Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Chapter 23 - Strange Footprints: Part 5 (b) - Bertrand Russell - Relations, Structure, and Order

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.

Russell had also written about the interrelated notions of “relations” (already mentioned), “structure”, and “order”. Again, these terms had not originated with Russell but he had summarized much of the discussion in mathematical logic/philosophy which had made use of them. The terms “relation”, “structure”, and “order” began to enter into Alfred’s internal mullings over the fundamentals of mathematics, logic, language, and life. For example, in his books Russell had described the different kinds of relations such as symmetrical, asymmetrical, transitive, intransitive, etc. Korzybski made major use of these distinctions in his later writing and teaching to explain how some linguistic or other representational forms might serve better than others in dealing with some kinds of relations being mapped. 

In rooting around in the foundations of mathematics, Russell had also talked about the basic notion of “structure” which he defined in terms of relations. The relation of maps to a district, of a grammophone record to the music recorded, even our perceptual experience to the external world, involved ‘identity’ or ‘sameness’ of structure, as Russell put it. (In communications with Ritter and Keyser, Korzybski was already indicating some problems he was having with the implications of the terms ‘identity’ and ‘same’, although he was still using them in the way Russell and the majority of philosophers and logicians did.)

Russell had also discussed the related term “order”, as in earlier-later, before-after. “Order” would also become a fundamental term for Alfred and seemed to underlie the other two. Unlike Russell, Royce had presented “order” as his main focus in understanding logic and mathematics, which he understood as the study of highly abstract types of order. All three terms “relation”, “structure”, and “order” would become basic related terms in Korzybski’s system. In 1921-22, Korzybski still accepted Russell’s definition of any particular number as the class of all classes similar to it. But ultimately this definition (focused as it was on classification and similarity) proved unsatisfactory to him as a useful way to explain numbering behavior. He eventually abandoned Russell’s “class of classes” as barren and came up with an alternative definition of number based more on Royce’s “order”.

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. 

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