From the Institute of General Semantics Website: FAQS

et Cetera, July 2008 | Go to article overview

From the Institute of General Semantics Website: FAQS


1. What is general semantics?

There are as many different ways to answer this question as there are to respond to "What is psychology?" or "What is behavior?" In fact, there are so many they've been collected into a compendium of definitions that are available here.

Here is one: General Semantics refers to a general system of evaluation-that is to say, a systematic methodology for individuals to use in understanding how they relate to the world around them, how they react to this world, how they react to their reactions, and how they adjust their behavior accordingly.

You could also say that general semantics is concerned with the continual processes related to how we perceive what goes on, how our nervous systems construct those perceptions into some kind of cognitive experience, how we evaluate or respond to the experiences, and then how we communicate our experiences.

General Semantics was introduced by Alfred Korzybski in his 1933 book, Science and Sanity: An Introduction to Non-Aristotelian Systems and General Semantics.

2. What is the difference between semantics and general semantics?

Semantics typically refers to the field of study that is concerned primarily with how symbols (language) relate to their referents in the real non-verbal world. Included in this study would be the consistency of words to referents as well as the logical validity of statements.

General semantics goes beyond semantics in that it includes the at-themoment responses and interactions of the individual humans who participate in a communicative process. General semantics represents an interdisciplinary methodology that invokes not only semantics but linguistics, grammar, behavioral sciences, physiology, etc. Alfred Korzybski explained: "In revising semantics, I am adding the word General, and also have enlarged the meaning in the sense that it turns out to be a general theory of values; evaluation.... In our seminars we investigate the factors of evaluation."

3. Is it similar to any other disciplines or practices I might be familiar with?

Because general semantics pertains to matters of general evaluation, one can make a case that it belongs in any (or every) discipline. …

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