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Alfred Korzybski ad nauseum

> From: "Lawrence F. London, Jr."

> What books has Alfred Korzybski written or what
> is he famous for? I remember hearing about him 
> a while ago as being someone especially
> interesting, worth paying attention to for his
> work in some certain field, possibly something 
> permaculture-related.

Ever read Neil Postman's Teaching As a Subversive
Activity? You may have heard of it there.
Otherwise, you will find one passing reference to
Korzybski in Mollison's Introduction to
Permaculture. As incidental vindication of Toby,
in the first paragraph of the chapter on Pattern
Understanding, Bill misattributes to Bateson the
quote "the map is not the territory."

Korzybski's masterwork is titled Science and
Sanity: An Introduction to Non-aristotelian
Systems and General Semantics. A dense volume
with 800 pages of small type, he loaded it with
material from the sciences of his time, including
classical and quantum physics, colloidal
chemistry, calculus and other higher math,
neurology, psychiatry, epistemology, education,
history of philosophy and much else.

In the early 20th century, he synthesized into a
system observations from the latest data of these
sciences, declared the result "a unified science
of man" [genderism noted], and named this system
general semantics.

I will emphasize, however, that much confusion
has come of *general* semantics and a field of a
similar name--in point of fact, Toby did this in
his post, using the incorrect name 'semantics'.
The well-known linguist S I Hayakawa has been
blamed rightly for his central role in this

Modern commentators have suggested appending
'evaluational' in brackets to indicate  that g-s
summarizes all human behaviour as evaluation,
whether of verbal *or nonverbal* manifestation.
By contrast, mere semantics studies "meaning" of
the type you can find in the dictionary (snore).

As the most general study of humans in the
universe, general-semantics doesn't have specific
application to pc, but it has some pertinent
formulations like
"organism-as-a-whole-in-environments". Then
there's the "objective, unspeakable level" and
its relation to higher-order abstractions,
discovered through practice at inward silent
observation. "Contemplation is the sine qua non
of general-semantics."

It insists also on avoidance of elementalism in
thinking, talking, reading or writing.
Elementalism is defined as the habit of splitting
verbally what cannot be split in actuality, i.e.
'mind' and 'body' and 'senses', or 'thinking' and
'feeling', or 'intuition' and 'logic', etc.

I could blather on forever about this stuff--it
turns my crank even more than pc. If my
description has stimulated your interest,
Lawrence, I encourage you to investigate it
before you do even one more thing.

Some excellent material can be found on the web. 

See Ralph Kenyon's intro at

and his published material at

Ralph provides an exhaustive set of links to
other material, but I consider his stuff among of
the best. Of course, if you want the full meal
deal, you'll have to drag it from the horse's
voluminous mouth.


> From: "darren simo" <wannafarm@hotmail.com>

> The whole idea of primary and secondary school
> is to teach the student how 
> to learn, not just to force feed obscure
> quotes, formulas etc. to be 
> repeated by rote down through the ages of their
> lives.

On the contrary, I bet most places do force feed
their students; the "idea" of school has had a
lapse in its application. (If ever it did not.)

So far as I know, in both Canada and Australia,
where I've lived and grown up, there is no broad
institutionalized primary or secondary curriculum
of critical thinking, nor of observation or
listening skills, nor guidance in formulating
good questions or in differentiating between
degrees of specificity and generality of

I suspect that if children were taught this stuff
in tandem with the usual content, the kids
themselves would begin initiating change toward a
more engaging, self-directed, dynamic atmosphere.
In my wilder dreams, I dare believe they could
realize themselves enough to desegregate the
arbitrary age groupings and reunite the sciences
and the humanities into a free-for-all of playful

> I may not hold a 
> doctorate in the english language(in fact I
> fail final year english), but I 
> know that simple words describing clear
> instructions are easy to remember.

In line with my comments above, "simple words
describing clear instructions" have little to do
with cultivating intelligent reactions to the
shifting complexity of daily life as a human.

> For instance if vocal tradition is the only way
> to keep information in your 
> memory why is PDC taught that way.

I did not say that vocal tradition is the *only*
way. I do believe that modern knowledge can be
memorized to some extent--but it doesn't
necesarily foster the ability or the *desire* for
complete or efficient learning.

In my last post, I failed to draw an explicit
connection between primal pattern languages and
the most general statements produced by modern
inquiry. I had hoped to convey my dislike for
unmemorable, dry, graceless, witless scientific
principles and my love for the summary and
accessibility of knowledge in the patterns (read:
song, saga, dance, art) of otherwise less
knowledgable peoples. I love contemporary
learning, but I want to know *life*--not mere


> From: John Schinnerer <eco_living@yahoo.com>

> diffabilities (different abilities)

What a neologism! I love it! :D

> "Chunking" is just a re-discovery of ancient 
> methods...

Please let me know if my soapbox is starting to
crack, but in the meantime, Hell Yes!

John, you summarized one of my points better than
I've done anywhere on this thread. Here's the
guilty sentence: "I suspect that [stories, myths,
rhymes] exist, and have for thousands of years,
because they are a highly efficient way... for us
to codify, retain and pass on our various
understandings." In accord with youir subsequent
musing, however, I would amend that statement to
read, "the *most* efficient." From an
anthrological point of view, I believe we cannot
escape this, but can only hide it beneath vapid
scientific reports.


> From: Michael Dean <mikedean.com@altavista.com>

> I think the reason we remember better through
> oral communication is that it also contains the
> feelings and the wonder or circumstance when
> the information is conveyed so that the memory
> is also connected with the occasion, ie with
> smell, or time of year, or happinese.

I took a course on meditation and magnetism which
taught me, among other things, to memorize phone
numbers by evoking a strong emotion while
reciting the number to myself. I had only to
conjure up the corresponding feeling to recall
the number, even weeks later. One can run amok
with the many other possible applications.

> Reading
> books or the internet does not convey these
> important associations and hence the difficulty
> retaining the information.

Whee! The ball is rolling!

> One way round the
> problem, partly, are discussion groups or
> dealing with like minded people to reinforce
> useful information.

To cite general-semantics doctrine again,
Korzybski defined humans as the time-binding
class of life, which refers to our capacity to
"bind" within ourselves the accumulated wisdom of
our predecessors and to facilitate that binding
in our offspiring. In contrast, animals he called
space-binders, because they move about in three
dimensions "binding" parts of their environment
with their organisms--though without symbol
systems and hence without any opportunity for
durable learning. And plants, at last, he called
chemistry-binders. I leave the analysis for you
to complete.

> From: "georg parlow" <georg@websuxxess.com>

> - go and tell a friend about it - youll find
> you have to grasp it quite a
> bit in order to relate it well to another
> - try to put the principle you think you
> grasped into something visual with
> your hands - make a sketch, a drawing, model it
> in clay - it is fun and
> really does the job to put the abstract info
> into your long term storage.

I made the obtuse reference to "playing with the
broad issues of generality and specifity in
communication." Georg gives good examples of
this. In fact, giving good examples can
communicate the most general principle to the
most uninformed person--a truism perhaps, but it
illustrates yet another application which I've
generated within the framework of

> From: "Lawrence F. London, Jr."

> Maybe a billion or two are doing intense
> permaculture but either not labelling it as 
> such or at all or calling it something else
> :-)

The word 'permaculture', as you will recall, was
contracted from 'permanent culture' and
'permanent agriculture'. But 'permanent culture'
addresses the broadest character of what we are
trying to achieve, and should be taken as more
fundamental. Permanent agriculture, although
foundational for physiological survival, does not
represent the gamut of "human nature". So
although we have billions of people doing
agriculture in one sense or another, I doubt we
have that many people attending to the broadest
issues of culture in the complex modern sense. I
dare say we might have millions working on this
with varying degrees of efficacy, but certainly
not billions. And so we come back to my original
point (with the segue via Mollison). Touche!

By now I hope I've made such a repetitive bore of
myself that everyone knows what the hell I'm
talking about.


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