Semantyka Ogólna

Tools and Techniques of General Semantics
Teaching and Practice of General Semantics


In the 30's, during the american great depression and on the verge of World War II, scientific conditions (non-euclidean mathematics, Einstein's relativity, etc.) were such that the aristotelian system clearly showed its limits. Observing the ailments of this epoch (between 1920 and 1933), Korzybski could formulate the goals of a non-aristotelian system.


Korzybski began to notice that men were clearly different from animals with what he called his "time-binding" faculty. During many years, between 1924 and 1933, he investigated the processes which rooted this unique faculty. In 1933, he had discovered the key mechanisms and formulated them in his Science and Sanity.

At the root of the system, is the realisation of the non-identity principle, illustrated by his famous formulation "Whatever you may say something is, it is not !".
Then, he rejected Aristotle's principles of contradiction ("Nothing can be and not be") and of the excluded third ("Everything must either be or not be") and introduces that of non-allness.
He also established the existence of a characteristic of languages he called self-reflexiveness, potential source of verbal paradoxes and misunderstandings, and showed how to avoid its traps with some simple tools.
The recent (1930) developments of physics and biology inspired him the formulation of the principle of non-elementalism.


General semantics vocabulary has a great importance for the mastery of the system. Not to make one feel he belongs to an 'elite' but rather because fundamental principles underlie this vocabulary. How is it possible, for instance, to speak of psycho-somatic phenomena if we continue to separate in our language 'body' and 'mind'? How to speak of Einstein's relativity if we verbally separate 'space', 'time' and 'matter'?
The principle of non-elementalism demanding that we reject those ancient terms, new ones were created by Korzybski. A
semantic reaction thus indicate a global reaction of an organism to stimuli, including the part related with the meanings that this organism will assign to words. Thus, evaluation will replace the old words 'feelings', 'emotions', 'thoughts', etc.
The principle of non-identity and self-reflexiveness allowed Korzybski to establish multiordinality of terms, existence of undefined terms and orders of abstractions, allowing in particular to differentiate silent levels, observations and inferences and to deal with many verbal paradoxes without some such restrictive devices as Whitehead and Russell's "Theory of Types".
Some tools, of mathematical origin, were used by Korzybski to facilitate the elimination of allness. With this goal ,he introduced in the language of General Semantics the words intensional and extensional.

 Tools and techniques of General Semantics 

To integrate those principles and reach the capacity that Kozybski called consciousness of abstracting, he imagined a number of tools and techniques.
Practice of the Structural Differential allows to restore the natural order of evaluation.
Using extensional devices helps to eliminate allness; and delayed reactions help to avoid 'emotional' shocks related with wrong evaluations.
An exercise will allow you to test your own capacity to differentiate observations and inferences.

 Teaching and Practice of General Semantics 

In United States, general semantics is 60 years old and it is taught in some schools and universities. The Institute of General Semantics (IGS) organise each year some week-end seminars and an advanced training seminars of 5 days, for those who are looking for teacher's certification in general semantics. An annual lecture (AKML), given by a 'famous' lecturer, is organised at the end of the year.

The International Society for General Semantics (ISGS) publishes, for its members, a quarterly brochure called 'ETC...', including papers concerning directly or indirectly general semantics and its applications for professional activities or personal development.

The mastery of general semantics demanding several years of practice, the existence of an association devoted to that purpose is indispensable. So, come and join us.

© ESGS, 2002.