Home

Self-Reflexiveness
"The golden rule is that there are no golden rules."
George Bernard Shaw, Maxims for Revolutionists.

"I think all right thinking people in this country are sick and tired of being told that ordinary, decent people are fed up in this country with being sick and tired. Well, I'm certainly not, and I'm sick and tired of being told that I am."
Monty Python

"The trouble with being punctual is that nobody's there to appreciate it."
Franklin P. Jones

"If you only have a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail."
Abraham Maslow

"You can't have everything. Where would you put it?"
Steven Wright

"If a word in the dictionary were mispelled, how would we know?"
Steven Wright

"Death to all fanatics!"
Malaclypse the younger.

"If the brain were so simple we could understand it, we would be so simple we couldn't."
Lyall Watson

"A map is self-reflexive."
Alfred Korzybski, Science and Sanity, International non-Aristotelian Library (1933).


To have a map related to a territory, it is necessary to have a mapmaker, having his own assumptions, goals, etc. He also have some mapmaking tools. The resulting map depends on all of this, and specifically of the mapmaker and his tools. One can expect to find traces of this in the map: it will thus reflect the mapmaker as well as the territory. A legend, describing the symbols used (green color for the meadows, etc.) constitutes for example a map of the map.

If we picture a cartographer drawing the map of the room he is in, he will draw this room, draw himself drawing on the place he occupies, and so on.

Here are some examples (heard in seminars): "I do not want to be an indecisive person any more!", "I want my parents to give me my independence!"

The language that we use is also a way to make maps and we use language to speak about language. It can also be used to make a map of the map, a map of the map of the map, and so on, most of the time using the same vocabulary, same grammar, same syntax; this process looks potentially indefinite.

The similarity of structure between a map and the territory it represents, which makes for its validity, depend on the assumptions and the means of the cartographer, as we saw above. From this possibility of the language to speak about the language follow the various orders of abstractions, at verbal levels, extending the map-territory relations at silent levels (event, object) with descriptions, then inferences, etc., thus establishing the natural order of evaluation. The relation between a territory and a map thus exists between two successive levels, and self-reflexivity applies to each successive map.

This characteristic of self-reflexiveness is found in the most usual words of our vocabulary, implying multiordinality.


© ESGS, 2002.