Goals of non-aristotelian system

The premises of general semantics can be expressed as follows:

  1. A map is not the territory it represents (non-identity).
  2. A map does not cover all the territory (non-allness).
  3. A map is self-reflexive (self-reflexiveness of language)
The first of these premises is expressed in a negative way. This form gives it a degree of safety that could not have an affirmative form. It requires its detractors to give a counterexample. If somebody wants to try...
This principle is often accepted, at verbal levels, by 'supporters' of the aristotelian system, but is seldom applied anyway.

The second premise tackles the allness in aristotelian type formulations. This allness is found in the formulations of aristotelian premises and particularly in sentences with "either/or" structure, leaving no choice for other possibilities.
This type of danger is less easy to perceive. An statement such as "a door must be open or closed" does not give much trouble. On the other hand, "You are for us or against us" shows that this problem is not so simple.

The third premise establishes multiordinality, the possibility to use words to speak about words, in our languages. This capacity is found in our most important words: 'yes', 'no', 'true', 'false', 'fact', 'reality', 'cause', 'effect', 'agreement', 'disagreement', 'proposition', 'number', 'relation', 'ordre', 'structure', 'abstraction', 'caracteristic', 'love', 'hate', 'doubt', etc.
If such words can be used in a statement, they can also be used in a statement about the preceding statement, and so on. At each step of this process, the meaning of this word can change: 'to love to make suffer' (or 'to love suffering') is not what we usually understand by 'to love'. We thus see that the level at which we consider words will have an enormous influence on the evaluation that we shall make of a sentence.
Incidentally, this realization enables us to eliminate from many paradoxes based on confusion of orders of abstractions.

As we saw, the aristotelian system has showed its limits long ago. In modern environment, this system hampers our development as a species.

A non-aristotelian system had to be developed. The goals of this system are described in the first chapter of Science and Sanity:

  1. The formulation of General Semantics, resulting from a General Theory of Time-binding, supplies the scientists and the laymen with a general modern method of orientation, which eliminates the older psychological blockages and reveals the mechanisms of adjustment;
  2. The departure from aristotelianism will allow biologists, physiologists, etc., and particularly medical men to 'think' in modern colloidal and quantum terms, instead of the inadequate, antiquated chemical and physiological terms. Medicine may then become a science in the 1933 sense;
  3. In psychiatry it indicates on colloidal grounds the solution of the 'body-mind' problem;
  4. It shows clearly that desirable human characteristics have a definite psychophysiological mechanism which, up till now, has been misused, to the detriment of all of us;
  5. It gives the first definition of 'consciousness' in simpler physico-chemical terms;
  6. A general theory of sanity leads to a general theory of psychotherapy, including all such existing medical schools, as they all deal with disturbances of the semantic reactions (psycho-logical responses to words and other stimuli in connection with their meanings);
  7. It formulates a physiological foundation for 'mental hygiene' which turns out to be a most general preventive psychophysiological experimental method;
  8. It shows the psychophysiological foundation of the childhood of humanity as indicated by the infantilism in our present private, public, and international lives;
  9. In biology it gives a semantic and structural solution of the 'organism-as-a-whole' problem;
  10. In physiology and neurology it reformulates to human levels the Pavlov theory of conditional reflexes, suggesting a new scientific field of psychophysiology for experiments;
  11. In epistemology and semantics it establishes a definite non-elementalistic theory of meanings based not only on definitions but also on undefined terms;
  12. It introduces a new development and use of 'structure';
  13. It establishes structure as the only possible content of knowledge;
  14. It discovers the multiordinality of the most important terms we have, thus removing the psycho-logical blockage of semantic origin and helping the average man or scientist to become a 'genius', etc.;
  15. It formulates a new and physiological theory of mathematical types of extreme simplicity and very wide application;
  16. It offers a non-aristotelian solution of the problem of mathematical 'infinity';
  17. It offers a new non-aristotelian, semantic (from Greek, to signify) definition of mathematics and number, which clarifies the mysteries about the seemingly uncanny importance of number and measurement and throws a new light on the role, structural significance, meaning, and methods of mathematics and its teaching;
  18. In physics, the enquiry explains some fundamental, but as yet disregarded, semantic aspects of physics in general, and of Einstein's and the new quantum theories in particular;
  19. It resolves simply the problem of 'indeterminism', of the newer quantum mechanics, etc.
I realize that the thoughtful reader may be staggered by such a partial list. I am in full sympathy with him in this. I also was staggered.
Alfred Korzybski, Science and Sanity (p. 8, 9)
© ESGS, 2001.