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A collection of quotes and thoughts by Alfred Korzybski on cybernetics, metaphysics, philosophy, life, general-semantics, science, sanity, concept and symbolism.

27 Motivational Quotes By Alfred Korzybski That You Can’t Leave Out

Quick Facts

Famous As
Scholar who developed the field of General Semantics

Born On
03 July 1879 AD

Died On
01 March 1950 AD

Born In
Warsaw

Founder / Co Founder
Institute of General Semantics

Died At Age
70

Alfred Korzybski was an acclaimed Polish-American scholar known to have evolved the field of general semantics. This field of semantics talks about how human knowledge is limited due to the development of different languages. He argued that the languages also prevent a person from acknowledging absolute reality. After completing his engineering studies he served the Second Russian Army during the First World War, and later served the French-Polish Army. These war experiences compelled him to question the concept of war and he started studying the difference in behavior of humans and animals. He was encouraged by his friends to publish his studies and he came out with his first book titled ‘Manhood of Humanity: The Science and Art of Human Engineering’. The success of the book motivated him to further progress his research on psychology and he came up with his second book called ‘Time-Binding: The General Theory’. He soon became a prominent figure in the field of psychology and traveled to various places to conduct lectures on his theories. Following is the corpus of quotations and sayings by the renowned mathematician, philosopher and engineer on science, sanity, revolution, universe, territory, map and humanity. Go through the quotes by Alfred Korzybski which throws light on general semantics and human knowledge.

I want to make clear only that words are not the things spoken about, and that there is no such thing as an object in absolute isolation.

- Alfred Korzybski

I think therefore I seem to be.

- Alfred Korzybski

I am the same kind of moron as the rest of you, it's the method that does the work, for me as well as for you.

- Alfred Korzybski

The present non-aristotelian system is based on fundamental negative premises; namely, the complete denial of 'identity.'

- Alfred Korzybski

Let us repeat the two crucial negative premises as established firmly by all human experience: (1) Words are not the things we are speaking about; and (2) There is no such thing as an object in absolute isolation.

- Alfred Korzybski

We see what we see because we miss all the finer details.

- Alfred Korzybski

A person does what he does because he sees the world as he sees it.

- Alfred Korzybski

The map is not the territory... The only usefulness of a map depends on similarity of structure between the empirical world and the map...

- Alfred Korzybski

Words don't mean, people mean.

- Alfred Korzybski

Who rules our symbols, rules us.

- Alfred Korzybski

Man's achievements rest upon the use of symbols.... we must consider ourselves as a symbolic, semantic class of life, and those who rule the symbols, rule us.

- Alfred Korzybski

To use words to sense reality is like going with a lamp to search for darkness.

- Alfred Korzybski

Two important characteristics of maps should be noticed. A map is not the territory it represents, but, if correct, it has a similar structure to the territory, which accounts for its usefulness.

- Alfred Korzybski

If a psychiatric and scientific inquiry were to be made upon our rulers, mankind would be appalled at the disclosures.

- Alfred Korzybski

Thus, we see that one of the obvious origins of human disagreement lies in the use of noises for words.

- Alfred Korzybski

Whatever you say it is, it isn't.

- Alfred Korzybski

God may forgive your sins, but your nervous system won't.

- Alfred Korzybski

Different ‘philosophies’ represent nothing but methods of evaluation, which may lead to empirical mis-evaluation if science and empirical facts are disregarded.

- Science and Sanity: An Introduction to Non-Aristotelian Systems and General Semantics, Alfred Korzybski

Any proposition containing the word "is" creates a linguistic structural confusion which will eventually give birth to serious fallacies.

- Alfred Korzybski

If words are not things, or maps are not the actual territory, then, obviously, the only possible link between the objective world and the linguistic world is found in structure, and structure alone.

- Alfred Korzybski

The objective level is not words, and cannot be reached by words alone. We must point our finger and be silent, or we will never reach this level.

- Science and Sanity: An Introduction to Non-Aristotelian Systems and General Semantics, Alfred Korzybski

There are two ways to slide easily through life; to believe everything or doubt everything. Both ways save us from thinking.

- Alfred Korzybski

The map is not the territory.

- Alfred Korzybski

To regard human beings as tools - as instruments - for the use of other human beings is not only unscientific but it is repugnant, stupid and short sighted. Tools are made by man but have not the autonomy of their maker - they have not man's time-binding capacity for initiation, for self-direction, and self-improvement.

- Alfred Korzybski

As words are not the things we speak about, and structure is the only link between them, structure becomes the only content of knowledge. If we gamble on verbal structures that have no observable empirical structures, such gambling can never give us any structural information about the world. Therefore such verbal structures are structurally obsolete, and if we believe in them, they induce delusions or other semantic disturbances.

- Alfred Korzybski

It seems evident that everything which exists in nature, is natural, no matter how simple or complicated a phenomenon it is; and on no occasion can the so-called 'supernatural' be anything else than a completely natural law, though it may, at the moment, be above and beyond the present understanding.

- Alfred Korzybski

It is amusing to discover, in the twentieth century, that the quarrels between two lovers, two mathematicians, two nations, two economic systems, usually assumed insoluble in a finite period should exhibit one mechanism, the semantic mechanism of identification - the discovery of which makes universal agreement possible, in mathematics and in life.

- Alfred Korzybski