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

By Alfred Korzybski | Go to book overview

CHAPTER IV
ON STRUCTURE

No satisfactory justification has ever been given for connecting in any way the consequences of mathematical reasoning with the physical world.

(22) E. T. BELL

Any student of science, or of the history of science, can hardly miss two very important tendencies which pervade the work of those who have accomplished most in this field. The first tendency is to base science more and more on experiments; the other is toward greater and more critical verbal rigour. The one tendency is to devise more and better instruments, and train the experimenters; the other is to invent better verbal forms, better forms of representation and of theories, so as to present a more coherent account of the experimental facts.

The second tendency has an importance equal to that of the first; a number of isolated facts does not produce a science any more than a heap of bricks produces a house. The isolated facts must be put in order and brought into mutual structural relations in the form of some theory. Then, only, do we have a science, something to start from, to analyse, ponder on, criticize, and improve. Before this something can be criticized and improved, it must first be produced, so the investigator who discovers some fact, or who formulates some scientific theory, does not often waste his time. Even his errors may be useful, because they may stimulate other scientists to investigate and improve.

Scientists found long ago that the common language in daily use is of little value in science. This language gives us a form of representation of very old structure in which we find it impossible to give a full, coherent account of ourselves or of the world around us. Each science has to build a special terminology adapted to its own special purposes. This problem of a suitable language is of serious importance. Too little do we realize what a hindrance a language of antiquated structure is. Such a language does not help, but actually prevents, correct analysis through the semantic habits and structural implications embodied in it. The last may be of great antiquity and bound up, by necessity, with primitive-made structural implications, or, as we say, metaphysics, involving primitive s.r.

The above explains why the popularization of science is such a difficult and, perhaps, even a semantically dangerous problem. We attempt to translate a creative and correct language which has a structure

-55-

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