Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Chapter 38 - "General Semantics": Part 1 - Introduction

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.

At the start of 1931, Korzybski still lacked one main formulational piece for the book—a label for his own approach more specific than “non-aristotelian”. The work of a number of other individuals could be called non-aristotelian too. What he had attempted to formulate strained the conventional vocabularies of every discipline he drew from and required new terminology, including a new name. His theory encompassed, or at least intersected with, ‘psychology’, ‘philosophy’, ‘logic’, etc., but couldn’t exactly be encompassed by any one of those fields. He had eliminated “human engineering” and “humanology” as choices. The “general theory of time-binding”, while broadly descriptive, didn’t quite get to the way he was looking at human behavior. He liked “general anthropology” and considered it fitting, but his friend C.K. Ogden didn’t. Alfred deferred to Ogden. He mentioned the term in the book, but continued to look around for another way to describe the discipline he was forming. 

He needed a name for his basic subject—what he was studying. As much as he wrote about language, he was actually focused on a particular holistic (non-elementalistic)—and more general—view of human behavior. Any use of language (mathematics included) inevitably involved a related, non-verbal response. It was this non-verbal response that concerned him:
...the psycho-logical reaction of a given individual to words and language and other symbols and events in connection with their meanings, and the psycho-logical reactions, which become meanings and relational configurations the moment the given individual begins to analyse them or somebody else does that for him.” (1) 
This non-verbal reaction, by necessity psychophysiological, involved an organism-as-a-whole functioning with and as a nervous system in an environment. Electro-colloidal correlates had to be involved. As much as he admired Pavlov’s work, Korzybski did not want to neglect the importance of the so-called ‘subjective’ or ‘introspective’ dimension of the individual’s response—a direct fact for the individual, which had to be inferred by others. A suitable name for this form of non-elementalistic reaction would also have to do away with the elementalistic separation of ‘emotion’ from ‘intellect’, ‘thinking’ from ‘feeling’.

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. 
1. Korzybski 1994 (1933), p. 24.

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