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Korzybski vs. Rand

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“anti-essentialism”, identity as “non-existent” and having any conception of it as “pathological”, “infectious”, and “ultimately harmful”… yeah i’d say that’s a true opposite!

you say "Korzybski includes Kant in the aristotelian tradition", which i'd agree with, but i wonder, does he count anyone before him as anti-Aristotelean?

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1 minute ago, splitprimary said:

you say "Korzybski includes Kant in the aristotelian tradition", which i'd agree with, but i wonder, does he count anyone before him as anti-Aristotelean?

Korzybski doesn't use the term 'anti-Aristotelian' and doesn't consider himself to be opposed to Aristotle's main mission, which he thought was to make a system to explain science and set its goals. Korzybski only does it for the 20th century's science. He claims that his non-Aristotelian system is the first of its kind, as previous attempts (he doesn't yet mention which ones) weren't as comprehensive and complete as his own.

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Well, actually he does say that Aristotle's system is more comprehensive than those that followed during the two thousand years. On page xli (one of his prefaces), he includes this figure in which A (aristotelian system) contains "a more limited and less general system such as 'christianity' (C), within which is, for instance, the leibnitzian system (L), and within which there are individual, personal systems (P)."

fig.png

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I start thinking that Korzybski was insane but escaped hospitalization by lucky chance. First he calls Aristotle a 'genius' and then he writes this:

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Aristotle, the extrovert, and his doctrines have appealed, and still appeal, to those who can 'think' but feebly. (p. 88)

So far the claim that Aristotle is 'the extrovert' is unsupported and the claim that he, Rand, I, and everyone on this forum think feebly is in logical error. He also so many pages into the book has yet to cite Aristotle at least once or at least analyze sufficiently any of Aristotle's ideas. Rand, in comparison, did a much better job with Kant than Korzybski can boast of doing with Aristotle. We have no details on Aristotle from Korzybski, only calling names. I will keep you posted if I find anything.

Edited by Ilya Startsev
for clarity & grammar
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A long time ago I read the science fiction mentioned by Invictus2017.  I'm a little curious whether the following features in the science fiction came from Korzybski.

The term "null-Aristotelianism".

Abbreviating this term with a capital A with a bar over it, read "null-A".

Emphasis on the need to integrate the cortex, seen as the seat or source of reason, and the thalamus, seen as the seat or source of emotion.

Using "the cortico-thalamic pause" to achieve or maintain such integration.

Referring to a particular reaction as "thalamically quick".

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5 hours ago, Doug Morris said:

A long time ago I read the science fiction mentioned by Invictus2017.  I'm a little curious whether the following features in the science fiction came from Korzybski.

The term "null-Aristotelianism".

Abbreviating this term with a capital A with a bar over it, read "null-A". ...

Yes, that's Korzybski's non-aristotelianism, .

4 hours ago, Doug Morris said:

Since Korzybski died in 1950, it's not that surprising that he didn't discuss Rand.

But Rand also never discussed him.

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On 9/8/2018 at 12:13 PM, Ilya Startsev said:

They are not inconsistent, especially if materialism is subjective, and it's also always idealistic, as are we all, to a certain extent. However, what do you mean that the passage illustrates that Korzybski was also an idealist? Being the brain has nothing to do with idealism, since idealism is only concerned with the metaphysical in the metacosmic sense (Platonism, Christianism, Descarteanism, & Hegelianism).

I suppose I should have said Representationalist (I think that's the term, it's been awhile).  This differs from Idealism in that, supposedly, the objects of consciousness have some (unknowable) relationship to reality, whereas Idealism supposes that the objects of consciousness are, in essence, illusions or hallucinations, unconnected to reality.  In my view, there is no real difference between "there is an unknowable connection to reality" and "there is no connection to reality", so Representationalism is a species of Idealism and I tend to use the latter to refer to both.

The notion that the objects of perception are mere constructs of the brain is Representationalist, in that it does not allow one to know how these constructs derive from reality -- any such knowledge would be just one more construct.  "Brain" is just a construct, and there is no reason for believing that there is "brain" or anything else.  (Which illustrates that Representationalism really is Idealism.)

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1 hour ago, Invictus2017 said:

I suppose I should have said Representationalist (I think that's the term, it's been awhile).  This differs from Idealism in that, supposedly, the objects of consciousness have some (unknowable) relationship to reality, whereas Idealism supposes that the objects of consciousness are, in essence, illusions or hallucinations, unconnected to reality.  In my view, there is no real difference between "there is an unknowable connection to reality" and "there is no connection to reality", so Representationalism is a species of Idealism and I tend to use the latter to refer to both.

The notion that the objects of perception are mere constructs of the brain is Representationalist, in that it does not allow one to know how these constructs derive from reality -- any such knowledge would be just one more construct.  "Brain" is just a construct, and there is no reason for believing that there is "brain" or anything else.  (Which illustrates that Representationalism really is Idealism.)

I agree that there is no significant difference between 'unknowable connection to reality' and 'no connection', but I disagree with your definition of idealism. To the contrary, look at Plato. The only true reality, according to him, is the reality of ideal forms only through which our mind can grasp physical and illusory reality outside, [which in itself is] not true reality. Hegel and Emerson were idealists in pretty much the same sense, in that mind is the connection between physical and true (or metaphysical) realities.

Representationalism, on the other hand, is a very vague term, to which we can append Descartes, Locke, and Kant, philosophers of significant differences, in fact, differences so significant that we can fairly judge these men to belong to three different categories.

The notions of constructs is essential to another vague term: constructivism, which is popular in academia, or at least it was popular at the end of the 20th century.  What you describe sounds more like social constructivism, which attributes even to science as an institute such purely subjective and arbitrary constructs. And this is surely neither Kant's, not Korzybski's positions. Hence your arguments to equate Representationalism with Idealism don't work, except in the case with Descartes, but only because the main 'thing' for him that constructs everything, including the mind (or the brain), is God.

Edited by Ilya Startsev
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Here is a quote by Korzybski that I think supports my evaluation of him as a mentally ill individual:

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If we take even a symbolic expression 1 = 1, 'absolute sameness' in 'all' aspects is . . . impossible . . . 'Absolute sameness in all aspects' would necessitate an identity of different nervous systems which produce and use these symbols, an identity of the different states of the nervous system of the person who wrote the above two symbols, an identity of the surfaces., of different parts of the paper, in the distribution of ink, and what not. (pp. 194-5, his italics)

And then, to make this absolutely clear, he adds:

Quote

[Learning t]his may be comparable to the spending of many years in teaching and training our children that one and one never equal two, that twice two never equal four. , and then they would have to spend a lifetime full of surprises and disappointments, if not tragedies, to learn, when they are about to die, that the above statements are always correct in mathematics and very often true in daily life, and finally acquire the sadly belated wisdom that they were taught false doctrines and trained in delusion . . . from the beginning. (ibid., his italics)

 

Edited by Ilya Startsev
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To elaborate and analyze one of the previous quotes, I want to note that in Korzybski's own words, the problem with the mentally ill is that they "identify the symbol with actualities" (p. 196, his italics), which he has done on the previous page when he "necessitated" the '1 = 1' formula to mean the following external (in Korzybski's words "outside of his skin") elements:

  1. "different nervous systems which produce and use these symbols";
  2. "the surfaces" and "different parts of the paper";
  3. "the distribution of ink";
  4. other materials or material conditions.

So what happens is the equivocation between symbolic language made as a tool for comprehending reality outside and the empirical data from reality outside to which our language refers. Without the link of reference, which Korzybski ignores in his definition of identity ('absolute sameness in all respects'), he projects his own disorienting confusion on the readers and Aristotle, whose works he never bothered to read. Although Korzybski states some truths in his work (e.g., "[A]n enormous amount of knowledge may be found in a mature occasional perusal of a good grammar or dictionary, the neglect of which acts as a psycho-logical blockage to the understanding" - p. 763), he doesn't usually follow his own advice.

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On 9/11/2018 at 8:27 AM, splitprimary said:

you say "Korzybski includes Kant in the aristotelian tradition", which i'd agree with . . .

I'm starting to think otherwise due to this quote, in which he removes Kant from the category of 'philosopher' to which Aristotle belongs:

Quote

In all fairness, it must be said that not all so-called 'philosophy' represents an episode of semantic illness, and that a few 'philosophers' really do important work. This applies to the so-called 'critical philosophy' and to the theory of knowledge or epistemology. This class of workers I call epistemologists, to avoid the disagreeable implications of the term 'philosopher' (p. 78, his italics)

And because he attributes noumena to Aristotelian analytics:

Quote

We can not know 'essences', things in themselves (p. xvi, italics there) [and] un-speakable effects, such as an object (p. 35)

 

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On page 409 (halfway through the book), Korzybski states a millionth time:

Quote

Let me repeat once more that the 'is' of identity forces us into semantic disturbances of wrong evaluation. (his italics)

So his entire book most probably consists of such repetitions without any justifications.

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  • 10 months later...

Howdy, Ilya!

 

On 9/8/2018 at 1:47 AM, Ilya Startsev said:

She didn't read enough of Kant and merely said that we shouldn't read him much at all. All that we need to understand about Kant, according to Rand, is that his texts are basically meaningless because they are too complex.

Have you read her essay Philosophy: Who Needs It (in which she specifically encourages her readers to read Kant in order to learn how to defeat his methods)? Or Causality versus Duty (in which she discusses the meaning, nature and consequences of Kant's claims)? She did not tell us not to read Kant, but the opposite. She did not say his works were meaningless (and therefore harmless), but the opposite.

I don't have direct evidence of whether she actually read Kant or somehow happened to guess every single one of his claims. You've got me there.

 

Every other statement you made was the precise opposite of the truth? But I Kant say whether or not she actually read Kant. :thumbsup:

 

On 9/6/2018 at 3:11 PM, Ilya Startsev said:

'[F]orm' (structure) ... is the only 'content' of knowledge [according to Korzybski]

Meaning that words do not MEAN anything except for how you string them together - including the words he used to express that. Which means it actually means nothing (by his epistemological standards; not mine).

 

On 9/10/2018 at 3:55 PM, Ilya Startsev said:

If we take a statement, 'This blade of grass is green', and analyse it only as a statement, superficially, we can hardly see how any structure could be implied by it.

...

If we went to the objective, silent, un-speakable level, and analysed this objective blade of grass, we should discover various structural characteristics in the blade; but these are not involved in the statement under consideration, and it would be illegitimate to speak about them.

[Quoting the same Sophist]

Meaning that he knows damn well what words mean; he KNOWS that "this grass is green" but has some (presumably non-Aristotelian) reason for calling such speech "illegitimate" and carrying on as if he didn't know, after all.

Which is kind of impressive, in a way.

 

On 9/10/2018 at 3:55 PM, Ilya Startsev said:

Does then Korzybski misrepresent Aristotle?

Not in particular. Judging by the quoted sections you've shared with us, he misrepresents the whole universe equally.

 

When Rand wrote "'we know that we can know nothing' they chatter, blanking out that they are claiming knowledge", that was the only answer this guy ever did deserve.

 

---

 

I understand that you want to know why Rand didn't specifically respond to your dude, Ilya, but that's boring. Have you read her dissections of Rawles, Keynes or Skinner? If she had mentioned him she would've absolutely crushed him.

I'll be back tomorrow for page 2!

 

PS:

Most people who oppose Rand (especially philosophers) do so because of cowardice. They don't have the balls to see through their own eyes and think with their own brain.

Edited by Harrison Danneskjold
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On 9/11/2018 at 12:33 AM, Ilya Startsev said:

Korzybski doesn't use the term 'anti-Aristotelian' and doesn't consider himself to be opposed to Aristotle's main mission, which he thought was to make a system to explain science and set its goals.

I'm curious.

 

If "the law of identity" (as defined by Aristotle) means non-contradiction, and of K-ehatever railed against "identity" in the way you quoted earlier then what did he describe "science" as?

What is "science" without logic?

 

On 9/11/2018 at 1:30 PM, Ilya Startsev said:

So far the claim that Aristotle is 'the extrovert' is unsupported and the claim that he, Rand, I, and everyone on this forum think feebly is in logical error. He also so many pages into the book has yet to cite Aristotle at least once or at least analyze sufficiently any of Aristotle's ideas. Rand, in comparison, did a much better job with Kant than Korzybski can boast of doing with Aristotle.

 

Thank you.

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On 9/24/2018 at 3:59 AM, Ilya Startsev said:

" ... and then they would have to spend a lifetime full of surprises and disappointments, if not tragedies, to learn, when they are about to die, that the above statements are always correct in mathematics and very often true in daily life ... "

-Korzybski

Which shows that he knows what the actual consequences of his ideas would be, if anyone was suicidal enough to take him seriously.

 

In the DIM Hypothesis Peikoff relates an anecdotal account of a professor of Philosophy who sat down with his own daughter, in front of his entire class, to ask where her daddy was. She pointed at his chest and he said "no, that's daddy's chest. Where is daddy?" When she grinned and pointed at his head he said no; that's daddy's head; where is daddy? And he kept this up until the poor girl was sobbing "where's my daddy?"

I don't know if this actually happened (it was secondhand when Peikoff heard it) but regardless, that is the kind of evil that Korzybski's ideas would inflict on a mind. If someone actually thought that "form or structure is the only content of knowledge" (which then has no relation whatsoever to any physical world)... Well, I'll just say that Korzybski himself doesn't take his own ideas seriously, and leave you to imagine what would happen to him if he ever did.

What's really interesting is that he admits as much right there (just like Peikoff's professor felt no need to hide what he was doing to that poor girl).

 

This might be part of why Rand never commented on him directly. Between "we know that we can know nothing" and what Korzybski himself admitted, she probably saw him as a dead horse.

 

All jokes aside, I can only wonder what else really needs to be said about him. If anyone who knew all that still chose to listen to him, wouldn't they deserve it?

What exactly are you looking for?

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