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Science and Sanity: An Introduction to Non-Aristotelian Systems and General Semantics [Hardcover]

Alfred Korzybski
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

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Product details

  • Hardcover
  • Publisher: Inst of General Semantics; 5 Sub edition (Jan 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0937298018
  • ISBN-13: 978-0937298015
  • Product Dimensions: 16.3 x 23.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 262,481 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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annotated and nice and clean

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Science and Sanity: An Introduction to Non-aristotelian Systems and General Semantics, first published in October, 1933, was intended to be a textbook showing how in modern scientific methods we can find factors of sanity, to be tested empirically. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
45 of 47 people found the following review helpful
Stunning. Absolutely stunning. I really cannot use enough superlatives to describe the effect this book has had on my life. I have seen it described as difficult to read, and I admit that at first glance it can seem daunting. But investing some time and effort in trying to internalise what Korzybski says can have dramatic effects on your quality of life. I would advise that you read it once, and don't worry too much if you don't understand long passages. On the second time of reading, some of those passages begin to make sense, and you get an inkling of the importance of what he says. I read it twice, starting again as soon as I had finished. I intend to read it again soon, once I have given my brain a chance to mull over the new information I have presented for it's delectation.
As a general formula, the more you read this book, the greater benefit you derive from it.
With Science and Sanity, Alfred Korzybski presents a system of thought that he claims can make humanity 'sane'. To evaluate such a claim, which has profound implications for humanity, you must read the book and decide for yourself. Don't listen to the propaganda. By examining our language, and it's underlying Aristotelian metaphysics, he illustrates that the structure of our nervous systems does not correspond to the structure of our language, leading to a serious discrepancy that causes 'un-sanity'. Put simply, our language cannot cope with 'reality'. Since we rely on language to think and evaluate, WE cannot cope with reality. The solution? Change our language.
Rather than base our language on Aristotelian 'metaphysics', which means only that we base our language on the physics of Ancient Greece, let us base our language on modern physics, which denies the existence of an objective reality.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The start of something new 21 Aug 2008
By Dr. Nicholas P. G. Davies TOP 1000 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
This is an important, yet often overlooked book. It deserves more attention than it has so far had, and it deserves to be in a wider readership than as a source book for neuro-linguistic programming (NLP)

The message of this book is important and can be summarised to the classic quote, "The map is not the territory, it is a representation of the territory and useful in so far as it corresponds to the territory" The book is the great statement of non-identity- the description of a thing or process is not the thing or process itself.

The book makes the argument fully, but sadly like Merleau-Ponty's "The Phenomenology of Perception" it's message is often lost amidst linguistic complexity.

This book is important, it does make a worthwhile argument, and it is a basic resource for those interested in NLP, general semantics and neuro-semantics.

The message from this book deserves to reach a bigger audience.

The book is worth reading, but you will need persistence and concentration to get the message out of it.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Semantics from the world of 1933 5 May 2006
By bernie TOP 1000 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
An interesting view that is not to be overlooked. As in physics we changed or concepts from Newtonian (space and time) to Einstein or non-Newtonian (space/time). We see this in any fields and some of us embrace the change and see how infinite our views can still work; others of us resist knowing that there is something fundamentally wrong if you can not put your finger on it.

Korzybski opens up our mind and world to the possibilities of Non-Aristotellian systems and general semantics.

"If one wishes to obtain a definite answer to Nature one must attack the question from a more general and less selfish point of view"

M. PLANCK
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10 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars korzybski's Hyper Organon. 6 Jun 2003
"Science And Sanity" remains the most important book written in the last century, unread by the majority of people, while not understood by some who have.
Alfred Korzybski as a result of his experiences came to formulate a system capable of explaining anomalies which Aristotles's 'logic-methodology'(organon c.350 B.C.), further Francis Bacon's revision(Novum organon,1620) continue to ignor. For example rediscoveries of non-identity: Heraclitus(c.500 B.C.)- one cannot step into the 'same' river twice; infinite-values: Georg Cantor(1874)- finite variables generated between others; non-elementalism: Lao-Tse(c.600 B.C.)- the whole is not the sum of the parts; non-allness: Bertrand Russell(1910)- a proposition about 'all' propositions cannot include itself; etc.
Morpheus when asked 'what is the Matrix'? Replied: "It is the world that has been pulled over your eyes to blind you from the truth". Similarly 'aristotelian-conditionality' codifies 'reality' such that facts become ignored. The 'realities' include the generation of abstractions upon abstractions(for example, use language to speak about language, Josiah Royce 1855-1916; but including the non-verbal perceptions, visualizations , etc), the phenomena causal by noumena(thing(s)-in themselves) the external event(s) of which we confuse assuming as the 'same'. This appears something that Siddhartha Gautama(Buddha) in part realized, for when asked 'what reality was' he simply raised a rose over his head then while smiling said that the rose is forever beyond words.
This book therefore not only becomes fundamental for the philosophic-scientific-enterprise-as-a-whole, it becomes essential even for the 'ordinary person' as an orientation to 'reality'.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.4 out of 5 stars  37 reviews
90 of 94 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Most Underestimated Book Of The 20th Century? 25 Sep 2000
By Jonathan Eaton - Published on Amazon.com
In his book, Science and Sanity, Alfred Korzybski succeeds in presenting to his readers a distillation of many seemingly diverse branches of knowledge, including: Anthropology, Biology, Education, Logic, Mathematics, Neurology, Physics, Physiology, Psychiatry, Semantics, etc.
Specialists in the above mentioned disciplines may be disappointed or even insulted at Korzybski's general, integrative style. However, Korzybski was mainly concerned about extracting the aspects of the above mentioned disciplines that have the most human value.
Korzybski's attitude was definitely NOT "science for science's sake." Instead, he sought to integrate diverse branches of knowledge into a system that would be simple enough to teach to young children, so that each young child would begin life with the knowledge and wisdom that took the human race centuries of labor to achieve. Of course, if this goal could actually be achieved, the progression and survival of the human race would be greatly enhanced!
Although Science and Sanity is certainly a difficult book to read and understand, Korzybski's system can be easily taught to young children. The reason for this is that Korzybski summarized his system as a non-verbal diagram. Probably, the wisdom of thousands of books are represented non-verbally on that diagram!
It's true that one must know what the different parts of the diagram represent in order to appreciate or understand it; however, Korzybski's system is certainly unique in that one can explain the system to another while referring (pointing) to a diagram. This visual aid, called the Structural Differential, could be used in the education of young children as a way of simply and easily imparting "the wisdom of the ages."
Note: Science and Sanity uses some abbreviations throughout the book. There are charts on pages 15 and 16 that explain these. Don't miss those charts, or you'll miss the whole book!
70 of 73 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Life-Changing Book 7 Jun 2002
By James OReilly - Published on Amazon.com
I first read this book over 25 years ago, and it stunned me. Only a fool or the bitterest cynic could come away from this book unchanged. Whether or not you agree with all or even some of its premises and conclusions, Science and Sanity will make you keenly aware of language, psychology, and communication in all aspects of your life. You will realize how little most people know or understand about the deep and complex role language plays at home and on the world stage. This book will give you a different platform to stand on. Yes, it is a difficult book to read, but like another difficult book, Samuel Hahnemann's timeless Organon of the Medical Art, it rewards the patient and thoughtful reader in countless subtle ways over the course of time. I'd rate this book in my top ten books of a lifetime spent reading everything under the sun.
45 of 47 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A great book that one has to get of in order to get into 7 Dec 1999
By Doug Vaughn - Published on Amazon.com
This book should probably be on any short list of the century's most influential books but would, ironically, never make a list of most read books. A significant number of people did read and internalize the book's message and Korzibsky's thought thus found its way into a number of diverse fields. But despite the wide dissimination of the book's message, the book itself, because it is so dense and difficult, has never had a wide reading audience. In fact, early critics made the point that a book about language and meaning should not have such difficult language that its meaning is difficult to understand. Yet this is the problem that Korzibski faced - having to use language to demonstrate the inherent limitations and dangers of language.
I have read the book, having come to it from a number of popular treatments of Korzybski's work. These at least provided a framework for understanding what otherwise might have been lost to me in the author's stiff prose. The book's most basic message, that 'the map is not the territory' (the Word is not the Thing it represents), can seem trivial when stated simply. However, only a little analysis will suffice to show how easily even very bright people fall into the trap of the 'Is of identity' - the semantic error that is inherent in the syllogistic form of reasoning that makes use of statements of the form 'All A are B, C is A, therefore C is B'. Note that 'is' suggests, and indeed often is taken to be, a statement of identity - that category A is identical in some ways, to category B. This is false. As words, these simply stand for, or 'point to' certain things, which themselves are identical only on the verbal level - the level of conceptual thought - not on the non-verbal level of external reality. Because we must use language to think and communicate with others about that external reality, we always run the risk of confusing what we say about things with the reality that exits independently of our thought.
The full implications of this line of reasoning is vast and extremely important. From the easy to see fallacy of reification, where having a name for something lends it a reality which in fact might not exist, to more complex issues having to do with the levels of abstraction inherent in various forms of thinking/speaking, this book touches on such a multitude of important topics that it is impossible to sum up in a few words.
Those new to the concept of General Semantics might do well to start with one of the popular treatments of the subject such as Hiakawa's Language in Thought and Action. But if one moves on to the primary text the rewards will be many. It 'is' a difficult book, but deeply rewarding
48 of 51 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Through the Prism 26 Nov 2002
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
I would first like to say that I read this book at the age of 17 and understood it rather easily; so for me, it was not a difficult book. I would describe it as densely packed, but not particularly difficult. The author has specific instructions on how to read the book -- and even what to do if you don't understand something -- and so if you follow these instructions, you should do fine.
One of the fundamental notions presented in Science and Sanity is that we always see the world through the altering prism of our nervous system; that is, we never experience the world directly, but only through the lense of our 'abstractions' (our individual nervous system's responses to the world). When we talk or think, the world is further altered (abstracted) by the language or words we use in dealing with our nervous system's responses. And because in words we can talk or think about the words and thoughts we have used previously, our abstractions can build on previous abstractions, and extend into many orders or iterations. Therefore, because our thoughts and our words are abstractions from what we are thinking or talking about, and because we don't experience the world directly (but only through the prism of our individual nervous systems), there exists an unavoidable element of uncertainty in even our best statements. They are "from our point of view" so to speak, not "the way it is."
I think you can see from this discussion that Korzybski was trying to generalize Einstein's and Heisenberg's notions of relativity and uncertainty (in science) to the whole of life in its myriad aspects (and create a system to train us in that attitude). Not only is "beauty in the eye of the beholder," everything is in the eye of the beholder. This does not mean that all abstractions from different people are of equal value in Korzybski's system (though all are relative or somewhat uncertain). He values most the abstractions that have the highest predictive value; the ones that seem to fit the 'facts' of our world the best. And thus his quest to impart the attitudes and values of science in our everyday reactions; for instance, the attitude that says, "I don't know, let's see," one of his favorite expressions.
Now, if you find the previous discussion interesting, then I would recommend the book. If you do not find it interesting, then I would not recommend it.
But regardless of my recommendation, I would point out that everything I have said here is just a reflection of my individual abstractions or reactions to Science and Sanity; they are not "it." Note that no two reviews (abstractions of the book) at this site are even close to being identical, and some are wildly different. So, in this case, the best use of the "I don't know, let's see" response (if that is an attitude that you would like to cultivate in your life) would be to get the book and see for yourself (make you own abstractions).
22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What happened? 2 Feb 2003
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
So, I read the selections from Science and Sanity, and I realize, damn this book is amazing. One would be wise to ask, What is the importance of generalities, or in other words, how important is a general understanding of the position mankind is in at this-very-moment(1933). Of the information and knowledge, the engineering, history, and science, which influences every moment of our day, from when we wake till when we sleep. Korzybski accumulated a large amount of information for the developement of a system, which not only gives a general outline of the evolution of science and math, up to 1933, but still holds weight to this very day.
General semantics, does not refer to the semantics of words, but of our thoughts, and the nature of the logic which we adhere to today, mostly of Aristotlian propositions. He outlines and differentiates from his system the older, outdated Aristotlian system. This of course, he acknowledges as being a loose generalization of his system. His system takes the revolutionary ideas of great mathemeticians, scientists, philosophers, psychiatrists, and anthropologists, to name a few, and accumulates the knowledge to form a concept he refered to as 'time-binding' or the function of passing information learned in ones lifetime to one's kin, more efficiently. My understanding of the system at this point is still amateur at best, but the potential is damn near infinite. Criticism of the system comes mainly from those who haven't taken the time to apply the principles, and not just ponder them. The genius behind the system is in the application. He utilizes techniques I don't even think were fully understood at the time of writing the book. The use of visualization and non-identification alone in application creates an inner revolution of unspeakable precident, increasing memorization ability, organization of thought, temper reactions to words and memories, and numerous other benefits that can only be experienced.
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