis Brandeis that he retained in the published book:
“For a while he trampled with impunity on laws human and divine but, as he was obsessed with the delusion that two and two makes five, he fell, at last a victim to the relentless rules of humble Arithmetic. “Remember, O stranger, Arithmetic is the first of the sciences and the mother of safety.”(8) 

Alfred noted what continued to be one of the main articles of his scientific credo: that mathematics provides a language and logic of nature, including human nature. As he wrote, this ‘logic’ seems especially tied up with the study of mathematical functions (relations between variables)—the basis of the infinitesmal calculus that his father had introduced to him as a young child. The feel of the calculus had long since permeated Alfred’s view of the world since he tended to look at the world in terms of indefinitely-varying functional relationships.

If human life was to be rightly understood and changed for the better, this kind of mathematical thinking had to be applied to human problems. As Alfred saw it, this didn’t necessarily require great complexity or elaborate calculations. Although it became a secondary part of the published version of his first book, the notion of mathematics—or more precisely physico-mathematical method—as a guide to life began to emerge as a major theme in Alfred’s subsequent writings.

You may download a pdf of all of the book's reference notes (including a note on primary source material and abbreviations used) from the link labeled Notes on the Contents page. The pdf of the Bibliography, linked on the Contents page contains full information on referenced books and articles. 
8. Korzybski 1921, p. 1. The Brandeis quote comes from Brandeis' 1914 book Other People's Money and How the Bankers Use It, p. viii. 

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