Cassius Jackson KEYSER



Korzybski's Concept of Man1


A FEW years ago our lives were lapt round with a civilization so rich and comfortable in manifold ways, so omnipresent, so interwoven with our whole environment, that we did not reflect upon it but habitually took it all for granted as we take for granted the great gifts of Nature,-land and sea, light and sky and the common air. We were hardly aware of the fact that Civilization is literally a product of human labor and time; we had not thought deeply upon the principle of its genesis nor seriously sought to discover the laws of its growth; we had not been schooled to reflect that we who were enjoying it had neither produced it nor earned its goods; we had not been educated to perceive that we have it almost solely as a bounty from the time and toil of by-gone generations; we had not been disciplined to feel the mighty obligation which the great inheritance imposes upon us as at once the posterity of the dead and the ancestry of the yet unborn. We had been born in the midst of a great civilization, and, in accord with our breeding, we lived in it and upon it like butterflies in a garden of flowers, not to say as "maggots in a cheese."

Since then a change has come. The [First] World War awoke us. The awakening was rude but it was effectual. Everywhere men and women are now thinking as never before, and they are thinking about realities for they know that there is no other way to cope with the great problems of a troubled world. They have learned, too, that, of all the realities with which we humans have to deal, the supreme reality is Man; and so the questions that men and women are everywhere asking are questions regarding Man, for they are questions of ethics, of social institutions, of education, of economics, of philosophy, of industrial methods, of politics and government. The questions have led to some curious results,-to doctrines that alarm, to proposals that startle,-and we are wont to call them radical, revolutionary, red. Is it true that our thinking has been too radical ? How the question would have made Plato smile-Plato who had seen his venerated teacher condemned to death for radical criticism. No, the trouble is that, in the proper sense of that much abused term, our thought has not been radical enough. Our questionings have been eager and wide-ranging but our thought has been shallow. It has been passionate and it has been daring but it has not been deep. For, if it had been deep, we could not have failed, as we have failed, to ask ourselves the fundamental question: What is that in virtue of which human beings are human? What is the distinctive place of our human kind in the hierarchy of the world's life ? What is Man ?

I have called the question "fundamental"-it is fundamental-the importance of a right answer is sovereign-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.

Why, then, have we not asked the question? The reason doubtless is that we have consciously or unconsciously taken it for granted that we knew the answer. For why enquire when we are sure we know ?

But have we known? Is our assumption of knowledge in this case just ? Have we really known, do we know now, what is in fact the idiosyncrasy of the human class of life ? Do we know critically what we, as representatives of man, really are ? Here it is essential to distinguish; we are speaking of knowledge; there is a kind of knowledge that is instinctive,- instinctive knowledge,-immediate inner knowledge by instinct,-the kind of knowledge we mean when we say that we know how to move our arms or that a fish knows how to swim or that a bird knows how to fly. I do not doubt that, in this sense of knowing, we do know what human beings are; it is the kind of knowledge that a fish has of what fishes are or that a bird has of what birds are. But there is another kind of knowledge,-scientific knowledge,- knowledge of objects by analyzing them,-objective knowledge by concepts,-conceptual knowledge of objects; it is the kind of knowledge we mean when we say that we know or do not know what a plant is or what a number is. Now, we do not suppose fish to have this sort of knowledge of fish; we do not suppose a bird can have a just conception,-nor, properly speaking, any conception,-of what a bird is. We are speaking of concepts, and our question, you see, is this: Have we humans a just Concept of Man? If we have, it is reasonable to suppose that we inherited it, for so important a thing, had it originated in our time, would have made itself heard of as a grave discovery. So I say that, if we have a just concept of man, it must have come down to us entangled in the mesh of our inherited opinions and must have been taken in, as such opinions are usually taken in, from the common air, by a kind of "cerebral suction."

If we discover that we have never had a just concept of man, the fact should not greatly astonish us, for the difficulty is unique; man, you see, is to be both the knower and the object known; the difficulty is that of a knower having to objectify itself and having then to form a just concept of what the object is.

In saying that in the thought of our time the great question has not been asked, I have now to make one important exception and, so far as I know, only one.2 I refer to Count Alfred Korzybski, the Polish engineer. In his momentous book (The Manhood of Humanity: The Science and Art of Human Engineering3), he has both propounded the question and submitted an answer that is worthy of the serious attention of every serious student, whatever his field of study. It is the aim of this lecture to present the answer and to examine it by help of the Theory of Logical Types, the Theory of Classes, and the author's closely allied notion of "Dimensions."

Let me say at the outset that one who would read the book understandingly must come to it prepared to grapple with a central concept, a concept whose role among the other ideas in the work is like that of the sun in the solar system. It happens, therefore, that readers of the book, or of any other book built about a central concept, fall into three mutually exclusive classes:

(I) The class of those who miss the central concept-(I have known a learned historian to miss it) -not through any fault of their own,-they are often indeed well meaning and amiable people,-but simply because they are not qualified for conceptual thinking save that of the commonest type.

(II) The class of those who seem to grasp the central concept and then straightway show by their manner of talk that they have not really grasped it but have at most got hold of some of its words. Intellectually such readers are like the familiar type of undergraduate who "flunks" his mathematical examinations but may possibly "pull through" in a second attempt and so is permitted, after further study, to try again.

(III) The class of those who firmly seize the central concept and who by meditating upon it see more and more clearly the tremendous reach of its implications. If it were not for this class, there would be no science in the world nor genuine philosophy. But the other two classes are not aware of the fact for they are merely "verbalists" In respect of such folk, the "Behaviorist" school of psychology is right for in the psychology of classes (I) and (II) there is no need for a chapter on "Thought Processes"- it is sufficient to have one on "The Language Habit."

What is that central concept ? What is Korzybski's Concept of Man? I wish to present it as clearly as I can. It is a concept defining man in terms of Time. "Humanity," says the author, "is the time-binding class of life." What do the words mean? What is meant by time-binding or the binding of time ? The meaning, which is indeed momentous, will be clearer to us if we prepare for it by a little preliminary reflection.

Long ages ago there appeared upon this planet- no matter how-the first specimens of our human kind. What was their condition? It requires some meditation and some exercise of imagination to realize keenly what it must have been. Of knowledge, in the sense in which we humans now use the term, they had none-no science, no philosophy, no art, no religion; they did not know what they were nor where they were; they knew nothing of the past, for they had no history, not even tradition; they could not foretell the future, for they had no knowledge of natural law; they had no capital,-no material or spiritual wealth,-no inheritance, that is, from the time and toil of by-gone generations; they were without tools, without precedents, without guiding maxims, without speech, without any light of human experience; their ignorance, as we understand the term, was almost absolute. And yet, compared with the beasts, they were miracles of genius, for they contrived to do the most wonderful of all things that have happened on our globe-they initiated, I mean, the creative movement which their remote descendants call Civilization.

Why? What is the secret? Have you ever tried to find it? The secret is that those rude animal-resembling, animal-hunting, animal-hunted ancestors of ours were a new kind of creature in the world-a new kind because endowed with a strange new gift -a strange new capacity or power-a strange new energy, let us call it. And it is in the world today. What is it? We know it partly by its effects and partly by its stirring within us for as human beings, as representatives of Man, we all of us have it in some measure. It is the energy that invents-that produces instruments, ideas, institutions and doctrines; it is, moreover, the energy that, having invented, criticizes, then invents again and better, thus advancing in excellence from creation to creation endlessly. Be good enough to reflect and to reflect again upon the significance of those simple words: invents; having invented, criticizes; invents again and better; thus advancing, by creative activity, from stage to stage of excellence without end. Their sound is familiar; but what of their ultimate sense? We ought indeed to pause here, withdraw to the solitude of some cloister and there in the silence meditate upon their meaning; for they do not describe the life of beasts; they characterize Man.

We are speaking of a peculiar kind of energy- the energy that civilizes-that strange familiar energy that makes possible and makes actual the great creative movement which we call human Progress, of which we talk much and think but little. Let us scrutinize it more closely; let us, if we can, lay bare its characteristic relation to Time for its relation to Time is the relation of Time to the distinctive life of Man.

Compare some representative of the animal world, a bee, let us say, or a beaver, with a correspondingly representative man. Consider their achievements and the ways thereof. The beaver makes a dam; the man, a bridge or some discovery,-analytical geometry, for example, or the art of printing, or the Keplerian laws of planetary motion, or the atomic constitution of matter. The two achievements,-that of the beaver and that of the man,-are each of them a product of three factors: time, toil, and raw material, where the last signifies, in the case of purely scientific achievement, the data of sense, in which science has its roots. Both achievements endure, it may be for a short while only,-as in the case of the dam or the bridge,-or one of them may endure endlessly,-as in that of a scientific discovery. What happens in the next generation ? The new beaver begins where its predecessor began and ends where it ended-it makes a dam but the dam is like the old one. Yet the old dam is there for the new beaver to behold, to contemplate, and to improve upon. But the presence of the old dam wakes in the beaver's "mind" no inventive impulse, no creative stirring, and so there is no improvement, no progress. Why not? The answer is obvious: the beaver "mind" is such that its power to achieve is not reinforced by the presence of past achievement. The new beaver's time is indeed overlapped, in part or wholly, by the time of its predecessor for the latter time is present as an essential factor of the old dam, but that old-time factor, though present, produces nothing-it is as dead capital, bearing no interest. Such is the relation of the beaver "mind,"-of the animal mind,- to time.

Now, what of the new man? What does he do? What he does depends, of course, upon his predecessor's achievement; if this was a bridge, he makes a better bridge or invents a ship; if it was the discovery of analytical geometry, he enlarges its scope or invents the calculus; if it was the art of printing, he invents a printing press; if it was the discovery of the laws of planetary motion, he finds the law of gravitation; if it was the discovery of the atomic constitution of matter, he discovers the electronic constitution of atoms. Such is the familiar record-improvement of old things, invention of new ones -Progress. Why ? Again the answer is obvious: the mind of man, unlike animal "mind," is such that its power to achieve is reinforced by past achievement. As in the case of the beaver, so in that of man, the successor's time is overlapped by the predecessor's time for the latter time continues its presence as an essential factor in the old achievement, which endures; but,-and this is the point,-in man's case, unlike the beaver's, the old-time factor is not merely present, it works; it is not as dead capital, bearing no interest, and ultimately perishing-it is living capital bearing interest not only but interest perpetually compounded at an ever-increasing rate. And the interest is growing wealth,-material and spiritual wealth,-not merely physical conveniences but instruments of power, understanding, intelligence, knowledge and skill, beautiful arts, science, philosophy, wisdom, freedom-in a word, Civilization.

That great process,-involving some subtle alchemy that we do not understand,-by which the time-factor, embodied in things accomplished, perpetually reinforces more and more the achieving potency of the human mind,-the process by which mysterious Time thus continually and increasingly augments the civilizing energy of the world,-the process by which the evolution of civilization involves the storing up or involution of time,-it is that mighty process which Korzybski happily designates by the term, Time-binding. The term will recur frequently in our discussion, and so I recommend that you dwell upon its meaning as given until you have seized it firmly. It is because time-binding power is not only peculiar to man but is, among man's distinctive marks, beyond all comparison the most significant one-it is because of that two-fold consideration that the author defines humanity to be "the time-binding class of life."

Such, then, is Korzybski's answer to the most important of all questions: what is Man? Do not lose sight of the fact that we have here a concept and that it defines man in terms of a certain relation, subtle indeed but undoubtedly characteristic, that man has to time. By saying that the relation is "characteristic" of man I mean that, among known classes of life, man and only man has it. Animals have it not or, if they have it, if they have time-binding capacity, they have it in a degree so small that it may be neglected as mathematicians neglect infinitesimals of higher order.

The answer in question is not one to which the world has been or is now accustomed. If you apply for an answer to the thought of the bygone centuries or to the regnant philosophies of our time, what answer will you get? It will be one or the other of two kinds: it will be a zoological answer-man is an animal, a kind or species of animal, the bête humaine; or it will be a mythological answer-man is a mysterious compound or union of animal (a natural thing) with something "supernatural." Such are the rival conceptions now current throughout the world. They have come to us as a part of our philosophical inheritance. Some of us hold one of them; some of us, the other; and no doubt many of us hold both of them for, though they are mutually incompatible, the mere incompatibility of two ideas does not necessarily prevent them from finding firm lodgment in the same brain.

That Korzybski's concept of man is just and important,-entirely just and immeasurably important, -I have no reason to doubt after having meditated much upon it. But the author does not content himself with presenting that concept; he goes much further; he denies outright the zoological conception and similarly denies the ages-old rival, the mythological conception, denouncing both of them as being at once false to fact and vicious in effect.

Why false ? Wherein ?

Let us deal first with the zoological or biological conception. Natural phenomena are to be conceived and defined in accord with facts revealed by observation and analysis. The phenomena the author is concerned with are the great life-classes of the world: plants, animals, and humans. What, he asks, are the significant facts about them, their patent cardinal relations, their distinctive marks, positive and negative ? And his answer runs as follows: Of plants the most significant positive mark is their power to "bind" the basic energies of the world-to take in, transform and appropriate the energies of sun, soil, water and air; but they lack autonomous power to move about in space, and that lack is a highly significant negative mark of plants. The plants are said to constitute the "chemistry-binding" or basic-energy binding class of life; the name suggests only the positive mark but it is essential to note that the definition of the class is effected by the positive and the negative marks conjoined. What of the animals ? These, like the plants, take in, transform and appropriate the basic energies of sun, soil, water and air, taking them in large part as already transformed by the plants; but this power of animals to bind basic energies,-the positive one of the two defining marks of plants,-is not a defining mark of animals; the positive defining mark of animals is their autonomous power to move4 about in space,-to crawl or run or fly or swim,-enabling them to abandon one place and occupy another and so to harvest the natural fruits of many localities; this positive mark, you observe, is a relation of animals to space; but they have, we have seen, a negative mark, a relation to time-animals lack capacity for binding time. Because of the positive mark, animals are said to constitute the "space-binding" class of life, but it is to be carefully noted that the definition ( as distinguished from the name) of the class is effected by the positive mark conjoined with the negative one. Finally, what of humans? We have already seen the answer and the ground thereof-humanity is the time-binding class of life. For the sake of clarity let us summarize the conceptions, or definitions, as follows: a plant is a living creature having the capacity to bind basic energies and lacking the autonomous ability to move in space; an animal is a living creature having the autonomous ability to move about in space and lacking the capacity for binding time; a man, or a human, is a living creature having time-binding power.

It is to be noted that, as thus conceived, the great life-classes of the world constitute a hierarchy arranged according to a principle which Korzybski calls life-dimensions or dimensionality, as follows:

The plants, or basic-energy-binders, belong to the lowest level or type of life and constitute the life-dimension I.

The animals, or space-binders, belong to the next higher level or type of life and constitute the life-dimension II.

Human beings, or time-binders, belong to a still higher level or type of life and constitute the life-dimension III.

Whether there be a yet higher class of life we do not know and that is why in the conception of man no negative mark is present.

Now, it is, of course, perfectly clear that, according to the foregoing conceptions or definitions, the old zoological conception of man as a species of animal is false, as the author contends. But may we not say that he is here merely playing with words ? Is it not entirely a matter of arbitrary definition ? Has he not, merely to please his fancy, quite willfully defined the term "animal" in such a way as to exclude humans from the class so defined? The answer is undoubtedly, No. Of course, it goes without saying that we could, if we chose, define the mere word "animal" or any other noun so as to make it stand for the "class" of plants, elephants, humans, jabberwocks and newspapers. But we do not so choose.

Why not? Because we desire our definitions to be expedient, to be helpful, to serve the purpose of rational thinking. We want them, in other words, to correspond to facts. Let us, then, forget the word for a little while and look at the facts. It is a fact that there is a class of creatures having space-binding capacity but not time-binding capacity; it is a fact that there is another class of creatures having both kinds of capacity; it is a fact that the difference between the two,-namely, the capacity for binding time,-is not only beyond all comparison the most significant of the marks peculiar to man, but is indeed the most significant and precious thing in the world; it is, therefore, a fact that not only the interests of sound ethics, but the interests of science, demand that the two classes, thus distinct by an infinite difference of kind of endowment, be not intermixed in thought and discourse; it is a fact that use of the same term "animal" to denote the members of both classes,-men and beasts alike,-constantly, subtly, powerfully tends to produce both intellectual and moral obfuscation; it is, therefore, a fact that the author's condemnation of the zoological conception as false to fact is amply justified on the best of grounds.

It is indeed true that humans have certain animal organs, animal functions, and animal propensities, but to say that, therefore, humans are animals is precisely the same kind of logical blunder as we should commit if we said that animals or humans are plants because they have certain organs, functions and properties in common with plants; and the blunder is of a kind that is fundamental-it is the kind which mathematicians call the confusion of types or of classes and which Korzybski calls the "mixing of dimensions." To say that humans are animals because they have certain animal propensities is logically on a par with saying that geometric solids are surfaces because they have certain surface properties or with saying that fractions are whole numbers because they have certain properties that whole numbers have.

Why is it that people are shocked on encountering for the first time a categorical denial of their belief that man is a species of animal? Do they feel that their proper dignity as human beings is thus assailed ? Is it because the animal basis of their space-binding ethics is being thus attacked ? Is it that a well-reasoned scientific conviction is suddenly contradicted? I do not think the shock is due to any of these things. It is, I believe, due simply to the fact that an old unquestioned, uncriticized creed of that great dullard,-Common Sense,-has been unexpectedly challenged. For it is evident to common sense,-it is obtrusively evident to sense-perception, -that humans have certain animal organs and animal experience-they are begotten and born, they feed and grow, have legs and hair, and die, all just like animals; on the other hand, their time-binding faculty is not thus evident; it is not, I mean, a tangible organ; it is an intangible function, subtle as spirit; and so common sense, guided according to its wont by the uncriticized evidence of sense, and thoughtlessly taking for major premise the false proposition that whatever has animal organs and propensities is an animal, concludes that our human kind is a kind of animal. But in this matter, as in so many others, the old dullard is wrong. The proper life of animals is life-in-space; the distinctive life of humans is life-in-time.

But why are mere concepts so important ? Our lives, we are told, are not controlled by concepts but by impulses, instincts, desires, passions, appetites. The answer is: Because concepts are never "mere" concepts but are, in humans, vitally connected with impulses, instincts, desires, passions, and appetites; concepts are the means by which Reason does its work, leading to prosperity or disaster according as the concepts be true or false.

I have said that the ancient and modern rival of the zoological conception of man is the mythological conception according to which man is a mysterious compound or hybrid of natural (animal) and supernatural. This conception might well be treated today as it was treated yesterday by Plato ( in the Timaeus, for example ) . "We must accept," said he, "the traditions of the men of old time who affirm themselves to be the offspring of the gods-that is what they say-and they must surely have known their own ancestors. How can we doubt the word of the children of the gods ? Although they give no probable or certain proofs, still, as they declare that they are speaking of what took place in their own family, we must conform to custom and believe them."5 But this gentle irony,-the way of the Greek philosopher, -is not the way of the Polish engineer. The latter is not indeed without a blithesome sense of humor but in this matter he is tremendously in earnest, and he bluntly affirms, boldly and confidently, that the mythological conception of man is both false and vicious. As to its validity or invalidity, it involves, he says, the same kind of logical blunder as the zoological conception-it involves, that is, a fatal confusion of types, or mixing of dimensions. To say that man is a being so inscrutably constituted that he must be regarded as partly natural (partly animal) and partly supernatural (partly divine) is logically like saying that a geometrical solid is a thing so wonderful that it must certainly be a surface miraculously touched by some mysterious influence from outside the universe of space. Among the life-classes of the world, our humankind is the time-binding class; and Korzybski stresses again and again the importance of recognizing that time-binding energy and all the phenomena thereof are perfectly natural-that Newton, for example, or Confucius, was as thoroughly natural as an eagle or an oak.

What does he mean by "natural" ? He has not told us,-at all events, not explicitly,-and that omission is doubtless a defect which ought to be remedied in a future edition of the book.

You are aware that the terms "nature" and "natural" are currently employed in a large variety of senses-most of them so vague as to be fit only for the use of "literary" men, not for the serious use of scientific men. What ought we to mean by the term "natural" in such a discussion as we are now engaged in? The question admits, I believe, of a brief answer that is fairly satisfactory. Everyone knows that the things encountered by a normal human in the course of his experience differ widely in respect of vagueness and certitude; some of them are facts so regular, so well ascertained, so indubitable that they guide in all the affairs of practical life; they are known facts, we say, and to disregard them would be to perish like unprotected idiots or imbeciles; such facts are of two kinds: facts of sense-perception, or of this and memory, and facts of pure thought; the former are familiar in the moving pageant of the world-birth, growth, death, day, night, land, water, sky, change of seasons, and so on; facts of pure thought are not so obtrusively obvious but there are such facts; one of them is-"If something S has the property P and whatever has P has the property P', then S has P'." Now, all such facts are compatible-each of them fits in, as we say, with all the others. I take it that what we ought to mean by natural is, therefore, this: Nature (or the natural) consists of all and only such things as are compatible (consistent) with the best-ascertained facts of sense and of thought.

If that be what Korzybski means by "natural,"- and I think it very probably is,-then I fully agree with him that humans are thoroughly natural beings, that time-binding energy is a natural kind of energy, and that his strenuous objection to the mythological conception of man is, like his objection to the zoological conception, well taken. If it were a question of biological data, mere mathematicians would, of course, like other sensible folk, defer to the opinion of biologists; it is not, however, a question of biological data, these are not in dispute; it is a question of the logical significance of such data; and respecting a question of logic, even biologists,-for they, too, are sensible folk,-will probably admit that engineers and mere mathematicians are entitled to be heard.

In this connection I desire to say that, for straight and significant thinking, the importance of avoiding what Korzybski calls "mixing dimensions" cannot be overstressed. The meaning of the term "dimensions" as he uses it is unmistakable; he has not, however, elaborated an abstract theory of the idea; such an elaboration would, I believe, show that the idea is reducible or nearly reducible to that of the Theory of Logical Types, briefly dealt with in a previous lecture and fully outlined in the Principia Mathematica of Whitehead and Russell; it is, moreover, very closely allied to, if it be not essentially identical with, Professor J. S. Haldane's doctrine of "categories" as set forth in his very stimulating and suggestive book Mechanism, Life, and Personality (E. P. Dutton and Co.) wherein the eminent physiologist maintains that mechanism, life, and personality belong to different categories constituting a genuine hierarchy such that the higher is not reducible to the lower, that life, for example, cannot be understood fully in terms of mechanism, nor personality in terms of life. It is, you observe, an order of ideas similar to that of Korzybski's thesis that humans can be no more explained in terms of animals than animals in terms of plants or plants in terms of minerals. And it is an order of ideas that recommends itself, to me at all events, because it is fortified by the analogous consideration that geometry cannot be reduced to arithmetic, nor dynamics to geometry, nor physics to dynamics, nor psychology to physics. It will, I believe, be a great advantage to science and to philosophy to recognize that there exists, whether we will or no, a hierarchy of categories and to recognize that, to an understanding of the higher categories, the lower ones, though necessary, are not sufficient. Is there not, indeed, a highly important sense in which the phenomena of a higher category throw as much light upon those of a lower as the latter throw upon the former? Who can deny that, for example, dynamics illuminates geometry quite as much as geometry illuminates dynamics?

In Korzybski's indictment of the zoological and mythological conceptions of man there are, we have seen, two counts: he denies that the conceptions are true; and he denounces them as vicious in their effects, contending that they are mainly responsible for the dismal things of human history and for what is woeful in the present plight of the world. Of the former count I have already spoken; respecting the latter one, my convictions are as follows: ( I ) if humanity be not a thoroughly natural class of life, the term "natural" having the sense above defined, it is perfectly evident that there never has been and never can be a system of human ethics having the understandability, the authority, and the sanction of natural law, and this means that, under the hypothesis, there never has been and never can be an ethical system "compatible with the best-ascertained facts of sense and of thought"; (2) if, although our human kind be in fact a thoroughly natural class, we continue to think that such is not the case, the result will be much the same-our ethics will continue to carry the confusion and darkness due to the presence in it of mythological elements; (3) on the other hand, so long as we continue to regard man as a species of animal, the social life of the world in all its aspects will continue to reflect the tragic misconception, and our ethics will remain,-what it always has been in large measure,-an animal ethics, space-binding ethics, an ethics of might, of brutal competition, of violence, combat, and war.

Why so much stress upon ethics ? Because ethics is not a thing apart; it is not an interest that is merely coordinate with other interests; it penetrates them all. Ethics is a kind of social ether which, whether it be good or bad, sound or unsound, true or false, pervades life, private and public, in all its dimensions and forms; and so, if ethics be vitiated by fundamentally false conceptions of human nature, the virus is not localized but spreads throughout the body politic, affecting the character of all activities and institutions,-education, science, art, philosophy, economics, industrial method, politics, government, -the whole conduct and life of a tribe or a state or a nation or a world. I hardly need remind you that only yesterday the most precious institutions of civilization were in great danger of destruction by a powerful state impelled, guided and controlled by animalistic ethics, the space-binding ethics of beasts. This is indeed an unforgettable illustration of the mighty fact, before pointed out, that the character of human history, human conduct and human institutions depends, not merely upon what man distinctively is, but also in large measure, even decisively, upon what we humans think man is. If a man or a state habitually regards humanity as a species of animal, then that man or state may be expected to act betimes like a beast and to seek justification in a zoological philosophy of human nature.

In view of such considerations it is a great pleasure to turn to Korzybski's concept of man, for it is not only a noble conception, as none can fail to perceive, but it is also, as we have seen, undoubtedly just. Nothing can be more important. What are its implications? And what are its bearings? You cannot take them in at a glance-meditation is essential; but, if you will meditate upon the concept, you will find that the body of its implications looms larger and larger and that the range of its bearings grows ever clearer and wider. Indeed we may say of it what Carlyle said of Wilhelm Meister: "It significantly tends towards infinity in all directions." Let us reflect upon it a little. We shall see that human history, the philosophy thereof, the present status of the world, the future welfare of mankind, are all of them involved.

The central concept or thesis is that our human kind is the time-binding class of life; it is, in other words, that there is in our world a peculiar kind of energy, time-binding energy, and that man is its organ-its sole instrument or agency. What are its implicates and bearings?

One of them we have already noted. It is that, though we humans are not a species of animal, we are natural beings: it is as natural for humans to bind time as it is natural for fishes to swim, for birds to fly, for plants to live after the manner of plants. It is as natural for man to make things achieved the means to greater achievements as it is natural for animals not to do so.

That fact is fundamental. Another one, also fundamental, is this: time-binding faculty,-the characteristic of humanity,-is not an effect of civilization but is its cause; it is not civilized energy, it is the energy that civilizes; it is not a product of wealth, whether material or spiritual wealth, but is the creator of wealth, both material and spiritual.

I come now to a most grave consideration. Inasmuch as time-binding capacity is the characterizing mark,-the idiosyncrasy,-of our human kind, it follows that to study and understand man is to study and understand the nature of man's time-binding energies; the laws of human nature are the laws,- natural laws,-of these energies; to study time-binding phenomena,-the phenomena of civilization,- and to discover their laws and teach them to the world, is the supreme obligation of scientific men, for it is evident that upon the natural laws of time-binding must be based the future science and art of human life and human welfare.

One of the laws we know now,-not indeed precisely,-but fairly well,-we know roughly, I mean, its general type,-and it merits our best attention. It is the natural law of progress in time-binding-in civilization-building. We have observed that each generation of (say) beavers or bees begins where the preceding one began and ends where it ended; that is a law for animals, for mere space-binders-there is no advancement, no time-binding-a beaver dam is a beaver dam-a honey comb a honey comb. We know that, in sharp contrast therewith, man invents, discovers, creates; we know that inventions lead to new inventions, discoveries to new discoveries, creations to new creations; we know that, by such progressive breeding, the children of knowledge and art and wisdom not only produce their kind in larger and larger families but engender new and higher kinds endlessly; we know that this time-binding process, by which past time embodied as cofactor of toil in enduring achievements thus survives the dead and works as living capital for augmentation and transmission to posterity, is the secret and process of progressive civilization-building. The question is: What is the Law thereof-the natural law? What its general type is you apprehend at once; it is like that of a rapidly increasing geometric progression-if P be the progress made in a given generation, conveniently called the "first," and if R denote the ratio of improvement, then the progress made in the second generation is PR, that in the third is PR2, and that made in the single Tth generation will be PRT-1. Observe that R is a large number,-how large we do not know,-and that the time T enters as an exponent-and so the expression PRT-1 is called an exponential function of Time, and it makes evident, even to the physical eye, the involution of time in the life of man. This is an amazing function, as every student of the Calculus knows; as T increases, which it is always doing, the function not only increases but it does so at a rate which itself increases according to a similar law, and the rate of increase of the rate of increase again increases in like manner, and so on endlessly, thus sweeping on towards infinity in a way that baffles all imagination and all descriptive speech. Yet such is approximately the law,-the natural law, -for the advancement of Civilization, immortal offspring of the spiritual marriage of Time and human Toil. I have said "approximately," for it does not represent adequately the natural law for the progress of civilization; it does not, however, err by excess, it errs by defect; for, upon a little observation and reflection, it is evident that R, the ratio of improvement, is not a constant, as above contemplated, but it is a variable that grows larger and larger as time increases, so that the function PRT-1 increases not only because the exponent increases with the flux of time, but because R itself is an increasing function of time. It will be convenient, however, and we shall not be thus erring on the side of excess, to speak of the above-mentioned law, though it is inadequate, as the natural law for the progress of time-binding, or of civilization-making.

Hereupon, there supervenes a most important question: Has civilization always advanced in accord with the mentioned law? And, if not, why not? The time-binding energies of mankind have been in operation long-300,000 to 500,000 years, according to the estimates of those most competent to guess- anthropologists and paleontologists. Had progress conformed to the stated law throughout that vast period, our world would doubtless now own a civilization so rich and great that we cannot imagine it today nor conceive it nor even conjecture it in dreams. What has been the trouble? What have been the hindering causes ? Here, as you see, Korzybski's concept of man must lead to a new interpretation of history-to a new philosophy of history. A fundamental principle of the new interpretation must be the fact which I have already twice stated,-namely, that what man has done and does has depended and depends both upon what man distinctively is and also, in very great measure, upon what the members of the race have thought and think man is. We have here two determining factors-what man is and what we humans think man is. It is their joint product which the sociologist or the philosophic historian must examine and explain. In view of the second factor, which has hardly ever been noticed and has never been given its due weight, Korzybski, in answer to our question, maintains that the chief causes which have kept civilization from advancing in accord with its natural law of increase are man's misconceptions of man. All that is precious in present civilization has been achieved, in spite of them, by the first factor- by what man is-the peculiar organ of the civilizing energies of the world. It is the second factor that has given trouble. Throughout the long period of our race's childhood, from which we have not yet emerged, the time-binding energies have been hampered by the false belief that man is a species of animal and hampered by the false belief that man is a miraculous mixture of natural and supernatural. These are cave-man conceptions. The glorious achievements of which they have deprived the world we cannot now know and may never know, but the subtle ramifications of their positive evils can be traced in a thousand ways. And it is not only the duty of professional historians to trace them, it is your duty and mine. Whoever performs the duty will be appalled, for he will discover that those evils-the evils of "magic and myth," of space-binding "ethics," of zoological "righteousness"-for centuries growing in volume and momentum-did but leap to a culmination in the World War, which is thus to be viewed as only a bloody demonstration of human ignorance of human nature.

We are here engaged in considering some of the major implicates and bearings of the new concept of man. The task demands a large volume dealing with the relations of time-binding to each of the cardinal concerns of individual and social life-ethics, education, economics, medicine, law, political science, government, industry, science, art, philosophy, religion. Perhaps you will write such a work or works. In the closing words of this lecture I can do no more than add to what I have said a few general questions and hints.

Korzybski believes that the great war marks the end of the long period of humanity's childhood and the beginning of humanity's manhood. This second period, he believes, is to be initiated, guided, and characterized by a right understanding of the distinctive nature of Man. Is he over-enthusiastic? I do not know. Time will tell. I hope he is not mistaken. If he is not, there will be many changes and many transfigurations.

I have spoken of ethics and must do so again, for ethics, good or bad, is the most powerful of influences, pervading, fashioning, coloring, controlling all the moods and ways and institutions of our human world. What is to be the ethics of humanity's manhood? It will not be an ethics based upon the zoological conception of man; it will not, that is, be animalistic ethics, space-binding ethics, the ethics of beasts fighting for "a place in the sun," the ethics of might, crowding, and combat; it will not be a "capitalistic" ethics lusting to keep for self, nor "proletarian" ethics lusting to get for self; it will not be an ethics having for its golden rule the law of brutes- survival of the fittest in the sense of the strongest. Neither will it be an ethics based upon a mythological conception of man; it will not, that is, be a lawless ethics cunningly contrived for traffic in magic and myth. It will be a natural ethics because based upon the distinctive nature of mankind as the time-binding, -civilization-producing,-class of life; it will be, that is, a scientific ethics having the understandability, the authority, and the sanction of natural law, for it will be the embodiment, the living expression, of the laws,-natural laws,-of the time-binding energies of man; human freedom will be freedom to live in accord with those laws and righteousness will be the quality of a life that does not contravene them. The ethics of humanity's manhood will thus be natural ethics, an ethics compatible with the best-ascertained facts of sense and of thought-it will be time-binding ethics-and it will grow in solidarity, clarity, and sway in proportion as science discovers the laws of time-binding,-the laws, that is, of civilization-growth,-and teaches them to the world.

And so I am brought to say a word respecting education. In humanity's manhood, education,-in home, in school, in church,-will have for its supreme obligation, and will keep the obligation, to teach the young the distinctive nature of man and what they, as members and representatives of the race of man, essentially are, so that everywhere throughout the world men and women will habitually understand, because bred to understand, what time-binding is, that their proper dignity as humans is the dignity of time-binding life, and that for humans to practice space-binding ethics is a monstrous thing, involving the loss of their human birthright by descent to the level of beasts.6 It is often said that ethics is a thing which it is impossible to teach. Just the opposite is true-it is impossible not to teach ethics, for the teaching of it is subtly carried on in all our teaching, whether consciously or not, being essentially involved in the teacher's "philosophy of human nature." Every home or school in which that philosophy is zoological is, consciously or unconsciously, a nursery of animalistic ethics; every home or school in which there prevails a mythological philosophy of human nature is, consciously or unconsciously, a nursery of a lawless ethics of myth and magic. From time immemorial, such teaching of ethics, for the most part unconscious, the whole world has had. And we have seen that when such teaching becomes conscious, deliberate, and organized, a whole people can be so imbued with both the space-binding animal ethics of might and the mythical ethics of Gott mit uns that their State will leap upon its neighbors like an infuriated beast. Why should we not learn the lesson which the great war has so painfully taught regarding the truly gigantic power of education? If the accumulated civilization of many centuries can be imperiled by ethical teaching based upon a false philosophy of human nature, who can set a limit to the good that may be expected from the conscious, deliberate, organized, unremitting joint effort of home and school and press to teach an ethics based upon the true conception of man as the agent and organ of the time-binding, civilizing energy of the world ? I cannot here pursue the matter further; but in closing I should like to ask a few general questions-pretty obvious questions-indicating roughly the course which, I believe, further enquiry should take.

What are the bearings of the new concept of man upon the social so-called sciences of economics, politics, and government?

Can the new concept transform those ages-old pseudo-sciences into genuine sciences qualified to guide and guard human welfare because based upon scientific understanding of human nature?

In view of the radical difference between the distinctive nature of animals and the distinctive nature of man, what are likely to be the principal differences between

Government of Space-binders, by Space-binders, for Space-binders


Government of Time-binders, by Time-binders, for Time-binders?

Which of the two kinds of government best befits the social regime of autocrats, or plutocrats, and slaves? And which best befits the dream of political equality and democratic freedom?

Which of them most favors the prosperity of "Acquisitive Cunning" ? And which the prosperity of Productive Skill?

Which of them is the most friendly to the makers of wealth ? And which of them to the takers thereof ?

Which of them most favors "boss" repression of others? And which makes the best provision for intelligent self-expression?

Which of them depends most upon might and war ? And which upon right and peace ?

Which of them is government by "politics," by politicians? And which of them by science, by honest men who know?

If man's time-binding energy, which has produced all the wealth of the world, both material and spiritual wealth, be natural energy, and if, as is the case, the wealth existing at a given moment be almost wholly a product of the time and toil of the by-gone generations, to whom does it of right belong? To some of the living? To all of the living? Or to all of the living and the yet unborn ? Is the world's heritage of wealth, since it is a natural product of a natural energy and of time (which is natural), therefore a "natural resource" like sunshine, for example, or a newfound lake or land? If not, why not? What is the difference in principle?

Are the "right of conquest" and the "right of squatter sovereignty" time-binding rights ? Or are they space-binding "rights" having their sanction in animalistic "ethics," in a zoological philosophy of human nature?

What are the bearings of the new concept of man upon the theory and practice of medicine ? Man, though not an animal, has animal organs and animal functions. Are all the diseases of human beings animal diseases or are some of them human diseases, disorders, that is, affecting humans in their distinctive character as time-binders? Can Psycho-analysis or Psychiatry throw any light upon the question?

And what of the power that makes for righteousness? Religion, it would seem, has the seat of its authority in that time-binding double relationship in virtue of which the living are at once posterity of the dead and ancestry of the unborn,-in the former capacity inheriting as living capital the wealth of civilization from the time and toil of by-gone generations,-in the latter capacity holding the inheritance in trust for enlargement and transmission to future man.

A final reflection: under the doctrine outlined there lies an assumption-it is that, when men and women are everywhere bred to understand the distinctive nature of our human kind, the time-binding energies of man will be freed from their old bondage and civilization will advance, in accord with its natural law, in a warless world, swiftly and endlessly. If the assumption be not true, great Nature is at fault and the world will continue to flounder. Of its truth, there can be only one test-experimentation, trial. The assumption appears to be the only scientific basis of hope for the world. Must not all right-thinking men and women desire ardently that this noble assumption be tried?

* Mathematical Philosophy is to be republished in the Collected Works of Cassius J. Keyser, by Scripta Mathematica, New York.

1 Part of this lecture is found in my Phi Beta Kappa address on The Nature of Man (Science, Sept. 9, 1921) and some of it in an article by me in The Pacific Review, Dec., 1921.

2 Since writing the foregoing I have observed a learned discussion of the question by Professor Wm. E. Ritter in an article, Science and Organized Civilization, in the Scientific Monthly, Aug., 1917. Professor Ritter once more defines man as a kind of animal but the distinctive marks of the kind, as given by him, are so grave as to make one wonder why he did not altogether drop the "animal" element from the definition.

3 E. P. Dutton & Company.

4 Do sessile animals really constitute an exception? It can be shown, I think, that such animals are space-binders in Korzybski's sense.

5 Jowett's translation.

6 In a recent bulletin of the Cora L. Williams Institute for Creative Education, Miss Williams has said, with fine insight, that "time-binding should be made the basis of all instruction and The Manhood of Humanity a textbook in every college throughout the world."