20+ quotes from Science and Sanity: An Introduction to Non-Aristotelian Systems and General Semantics by Alfred Korzybski

Quotes from Science and Sanity: An Introduction to Non-Aristotelian Systems and General Semantics

Alfred Korzybski ·  806 pages

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“The 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.”
― Alfred Korzybski, quote from Science and Sanity: An Introduction to Non-Aristotelian Systems and General Semantics


“Moreover, every language having a structure, by the very nature of language, reflects in its own structure that of the world as assumed by those who evolve the language. In other words, we read unconsciously into the world the structure of the language we use.”
― Alfred Korzybski, quote from Science and Sanity: An Introduction to Non-Aristotelian Systems and General Semantics


“Our 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.”
― Alfred Korzybski, quote from Science and Sanity: An Introduction to Non-Aristotelian Systems and General Semantics


“Ignorance is no excuse when once we know that ignorance is the only possible excuse.”
― Alfred Korzybski, quote from Science and Sanity: An Introduction to Non-Aristotelian Systems and General Semantics


“The abuse of symbolism is like the abuse of food or drink: it makes people ill, and so their reactions become deranged.”
― Alfred Korzybski, quote from Science and Sanity: An Introduction to Non-Aristotelian Systems and General Semantics


“The fallacy that Morley in his life of Gladstone asserts to be the greatest affliction of politicians; it is indeed a common plague of humanity. It is:

The fallacy of attributing to one cause what is due to many causes.”
― Alfred Korzybski, quote from Science and Sanity: An Introduction to Non-Aristotelian Systems and General Semantics


“... everything based on arguments involving the ''is'' of identidy and the older el (elementalistic) 'logic' and 'psychology', such as the prevailing doctrines, laws, institutions, systems. , cannot possibly be in full accordance with the structure of our nervous system. This, in turn, affects the latter and results in the prevailing private and public un-sanity. Hence, the unrest, unhappines, nervous strain, irritability, lack of wisdom and absence of balance, the instability of our instituitions, the wars and revolutions, the increase of ''mental ills, prostitution, criminality, commercialism as a creed, the inadequate standards of education, the low professional standards of lawyers, priests, politicians, physicians, teachers, parents, and even of scientists - which in the last-named field often lead to dogmatic and antisocial attitudes and lack of creativeness.”
― Alfred Korzybski, quote from Science and Sanity: An Introduction to Non-Aristotelian Systems and General Semantics


“Whatever 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.”
― Alfred Korzybski, quote from Science and Sanity: An Introduction to Non-Aristotelian Systems and General Semantics


“A map is not the territory it represents, but, if correct, it has a similar structure to the territory, which accounts for its usefulness.”
― Alfred Korzybski, quote from Science and Sanity: An Introduction to Non-Aristotelian Systems and General Semantics


“Different ‘philosophies’ represent nothing but methods of evaluation, which may lead to empirical mis-evaluation if science and empirical facts are disregarded.”
― Alfred Korzybski, quote from Science and Sanity: An Introduction to Non-Aristotelian Systems and General Semantics


“If we do not objectify, and feel instinctively and permanently that words are not the things spoken about, then we could not speak abouth such meaningless subjects as the 'beginning' or the 'end' of time. But, if we are semantically disturbed and objectify, then, of course, since objects have a beginning and an end, so also would 'time' have a 'beggining' and an 'end'. In such pathological fancies the universe must have a 'beginning in time' and so must have been made., and all of our old anthropomorphic and objectified mythologies follow, including the older theories of entropy in physics. But, if 'time' is only a human form of representation and not an object, the universe has no 'beginning in time' and no 'end in time'; in other words, the universe is 'time'-less. The moment we realize, feel permanently, and utilize these realizations and feelings that words are not things, then only do we acquire the semantic freedom to use different forms of representation. We can fit better their structure to the facts at hand, become better adjusted to these facts which are not words, and so evaluate properly m.o (multi-ordinal) realities, which evaluation is important for sanity.”
― Alfred Korzybski, quote from Science and Sanity: An Introduction to Non-Aristotelian Systems and General Semantics


“No reflecting reader can deny that the passing off, on an unsuspecting listener, of noises for words, or symbols, must be classified as a fraud, or that we pass to the other fellow contagious semantic disturbances.”
― Alfred Korzybski, quote from Science and Sanity: An Introduction to Non-Aristotelian Systems and General Semantics


“There are several important remarks which can be made about this 'absolute emptiness' and 'absolute nothingness'. First of all, we now know, theoretically and empirically, that such a thing does not exist. There may be more or less of something, but never an unlimited 'perfect vacuum'. In the second place, our nervous make-up, being in accord with experience, is such that 'absolute emptiness' requires 'outside walls'. The question at once arises, is the world 'finite' or 'infinite'? If we say 'finite', it has to have outside walls, and then the question arises: What is 'behind the walls'? If we say it is 'infinite', the problem of the psychological 'walls' is not eliminated. and we still have the semantic need for walls, and then ask what is beyond the walls. So we see the such a world suspended in some sort of an 'absolute void' represents a nature against human nature, and so we had to invent something supernatural to account for such assumed nature against human nature. In the third place, and this remark is the most fundamental of all, because a symbol must stand for something to be a symbol at all, 'absolute nothingness' cannot be objective and cannot be symbolized at all. This ends the argument, as all we may say about it is neither true nor false, but non-sense. We can make noises, but say nothing about the external world. It is easy to see that 'absolute nothingness' is a label for a semantic disturbance, for verbal objectification, for a pathological state inside our skin, for a fancy, but not a symbol, for a something which has objective existence outside our skin.”
― Alfred Korzybski, quote from Science and Sanity: An Introduction to Non-Aristotelian Systems and General Semantics


“The reader must be reminded that it takes a good 'mind' to be 'insane'. Morons, imbeciles, and idiots are 'mentally' deficient, but could not be insane.”
― Alfred Korzybski, quote from Science and Sanity: An Introduction to Non-Aristotelian Systems and General Semantics


“Say wharever you choose about the object, and wharever you might say it is not. Or, in other words: wharever you might say the object is, well it is not.”
― Alfred Korzybski, quote from Science and Sanity: An Introduction to Non-Aristotelian Systems and General Semantics


“Similarities are read into nature by our nervous system, and so are structurally less fundamental than differences. Less fundamental, but no less important, as life and 'intelligence' would be totally impossible without abstracting. It becomes clear that the problem which has so excited the s.r. of the people of the United States of America and added so much to the merriment of mankind, 'Is the evolution a ''fact'' or a ''theory''?, is simply silly. Father and son are never identical - that surely is a structural 'fact' - so there is no need to worry about still higher abstractions, like 'man' and 'monkey'. That the fanatical and ignorant attack on the theory of evolution should have occured may be pathetic, but need concern us little, as such ignorant attacks are always liable to occur. But that biologists should offer 'defences' based on the confusions of orders of abstractiobs, and that 'philosophers' should have failed to see the simple dependence is rather sad. The problems of 'evolution' are verbal and have nothing to do with life as such, which is made up all through of different individuals, 'similarity' being structurally a manufactured article, produced by the nervous system of the observer.”
― Alfred Korzybski, quote from Science and Sanity: An Introduction to Non-Aristotelian Systems and General Semantics


“Until Einstein (roughly), THE universe of Newton was, for us, THE universe. With Einstein, it became A universe. Something similar happen to man. A new 'man' was produced, just as good, certainly contraditory to the old one. THE man became A man, otherwise a 'conceptual construction', one among the infinity of possible ones.”
― Alfred Korzybski, quote from Science and Sanity: An Introduction to Non-Aristotelian Systems and General Semantics


“Both ignorance and the old metaphysics tend to produce these undesirable nervous effects of reversed order and so non-survival evaluation. If we use the nervous ystem in a way which is against its survival structure, we must expect non-survival. Human history is short, but already we have astonishing records of extinction.”
― Alfred Korzybski, quote from Science and Sanity: An Introduction to Non-Aristotelian Systems and General Semantics


“From time immemorial, some men supposed to deal in one-valued 'eternal verities'. We called such men 'philosophers' or 'meta-physicians'. But they seldom realized that all their 'eternal verities' consisted only of words, and words which, for the most part, belonged to a primitive language, refleting in its structure the assumed structure of the world of remote antiquity. Besides, they did not realize that these 'eternal verities' last only so long as the human nervous system is not altered. Under the influence of these 'philosophers', two-valued 'logic', and the confusion of orders of abstractions, nearly all of us contracted a firmly rooted predilection for 'general' statements - 'universals', as they were called - which in most cases inherently involved the semantic one-valued conviction of validity for all 'time' to come.”
― Alfred Korzybski, quote from Science and Sanity: An Introduction to Non-Aristotelian Systems and General Semantics


“We humans, through old habits, and because of the inherent structure of human knowledge have a tendency to make static, definite, and, in a way, absolutistic one-valued statements. But when we fight absolutism, we quite often establish, instead, some other dogma equally silly and harmful. For instance, an active atheist is psycho-logically as unsound as a rabid theist.”
― Alfred Korzybski, quote from Science and Sanity: An Introduction to Non-Aristotelian Systems and General Semantics


About the author

Alfred Korzybski
Born place: in Warsaw, Poland
Born date July 3, 1879
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