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Module 1

What is General Semantics?

“How is it that we humans have advanced so far in science, mathematics, and technology, yet we demonstrate so much confusion, misunderstanding, and violence in our interactions with others and within ourselves?” – Alfred Korzybski

To find an answer to the question posed above, we will find some enlightenment in the life of Alfred Korzybski, the man who founded? established? invented? devised? General Semantics.
photo of Korzybski
Alfred Korzybski
(Courtesy Steve Stockdale/Dallas-Fort Worth Center for General Semantics)

Alfred Korzybski was born in 1879 in a part of the Russian Empire that is now a part of Poland.  He grew up in a household in which four languages (Polish, French, Russian, and German) were used.  As a young man, he studied engineering and mathematics; he also studied mental illness.  During World War I, he served as an officer and was wounded.  His experience in the war exposed him to both the best (the wonderful and terrible new technologies being deployed) and worst (people shooting at each other for reasons which, nearly a century later, have still not been fully clarified) of human evaluating and led him to wonder why and how humans could understand nature so well with regards to science and technology and yet so terrible at understanding each other.  This question, and the question of how to improve human evaluating, would remain central to his work for the rest of his life.  In 1933, he published his magnum opus, Science and Sanity (the title referring to the best and worst of human evaluating), and in doing so introduced the world to General Semantics.

So What ‘Is’ General Semantics?

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