Academic journal article ETC.: A Review of General Semantics

Principles into Praxis: Peace and Nonviolence in Action

Academic journal article ETC.: A Review of General Semantics

Principles into Praxis: Peace and Nonviolence in Action

Article excerpt

This paper examines if the problem of violence, destructive to oneself and to humanity, can be addressed by bridging the gap between knowing and practicing nonviolence and peace. I explore the critique of violence in Gandhi, Martin Luther King, and Korzybski to make sense of the experience--knowledge--life dynamics of ideas. The nonviolent resistance movements initiated by M. K. Gandhi and Martin Luther King illustrate how principles can be translated into strategies for social change. Gandhi and King had effectively used nonviolent means for challenging violent political authority and unjust social phenomena such as racism. The extensional thinking suggested by General Semantics makes one alert about the problems implicit in forming theories and definitions of violence without taking into account its varied connotations and contexts. Korzybski's vision of preventing wars and establishing lasting peace is methodically developed in Manhood of Humanity, he also indirectly suggests a series of individual and collective practices in his texts and seminars for dealing with individual and collective violence. Korzybskian methods that have the potential to influence human linguistic, communicational, social, and behavioral domains can be internalized through conscious self-training in General Semantics.

As individuals, Gandhi, King, and Korzybski were successful, to a great extent, in transferring what they had deemed to be great principles to the realm of everyday lives of their own. A daunting problem for any knowing-practicing individual is how the knowledge into action ideal could be expanded to give it a collective dimension. Hording followers who are blinded by fear or reverence might be easier than generating conviction among intelligent people who have a creatical (creative and critical) approach to knowledge--practice. No movement or principle would last for long on a shaky foundation of blind faith. To have people with conviction reached through constant experimentation, questioning, doubts, and revisions is necessary for a method, or belief system to evolve and have an enduring influence. Any idea should be open-ended and held tentatively; else it becomes a rigid doctrine. The ashram for Gandhi, the community that he addressed through sermons for Martin Luther King and the Institute that he started for teaching the science and art of General Semantics for Korzybski were the sites in which their dreams of collective praxis sought fulfillment. These spaces were for experiments and analysis facilitating a dialogic relation between ideas and lived experience, teacher and student, and knowledge and practice.

A similarity I find in the modus operandi of Gandhi, King, and Korzybski is this: they had faith in positive micro-level changes taking place within human beings and recommended unending analysis and experimentation with life. They differ in the terminologies of transformation used in their writings and speeches. Gandhi and King call the desired change in human beings and societies, a soul force that extends from morally upright truthful human beings to those around them, including their rivals. The vision of Gandhi and King is theistic. Korzybski interpreted the phenomena of micro- to macro-level changes in scientific terms and as time binding, which accommodates communication, evaluation, revisions in knowledge, deconstructing facile assumptions, and transformations resulting from these processes. Korzybski does not talk about ethics, truth, or morality as a spiritualist or believer in any religion. He presents his views as an experienced scholar-practitioner who has an analytic view, influenced by science, about human beings and society. Gandhi, King, and Korzybski dreamed of concerted human efforts for the common good of the species. For Gandhi, one of the major purposes of satyagraha (truth-force) was sarvodaya, or collective good. King's vision of a beloved community was based on love and mutual help among human beings despite all superficial segregations and divisions. …

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