Quotes by Alfred Korzybski

53 quotes found  
8578It seems evident that everything which exists in nature, is natural, no matter how simple or complicated a phenomenon it is; and on no occasion can the so-called 'supernatural' be anything else than a completely natural law, though it may, at the moment, be above and beyond the present understanding.
8607One would have to say "in the end everything is a gag, etc" because everything is infinitely more than just a gag. The same applies to other "is"-statements such as "Laughter is an instant vacation"
8568If all people learned to think in the non Aristotelian manner of quantum mechanics, the world would change so radically that most of what we call "stupidity" and even a great deal of what we consider "insanity" might disappear, and the "intractable" problems of war, poverty and injustice would suddenly seem a great deal closer to solution.
8585The only link between the verbal and objective world is exclusively structural, necessitating the conclusion that the only content of all "knowledge" is structural. Now structure can be considered as a complex of relations, and ultimately as multi-dimensional order. From this point of view, all language can be considered as names for unspeakable entities on the objective level, be it things or feelings, or as names of relations. In fact... we find that an object represents an abstraction of a low order produced by our nervous system as the result of a sub-microscopic events acting as stimuli upon the nervous system.
8617Whatever you say it is, is simply what YOU SAY it is.
8604These 'philosophers', etc., seem unaware, to give a specific example, that by teaching and preaching 'identity', which is empirically non-existent in this actual world, they are neurologically training future generations in the pathological identifications found in the 'mentally' ill or maladjusted.
8608Let us repeat the two crucial negative premises as established firmly by all human experience: (1) Words are not the things we are speaking about; and (2) There is no such thing as an object in absolute isolation.
8598It is amusing to discover, in the twentieth century, that the quarrels between two lovers, two mathematicians, two nations, two economic systems, usually assumed insoluble in a finite period should exhibit one mechanism, the semantic mechanism of identification - the discovery of which makes universal agreement possible, in mathematics and in life.
8618Psycho-galvanic experiments show clearly that every emotion or thought is always connected with some electrical current.
8595I want to make clear only that words are not the things spoken about, and that there is no such thing as an object in absolute isolation.
8582Any organism must be treated as-a-whole; in other words, that an organism is not an algebraic sum, a linear function of its elements, but always more than that. It is seemingly little realized, at present, that this simple and innocent-looking statement involves a full structural revision of our language...
8600I am the same kind of moron as the rest of you, it's the method that does the work, for me as well as for you.
8613Whatever we may say will not be the objective level, which remains fundamentally un-speakable. Thus, we can sit on the object called 'a chair', but we cannot sit on the noise we made or the name we applied to that object.
8576There are two ways to slice easily thorugh life; to believe everything or to doubt everything. Both ways save us from thinking.
8597I think therefore I seem to be.
8590Let us imagine that the aboriginal-original human specimen was one of two brother apes, A and B; they were alike in every respect; both were animal space-binders; but something strange happened to B; he became the first time-binder, a human. … He had thus a new faculty, he belonged to a new dimension; but, of course, he did not realize it; and because he had this new capacity he was able to analyze his brother "A"; he observed "A is my brother; he is an animal; but he is my brother; therefore, I AM AN ANIMAL." This fatal first conclusion, reached by false analogy, by neglecting a fact, has been the chief source of human woe for half a million years and it still survives. … He [then] said to himself, "If I am an animal there is also in me something higher, a spark of some thing supernatural."
8601It is a fallacy of the old schools to divide man into parcels, elements, thoughts, emotions, intuitions, etc. All human faculties consist of an interconnected whole.
8623Our rulers, who rule our symbols, and so rule a symbolic class of life, impose their own infantilism on our instituitions, educational methods, and doctrines. This leads to maladjustment of the incoming generations which, being born into, are forced to develop under the un-natural (for man) semantic conditions imposed on them. In turn, they produce leaders afflicted with the old animalistic limitations. The vicious circle is completed; it results in a general state of human un-sanity, reflected again in our instituitions. And so it goes, on and on.
8583The map is not the territory … The only usefulness of a map depends on similarity of structure between the empirical world and the map...
8572Words don't mean, people mean.
8588To regard human beings as tools — as instruments — for the use of other human beings is not only unscientific but it is repugnant, stupid and short sighted. Tools are made by man but have not the autonomy of their maker — they have not man's time-binding capacity for initiation, for self-direction, and self-improvement.
8581If we, who live outside asylums, act as if we lived in a fictitious world- that is to say, if we are consistent with our beliefs- we cannot adjust ourselves to actual conditions, and so fall into many avoidable semantic difficulties. But the so-called normal person practically never abides by his beliefs, and when his beliefs are building for him a fictitious world, he saves his neck by not abiding by them. A so-called "insane" person acts upon his beliefs, and so cannot adjust himself to a world which is quite different from his fancy.
8577As words are not the things we speak about, and structure is the only link between them, structure becomes the only content of knowledge. If we gamble on verbal structures that have no observable empirical structures, such gambling can never give us any structural information about the world. Therefore such verbal structures are structurally obsolete, and if we believe in them, they induce delusions or other semantic disturbances.
8574We see what we see because we miss all the finer details.
8610... the fallacy of attributing to one cause what is due to many causes.
8570Man's achievements rest upon the use of symbols.... we must consider ourselves as a symbolic, semantic class of life, and those who rule the symbols, rule us.
8573Who rules our symbols, rules us.
8569The map is not the territory... The only usefulness of a map depends on similarity of structure between the empirical world and the map...
8615Second order effects, such as belief in belief, makes fanaticism.
8609Any proposition containing the word "is" creates a linguistic structural confusion which will eventually give birth to serious fallacies.
8611Ignorance is no excuse once we know that ignorance is the only possible excuse.
8612I care not so much what I am to others as what I am to myself. I will be rich by myself, and not by borrowing.
8603The map is not the territory, the word is not the thing it describes. Whenever the map is confused with the territory, a 'semantic disturbance' is set up in the organism. The disturbance continues until the limitation of the map is recognized.
8587Such as contribute most to human progress and human enlightenment — men like Gutenberg, Copernicus, Newton, Leibnitz, Watts, Franklin, Mendeleieff, Pasteur, Sklodowska-Curie, Edison, Steinmetz, Loeb, Dewey, Keyser, Whitehead, Russell, Poincaré, William Benjamin Smith, Gibbs, Einstein, and many others — consume no more bread than the simplest of their fellow mortals. Indeed such men are often in want. How many a genius has perished inarticulate because unable to stand the strain of social conditions where animal standards prevail and "survival of the fittest" means, not survival of the "fittest in time-binding capacity," but survival of the strongest in ruthlessness and guile — in space-binding competition!
8605Different ‘philosophies’ represent nothing but methods of evaluation, which may lead to empirical mis-evaluation if science and empirical facts are disregarded.
8614Identification makes general sanity and complete adjustment impossible. Training in non-identity plays a therapeutic role with adults.
8621It is now no mystery that some quite influential 'philosophers' were 'mentally' ill.
8575A person does what he does because he sees the world as he sees it.
8602What we call progress consists in coordinating ideas with realities.
8599The objective level is not words, and cannot be reached by words alone. We must point our finger and be silent, or we will never reach this level.
8571If words are not things, or maps are not the actual territory, then, obviously, the only possible link between the objective world and the linguistic world is found in structure, and structure alone.
8616Whatever you might say the object "is", well it is not.
8596Identity is invariably false to facts.
8584"Say whatever you choose about the object, and whatever you might say is not it." Or, in other words? "Whatever you might say the object "is", well it is not." This negative statement is final, because it is negative.
8592Thus, we see that one of the obvious origins of human disagreement lies in the use of noises for words.
8580Two important characteristics of maps should be noticed. A map is not the territory it represents, but, if correct, it has a similar structure to the territory, which accounts for its usefulness.
8589Humans can be literally poisoned by false ideas and false teachings. Many people have a just horror at the thought of putting poison into tea or coffee, but seem unable to realize that, when they teach false ideas and false doctrines, they are poisoning the time-binding capacity of their fellow men and women. One has to stop and think! There is nothing mystical about the fact that ideas and words are energies which powerfully affect the physico-chemical base of our time-binding activities. Humans are thus made untrue to "human nature." … The conception of man as a mixture of animal and supernatural has for ages kept human beings under the deadly spell of the suggestion that, animal selfishness and animal greediness are their essential character, and the spell has operated to suppress their REAL HUMAN NATURE and to prevent it from expressing itself naturally and freely.
8622The present non-aristotelian system is based on fundamental negative premises; namely, the complete denial of 'identity.'
8620He who learns and learns and yet does not know what he knows, is one who plows and plows yet never sows.
8619Any object of thought is both 'more than what we think, and different'.
8591If a psychiatric and scientific inquiry were to be made upon our rulers, mankind would be appalled at the disclosures.
8586There is a fundamental confusion between the notion of the older 'semantics' as connected with a theory of verbal 'meaning' and words defined by words, and the present theory of 'general semantics' where we deal only with neuro-semantic and neuro-linguistic living reactions of Smith, Smith, etc., as their reactions to neuro-semantic and neuro-linguistic environments as environments.
8579To use words to sense reality is like going with a lamp to search for darkness.
53 quotes found