Tuesday, December 23, 2008

This is Not An Animation! (Or Is It?)

So, my MySpace friend Peter Schmideg (click on his name to go to his MySpace profile), who is a New York-based web artist (who has also been an actor, a playwright, a screenwriter, a film director, and a radio host/producer) posts some of his work on his MySpace blog (which you can access from his profile), and recently posted a post entitled Whatever, featuring and I take this right from his blog, link and all, "A quote from Alfred Korzybski:" And here is the very cool animation that followed:

(Note, you don't see the entire quote of "Whatever you say it is, it isn't," click on the image to get the full picture. For some glitch reason I cannot fathom, this an other picks are cut off when I view the blog.)

This can be understood as a basic concept of general semantics, that there is an unbridgeable chasm between symbols and the reality that they represent, that words are not the things they refer to, maps are not the territories they depict, that language ultimately misleads us about the nature of the world, all the more so because we naturally assume that it is not only accurate, but essentially is one and the same with the world. And we are especially misled by the verb to be, which implies identity between different phenomena, the same kind of relationship as when we say that 1+1=2 or A=A. So this saying, "Whatever you say it is, it isn't," is a pithy way of explaining general semantics while standing on one foot, as the saying goes.

I should mention that Peter's website is called Illumination Gallery, yeah you can get there by clicking on that name, and it's chock full of animations, many text-based like this quote, many others of images. For example, Peter took a picture of me dancing with my daughter, and turned it into this:

He titled it Rolling the Dice of Design, created it for Autism Awareness Month this past April, and you can read what he wrote about it on his website by clicking on the title.

Getting back to the quote, "Whatever you say it is, it isn't," Bruce Kodish, who is writing the definitive biography of Korzybski, and is a fellow blogist--Korzybski Files--and who I've mentioned here before, tells me that there is no evidence that Korzybski ever actually said this, even though it is commonly attributed to him. No doubt he said something to that effect, but that particular statement does not appear in print. As for what he may have said orally on any given occasion, well, who can say?

Perhaps the conclusion is, "Whatever Korzybski said, he didn't" or "Whatever you say Korzybski said, he didn't," or maybe "Whatever you say Korzybski said, you didn't" or maybe I better quit while I'm ahead?

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