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Semantics, General.

Discipline intended to train men in efficient methods of evaluation and better use of words and other symbols; formulated by A. H. S. Korzybski.*

Though described as non-Aristotelian, the system preserves the aims of Aristotle,* trying to update scientific methods of his day which, it claims, are reflected in the structure of Indo-European languages and have thus been retained in human evaluations, leading to serious results, many of which are said to be derived from an absolutistic, 2-valued, either-or orientation. It opposes ethical statements that classify behavior as only either good or bad. either right or wrong. Gen. semantics evaluates behavior on basis of a scale of many degrees bet. extremes by considering time, place, and context of actions. Its morality (a matter of self-control) aims at accumulating knowledge and making progress in civilization. Cooperation and freedom in the use of language for these purposes would demand elimination of assumptions, premises, creeds, prejudices, etc., that do not correspond to known scientific facts, in the estimation of gen. semanticists cause inadequate evaluations and lead to insanity, and otherwise impede progress.

Gen. semanticists reject belief in beings, events, or places whose reality or existence cannot be, or has not been, scientifically observed or determined. Statements involving a deity or “hereafter” are considered non-sense statements, which cannot be checked to determine correspondence to, or conflict with, scientific facts.

Gen. semantics is based on distinction bet. the chemistry-binding class of life (plants, which take in and use energies of sun, soil, water, and air), the space-binding class of life (animals, which appropriate basic energies and move about in space), and the time-binding class of life (man, who binds energies and space and, through the mechanism of recorded and spoken symbols, can start where the previous generation left off and continue accumulating knowledge for proper evaluation and guidance of his actions).

Gen. semanticists apply the scientific method (see Science) to all areas of human endeavor because it is considered to be the most accurate of all evaluative and predictive systems that have been used. Its use is regarded as essential to sane living in the present stage of man's development. AHN

A. H. S. Korzybski, Science and Sanity: An Introduction to Non-Aristotelian Systems and General Semantics, 3d ed. (Lakeville, Connecticut, 1948) and Manhood of Humanity (New York, 1921); C. Keyser, “Korzybski's Concept of Man,” Mathematical Philosophy, Lecture 20 (New York, 1922), pp. 422–451; W. Johnson, People in Quandaries: The Semantics of Personal Adjustment (New York, 1946); I. J. Lee, Language Habits in Human Affairs: An Introduction to General Semantics (New York, 1941); G. A. Lundberg, Can Science Save Us? (New York, 1947); S. I. Hayakawa, “The Non-Aristotelian Revision of Morality,” ETC: A Review of General Semantics, III, 3 (Spring, 1946), 161–173, and Language in Thought and Action (New York, 1949).

Edited by: Erwin L. Lueker, Luther Poellot, Paul Jackson
©Concordia Publishing House, 2000, All rights Reserved. Reproduced with Permission

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