THE ROLE OF LANGUAGE IN THE PERCEPTUAL PROCESSES

By Alfred Korzybski1


[Reprinted from PERCEPTION: AN APPROACH TO PERSONALITY, edited by Robert R. Blake and Glenn V. Ramsey. Copyright 1951, The Ronald Press Company, New York.]

It is my particular privilege, as I am not a specialist in the field of psycho-logics,2 to participate in this symposium dealing with such a vital subject. The topic and main divisions of this Chapter were suggested to me by the organizers of the symposium, and I am glad to abide by them.

In my work I have found that there are some simple principles underlying the subject matter which I will attempt to convey here. More details may be found in the bibliography given, and the large amounts of other related literature available.

Not dealing with the problem of "perception" directly in my work, I shall use this term here in the vernacular sense. I do not consider myself qualified to define it, and so shall use quotation marks to indicate my nontechnical treatment of this type of human reactions. I cannot avoid dealing with the problems of "perception" indirectly but will do so from a different angle.

The Effect on Perceptual Processes of the Language System

Perhaps a story from the European underground under Hitler would be a good illustration. In a railroad compartment an American grandmother with her young and attractive granddaughter, a Romanian officer, and a Nazi officer were the only occupants. The train was passing through a dark tunnel, and all that was heard was a loud kiss and a vigorous slap. After the train emerged from the tunnel, nobody spoke, but the grandmother was saying to herself, "What a fine girl I have raised. She will take care of herself. I am proud of her." The granddaughter was saying to herself, "Well, grandmother is old enough not to mind a little kiss. Besides, the fellows are nice. I am surprised what a hard wallop grandmother has." The Nazi officer was meditating, "How clever those Romanians are! They steal a kiss and have the other fellow slapped." The Romanian officer was chuckling to himself, "How smart I am! I kissed my own hand and slapped the Nazi."

Obviously it was a problem of limited "perception," where mainly "hearing" was involved, with different interpretations.

Another example of "perception" could be given which anyone can try for himself. In fact, I suggest that this simple demonstration should be repeated by all readers of this paper. The demonstration takes two persons. One, without the knowledge of the other, cuts out large headlines of the same size from different issues of a newspaper. The subject remains seated in the same position throughout. He is shown one of the headlines at a certain distance. If he is able to read it, it is discarded. Then he is shown another, different, headline at a somewhat farther distance away. Again, if he is able to read it, it is discarded. This process is repeated until the subject is unable to read the headline. Then the demonstrator tells him what is in the headline. The amazing fact is that the subject will then be able to see and read the headline the moment he "knows" what is there.

Such illustrations could be multiplied indefinitely. These examples are enough to illustrate the impossibility of separating sharply the "perceptual," "seeing," "hearing," etc., and "knowing," a division which cannot be made, except superficially on verbal levels.

In a non-Aristotelian orientation we take for granted that all "perceptual processes" involve abstracting by our nervous system at different levels of complexity. Neurological evidence shows the selective character of the organism’s responses to total situations, and the papers in this symposium also corroborate the view that the mechanisms of "perception" lie in the ability of our nervous system to abstract and to project.

Abstracting by necessity involves evaluating, whether conscious or not, and so the process of abstracting may be considered as a process of evaluating stimuli, whether it be a "toothache," "an attack of migraine," or the reading of a "philosophical treatise." A great many factors enter into "perceiving," as suggested by the content of this symposium. As this seems to be a circular process, it is considered here on lower and higher levels of complexity.

Processes of Abstracting.—Our knowledge today indicates that all life is electro-colloidal in character, the functioning of the nervous system included. We do not as yet know the intrinsic mechanisms, but from an electro-colloidal point of view every part of the brain is connected with every other part and with our nervous system as a whole. With such a foundation, even though it becomes necessary to investigate, different aspects of the processes of abstracting for purposes of analysis, we should be aware that these different aspects are parts of one whole continuous process of normal human life.

Let us consider what our nervous system does when we "perceive" a happening or event. The term "event" is used here in the sense of Whitehead as an instantaneous cross-section of a process. Say we drop a box of matches. Here we have a first-order happening, which occurs on nonverbal or what are called the "silent" or "unspeakable" levels. The reflected light impinges on the eye, we get some sort of electro-colloidal configurations in the brain; then, since we are sentient organisms, we can react to those configurations with some sort of "feelings," some evaluations, etc., about them, on "silent" levels. Finally, on the verbal levels, we can speak about those organismal reactions. Newton may have said, about the falling matchbox, ‘gravitation"; Einstein may say "space-time curvature." Whatever we may say about it, the first-order happening remains on the silent levels. How we will talk about it may differ from day to day, or from year to year, or century to century. All our "feelings," "thinkings," our "loves," "hates," etc., happen on silent un-speakable levels, but may be affected by the verbal levels by a continuing interplay. We may verbalize about them, to ourselves or others, intensify, decrease them, etc., but this is a different problem.

In the following diagram (Figure 1) is given an extensional analysis of the process of abstracting from an electro-colloidal non-Aristotelian point of view. It is oversimplified and could be made more exhaustive. However, it is satisfactory for our purpose of explaining briefly the most general and important points.

Most of us identify in value levels I, II, III, and IV and react as if our verbalizations about the first three levels were "it". Whatever we may say something "is" obviously is not the "something" on the silent levels. Indeed, as Wittgenstein wrote, "What can be shown, cannot be said." In my experience I found that it is practically impossible to convey the differentiation of silent (unspeakable) levels from verbal levels without having the hearer or reader pinch with one hand the finger of the other hand. He would then realize organismally that the first-order psycho-logical direct experiences are not verbal. The simplicity of this statement is misleading unless we become aware of its implications, as in our living reactions most of us identify in value the entirely different levels, with often disastrous consequences.

The process of abstracting

Unfortunately, people in general, including many scientists, disregard levels II and III completely, and react as if unconscious that IV "is not" I. In other words, we do not take into account the mechanisms of the human nervous system or "think electro-colloidally" about our reactions. Such a disregard leads to misunderstandings, heated two-valued ("either-or") debates, hostilities, prejudices, bitterness, etc. In the history of "philosophy," for example, the metaphysical fight about "solipsism" simply ceases to be a problem when we become conscious that the only possible link between the inherently different silent (nonverbal) and verbal levels is found in their similarity of structure, expressed in terms of relations, on which the present non-Aristotelian system is based.

An awareness of the processes of abstracting clarifies the structure of a great many of our interpersonal, professional, etc., difficulties, which may become trivial or nonexistent if we become conscious of the identifications involved. Self-made problems often turn out to be no problems.

Statements are verbal; they are never the silent "it." One may have a nightmare that he "is" a Stalin. That may be innocent enough. One may have daydreams of being a Stalin. That is more serious. One may proclaim consciously, "I am Stalin," and believe in it, and begin to shoot people who disagree with him; usually such a person is locked up in a hospital, and he usually is a hopeless case.

We see how the above diagram indicates human semantic (evaluational) mechanisms in the average individual who is hovering between sanity and semantic illness. It is well known that what would be only a dream to a "normal" person, "is reality" to a dementia praecox patient, who lives and acts accordingly.

These mechanisms also function pathologically in infantile adults, who live in a fictitious world built up on identifications.

The verbal levels, in the meantime, are of unique human importance because we can abstract on higher and higher verbal levels from I, II, III, etc. In human life, IV represents means for intercommunicating and transmitting from individual to individual and generation to generation the accumulated experiences of individuals and the race. I call this human capacity the "time-binding" characteristic.

The symbolic levels of behavior differentiate most sharply human reactions from signal reactions of lower, less complex forms of life. If those accumulated experiences are not properly verbalized, it may seriously twist or even arrest human development.

This simple diagram represents most complex processes, involving "perception" on different levels, problems of interpretation, verbal formalism, etc. Every type of human reactions from the lowest to the highest levels involves these mechanisms, the nonawareness of which may lead to disturbing, frustrating, or disastrous mis-evaluations and consequences. We will find later how this diagram applies to primitive and Aristotelian language structures.

I have stressed the serious or tragic aspect of our processes of abstracting here because I am attempting to convey the heavy life-value of what may otherwise appear too simple and obvious.

Verbal and Nonverbal "Thinking."—it will be noticed that I have put quotation marks around the word "thinking." This term usually implies a more "cortical" activity, indicating verbally some sort of a split between the functioning of the cortical and thalamic regions of our nervous system where there is actually no such split, but an interaction and integration on different levels.

"Is all thinking verbal?" Some say "yes," some say "no." If, however, we limit ourselves to verbal "thinking," we are caught in our old linguistic ruts of bygone generations, socio-culturally trained and neurologically canalized in the inherited forms of representation. Under such conditions we are unable or unfit to see the outside or inside world anew, and so we handicap scientific and other creative work. We speak so glibly about "freedom," never considering Willard Gibbs’ degrees of freedom on which all our advance depends. A non-Aristotelian system involves that new orientation which ultimately leads to creative "thinking." Thus, an automobile has indefinitely more degrees of freedom than a street-car, which is "canalized" in its rails. Unfortunately and perhaps tragically, the majority of us "think" verbally, so characteristic of the Aristotelian subject-predicate orientation, and thus are handicapped in or prevented from creative "thinking." The physico-mathematical and so scientific way of "thinking" broke through those handicaps and thus is at the foundation of creative scientific work, which brings to mankind so many benefits.

There is a tremendous difference between "thinking" in verbal terms, and "contemplating," inwardly silent, on nonverbal levels, and then searching for the proper structure of language to fit the supposedly discovered structure of the silent processes that modern science tries to find. If we "think" verbally, we act as biased observers and project onto the silent levels the structure of the language we use, so remaining in our rut of old orientations which make keen, unbiased observations ("perceptions"?) and creative work well-nigh impossible. In contrast, when we "think" without words, or in pictures or visualizations (which involve structure and, therefore, relations), we may discover new aspects and relations on silent levels, and so may formulate important theoretical results in the general search for a similarity of structure between the two levels, silent and verbal. Practically all important advances are made in that way.

Jacques Hadamard, the great mathematician, has made a study of how some outstanding mathematicians and scientists "think." I refer to his valuable little book on The Psychology of Invention in the Mathematical Field (11). The majority of these creative men reported that they "think" in terms of visual structures. "Most generally images are used, very often of a geometrical nature," he found ( 11, p. 1 14). I may mention here one of the questions which Hadamard asked in his questionnaire, to which Einstein gave an answer of particular interest to us here:

Question: It would be very helpful for the purpose of psychological investigation to know what internal or mental images, what kind of "internal word" mathematicians make use of; whether they are motor [kinesthetic], auditory, visual or mixed, depending on the subject which they are studying (11, p. 140).

Answer: The above mentioned elements are, in my case, of visual and some of muscular type. Conventional words or other signs have to be sought for laboriously only in a secondary stage, when the mentioned associative play is sufficiently established and can be reproduced at will.... In a stage when words intervene at all, they are, in my case, purely auditive, but they interfere only in a secondary stage as already mentioned (11, p. 143).3

Personally, I "think" in terms of pictures, and how I speak about those visualizations later is a different problem. I also notice a severe strain on my eyes when doing creative work, due to that visualizing, which seems to be related somehow to "perception."

In this connection I may refer also to a most important essay on "Mathematical Creation" by the great mathematician, Henri Poincaré (34), which was delivered in the first years of this century as a lecture before the Psychological Society in Paris.

Language becomes then a medium through which we eventually talk to ourselves or to others, with its own definite limitations. "The relation between language and experience is often misunderstood," Sapir found (40). "Language is not merely a more or less systematic inventory of the various items of experience which seem relevant to the individual, as is so often naively assumed, but is also a self-contained, creative symbolic organization, which not only refers to experience largely acquired without its help, but actually defines experience for us by reason of its formal completeness and because of our unconscious projection of its implicit expectations into the field of experience" (italics mine).

As Santayana said, "The empiricist ... thinks he believes only what he sees, but he is much better at believing than at seeing" (21, P. 1).4

In An Essay on Man, Ernst Cassirer (7) discusses the "hunger for names" which every normal child shows at a certain age.

By learning to name things a child does not simply add a list of artificial signs to his previous knowledge of ready-made empirical objects. He learns rather to form the concepts of those objects, to come to terms with the objective world. Henceforth the child stands on firmer ground. His vague, uncertain, fluctuating perceptions and his dim feelings begin to assume a new shape. They may be said to crystallize around the name as a fixed center, a focus of thought.
But herein lies an important aspect of "naming" or "labeling":
The very act of denomination depends on a process of classification ... they [the classifications] are based on certain constant and recurring elements in our sense experience.... There is no rigid and pre-established scheme according to which our divisions and subdivisions might once for all be made. Even in languages closely akin and agreeing in their general structure we do not find identical names. As Humboldt pointed out, the Greek and Latin terms for the moon, although they refer to the same object, do not express the same intention or concept. The Greek term (mën) denotes the function of the moon to "measure" time; the Latin term (luna, luc-na) denotes the moon’s lucidity or brightness.... The function of a name is always limited to emphasizing a particular aspect of a thing, and it is precisely this restriction and limitation upon which the value of the name depends.... in the act of denomination we select, out of the multiplicity and diffusion in our sense data, certain fixed centers of perception (7).5
A "name" (label) involves for a given individual a whole constellation or configuration of labeling, defining, evaluating, etc., unique for each individual, according to his socio-cultural, linguistic environment and his heredity, connected with his wishes, interests, needs, etc.

Cassirer makes some interesting comparisons between a child learning its first language and an adult learning a foreign language. I may add here that it happens that I was born into four languages (three different roots), and this has helped me not to be bound by words as I might have been if I had learned only one language as a child.

We see the seriousness of terminology, which is affected by and also determines our general Weltanschauung. In 1950 we must visualize the world in general as a submicroscopic, dynamic electronic process and life in particular as an electro-colloidal process of still much higher complexity (1, 2). What has made it possible for us to visualize an "object" and life in this way? Theories, verbalizations, built up for thousands of years, up to the latest discoveries of modern science. Thus, we find again that ceaseless circularity. The fact that we can "perceive" happenings, objects, or persons in this way has very important bearings on that whole process, as we will find later in our discussion.

Primitive Language Structures.—All languages have a structure of some kind, and every language reflects in its own structure that of the world as assumed by those who evolved the language.6 Reciprocally, we read mostly unconsciously into the world the structure of the language we use. Because we take the structure of our own habitual language so much for granted, particularly if we were born into it, it is sometimes difficult to realize how differently people with other language structures view the world.

The structure of anything, whether it be a language, house, machine, etc., must be in terms of relations. To have "structure" we must have a complex or network of ordered and interrelated parts. The only possible link between the nonverbal and verbal levels is found in terms of relations; and, therefore, relations as factors of structure give the sole content of all human knowledge. Thus, we may realize the importance of the structure of a language, any language. Bertrand Russell and Ludwig Wittgenstein were the important pioneers in devoting serious attention to the problem of structure (38, 39, 51). I cannot go into this problem in more detail here, except to try to convey its fundamental importance.

Among primitive peoples with one-valued "pre-logical thinking" the "consciousness of abstracting" is practically nil. The effect upon an individual produced by something inside his skin is projected outside his skin, often acquiring a demonic character. The "idea" of an action or object is identified with the action or the object itself.

The "paralogical" state is a little more advanced. Here the identifications are based on similarities, and differences are neglected (not consciously, of course). Lévy-Bruhl describes this primitive evaluational level by formulating the "law of participation," by which all things which have similar characteristics "are the same" (29; 21, p. 514). A primitive "syllogism" runs somewhat as follows: "Certain Indians run fast, stags run fast; therefore, some Indians are stags." This evaluational process is entirely natural at this level and lays a foundation for the building of language and higher order abstractions. We proceeded by similarities, much too often considered as identities.

Primitive men do not discuss abstract "ideas." As Boas has found, "The Indian will not speak of goodness as such, although he may very well speak of the goodness of a person. He will not speak of a state of bliss apart from the person who is in such a state." However, Boas concludes, "The fact that generalized forms of expression are not used does not prove inability to form them, but it merely proves that the mode of life of the people is such that they are not required" (3, pp. 64-67).

The use of abstract terms, such as a term for "goodness as such," made possible an enormous economy in communication, also a great increase in human time-binding progress, and ultimately it made modern science possible. In the meantime, the fact that we do abstract on higher orders becomes a danger if we are not conscious that we are doing so and retain the primitive confusions or identifications of orders of abstractions.

The following quotation7 from "Being and Value in a Primitive Culture" by Dorothy D. Lee shows the extensional (by fact, rather than higher order verbal generalizations) type of language structure of the Trobrianders (25, p. 402):

If I were to go with a Trobriander to a garden where the taytu, a species of yam, had just been harvested, I would come back and tell you: "There are good taytu there; just the right degree of ripeness, large and perfectly shaped; not a blight to be seen, not one rotten spot; nicely rounded at the tips, with no spiky points; all first-run harvesting, no second gleanings." The Trobriander would come back and say "Taytu"; and he would have said all that I did and more. Even the phrase "There are taytu" would represent a tautology, since existence is implied in being, is, in fact an ingredient of being to the Trobriander. And all the attributes, even if he could find words for them at hand in his own language, would have been tautological, since the concept of taytu contains them all. In fact, if one of these were absent, the object would not have been a taytu. Such a tuber, if it is not at the proper harvesting ripeness, is not a taytu. If it is unripe, it is a bwabawa; if over-ripe, spent, it is not a spent taytu but something else, a yowana. If it is blighted it is a nukunokuna. If it has a rotten patch, it is a taboula; if misshapen, it is an usasu; if perfect in shape but small, it is a yagogu. If the tuber, whatever its shape or condition, is a post-harvest gleaning, it is an ulumadala. When the spent tuber, the yowana, sends its shoots underground, as we put it, it is not a yowana with shoots, but a silisata. When new tubers have formed on these shoots, it is not a silisata but a gadena....

As being is identical with the object, there is no word for to be; as being is changeless, there is no word meaning to become.

It is significant, also, to find that the temporal differentiations and temporal generalizations which we have are absent among the Trobrianders:

Trobriand verbs are timeless, making no temporal distinctions. History and mythical reality are not "the past" to the Trobriander. They are forever present, participating in all current being, giving meaning to all his activities and all existence. A Trobriander will speak of the garden which his mother’s brother planted, or the one which the mythical Tudava planted, in exactly the same terms with which he will refer to the garden which he himself is planting now; and it will give him satisfaction to do so... (25, p. 403).

The Trobriander has no word for history. When he wants to distinguish between different kinds of occasions, he will say, for example, "Molubabeba in-child-his," that is, "in the childhood of Molubabeba," not a previous phase of this time, but a different kind of time (25, p. 405; italics mine).

Many excellent papers and books have been written by anthropologists, psychiatrists, linguists, etc., on how different primitive people or different nationalities dissect nature differently in accordance with the structure of their language.8

The main characteristics of primitive or "pre-logical" and "paralogical" language structures may be summarized in their identifications of different orders of abstractions and their lack of abstract terms. The "perceptions" of people on primitive levels are often different from ours, different in the degree to which higher order abstractions are confused, identified with, and projected on lower order abstractions. They identify or ascribe one value to essentially many-valued different orders of abstractions and so become impervious to contradictions with "reality" and impervious also to higher order experience.9

Aristotelian and Non-Aristotelian Language Systems

Aristotelian Language Structure.—In mankind’s cultural evolution, our current abstractions became codified here and there into systems, for instance the Aristotelian system. The term "system" is used here in the sense of "a whole of related doctrinal functions" (the doctrinal functions of the late Professor Cassius Keyser [17]). We are concerned with this structure here because of its still enormous influence on those of us whose language structure is of the Indo-European type.

I wish to emphasize here that in discussing the inadequacy of the Aristotelian system in 1950, I in no way disparage the remarkable and unprecedented work of Aristotle about 350 B.C. I acknowledge explicitly my profound admiration for his extraordinary genius, particularly in consideration of the period in which he lived. Nevertheless, the twisting of his system and the imposed immobility of this twisted system, as enforced for nearly two thousand years by the controlling groups, often under threats of torture and death, have led and can only lead to more disasters. From what we know about Aristotle and his writings, there is little doubt that, if alive, he would not tolerate such twistings and artificial immobility of the system usually ascribed to him.

Space limitations prevent my going into details here, and I can but refer the reader to my larger work on this subject, Science and Sanity: An Introduction to Non-aristotelian Systems and General Semantics (21). A rough summary in the form of a tabulation of Aristotelian and non-Aristotelian orientations given in that volume (21, pp. xxv ff.) may help to convey to the reader the magnitude of this problem.

Here I will stress some of the main structural considerations of the Aristotelian system and their effects on our world outlook, evaluations, and, therefore, even "perceptions." Practically since the beginning of Aristotle’s formulations, and particularly after their later distortions, there have been many criticisms of them, mostly ineffective because unworkable. One of their most serious inadequacies was very lately found to be the belief in the uniqueness of the subject-predicate form of representation, in the sense that every kind of relation in this world can be expressed in that form, which is obviously false to facts and would make science and mathematics impossible.

I will quote the following remarks10 of Bertrand Russell, who did epoch-making work in his analysis of subject-predicate relations:

The belief or unconscious conviction that all propositions are of the subject-predicate form—in other words, that every fact consists in some thing having some quality—has rendered most philosophers incapable of giving any account of the world of science and daily life ... (37, p. 45; 21, p. 85).

Philosophers have, as a rule, failed to notice more than two types of sentence, exemplified by the two statements "this is yellow" and "buttercups are yellow." They mistakenly suppose that these two were one and the same type, and also that all propositions were of this type. The former error was exposed by Frege and Peano; the latter was found to make the explanation of order impossible. Consequently, the traditional view that all propositions ascribe a predicate to a subject collapsed, and with it the metaphysical systems which were based upon it, consciously or unconsciously (39, p. 242; 21, p. 131).

Asymmetrical relations are involved in all series—in space and time, greater and less, whole and part, and many others of the most important characteristics of the actual world. All these aspects, therefore, the logic which reduces everything to subjects and predicates is compelled to condemn as error and mere appearance (37, p. 45; 21, p. 188).

In this connection I may quote some remarks by Alfred Whitehead, who also did most important work on this subject:
... the subject-predicate habits of thought ... had been impressed on the European mind by the overemphasis on Aristotle’s logic during the long mediaeval period. In reference to this twist of mind, probably Aristotle was not an Aristotelian (49, pp. 80-81; 21, p. 85).

The evil produced by the Aristotelian "primary substance" is exactly this habit of metaphysical emphasis upon the "subject-predicate" form of proposition (49, p. 45).11

The alternate philosophic position must commence with denouncing the whole idea of "subject qualified by predicate" as a trap set for philosophers by the syntax of language (48, p. 14; 21, p. 85).12

In his "Languages and Logic" Benjamin Lee Whorf makes an analysis of primitive and other language structures (50, pp. 43-52).
The Indo-European languages and many others give great prominence to a type of sentence having two parts, each part built around a class of words—substantives and verbs—which those languages treat differently in grammar.... The Greeks, especially Aristotle, built up this contrast and made it a law of reason. Since then, the contrast has been stated in logic in many different ways: subject and predicate, actor and action, things and relations between things, objects and their attributes, quantities and operations. And, pursuant again to grammar, the notion became ingrained that one of these classes of entities can exist in its own right but that the verb class cannot exist without an entity of the other class, the "thing" class.... Our Indian languages show that with a suitable grammar we may have intelligent sentences that cannot be broken into subjects and predicates.13
The subject-predicate structure of language resulted from the ascribing of "properties" or "qualities" to "nature," whereas the "qualities," etc., are actually manufactured by our nervous systems. The perpetuation of such projections tends to keep mankind on the archaic levels of anthropomorphism and animism in their evaluations of their surroundings and themselves.

The main verb through which these outlooks were structuralized in our language is the verb "to be." Here I will give a very brief analysis of some uses of the little word "is," and what important effects its use has had on our "thinking." A full investigation of the term "is" has been found to be very complex. The great mathematician and logician, Augustus de Morgan, one of the founders of mathematical logic, has justly said, in his Formal Logic (1847) (8, p. 56):

The complete attempt to deal with the term is would go to the form and matter of everything in existence, at least, if not to the possible form and matter of all that does not exist, but might. As far as it could be done, it would give the grand Cyclopaedia, and its yearly supplement would be the history of the human race for the time.
Here, following Russell, we can only state roughly that in the Indo-European languages the verb "to be" has at least four entirely different uses (36, p. 64)
  1. As an auxiliary verb: It is raining.
  2. As the "is" of existence: I am.
  3. As the "is" of predication: The rose is red.
  4. As the "is" of identity: The rose is a flower.
The first two are difficult to avoid in English, and relatively harmless. The other two, however, are extremely pertinent to our discussion. If we say, "The rose is red," we falsify everything we "know" in 1950 about our nervous systems and the structure of the empirical world. There is no "redness" in nature, only different wave lengths of radiation. Our reaction to those light waves is only our individual reaction. If one is a Daltonist, for example, he will see "green." If one is color-blind, he will see "gray." We may correctly say, "We see the rose as red," which would not be a falsification.

The fourth, the "is" of identity, if used without consciousness of the identifications implied, perpetuates a primitive type of evaluation. In some languages—the Slavic, for instance—there is no "is" of identity. If we say, "I classify the rose as a flower," this is structurally correct, and implies that our nervous system is doing the classifying.

The importance of that "is" of identity embedded in the structure of our language can hardly be overemphasized, as it affects our neuro-evaluational reactions and leads to mis-evaluations in the daily life of every one of us which are sometimes very tragic.

Here let us recall the "philosophical grammar" of our language which we call the "laws of thought," as given by Jevons (12; 21, p. 749):

  1. The law of identity. Whatever is, is.
  2. The law of contradiction. Nothing can both be, and not be.
  3. The law of excluded third. Everything must either be, or not be.
These "laws" have different "philosophical" interpretations, but for our purpose it is enough to emphasize that (a) the second "law" represents a negative statement of the first, and the third represents a corollary of the former two; namely, no third is possible between two contradictories; and (b) the verb "to be," or "is," and "identity" play a most fundamental role in these formulations and the consequent semantic reactions.

"Identity" as a "principle" is defined as "absolute sameness in ‘all’ (‘every’) respects." It can never empirically be found in this world of ever-changing processes, nor on silent levels of our nervous systems. "Partial identity" or "identity in some respects" obviously represents only a self-contradiction in terms. Identification, as the term is used here, can be observed very low in the scale of life. It may be considered the first organic and/or organismal relating of "cause" and "effect," order, etc., when lower organisms responded effectively to signals "as if" they were actualities. On lower levels such organismal identifications have survival value. Laboratory observations show that the amoeba will exhibit reactions to artificial stimulations, without food value, similar to its reactions to stimuli with food value. The amoeba as a living bit of protoplasm has organismally identified an artificial, valueless-as-food, laboratory stimulus with "reality." Thus, although the reaction was there, the evaluation was inappropriate, which does not change the biological fact that without such identifications, or automatic response to a stimulus, no amoeba could survive.

Advancing in the scale of life, the identifications become fewer, the identification reactions become more flexible, "proper evaluation" increases, and the animals become more and more "intelligent," etc. If identifications are found in humans, they represent only a survival of primitive reactions and mis-evaluations, or cases of underdevelopment or regression, which are pathological for humans.

Many of our daily identifications are harmless, but in principle may, and often do, lead to disastrous consequences. Here I give three examples of identification, one by a psychiatric hospital patient, another by a "normal" student of mine, and a third by a group of natives in the Belgian Congo.

When I was studying psychiatry in St. Elizabeths Hospital, a doctor was showing me a catatonic patient who was standing rigid in a corner. For years he had not spoken and did not seem to understand when spoken to. He happened to have been born and spent part of his life in Lithuania, where the people had been trained for several generations by the czar to hate the Poles. The doctor, without that historical knowledge, introduced me to the catatonic by saying, "I want you to meet one of your compatriots, also a Pole." The patient was immediately at my throat, choking me, and it took two guards to tear him away.

Another example is of a young woman who was a student in my seminar some years ago. She held a responsible position, but in her whole orientation she was pathologically fearful to the point of having daydreams of murdering her father because he did not defend her against her mother, who had beaten her and nagged her. During her childhood her brother, who was a number of years older and the favorite of their mother, patronized her, and she hated him for this attitude.

In this particular interview I was especially pleased with her progress and so I was speaking to her smilingly. Suddenly she jumped at me and began to choke me. This lasted only about five seconds. Then it turned out that she identified my smile with the patronizing attitude of her brother, and so she was choking "her brother," but it happened to be my neck.

There is another incident I want to tell you about that will indicate the problems we have to deal with (35, p. 52). We have all seen a box of Aunt Jemima Pancake Flour, with the picture of "Aunt Jemima" on the front. Dr. William Bridges of the New York Zoological Society has told this story about it: A United States planter in the Belgian Congo had some 250 natives working for him. One day the local chieftain called him and said he understood that the planter was eating natives, and that if he did not stop, the chief would order his men to stop work. The planter protested that he did not eat natives and called his cook as a witness. But the cook insisted that he did indeed eat natives, though he refused to say whether they were fried, boiled, stewed, or what not. Some weeks later the mystery was cleared up when the planter was visited by a friend from the Sudan who had had a similar experience. Between them they figured out the answer. Both had received shipments of canned goods from the United States. The cans usually bore labels with pictures of the contents, such as cherries, tomatoes, peaches, etc. So when the cooks saw labels with the picture of "Aunt Jemima," they believed that an Aunt Jemima must be inside!

A structure of language perpetuating identification reactions keeps us on the level of primitive or prescientific types of evaluations, stressing similarities and neglecting (not consciously) differences. Thus, we do not "see" differences, and react as if two objects, persons, or happenings were "the same." Obviously this is not "proper evaluation" in accordance with our knowledge of 1950.

In analyzing the Aristotelian codifications, we have to deal also with two-valued, "either-or" types of orientation. Practically all humans, the most primitive peoples not excluded, who never heard of Greek philosophers, have some sort of "either-or" types of orientations. It becomes obvious that our relations to the world outside and inside our skins often happen to be, on the gross level, two-valued. For instance, we deal with day or night, land or water, etc. On the living level we have life or death, our heart beats or not, we breathe or suffocate, are hot or cold, etc. Similar relations occur on higher levels. Thus we have induction or deduction, materialism or idealism, capitalism or communism, Democrat or Republican, etc. And so on endlessly on all levels.

In living life many issues are not so sharp; therefore, a system which posits the general sharpness of "either-or" and so objectives "kind" ("properties," "qualities," etc.), is too distorted and unduly limited. It must be revised and made more flexible in terms of "degrees." The new orientation requires a physico-mathematical "way of thinking." Thus if, through our unconscious assumptions, inferences, etc., we evaluate the event, the submicroscopic process level, as if it were the same as the gross macroscopic object which we perceive before us, we remain in our two-valued rut of "thinking." On the macroscopic level, if there are two apples side by side, for example, we perceive that they may "touch" or "not touch" (see Figure 2). This language does not apply to the submicroscopic process level, where the problem of "touch" or "not touch" becomes a problem of degree. There are continual interactions between the two on submicroscopic levels which we cannot "perceive." In accordance with the assumptions of science1950, we must visualize a process.14 It follows that this is the way we should "think" about an apple, or a human being, or a theory.

Two Apples

There is no "perception" without interpolation and interpretation (21, pp. xxviii ff.). We cannot stop it. But we can visualize the latest achievements of mathematical physics and other sciences and read these into the silent unspeakable processes going on around us and in us.

The Aristotelian language structure also perpetuated what I call "elementalism," or splitting verbally what cannot be split empirically, such as the term mind by itself and the terms body, space, time, etc., by themselves. It was only a few years ago (1908) that the outstanding mathematician Minkowski said in his epoch-making address entitled "Space and Time," delivered at the 80th Assembly of German Natural Scientists and Physicians at Cologne, "The views of space and time which I wish to lay before you have sprung from the soil of experimental physics, and therein lies their strength. They are radical. Henceforth space by itself, and time by itself, are doomed to fade away into mere shadows, and only a kind of union of the two will preserve an independent reality" (32, p. 75).

This "union" of what used to be considered distinct separate entities had to be accompanied by a change in the structure of the language, in this particular case by the formulation of Minkowski’s new four-dimensional geometry of "space-time," in which "space" and "time" were permanently united by a simple grammatical hyphen, thus making the general theory of relativity possible.

The old elementalistic structure of language built for us a fictitious, anthropomorphic, animistic world not much different from that of the primitives. Modern science makes imperative a language structure which is non-elementalistic and does not split artificially what cannot be split empirically. Otherwise, we remain handicapped by neuro-evaluational blockages, lack of creativeness, lack of understanding, and lack of broad perspectives, etc., and disturbed by inconsistencies, paradoxes, etc.

The points I have touched upon here: namely, the subject-predicate type of structure, the "is" of identity, two-valued "either-or" orientations, and elementalism, are perhaps the main features of the Aristotelian language structure that molded our "perceptions" and hindered the scientific investigations which at this date have so greatly, in many instances, freed us from the older limitations and allowed us to "see the world anew." The "discovery of the obvious" is well known to be the most difficult, simply because the old habits of "thinking" have blocked our capacity to "see the old anew" (Leibnitz).

Non-Aristotelian Language Systems.—As usually happens with humans, when we come to an impasse and find that revisions and new approaches are necessary, we do something about it. In this case, with the tremendous advances in science, a structure of language which did not falsify modern discoveries became imperative. As I do not know of any other non-Aristotelian system at this date, I must ask the reader’s indulgence that I will have to speak rather exclusively about my own formulations. Many others have made applications, but here I will deal mostly with the theoretical side.

The new system is called "non-Aristotelian" since it includes the prevailing systems of evaluation as special cases within a more general system. Historically the Aristotelian system influenced the Euclidean system, and both underlie the consequent Newtonian system. The first non-Aristotelian revision parallels and is interdependent with non-Euclidean and non-Newtonian developments in modern mathematics and mathematical physics. To satisfy the need to unify exact sciences and general human orientations was one of the main aims of the non-Aristotelian revision, historically the latest, because of its much greater complexities (21, esp. p. 97).

The non-Aristotelian system grew out of the new evaluation in 1921 of human beings as a time-binding class of life (18). This evaluation is based on a functional rather than zoölogical or mythological approach and considers "man" as "an organism-as-a-whole-in-an-environment." Here the reactions of humans are not split verbally and elementalistically into separate "body," "mind," "emotions," "intellect," or different "senses," etc., by themselves, which affects the problems of "perception" when considered from a non-elementalistic point of view. With a time-binding consciousness, our criteria of values, and so behavior, are based on the study of human potentialities, not on statistical averages on the level of homo homini lupus drawn from primitive and/or un-sane evaluational reactions which are on record (23).

Common sense and ordinary observations make clear that the average so-called "normal" person is so extremely complex as to practically evade a nonsegmented, non-elementalistic analysis. In order to make such an analysis, it became necessary to investigate the main available forms of human reactions, such as mathematics, mathematical foundations, many branches of sciences, history, history of cultures, anthropology, philosophy, psychology, "logic," comparative religions, etc. It was found essential to concentrate on the study of two extremes of human psycho-logical reactions: (a) reactions at their best, because of their exceptional predictability, validity, and lasting constructiveness in the time-binding process, as in mathematics, the foundations of mathematics, mathematical physics, exact sciences, etc., which are manifestations of some of the deepest human psycho-logical reactions; and (b) reactions at their worst, as exemplified by psychiatric cases. In these investigations it became obvious that physico-mathematical methods have application to our daily life on all levels, linking science, and particularly the exact sciences, with problems of sanity in the sense of adjustment to "facts" and "reality."

In fact it was found that, to change the linguistic structure of our prevailing Aristotelian system, methods had to be taken bodily from mathematics. Thus, the structure of our language was changed through the use of extensional devices without changing the language itself. This will be explained briefly a little later.

When the premises of this new approach had been formulated, I found unexpectedly that they turned out to be a denial of the old "laws of thought" and the foundation for a non-Aristotelian system, the modus operandi of which I have named "General Semantics." The premises are very simple and may be stated by means of an analogy:

  1. A map is not the territory. (Words are not the things they represent.)
  2. A map covers not all the territory. (Words cannot cover all they represent.)
  3. A map is self-reflexive. (In language we can speak about language.)
We notice that the old prescientific assumptions violate the first two premises and disregard the third (20, pp. 750 ff.; 24).

The third premise turns out to be an application to everyday life of the extremely important work of Bertrand Russell, who attempted to solve self-contradictions in the foundations of mathematics by his theory of mathematical or logical types. In this connection the term self-reflexive was introduced by Josiah Royce. The theory of mathematical types made me aware of new kinds of linguistic perplexities to which practically no one, except a very few mathematicians, had paid attention before. The realization and analysis of such difficulties led me to the discovery that the principles of different orders of abstractions, multi-ordinality of terms, (over/under)-defined terms, second-order reactions ("thinking" about "thinking," doubt of doubt, fear of fear, etc.), thalamo-cortical interaction, the circularity of human knowledge, etc., may be considered as generalizing the theory of mathematical types.15

The degrees to which we are "conscious of abstracting," which includes, among others, the above, becomes a key problem in the way we evaluate and therefore to a large extent may affect the way in which we "perceive." If we can devise methods to increase our "consciousness of abstracting," this would eventually free us from the archaic, prescientific, and/or Aristotelian limitations inherent in the older language structures. The following structural expedients to achieve this I call the extensional devices, and the application of them automatically brings about an orientation in conformity with the latest scientific assumptions.

Extensional Devices. 1. Indexes, as in x1, x2, x3 ... xn; chair1, chair2, chair3 ... chairn; Smith1, Smith2, Smith3 ... Smithn, etc. The role of the indexes is to produce indefinitely many proper names for the endless array of unique individuals or situations with which we have to deal in life. Thus, we have changed a generic name into a proper name. If this indexing becomes habitual, as an integral part of our evaluating processes, the psycho-logical effect is very marked. We become aware that most of our "thinking" in daily life as well as in science is hypothetical in character, and the moment-to-moment consciousness of this makes us cautious in our generalizations, something which cannot be easily conveyed within the Aristotelian structure of language. A generic term (such as "chair") deals with classes and stresses similarities to the partial exclusion or neglect or disregard of differences. The use of the indexes brings to consciousness the individual differences, and thus leads to more appropriate evaluation, and so eventually "perception," in a given instance. The harmful identifications which result from the older language structures are often prevented or eliminated, and they may become supplanted by more flexible evaluations, based on a maximum probability orientation.

2. Chain-indexes, as in chair11 (in a dry attic), chair12 (in a damp cellar) ... chair1n; Smith11 (under normal conditions) or, say (on the ground), Smith12 (under extreme starvation conditions) or, say (in a plane at extreme altitudes). Smith1’s reactions are entirely different in many ways under the different conditions.

The role of the chain-indexes is to provide a technique for the introduction of environmental factors, conditions, situations, etc. On the human level, these would include psycho-logical, socio-cultural, etc., factors.

In a world where a given "cause" has or may have a multiplicity of "effects," each "effect" becomes or may become a "cause," and so on indefinitely. As we know from psychiatry, for instance, a single happening to an individual in childhood may start a chain-reaction series, and color and twist his psycho-logical or even psycho-somatic responses for the rest of his life. Chain-indexes also convey the general mechanisms of chain-reactions, which operate not only in atomic fission, but everywhere in this world. We are particularly interested here that this includes organic processes, human interrelations, and also the processes of time-binding, as expressed in the "spiral theory" of our time-binding energy (18, 1st ed., pp. 232 ff.).

Chain-indexes (indexing an index indefinitely) are not new in mathematics. They have been used automatically, but to the best of my knowledge a general pattern was not formulated for their application in everyday life. For an example of their use in a scientific problem, see "On the Use of Chain-indexing to Describe and Analyze the Complexities of a Research Problem in Bio-Chemistry" by Mortimer B. Lipsett (30).

To recapitulate, for better or worse, we are living in a world of processes, and so "cause-effect" chain-reactions, and we need to have linguistic means for ourselves and others to manage our evaluations in such a world. Perhaps the formulation of a linguistic chain-index pattern will help this.

3. Dates, as in Smith11920, Smith11940, Smith11950 ... Smith1t. The use of dates places us in a physico-mathematical, four-dimensional (at least) space-time world of motion and change, of growth, decay, transformation, etc., yet the representations of the processes can be arrested at any given point by linguistic means for purposes of analysis, clarity, communication, etc. This gives us techniques to handle dynamic actualities by static means.

Thus, it probably would make a good deal of difference whether a given automobile is a 1930 or a 1950 model, if we are interested in buying one. We are not as a rule similarly conscious of "dating" our theories, creeds, etc., however, although it is "well known" to what extent dates affect science, theories, books, different customs and cultures, people and all life included.

As another example, if we read the Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels (31) we find the word "modern" on many pages. It is easy to evaluate the "modern" as "1950," which apparently many readers do. My suggestion is that when we find that word we put on the margin by hand the date "1848." With that dating, many arguments become antiquated, and so obsolete, because we are living in the world of 1950, which is entirely different.

4. Etc. The use of "etc." as a part of our evaluating processes leads to awareness of the indefinitely many factors in a process which can never be fully known or perceived, facilitates flexibility, and gives a greater degree of conditionality in our semantic reactions. This device trains us away from dogmatism, absolutism, etc. We are reminded of the second premise (the map does not cover all the territory) and indirectly of the first premise (the map is not the territory).

Incidentally, in the "etc." we find the key to the solution of mathematical "infinity," with important psycho-logical implications (21, chap. xiv).

5. Quotes, as in "body," "mind," "emotion," "intellect," etc., forewarn us that elementalistic or metaphysical terms are not to be trusted, and that speculations based on them are misleading or dangerous.

6. Hyphens. The use of hyphens links linguistically the actual empirical complex inter-relatedness in this world. There are most important structural implications involving the hyphen which represent recent advances in sciences and other branches of knowledge.

For example, the hyphen (a) in space-time revolutionized physics, transformed our whole world-outlook, and became the foundation of non-Newtonian systems; (b) in psycho-biological marks sharply the difference between animals and much more complex humans (in my interpretation of it). This differentiation is also on the basis of the present non-Aristotelian system, where "man" as a "time-binder" is not merely biological, but psycho-biological. The hyphen (c) in psycho-somatic is slowly transforming medical understanding, practice, etc.; (d) in socio-culturalindicates the need for a new applied anthropology, human ecology, etc.; (e) in neuro-linguistic and neuro-semantic links our verbal, evaluational reactions with our neuro-physiological processes; (f) in organism-as-a-whole-in-an-environmentn, indicates that not even an "organism-as-a-whole" can exist without an environment, and is a fiction when considered in "absolute isolation."

In regard to "psycho-biological" and "psycho-somatic," the original workers have missed the importance of the hyphen and its implications and used the terms as one word. This becomes a linguistic misrepresentation, and these pioneers did not realize that they were hiding an extreme human complexity behind an apparent simplicity of a single term. They did this on the unjustified, mistaken assumption that one word implies unity; in the meantime, it is misleading to the public because it conceals the inter-acting complexities.

Theoretical and Practical Implications. The simplicity of the extensional devices is misleading, and a mere "intellectual understanding" of them, without incorporating them into our living evaluational processes, has no effect whatsoever. A recanalization and retraining of our usual methods of evaluation is required, and this is what is often very difficult for adults, although comparatively easy for children. The revised structure of language, as explained briefly here, has neuro-physiological effects, as it necessitates "thinking" in terms of "facts," or visualizing processes, before making generalizations. This procedure results in a slight neurological delay of reaction, facilitating thalamo-cortical integration, etc.

The old Aristotelian language structure, with its subject-predicate form, elementalism, etc., hindered rather than induced such desirable neuro-physiological functioning. It led instead to verbal speculations divorced from actualities, inducing eventually "split personalities" and other pathological reactions.

We may recall the pertinent statement by the outstanding mathematician, Hermann Weyl, who wrote in his "The Mathematical Way of Thinking": "Indeed, the first difficulty the man in the street encounters when he is taught to think mathematically is that he must learn to look things much more squarely in the face; his belief in words must be shattered; he must learn to think more concretely" (47).

Healthy normal persons naturally evaluate to some degree in accordance with the extensional methods and with some "natural order of evaluation," etc., without being aware of it. The structural formulation of these issues, however, and the corresponding revision of our old language structure, make possible their analysis and teachability, which is of paramount importance in our human process of time-binding.

There are many indications so far that the use of the extensional devices and even a partial "consciousness of abstracting" have potentialities for our general human endeavor to understand ourselves and others. The extent of the revision required if we are to follow through from the premises as previously stated is not yet generally realized. Our old habits of evaluation, ingrained for centuries if not millenniums, must first be re-evaluated and brought up to date in accordance with modern knowledge.

In what way does a non-Aristotelian form of representation bring about a change in evaluating processes and effect deep psychological changes? We have seen how the structure of a language often determines the way we look at the world, other persons, and ourselves. My experiences, and the experiences of many others, confirm that we can and do evaluate stimuli differently as the result of the application of the non-Aristotelian extensional methods.

In practically all fields of human endeavor there are indications that new, more flexible, etc., attitudes can be brought about, with resulting influences on the interrelationships of the given individual with himself and others. A majority of these are in the field of education, but they include fields as diverse as psycho-somatic medicine, psychiatry, psychotherapy, law, economics, business, architecture, art, etc., political economy, politics, social anthropology, reading difficulties, etc.

The non-Aristotelian principles have been utilized in the United States Senate Naval Committee in connection with extremely important national problems such as "Establishing a Research Board for National Security" (45, p. 6), "A Scientific Evaluation of the Proposal that the War and Navy Departments be Merged into a Single Department of National Defense" (46), "Training of Officers for the Naval Service" (42, pp. 55-57). To the best of my knowledge today even on some ships in active duty the personnel are trained in some principles of general semantics (see also 33, esp. chap. i).

One of the main characteristics of the differences in orientation is that the Aristotelian language form fosters evaluating "by definition" (or "intension"), whereas the non-Aristotelian or physico-mathematical orientation involves evaluating "by extension," taking into consideration the actual "facts" in the particular situation confronting us.

For example, some older physicians still attempt to cure "a disease" and not the actual patient in front of them whose psycho-somatic malfunctioning and manifestations, observed or inferred from the patient’s behavior or record, involve a multiplicity of individual factors not covered by any possible definition of "a disease." Fortunately, today the majority of physicians try to cure the patient, not "a disease."

In his paper on "The Problem of Stuttering" Professor Wendell Johnson (13) speaks of the significance of the diagnosis of a child as "a stutterer":

Having called the child a "stutterer" (or the equivalent), they react less and less to the child and more and more to what they have called him. In spite of quite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, they assume that the child either cannot speak or has not learned. So they proceed to "help" him speak.... And when, "in spite of all their help" he "stutters worse than ever," they worry more and more.... There has been and still is a great deal of controversy among speech pathologists as to the most probable cause of stuttering.... But no one outside of general semantics has ever suggested that the diagnosis of stuttering was a cause of it, probably because no one outside of general semantics has appeared to realize the degree to which two persons talking about "stuttering" could be at variance in what they were talking about, and could be influencing what they were talking about. The uncertainty principle which expresses the effect of the observer on what he observes can be extended to include the effect of the speaker on what he names (pp. 189-93).16
Changes in attitudes, in our ways of evaluating, involve intimately "perceptual processes" at different levels. Making us conscious of our unconscious assumptions is essential; it is involved in all psychotherapy and should be a part of education in general. In this connection the extremely important and relevant work of Dr. Adelbert Ames, Jr., at the Hanover Institute and Princeton University, etc., is very useful in bringing about such consciousness. For example, Dr. J. S. A. Bois (4), consulting psychologist in Montreal and past president of the Canadian Psychological Association, in his report on "Executive Training and General Semantics" writes of his class in a basic training course in the non-Aristotelian methodology to seven key men of an industrial organization:
I proceeded to disequilibrate their self-assurance by demonstrating that our sensory perceptions are not reliable.... We ended by accepting the fact that the world which each one of us perceives is not an "objective" world of happenings, but a "subjective" world of happenings-meanings.

They were quite ready to accept these new views, but I felt that it was necessary to make them conscious of the fact that it is not sufficient to "understand" certain principles and to accept them "intellectually." It is imperative to change our habitual methods of thinking, and this is not so easy as it seems. To bring this last point home, I explained to them the senary number notation system, and gave them some homework on it: making a multiplication table, long additions, subtractions, multiplications and divisions. The following day they were conscious that it is annoying, irritating, and not so easy to pass from one method of thinking to another. They realized that keeping accounts in the senary system would mean a revolution in the office and the factory, would demand new gears in the calculating machines, etc., etc. I felt the stage was set for the main part of the course.... It is impossible to evaluate quantitatively the success or failure of such a course. The fact that the top group wanted it to be given to their immediate subordinates is already an indication that they found it helpful.17

Bois reported further that the men made their own evaluations in terms of increased efficiency, better "emotional" control and maturity, better techniques of communication among themselves and with their subordinates, etc.

Observations made of a formalized group procedure at Northwestern University by Liston Tatum suggest that when people are forced to follow the "natural order of evaluation" (evaluating by facts first, then making generalizations) they talk to each other differently (43).

The effect of language on our visual evaluations is shown in a study reported by L. Carmichael, H. P. Hogan, and A. A. Walter (5, pp. 74-82) entitled "An Experimental Study of the Effect of Language on the Reproduction of Visually Perceived Form." It was investigated whether the reproduction of visual forms was affected when a set of twelve figures was presented with a name assigned to each figure. The subjects were to reproduce the figures as accurately as possible after the series was over. The same visual figure was presented to all subjects, but one list of names was given to the figures when they were presented to one group of subjects, and the other list of names accompanied the figures given to a second group. For example: kidney bean canoe. The results indicated that "the present experiment tends to confirm the observations of previous experimenters in this field, and to show that, to some extent at least, the reproduction of forms may be determined by the nature of words presented orally to subjects at the time that they are first perceiving specific visual forms."

Professor Irving Lee has been trying out the above procedures on students in his classes in general semantics at Northwestern University and reports (in a personal communication to me) that so far his students do not react as the subjects in the above experiment did, but that his students "drew the pictures far less influenced by the labels applied."

Of his teaching of non-Aristotelian methodology to policemen, Lee has written a preliminary report of a three-year pilot study with 140 policemen, from patrolmen to captains, enrolled in the Traffic Police Administration Course in the Northwestern University Traffic Institute (27). From the reports of the instructors and interviews and information from a cross-section of the students after completion of the course, Lee writes, the results indicate that the policemen saw themselves and their work in the school in quite different light after advice on the extensionalizing processes.

Psychologists and others may be interested in the following personal communication giving preliminary data which indicate new fields of investigation in criminology, personality development, etc. Dr. Douglas M. Kelley, professor of criminology at the University of California at Berkeley, has recently written me:

At present I am concerned with the introduction of general semantics into two areas—interrogation and personality development. The first field is covered in a course which I give for 3 units, Detection of Deception, which consists to begin with of a half semester of straight general semantics, beginning with a discussion on the futility of words in communication and carrying right through to the various devices. The latter half of the course is concerned with the emotional relation of words as demonstrated by various types of lie detectors, and with report writing, where again the problems of multi-ordinality, etc., are dealt with at great length. A survey of all the existent literature indicates a complete lack of information in this area, and this approach purely based on your work reports an entirely new notion and opens up interrogative techniques and vistas hitherto unknown. It is my opinion from talking with a number of police officers that this approach will yield one of the most valuable results achieved from application of general semantics. In addition, I am teaching the same material to the Berkeley police force.

In my course on the Psychiatric Aspects of Criminology, a large amount of discussion is included, based upon your work, as a method of indicating how and why people behave like human beings, and what possibly can be done about it. The students are all most favorably inclined toward the general semantics orientation, and I expect within a year or so to have a real program developed.18

During the Second World War Kelley19 employed the basic principles of non-Aristotelian methodology with over seven thousand cases in the European Theater of Operations, reported on in his article "The Use of General Semantics and Korzybskian Principles as an Extensional Method of Group Psychotherapy in Traumatic Neuroses" (15). The principles were applied (as individual therapies and as group therapies) at every treatment level from the forward area to the rear-most echelon, in front line aid stations, in exhaustion centers, and in general hospitals. "That they were employed with success is demonstrated by the fact that psychiatric evacuations from the European Theater were held to a minimum," Dr. Kelley states (16, pp. vi-vii). "[The] other techniques are, of course, of value but these two simple devices [indexing and dating] proved remarkably potent in this type of neurotic reaction" (15, p. 7).

An example of the effect of indexing and dating, the main devices by which the structure of our language is made similar in structure to the world, may be seen by the reactions of a veteran from the Pacific Theater of War. This veteran was a student of Professor Elwood Murray at the University of Denver. I quote from the veteran’s report:

An example of pure identification comes out in the veteran’s dislike for rice. His first view of the enemy dead was that of a Jap soldier which was in the process of deterioration. The bag of rice the soldier had been carrying was torn open and grains of rice were scattered over the body mixed in with maggots. When the veteran, to this day, sees rice, the above described scene is vivid and he imagines grains of rice moving in his dish. To overcome this, he has eaten rice several times trying to remember the rice before him is not the same as that on the body. Though the food is not relished, he has succeeded in overcoming the vomiting reflex at the sight of rice (19, p. 262).
These mechanisms of evaluating or "perceiving" similarities and neglecting, or not being fully aware of, the differences are potentially present in every one of us, but usually not in such extreme degrees. This involves the lack of differentiation between the silent and verbal levels and nonawareness of our processes of abstracting. The different orders of abstractions are identified, an inference is evaluated as if it were a description, a description as if it were the nonverbal "object" our nervous system constructed, and an "object" as if it were the nonverbal, submicroscopic, dynamic process.

In our non-Aristotelian work we deal very little, if at all, with "perceptions" as such. As our attitudes, however, are bound to be involved with our "perceptions," it would appear that the investigation of the structure of language becomes relevant indeed.

A great deal of work has been and is being done in struggling with the problem of prejudices. Analyses show that the mechanisms of prejudices involve identifications of verbal with nonverbal levels. That is, an individual or group is evaluated by the label and not by the extensional facts (26, pp. 17-28; 28). In a discussion of mechanisms of prejudice and a report on his teaching of general semantics to approximately six hundred people where he stressed the confusion of observation and inferential statements, the response to labels as if they labeled more than aspects, etc., Lee reports one of his findings as follows:

Teachers reported greatly reduced tension when students came to apply what they heard to differences of opinion in the class discussions. The questions "Could they be called anything else?" "Is that an inference?" "Is that what could be observed?" put to a member making a sharp statement created a kind of game atmosphere. An example typical of many occurred in one discussion concerned with what people say about Negroes. Two of the participants most vocal in their assertions that "Negroes won’t take advantage of education even if made available" were brought to scrutinize those assertions without the antagonism that results in the usual pro and con debating (28, p. 32).
It is of particular interest to consider the methods of the magicians, who have highly developed their art and even science for purposes of entertainment. Their methods of magic, however, have a deep underlying psychology of deception, self-deception, and misdirection. They have their own literature, so important for psychology, psychiatry, and daily life.

I quote from the paper by Dr. Douglas Kelley 20 entitled "The Psycho-logical Basis of Misdirection: An Extensional Non-aristotelian Method for Prevention of Self-deception" ( 14, pp. 53-60) :

While the artist in conjuring never hypnotizes his audience, not even in India, he accomplishes much the same results by his ability to create illusions by giving a wrong direction to their expectations and assumptions. By this means he can make his public fail to see what is in front of their very eyes, or believe that they see what is not there (p. 53). . . . A general though unconscious belief in the three aristotelian "laws of thought" plays a part of major importance in the success of such misdirection, since there is a general tendency to react in terms of those "laws."
For instance, Dr. Kelley explains,
If a hat is faked with a false bottom, it may be shown to be apparently empty by the camouflaged lining in the bottom. If it is then tossed about in a reckless fashion, it simulates an empty hat since nothing drops out. Since, according to the two-valued "law of the excluded middle," an existent thing has certain "properties" or does not have them, and since most people following this law expect to see objects if they are present in a hat and expect them to fall out when it is inverted, they are easily fooled by the misdirection employed and consequently are unable to predict the appearance of the rabbit which is eventually drawn forth by the conjurer (p. 57).
Magicians find that children are much more difficult to deceive than adults, as the structural implications of our language have not yet to such an extent put their limitations on the ability of children to "perceive."

The Circularity of Human Knowledge

The electronic or electro-colloidal processes are operating on submicroscopic levels. From the indefinitely many characteristics of these processes, our nervous system abstracts and integrates a comparatively few, which we may call the gross or macroscopic levels, or the "objective" levels, all of them not verbal. The microscopic levels must be considered as instrumentally aided "sense data" and I will not deal with them here. Then, abstracting further, first on the labeling or descriptive levels, we pass to the inferential levels, and we can try to convey to the other fellow our "feeling about feeling," "thinking about thinking," etc., which actually happen on the silent levels. Finally, we come to the point where we need to speak about speaking.

Scientifically it is known that the submicroscopic levels are not "perceptible" or "perceptual." We do not and cannot "perceive" the "electron," but we observe actually the results of the eventual "electronic processes." That is, we observe the "effects" and assume the "causes." In other words, as explained before, our submicroscopic knowledge is hypothetical in character. The world behaves as if its mechanisms were such as our highest abstractions lead us to believe, and we will continue to invent theories with their appropriate terminologies to account for the intrinsic mechanisms of the world we live in, ourselves included. We read into nature our own latest highest abstractions, thus completing the inherent circularity of human knowledge, without which our understanding of nature is impossible.

Because of what was explained in the first part of this chapter, and aided by the extensional methods and devices, we must come to the conclusion that inferential knowledge is often much more reliable at a date, after cross-verification, than the original "sense data," with which historically we had to start and which have been found to be wanting.

In scientizing, the inferential data must converge. If they do not, we usually have to revise our theories. It is well known that when a new factor is discovered our older generalizations have to be revised for the sake of the integration of our knowledge (21, pp. xxviii ff.). 21

Our inferences, as abstractions on other levels than the "sense data," may also be on lower or higher orders of abstractions. The structure of our recent knowledge is such that we read into, or project onto, the silent, submicroscopic process levels the highest abstractions yet made by man, our hypotheses, inferences, etc.

Thus, all our fundamental deeper knowledge must be, and can never be anything but, hypothetical, as what we see, hear, feel, speak about, or infer, is never it, but only our human abstractions about "it." What kind of linguistic form our inferential knowledge is cast in thus becomes of utmost importance. As Edward Sapir has put it, "We see and hear and otherwise experience very largely as we do because the language habits of our community predispose certain choices of interpretation" (41, p. 245).

This circular process of our nervous systems in inter-action with the environments turns out to be a "feedback system," a most happy term which has been introduced lately and which exactly depicts the situation. According to Lawrence Frank (10):

We are shifting our focus of interest from static entities to dynamic processes and the order of events as seen in a context or field where there are inter-reactions and circular processes in operation.... The concept of teleological mechanisms, however it may be expressed in different terms, may be viewed as an attempt to escape from these older mechanistic formulations that now appear inadequate, and to provide new and more fruitful conceptions and more effective methodologies for studying self-regulating processes, self-orienting systems and organisms, and self-directing personalities.... Thus, the terms feedback, servomechanisms, circular systets, and circular processes may be viewed as different but equivalent expressions of much the same basic conception (10, pp. 190, 191). 22
The mechanisms of "feedback" have been brought to their culmination in humans, and the process of time-binding itself may be considered as an unprecedented, unique organic spiraling of feedbacks. In the exponential "spiral theory" given in my Manhood of Humanity (18, pp. 232 ff.), our time-binding capacity is obviously based on feedback mechanisms, chain-reactions, etc., without which humans as humans could not exist. The new understanding of humans as a time-binding class of life, free from the older crippling mythological or zoological assumptions, is one of the pivotal points toward a new evaluation of the unique role of humans in this world. It encourages or sponsors better understanding of ourselves, not only in relation to the world at large, but also toward ourselves.

I believe it is essential to begin with an entirely new functional formulation, with the implications which this involves for the study of "man" as "an organism-as-a-whole-in-an-environment," including our neuro-semantic and neuro-linguistic environments as environment.

In closing, I can find no more fitting summary than to quote the passages given below, which so beautifully and profoundly express the foundation of human knowledge.

It was Cassius J. Keyser who said:

... for it is obvious, once the fact is pointed out, that the character of human history, the character of human conduct, and the character of all our human institutions depend both upon what man is and in equal or greater measure upon what we humans think man is (17, p. 424).23
This inescapable characteristic of human living has been formulated differently, but just as aptly, by Dr. Alexis Carrel:
To progress again, man must remake himself. And he cannot remake himself without suffering. For he is both the marble and the sculptor (6, p. 274).
Arthur S. Eddington expresses himself in different words:
And yet, in regard to the nature of things, this knowledge is only an empty shell—a form of symbols. It is knowledge of structural form, and not knowledge of content. All through the physical world runs that unknown content, which must surely be the stuff of our consciousness. Here is a hint of aspects deep within the world of physics, and yet unattainable by the methods of physics. And, moreover, we have found that where science has progresses the farthest, the mind has but regained from nature that which the mind has put into nature.

We have found a strange foot-print on the shores of the unknown. We have devised profound theories, one after another, to account for its origin. At last, we have succeeded in reconstructing the creature that made the footprint. And Lo! it is our own (9, p. 200).24

BIBLIOGRAPHY

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13.JOHNSON, W. The problem of stuttering from the point of view of general semantics. In M. Kendig (ed.), Papers 2d Amer. Cong. General Semantics. Lakeville, Conn.: Institute of General Semantics, 1943.

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15. KELLEY, D. M. The use of general semantics and Korzybskian principles as an extensional method of group psychotherapy in traumatic neuroses. Lakeville, Conn.: Institute of General Semantics, 1948. (Mimeographed.)

16. KELLEY, D. M. Report in Preface. In A. Korzybski, Science and sanity: an introduction to non-aristotelian systems and general semantics (3d ed.). Lakeville, Conn.: International Non-aristotelian Library Publishing Co., 1948.

17.KEYSER, C. J. Mathematical philosophy: a study of fate and freedom. New York: E. P. Dutton & Co., Inc., 1922.

18. KORZYBSKI, A. Manhood of humanity: The science and art of human engineering (lst ed.). New York: E. P. Dutton & Co., Inc., 1921. Same (2d ed.). Lakeville, Conn.: International Non-aristotelian Library Publishing Co., 1950.

19. KORZYBSKI, A. A veteran’s re-adjustment and extensional methods, Etc.: A Review of General Semantics, 1946, 3, 254-64.

20. KORZYBSKI, A. A non-aristotelian system and its necessity for rigour in mathematics and physics. In Science and sanity: an introduction to non-aristotelian systems and general semantics (3d ed.) by the same author. (Supplement III, first edition of Science and Sanity, 1933.) Lakeville, Conn.: International Non-aristotelian Library Publishing Co., 1948. Supplement III, pp. 747-61.

21. KORZYBSKI, A. Science and sanity: an introduction to non-aristotelian systems and general semantics (1st ed., 1933; 2d ed., 1941 ; 3d ed., 1948). Lakeville,Conn.:International Non-aristotelian Library Publishing Co.

22. KORZYBSKI, A. Time-binding: the general theory, Two Papers: 1924-1926. Lakeville, Conn.: Institute of General Semantics, 1949.

23. KORZYBSKI, A. What I believe. In Manhood of humanity (2d ed.) by the same author. Lakeville, Conn.: Institute of General Semantics, 1950.

24. KORZYBSKI, A., & KENDIG, M. Foreword. In A theory of meaning analyzed: Critique of I. A. Richards’ Theory of Language by Thomas C. Pollock, and J. Gordon Spaulding, Elementalism: the effect of an implicit postulate of identity on I. A. Richards’ Theory of poetic value. Gen. Semantics Monogr. No. III. Lakeville, Conn.: Institute of General Semantics, 1942.

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27. LEE, I. J. The assumptions of the arrogant. Education, 1950, 70, 509-11.

28. LEE, I. J. How do you talk about people? ("Freedom Pamphlets.") New York: American Education Fellowship, 1950.

29. LÉVY-BRUHL, L. Primitive mentality. New York: The Macmillan Co., 1923.

30. LIPSETT, M. On the use of chain-indexing to describe and analyze the complexities of a research problem in bio-chemistry. General Semantics Bull., 1949-50, 1 & 2, pp. 8, 9.

31. MARX, K., & ENGELS, F. Manifesto of the communist party. Translated by S. MOORE. New York: International Publishers Co., Inc., 1932.

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38. RUSSELL, B. Introduction to mathematical philosophy (2d ed.). NewYork: The Macmillan Co., 1920.

39. RUSSELL, B. The analysis of matter. New York: Harcourt, Brace & Co., Inc., 1927.

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ADDITIONAL READINGS

CANTRIL,H., AMES, A., JR., HASTORF, A. H., & ITTELSON, W. H. Psychology and scientific research. Science, 1949, 110, 461-64, 491-97, 517-22.

CASSIRER, E. Substance and function and Einstein’s theory of relativity. Translated by W. C. SWABEY and MARIE C. SWABEY. La Salle, Ill.: The Open Court Publishing Co., 1923.

FARRINGTON, B. Greek science: its meaning for us (Thales to Aristotle). Harmondsworth, England: Penguin Books, 1944.

FRANK, P. Einstein: his life and times. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 1947. FRANK, P. Modern science and its philosophy. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1949.

GEORGE, W. H. The scientist in action: a scientific study of his methods. New York: Emerson Books, Inc., 1938.

HALL, R. A., JR. Leave your language alone! Ithaca, N. Y.: Linguistica, 1950.

KEYSER, C. J. The human worth of rigorous thinking. New York: Columbia University Press, 1925.

KEYSER, C. J. Mathematics as a culture clue; and other essays. New York: Scripta Mathematica, Yeshiva University, 1947.

LEE, I. J. The language of wisdom and folly. New York: Harper & Bros., 1949.

LÉVY-BRUHL, L. How natives think. Translated by LILIAN A. CLARE. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 1923.

MEYERS, R. The nervous system and general semantics. III. Perceptual response and the neurology of abstraction. Etc.: A Review of General Semantics, 1949, 6, 169-96.

WIENER, N. Cybernetics. New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 1948.


1 - Alfred Korzybski died on March 1, 1950, while doing the final editing of this paper. Miss Charlotte Schuchardt, his editorial secretary, in a letter made the following statement regarding the final form of the manuscript: "It should be stated that he did not complete the final editing of this paper. The editing which I did after his death was minor, and I am grateful for the assistance of some members of the Institute staff. Yet I must assume the responsibility both for the slight editing, and also, particularly, for not making editorial changes which he might have made."

2 - On the special uses of hyphens and other printed symbols as "extensional devices" in this chapter, see pages 28-29.

3 - By permission of Princeton University Press.

4 - Arabic-numbered page references to Korzybski's Science and Sanity are correct for all editions. References in Roman numerals are to the third edition; for corresponding pages in the second edition, subtract five.

5 - By permission of Yale University Press and Mrs Toni Cassirer.

6 - For the research supporting this theory, see Korzybski's Science and Sanity.

7 - By permission of Journal of Philosophy and the author.

8 - Among the documentations of this are (25) and other works by Dorothy D. Lee; also (44).

9 - The following note was supplied by Miss Schuchardt: "It may be clarifying to elaborate briefly on some of Korzybski's views on primitive types of orientation and his use of the term 'primitive,' as I interpret them. It seems to me that he refers to certain complex socio-cultural, psycho-logico-linguistic, etc., levels of development and their attendant orientations found in different areas in the world. Considering our human class of life as a whole, we may assume that developments from 'primitive' to more advanced types of 'pre-scientific,' to 'scientific 1950' orientations, proceeded in degrees here and there, not linearly but, rather, 'spirally' in accordance with our understanding of ourselves and our environments. The developments of one culture were usually eventually intermingled with and carried along with transformations by other cultures.

"The reader is referred to (18), in which Korzybski first formulated his new definition of human beings as a 'time-binding class of life,' unique in that one generation can (potentially) begin where the former left off. This process can be handicapped or stifled in many ways. Korzybski stated in another context that 'The human understanding of time-binding as explained here establishes the deductive grounds for a full-fledged "science of man," where both inductive and deductive methods are utilized.... I had to include neuro-linguistic and neuro-semantic (evaluational) environments as environments, and also had to consider geographic, physico-chemical, economic, political, ecological, socio-cultural, etc., conditions as factors which mould human personalities, and so even group behaviour' (23).

"So far the highest orders of abstractions made by man, and those giving the greatest degree of predictability, may be observed in mathematical forms of representations (such as the tensor calculus). To bring to fuller expression the constructive potentialities of man in his ethical, Socioeconomic, etc., activities, and so keep pace with the achievements in mathematics, science, etc., and their technological consequences, was one of the main aims of Korzybski beginning with Manhood of Humanity in 1921.

"There seems no doubt that some primitive types of evaluation still survive in the orientations of most people in present-day Western cultures (and perhaps other cultures also, of which I feel incompetent to speak), involving dichotomies and conflicting premises, as in 'science versus religion,' etc. (23).

"I am aware that there are some who take exception to the findings of Lévy-Bruhl, Boas, and others. Korzybski, as far as I know, felt that they conveyed something of value in the analysis of these problems which still remain problems, and will continue to be analyzed with different interpretations and terminologies. C.S."

10 - By permission of Harcourt, Brace & Co., Inc.

11 - From A. N. Whitehead, Process and Reality. Copyright 1929 by The Macmillan Co., and used with their permission and that of Mrs. A. N. Whitehead.

12 - By permission of Cambridge University Press and T. North Whitehead.

13 - Reprinted from The Technology Review, April, 1941, edited at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

14 - For the significance of the date in small figures, see pages 191-92.

15 - In this connection see the following from Korzybski's paper on Time-binding: The General Theory (1926): "In my independent inquiry I came across difficulties and had to solve them or quit. My solution is given in the G. T. [General Theory] and the A. [Anthropometer or Structural Differential]. It is found that this theory covers the theory of mathematical types invented by Russell.... I knew about the theory of types long before.... I could not accept the theory of types because it is not general enough and does not fit in my system; as far as my work is concerned I had to dismiss it. Scientific method led to a solution of my difficulties; and perhaps no one was more surprised and happy than myself when I found that the G. T. covers the theory of types" (22, second paper, p. 7).

See also Science and Sanity, p. 429: "The author was pleasantly surprised to find that after his -system was formulated, this ... non-el [non-elementalistic] theory covers the theory of mathematical types and generalizes it" (21). C. S.

16 - By permission of M. Kendig, editor, Papers from the Second American Congress on General Semantics (Lakeville, Conn.: Institute of General Semantics, 1943), and of the author.

17 - By permission of J. S. A. Bois.

18 - By permission of Douglas M. Kelley, M.D.

19 - During the war Dr. Kelley was Chief Consultant in Clinical Psychology and Assistant Consultant in Psychiatry to the European Theater of Operations; also Chief Psychiatrist in charge of the prisoners at Nuremberg.

20 - By permission of M. Kendig, editor, Papers from the Second American Congress on General Semantics (Lakeville, Conn.: Institute of General Semantics, 1943), and of the author.

21 - See (21, pp. xxviii ff.).

22 - By permission of Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences and the author.

23 - By permission of Mrs. C. J. Keyser.

24 - By permission of Cambridge University Press.


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