Developing Sanity in Human Affairs

By Susan Presby Kodish; Robert P. Holston | Go to book overview

4
Living in an "as if" World: Some Reflections on "The Map Is Not the Territory"

Charlotte Schuchardt Read

Map-territory (or word-'things', etc.) relations have been a favorite subject of thoughtful people for many centuries in various cultures, and no wonder. They are at the foundation of our everyday living. The simplicity of Korzybki's premise is misleading, for there are endless fascinating ramification. And not everyone would say, "Yes of course. How obvious!" Furthermore, we often act as if we disagree.

Map-territory relations involve 'truths' ("The whole truth and nothing but the truth"), half-truth lies (deliberate or nondeliberate), 'white' lies, distortions, slants omissions, commission. etc. As Korzybski put it in his Author's Note in Selections from Science and Sanity, "we allocated him [the individual] in a plenum of some values, no matter what, and a plenum of language, which may be used to inform or misinform by omission and/or commission, deceiving the individual himself and/or others. With such problems, without exception, the individual has to cope to be human at all. 1

I recall a talk by the late William Exton Jr. at one of the seminars of the Institute of General Semantics whem he held up many different kinds of maps: geographic maps over the centuries; road maps over the past years; maps showing moutains and elevations, water routes, towns and cities countries (named and renamed, with shifting borders), etc. We have musical notes, dance notations, cave drawings, pictographs, photographs, drawings, paintings, architectural blueprints, recipes for culinary delights. We have religious beliefs, scientific laws, legal laws, memories of past happenings, predictions of future happenings, books, magazines, newspapers, TV progams. The list can go on and on.

We can change our 'history,' revise laws, update our expectation or predictions, reassess our understanding of a person's achievements, etc. We can speak about what a speaker said, tell a story we heard from someone, repeat a rumor about a rumor (we all know where these processes lead). Have you ever

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