Alfred Habdank Skarbek Korzybski ([kɔˈʐɨpski]) (July 3, 1879 – March 1, 1950) was a Polish-American philosopher and scientist. He is remembered most for developing the theory of general semantics.
…One day, Korzybski was giving a lecture to a group of students, and he interrupted the lesson suddenly in order to retrieve a packet of biscuits, wrapped in white paper, from his briefcase. He muttered that he just had to eat something, and he asked the students on the seats in the front row if they would also like a biscuit. A few students took a biscuit. “Nice biscuit, don’t you think,” said Korzybski, while he took a second one. The students were chewing vigorously. Then he tore the white paper from the biscuits, in order to reveal the original packaging. On it was a big picture of a dog’s head and the words “Dog Cookies.” The students looked at the package, and were shocked. Two of them wanted to vomit, put their hands in front of their mouths, and ran out of the lecture hall to the toilet. “You see,” Korzybski remarked, “I have just demonstrated that people don’t just eat food, but also words, and that the taste of the former is often outdone by the taste of the latter.”
…Korzybski’s work influenced Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy, and Neuro-linguistic programming (especially the Meta model, Korzybski’s critique of cause-effect thinking, and ideas behind human modeling for performance). As reported in the Third Edition of Science and Sanity, The U.S. Army in World War II used his system to treat battle fatigue in Europe with the supervision of Dr. Douglas M. Kelley, who also became the psychiatrist in charge of the Nazi prisoners at Nuremberg. Other individuals influenced by Korzybski include Alejandro Jodorowsky, Kenneth Burke, William S. Burroughs, Frank Herbert, Albert Ellis, Gregory Bateson, John Grinder, Buckminster Fuller,Douglas Engelbart, Stuart Chase, Alvin Toffler, Robert A. Heinlein (Korzybski is mentioned in the 1940 short story “Blowups Happen” and the 1949 novella Gulf), L.Ron Hubbard, A. E. van Vogt, Robert Anton Wilson, Alan Watts, entertainer Steve Allen, and Tommy Hall (lyricist for the 13th Floor Elevators); and scientists such as William Alanson White (psychiatry), physicist P. W. Bridgman, and researcher W. Horsley Gantt (a former student and colleague of Pavlov). He also influenced the Belgian surrealist writer of comics Jan Bucquoy in the seventh part of the comics series Jaunes: Labyrinthe, with explicit reference in the plot to Korzybski’s “the map is not the territory“.Some of the General Semantics tradition was continued by Samuel I. Hayakawa, who did have a dispute with Korzybski. When asked because of what, Hayakawa is said to have replied: “Words.”
Tuesday morning, I interview by phone Alexander Technique teacher, physical therapist, author and Alfred Korzybski expert Bruce Kodish, author of the new book, Korzybski: A Biography.
Kodish previously published Drive Yourself Sane: Uncover the Uncommon Sense of General Semantics and Dare to Inquire: Sanity and Survival for the 21st Century and Beyond. For more info, go to his website DriveYourselfSane.com.