The Structural Differential diagram, created by Korzybski, allows
- to establish a clear difference in the abstraction processes of
Man and animals,
- to visualize orders of abstraction, while allowing to point
- to remind us that the event is not the object, that the object
is not the words which describe it,
and that these words are not inferences,
It thus presents in a visual positive and objective manner, the
negative formulations, thus making them usable.
The following diagram is extracted from Science and
Sanity (p.398) and is reproduced here with the permission of
- On this diagram, the event is represented by the parabola E, limited by
a broken off line to remind us that it extends indefinitely. Its indefinite number
of caracteristics are partially represented by the holes of the parabola E.
- The objects are represented by the circles Oh and
A structural difference between these two objects appears: Oh is
connected by threads Ai to the characteristics of the event, whereas
Oa is not. This expresses that the animal does not understand, and
cannot understand, that his object is an abstraction of the event, because this
understanding can only be provided by science. For him, the event does not exist.
The holes of the objects represent its characteristics, in a significant but
finished number. Threads Ai going from the event E to the object
Oh symbolize the perceived characteristics. The threads
Bi represent the unperceived characteristics.
Some holes of the object do not correspond to characteristics of the event,
indicating that those are added by our perceptual processes.
- The next order of abstraction, represented by rectangle L, starts the
verbal levels, the first of a potentially infinite series for man.
This first level is descriptive: it names the characteristics of the object.
Similarly to the preceding levels, lines Ai connect them. Lines
Bi are ignored and holes are added.
- Higher level abstractions
- The series of successive rectangles, built on this principle, reaches the
highest abstractions available, at a given period. These higher abstractions,
when they are provided by recent scientific theories, represent as
reliably as possible, at a given period, the characteristics of the event. Thus,
the last rectangle, Ln, is attached to parabola E.
© ESGS, 2001.