"Good judgment comes from experience and experience comes from bad judgment."
— Mark Twain

"That’s what show business is—sincere insincerity."
— Benny Hill, quoted in Observer (London, June 12, 1977).

"Quote me as saying I was mis-quoted."
— Groucho Marx

"I can resist everything except temptation."
— Oscar Wilde, Lord Darlington, in Lady Windermere’s Fan, act 1 (1893).

Hofstadter's Law: it always takes longer than you expect, even when you take Hofstadter's Law into account."
— Douglas Hofstadter, Gödel, Escher, Bach, chapter 5, (1979).

" "Yields falsehood when preceded by its quotation" yields falsehood when preceded by its quotation."
— W.V.O. Quine

"I don’t care to belong to any club that will have me as a member."
— Groucho Marx, The Groucho Letters, introduction (1967).

"Klein bottle for rent — inquire within."
— Bumper Sticker

"Entropy isn't what it used to be."
— Bumper Sticker

"I'd give my right arm to be ambidextrous."
— Brian W. Kernighan

"Cogito cogito ergo cogito sum." ("I think I think, therefore, I think I am.")
— Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary (1881-1906), repr. In Collected Works of Ambrose Bierce, vol. 7 (1911).

"What's another word for Thesaurus?"
— Steven Wright

"All Cretans are liars."
— Epimenides the Cretan

"It is my firm belief that people should not hold firm beliefs."
— Malaclypse the younger, from the Principia Discordia.

Korzybski highlighted a fundamental characteristic of human languages. Terms like "yes", "no ", "true ", "false", "cause", "effect", "relation" "order", "structure", "existence", etc., can be used in a proposition but also in a proposition about the first, etc. Thus, they can apply to all orders of abstractions. They can have several meanings at each of these levels, with the specific meaning given only by context and order of abstractions used.
Let's give an example, with using the word "existence":

  1. I postulate the existence, outside of my skin, of a set of atoms, molecules, etc.,
  2. this set, interacting with my organism, gives existence to something which I see, touch, hears, etc.,
  3. this something then gives existence to the word "chair" (this chair which I see) that I write, pronounce, etc.,
  4. this word, applied to other items, will give existence to "the chair, flat surface supported by four legs".
As we can see on this simple example, the word "existence" does not have at always the same meaning depending of the level used, and it is not possible to give it a meaning if we don't know at what order of abstractions it is used. That means that our theoretically limited vocabulary becomes practically unlimited, because of this fact.
The multiordinality of the main terms of our languages is related to self-reflexiveness.
In general semantics "multiordinal" is shortened in m.o.

 Typical errors about Multiordinalty 

The worst blunder that one can make about "multiordinal" is to confuse it with "multi-meaning." If that were true, there would be little use of such a new term. Yet, a professor of Philosophy, Joseph D. Foster, has made that blunder. Most general words have more than one definition, as one can tell by reading a dictionary. But when we speak of a multiordinal term, we consider a single dictionary definition of the term, which applies to all levels. Its meaning should change for us with the level and not its dictionary definition. For example, if someone hates chocolate because it does not taste good for him, and some other hates chocolate because it makes him put weight, we are not speaking about the same "hate," although the definitions for the two can be 'identical' ("a strong dislike"). These are examples of the 'same' word applied at two different levels. Considering that process, it seems evident that it cannot be applied to general words for ordinary objects ("table", "chair", "computer", "dog") and, as a consequence, these cannot be multiordinal. A multiordinal term is, by operational necessity, abstract.

© ESGS, 2002.