Korzybski Quotes

Quotes by and on Alfred Korzybski

[With some comments by Rolf Sattler in brackets]

0

what we see, hear, feel, speak about or infer, is never it, but only our human abstraction about 'it' (Korzybski, A. 1951. Le role du langage dans les processus perceptuels. New York: The International Non-Aristotelian Library Publishing Company, p. 39).

'Whatever you might
say something "is", it is not.' Whatever we might say belongs to the verbal level and not to the un-speakable, objective levels. (Korzybski, A. 1958. Science and Sanity. The International Non-Aristotelian Library Publishing Company, p. 409).

Whatever you might say the object "is", well it is not (ibid., p.35).

Whatever you might
say a happening 'is', it is not. (ibid., p. 751)

Identity is invariably false to facts (ibid., p. 196)

This
is not this (ibid., p. 410).

[For example, if I point at an object and say "This is a flower," the name (concept) of "flower" is far less than the object itself. The name (concept) is only an abstraction that selected a few defining features of the object.]

1

A map is not the territory (ibid., p. 750)

A map
is not the territory it represents, but, if correct, it has a similar structure to the territory, which accounts for its usefulness (ibid., p. 58).
The search for structure involves similarity of linguistics and empirical structures (ibid., p.544).

"Korzybski is saying that as soon as we are trying to describe reality in any kind of language, we are creating a map; the universe of discourse is the universe of maps; reality, the 'territory', is forever beyond it" (Shantena Augusto Sabbadini. 2013. Tao Te Ching. Published by Sabbadini, p. 12).

[Different maps may complement each other. For example, geological maps, demographic maps, economic maps, etc show different but complementary aspects of the same territory. Manifest reality as a whole can be represented by Ken Wilber’s AQAL map, which is hierarchical (holarchical), and other complementary maps such as holism in terms of undivided wholeness, Yin-Yang, continuum and network maps (see
Ken Wilber, Holarchy, and Beyond; Perspectivism and Complementarity: AQAL, the Big Tube, and the Dynamic Mandala; and Wilber’s AQAL Map and Beyond)]

2

two crucial negative premises as established firmly by all human experience: (1) Words are not the things [or events] we are speaking about; and (2) There is no such thing as an object in absolute isolation (Korzybski, A. 1958. Science and Sanity. The International Non-Aristotelian Library Publishing Company, p. 60/1).

[see also
Healing Thinking through Non-Identity (Korzybski) and Quotes by Holistic Scientists]

3

we read unconsciously into the world the structure of the language we use (Korzybski, A. 1958. Science and Sanity. The International Non-Aristotelian Library Publishing Company, p. 60).

[For example, a process language based on verbs provides a more dynamic perception of the world than the common noun-verb structure. Korzybski’s extensional devices also change our perception as well as our psycho-logical reactions and actions in the world. The following examples illustrate the use of the extensional devices: Instead of saying
John is wise, one would say John 1-universe October 1, 2009 appears wise etc. John 1 refers to the individual John in a specific situation, connected to the universe, at a specific date; etc can be abbreviated as ., Instead of saying Love is fragile, one would say ‘Love’ appears fragile., Love is placed in quotation marks to indicate its highly abstract nature. Hyphens are used to remind us of the complexities of interrelatedness such as the organism-as-a-whole-in-the-environment. Korzybski pointed out how the use of the extensional devices can be healing., and thus can lead to greater sanity., See also E-Prime, a language structure that avoids the verb to be. Thus, instead of saying You are beautiful, one would say You look beautiful (to me), which implies a relation between you and me.]

4

The order in which perception should take place is stunted in [the common] Aristotelian Thinking, leading to some mental illness. The natural order is to see, pause, feel, sense, intuit, visualize – only later should the mind verbalise. An Aristotelian thinker sees an object and immediately verbalises by noticing some similarity with something else or recognising it [thus putting it into a catgory] (Falconar, T. 2000. Creative Intelligence and Self-Liberation. Korzybski, Non-Aristotelian Thinking and Eastern Realization. Crown House Publishing, p.7).

[Note: Quotes from Falconar refer to Korzybski’s ideas]

5

Those questions which in the older days were supposed to be ‘philosophical’, ‘metaphysical’…become, in the new way, simply a problem of the structure of language we use (Korzybski, A. 1958. Science and Sanity. The International Non-Aristotelian Library Publishing Company, p. 468).

6

There is always more that can be said about anything (Wikipedia page on “Structural Differential”)

[But if we think that what is said captures everything of that domain, we delude ourselves because we restrict and impoverish our perception of and action in the world]

7

human experience gets filtered and mediated by contingent features of human sensory organs, the human nervous system, and human linguistic constructions (Wikipedia page on “General Semantics")

8

Words are probably one of the deepest and most unconscious filters we have (Falconar, T. 2000. Creative Intelligence and Self-Liberation. Korzybski, Non-Aristotelian Thinking and Eastern Realization. Crown House Publishing, p.VI).

[see also
Language Transcending Logic]

9

most of us human beings think that we are the masters of words; the truth is they master us, we are enslaved by words (Ibid., p.3).

10

To use words to sense reality is like going with a lamp to search for darkness (Ibid., p.3).

11

In my youth I thought Truth can be known. Now I think otherwise; now I think, Truth is unknowable and will always be unknowable (Albert Einstein, quoted by Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh. 1978. The Way of Tao. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, p. 100).

[see also
Quotes from Holistic Scientists # 1]

12

nothing is what we say it is: everything is unique and unknowable in its subtlest levels (Falconar, T. 2000. Creative Intelligence and Self-Liberation. Korzybski, Non-Aristotelian Thinking and Eastern Realization. Crown House Publishing, p.4).

13

Once you label me, you negate me (Kierkegaard).

14

Words give mankind the important ability to pass ideas on from one generation to another and one person to another, but they are limited for they are not near to reality (Falconar, T. 2000. Creative Intelligence and Self-Liberation. Korzybski, Non-Aristotelian Thinking and Eastern Realization. Crown House Publishing, p.6 ). Reality is far from words and it is very different from what a naïve person thinks it is (ibid., p. 7)

15

Words are not the things they represent. The words we use about an object never cover the whole object. Whatever we say it is - IT IS NOT! (Falconar, T. 2000. Creative Intelligence and Self-Liberation. Korzybski, Non-Aristotelian Thinking and Eastern Realization. Crown House Publishing, p.6 ). An object has many characteristics on different levels such as the macroscopic, microscopic and sub-microscopic. Most of these characteristics are unknown to us and so they are not included in the word we give it, the object’s name (ibid., p. 7). Whatever you might say the object “is”. well it is not (Korzybski, A. 1958. Science and Sanity. The International Non-Aristotelian Library Publishing Company, p. 35).

[For example, strictly speaking, it is false to say
This is an apple because this object, at which we are pointing, is much more than just an apple, that is, the characteristics by which we define an apple. Hence, this object is an apple, etc. Furthermore, it is not an isolated object, but connected with the universe. Hence we might say This is an apple, etc-universe (see quote #1)]

16

Every identification is bound to be in some degree a misevaluation (Korzybski , A. 1958. Science and Sanity. The International Non-Aristotelian Library Publishing Company, p. XXXIV).

[Korzybski is especially critical of the identification of the word with the thing it refers to and the map with the territory. He devised the Structural Differential to remind us of the non-identity of these levels. Words and maps cannot represent all of what they refer to. Hence non-allness is a key concept in Korzybski’s thinking. Assuming that a word or statement represents all that it refers to is a delusion that may create all sorts of problems and psycho-logical reactions such as fear, anxiety, anger, etc. For example, saying
I am bad may make me feel discouraged, depressed, sad, etc. Saying I am good may lead to other delusions because I am not just good: I am good, etc. (see comment to quote # 3].

17

The little word ‘all’ of the syllogism’s “all such and such are” has done more harm to thinking than any other word in language (Falconar, T. 2000. Creative Intelligence and Self-Liberation. Korzybski, Non-Aristotelian Thinking and Eastern Realization. Crown House Publishing, p.7).

18

The moment we eliminate identification we become conscious of abstracting, and permanently and instinctively remember that the object is not the event, that the label is not the object, and that a statement about a statement is not the first statement… Only structural investigation (science) can decide which appears as the structurally more similar form of representation on the verbal levels for what is going on at the un-speakable , objective levels (Korzybski , A. 1958. Science and Sanity. The International Non-Aristotelian Library Publishing Company, p. 420).

19

forgetting characteristics left out [in the abstraction], he is always ‘right’. For him his statement is not only the only statement possible, but he actually attributes some cosmic objective evaluation to it (Ibid., p. 418/9).

[This quote characterizes to a great extent the human condition in science, philosophy, doctrinal religion, politics, everyday life, etc, where most people insist that they are right and the others are wrong. This happens because of a lack of awareness of abstraction, which leads to a naïve identification of the unconscious abstraction contained in words and statements with the infinitely richer reality from which the words and statements have been abstracted. Korzybski’s Structural Differential reminds us of how much has been left out in the abstraction. Since from the same territory many different abstractions are possible, conflicts arise between these abstractions if they are thought to be identical with the territory from which they have been abstracted by omitting different aspects. Each abstraction can represent only one aspect of the territory from which it has been abstracted]

20

Whatever we may say will not be the objective level, which remains fundamentally un-speakable…The objective level is not words…neither can it be understood as ‘non-expressible by words’ or ’not to be described by words’, because the terms ‘expressible’ or ‘described’ already presuppose words and symbols (Korzybski, A. 1958. Science and Sanity. The International Non-Aristotelian Library Publishing Company, p. 34).

The objective level is not words and cannot be reached by words alone. We must point our finger and be silent (ibid., p. 399).

[see also
Quotes from Holistic Scientists # 1,2, 16-22, and Mystic Quotes]

21

In fact ‘Just Being’ [in silence] without verbal thought is your demonstrating who and what you really are (Falconar, T. 2000. Creative Intelligence and Self-Liberation. Korzybski, Non-Aristotelian Thinking and Eastern Realization. Crown House Publishing, p.88).

[see also
Mystic Quotes and Healing Thinking and Being]

22

nothing is like anything else (Falconar, T. 2000. Creative Intelligence and Self-Liberation. Korzybski, Non-Aristotelian Thinking and Eastern Realization. Crown House Publishing, p.2). In other words, nothing is identical to anything else (ibid., p. 6). So all objects and events are unique, but verbalising thinkers in looking at reality categorise and identify what they see; to do this they exaggerate similarities and ignore differences and in this manner, instead of looking for uniqueness, they force objects into the categories of their minds (ibid., p. 10).

23

a system which posits the general sharpness of ‘either-or’, and so objectifies ‘kind’, is unduly limited; it must be revised and made more flexible in terms of ‘degree’ (Korzybski, A. 1958. Science and Sanity. The International Non-Aristotelian Library Publishing Company, p. XXI).

[Much more inclusive complements to ‘either-or’ are ‘Yin-Yang’, ‘both-and’ as well as fuzzy logic (see
Healing Thinking and Being and Chapter 2 of Wilber's AQAL Map and Beyond)]

24

From the beginnings of mankind, languages have taught us to separate things such as mind and body, time and space, outside and inside, which is a very simplistic view (Falconar, T. 2000. Creative Intelligence and Self-Liberation. Korzybski, Non-Aristotelian Thinking and Eastern Realization. Crown House Publishing, p.10). Everything must be treated as a whole…we are joined to all things at subtle levels. This is a holistic view of the universe (ibid., p. 6).

25

We humans, through old habits…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 (Korzybski, A. 1958. Science and Sanity. The International Non-Aristotelian Library Publishing Company, p. 140).

26

Nearly all arguments are caused by people confusing different levels of abstraction or by supposing two objects to be the same when they are different (Falconar, T. 2000. Creative Intelligence and Self-Liberation. Korzybski, Non-Aristotelian Thinking and Eastern Realization. Crown House Publishing, pp.6-7).
Arguments are nearly always about verbal confusion, not reality (ibid., p. 13).



Home