"Concern for man and his fate must always form the chief interest of all technical endeavors … Never forget this in the midst of your diagrams and equations."
— Albert Einstein, quoted in “Science and Values” London Times 1 Jul 85.

"Whether this be true or not, all authorities agree that man is the tool-using animal. It sets him off from the rest of the animal kingdom as drastically as does speech."
— Stuart Chase, Men and Machines, ch. 2, Macmillan (1929).

"Those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it."
— George Santayana, The Life of Reason (1905-1906)

"Struggle is the father of all things.... It is not by the principles of humanity that man lives or is able to preserve himself above the animal world, but solely by means of the most brutal struggle."
— Adolf Hitler, speech, Feb. 5, 1928, Kulmbach, Germany. Quoted in Alan Bullock, Hitler, a Study in Tyranny, ch. 1, sct. 3 (1962).
[Note: quoted here to show how much Nazism and general semantics are antagonistic, the former being clearly animalistic.]

"Man differs from the lower animals because he preserves his past experiences. What happened in the past is lived again in memory. About what goes on today hangs a cloud of thoughts concerning similar things undergone in bygone days. With the animals, an experience perishes as it happens, and each new doing or suffering stands alone. But man lives in a world where each occurrence is charged with echoes and reminiscences of what has gone before, where each event is a reminder of other things. Hence he lives not, like the beasts of the field, in a world of merely physical things but in a world of signs and symbols. A stone is not merely hard, a thing into which one bumps; but it is a monument of a deceased ancestor. A flame is not merely something which warms or burns, but is a symbol of the enduring life of the household, of the abiding source of cheer, nourishment and shelter to which man returns from his casual wanderings."
— John Dewey, Reconstruction in Philosophy, ch. 1, Holt (1920).

"Among animals, symbols are transmitted by tradition from generation to generation, and it is here, if one wishes, that one may draw the border line between the “animal” and man. In animals, individually acquired experience is sometimes transmitted by teaching and learning, from elder to younger individuals, though such true tradition is only seen in those forms whose high capacity for learning is combined with a higher development of their social life. True tradition has been demonstrated in jackdaws, greyleg geese, and rats. But knowledge thus transmitted is limited to very simple things, such as pathfinding, recognition of certain foods and of enemies of the species, and—in rats—knowledge of the danger of poisons. However, no means of communication, no learned rituals are ever handed by tradition in animals. In other words, animals have no culture."
— Konrad Lorenz, “Habit, Ritual, and Magic,” On Aggression, trans. by Marjorie K. Wilson, Harcourt Brace (1966).

"So what happened to the old theory that I fell in love with as a youth? Well, I would say it's become an old lady that has little attractive left in her and the young today will not have their heart pound when they look at her anymore. But we can say the best we can for any old woman, that she has been a very good mother and she has given birth to very good children."
— Richard Feynman, Nobel Lecture: The development of the space-time view of quantum electrodynamics, 1965

"Man is the Religious Animal. He is the only Religious Animal. He is the only animal that has the True Religion—several of them."
— Mark Twain, “Man’s Place in the Animal World,” p. 211, Mark Twain: Collected Tales, Sketches, Speeches, & Essays, 1891-1910, Library of America (1992).

"Man is a wingless animal with two feet and flat nails."
— Plato, Definitions, 415 A.

"If I have seen farther than others, it is because I was standing on the shoulders of giants."
— Isaac Newton, in a letter to his colleague Robert Hooke, February 1676.

"In the sciences, we are now uniquely privileged to sit side by side with the giants on whose shoulders we stand."
— Gerald Holton

"Man is the only animal which esteems itself rich in proportion to the number and voracity of its parasites."
— George Bernard Shaw, “Maxims for Revolutionists: Servants,” Man and Superman (1903).

"Nevertheless, the difference in mind between man and the higher animals, great as it is, is one of degree and not of kind."
— Charles Darwin, Descent of Man (1871).

In 1921, Korzybski formulated in his Manhood of Humanity, a fundamental difference between Man and animals. This marked the beginning of his studies.

We can often hear "Man is an animal". We notice that this sentence includes the notorious 'is' of identity. We identify Man (Brown1, Smith4, Jones2, etc.) with an animal, and by this fact, we neglect differences. To reverse this tendency, let us mention some of these differences:

All that very clearly distinguishes Man from the animal, without the need of any 'religious' concept. We could not thus continue to speak in this identificating way any more.

Having noted that, Korzybski built a functional language to classify living beings:

  1. Energy-binding: capacity to use and convert energy (for example, photosynthesis, food),
  2. Space-binding: capacity to use 'space' (to move),
  3. Time-binding: capacity to use 'time' (the achievements of a generation can be transmitted to the next one).
If we can classify plants in the category of "energy-binders" and animals in the category of "space-binders", we note that Man is left alone in the category of "time-binders".

From this characterization, it follows that the capacity to use symbols, a crucial factor for time-binding, must be closely studied, in particular in the most effective symbolic systems activities, namely sciences, as a specific behaviour of Mankind.

These studies led ten years later, in 1933, to Science and Sanity.

A scientific outlook on time-binding (abstract).

 Typical errors about Time-Binding 

Some beginners in general semantics believe that time-binding is a characteristic of men as individuals. In fact, there is no such capability in any one person. The definition of time-binding itself implies communication between at least two individuals, thus it is not applicable to a single person cut-off from his human environments. We can speak of the temperature of an object but we cannot speak of the temperature of its individual atoms. The functions of the brain used for time-binding are known: memory, language, 'logical' skills, manual skills, etc.

Now, the worst known misinterpretation of Korzybski's formulation of time-binding is to believe that time-binding is equivalent to that religious 'God-like' origin of Man in the monotheist religions. First, because of what have been said above (time-binding applies to a human group and not to individuals), and second because time-binding is not a 'plus' affair: Man is not "an animal + time-binding". And as Darwin said, "the difference in mind between man and the higher animals, great as it is, is one of degree and not of kind."

Some may be tempted to blur differences between time-binders and space-binders by mentioning many experiences with space-binders who can use language to some extent (such as dolphins, killer whales, higher apes, chimpanzees and even parrots), can be taught to communicate to some extent with humans, etc. Considering that left to themselves, the knowledge they have acquired with humans would be soon lost, their rate of progress (linked directly with time-binding ability) is infinitesimal compared with humans'. So that it can be totally neglected under current circumstances. This is not to advocate or justify any kind of non-humane treatment of space-binders, of course, quite the opposite since they are part of our environment.

Finally, time-binding is not about 'being nice' to people, despite what some people who advocate that general semantics is a kind of 'self-help' psychotherapy seem to believe. But anyway, 'being nice' is not harmful under usual circumstances, is it?

© ESGS, 2002.