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That or Not That

General Semantics

General Semantics is a branch of philosophy that explores the role of language in shaping thoughts and experiences. Words enable the formation of thoughts, allowing individuals to narrate experiences internally and to share their experience with others in story. Nature’s ability to transmit information through generations was severely limited before words and stories. 

I read and reread Korzybski’s 1937 General Semantics Seminar Series recorded and transcribed at Olivet College. I could feel myself sitting in the audience. 

I drafted a few bullet points about what I learned from the book. It turned into this Not-a-Poem.

Using Language Like Math

Everything is either
That or Not That.
Things that are Kind of Like That 
are Not That.

Anything that can be 
Pointed at or Thought Of is
Either That or Not That. 
See for yourself! It’s a test of sorts. 
An inarguable truth.

Sometimes you can find 
Things That Break The Rule. 
Even a Rule as Simple As That.
You might find, for example, 
A mammal that lays eggs. 
Mammals don’t lay eggs – 
That’s the definition of a mammal. And yet, 
A mammal that lays eggs –
Is called a Platypus.

If you find too many Platypuses, 
In Your Math or in Your Language,
Then it’s Time To Question
Your First Principles,
Your Generalizations,
The Implicit Assumptions 

Embedded in your language.
Inevitably, when you face a situation frankly,
A solution appears. 
This has been true for the
Whole history of civilization.

Insight never appears before it does. [7
It’s as – Simple As That.

[Previous] – The Art of Complicated Subjects

[Next] – The Map is Not The Territory


General Semantics

Zen in The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Robert Pirsig 1973.

Lila, Robert Pirsig, 1991 – “The Metaphysics of Quality

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