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Related: context - connotation - definition - denotation - interpretation - language - meaning
Instances: the semantics of taste - the semantic web
One day, Korzybski was giving a lecture to a group of students, and he suddenly interrupted the lesson in order to retrieve a packet of biscuits, wrapped in white paper, from his briefcase. He muttered that he just had to eat something, and he asked the students on the seats in the front row, if they would also like a biscuit. A few students took a biscuit. "Nice biscuit, don't you think", said Korzybski, while he took a second one. The students were chewing vigorously. Then he tore the white paper from the biscuits, in order to reveal the original packaging. On it was a big picture of a dog's head and the words "Dog Cookies". The students looked at the package, and were shocked. Two of them wanted to throw up, put their hands in front of their mouths, and ran out of the lecture hall to the toilet. "You see, ladies and gentlemen", Korzybski remarked, "I have just demonstrated that people don't just eat food, but also words, and that the taste of the former is often outdone by the taste of the latter."
DefinitionOf or relating to meaning, especially meaning in language. --American Heritage Dictionary
In general, Semantics (from the Greek semantikos, or "significant meaning," derived from "sema," sign) refers to the study of meaning, in some sense of that term. Semantics is often opposed to syntax, in which case the former pertains to what something means while the latter pertains to the formal structure/patterns in which something is expressed (e.g. written or spoken).--http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Semantic [Apr 2004]
Semantics versus syntactics
Most formal theories of syntax offer explanations of the systematic relationships between syntactic form and semantic meaning. Syntax is defined, within the study of signs, as the first of its three subfields (the study of the interrelation of the signs). The second subfield is semantics (the study of the relation between the signs and the objects to which they apply), and the third is pragmatics (the relationship between the sign system and the user). --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Syntax [Jul 2006]
See also: semiotics - structuralism
Semantic similarity, variously also called 'semantic closeness/proximity/nearness', is a concept whereby a set of documents or terms within term lists are assigned a metric based on the similarity of their meaning / semantic content.
An intuitive way of displaying terms according to their semantic similarity is by grouping together closer related terms and spacing more distantly related ones wider apart. This is common - if sometime subconcious - practice for mind maps and concept maps.
A naive metric for terms arranged as nodes in a directed acyclic graph like a hierarchy would be the minimal distance (in separating edges) between the two term nodes. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Semantic_similarity [Feb 2005]
Alfred Korzybski: people don't just eat food, but also words
Science and Sanity: An Introduction to Non-Aristotelian Systems and General Semantics (1933) - Alfred Korzybski [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]
Alfred Korzybski was born on July 3, 1879 in Warsaw, Poland, and died on March 1, 1950 in Lakeville, Connecticut, USA. He is probably best-remembered for developing the theory of general semantics.
Korzybski and to be
It is often said that Korzybski opposed the use of the verb "to be," an unfortunate exaggeration. He thought that certain uses of the verb "to be," called the "is of identity" and the "is of predication," were faulty in structure, e.g., a statement such as "Joe is a fool" (said of a person named 'Joe' who has done something that we regard as dumb). Korzybski's remedy was to deny identity; in this example, to be continually aware that 'Joe' is not what we call him. We find Joe not in the verbal domain, the world of words, but the nonverbal domain. This was expressed in Korzybski's most famous premise, "The map is not the territory." Note that "the map is not the territory," uses the phrase "is not", a form of the verb "to be." This example shows that he did not intend to abandon the verb as such.
One day, Korzybski was giving a lecture to a group of students, and he suddenly interrupted the lesson in order to retrieve a packet of biscuits, wrapped in white paper, from his briefcase. He muttered that he just had to eat something, and he asked the students on the seats in the front row, if they would also like a biscuit. A few students took a biscuit. "Nice biscuit, don't you think", said Korzybski, while he took a second one. The students were chewing vigorously. Then he tore the white paper from the biscuits, in order to reveal the original packaging. On it was a big picture of a dog's head and the words "Dog Cookies". The students looked at the package, and were shocked. Two of them wanted to throw up, put their hands in front of their mouths, and ran out of the lecture hall to the toilet. "You see, ladies and gentlemen", Korzybski remarked, "I have just demonstrated that people don't just eat food, but also words, and that the taste of the former is often outdone by the taste of the latter." Apparently his prank aimed to illustrate how human suffering originates from the confusion or conflation of linguistic representations of reality and reality itself. (Source: R. Diekstra, Haarlemmer Dagblad, 1993, cited by L. Derks & J. Hollander, Essenties van NLP (Utrecht: Servire, 1996), p. 58).
Korzybski's work influenced Neuro-linguistic programming (especially the metamodel), Gestalt Therapy, Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy and individuals such as Albert Ellis, Gregory Bateson, Buckminster Fuller, Alvin Toffler, Robert A. Heinlein, L. Ron Hubbard, A. E. van Vogt, Robert Anton Wilson, Tommy Hall (lyricist for the 13th Floor Elevators), and scientists such as William Alanson White (psychiatry), and W. Horsley Gantt (a student and colleague of Pavlov). --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alfred_Korzybski [Feb 2006]
The Map Is Not the Territory (2001) - Alan Woods, Ralph Rumney
In search of Stefan Themerson.
Page 37 - Stefan Themerson was almost the only person I came across in London who had any idea about this relationship of art and ideas. ... -- Ralph Rumney
The Map Is Not the Territory (2001) - Alan Woods, Ralph Rumney [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]
This innovative book is an interaction based on a series of interviews between the artist Ralph Rumney and the writer Alan Woods. Rumney's extraordinary life is chronicled here, as well as his works over the last 45 years. He is the only British founder-member of Situationist International, and the lone founder of the London Psychogeographical Society. Complementing the open elements of play and discovery inherent in Rumney's psychogeography is an almost Duchamp-esque interest in the applicability of games. This volume contains over 100 illustrations, many of which have not been previously reproduced. --from the publisher
Ralph Rumney (June 5, 1934 - March 6, 2002) artist, born in Newcastle, England. In 1957 lifelong conscientious objector Rumney was one of the co-founders of the London Psychogeographical Association, which was dissolved to form the Situationist International with Walter Olmo, Michèle Bernstein (who he was later to be married to), Asger Jorn and Guy Debord in the Italian village of Cosio d'Arroscia. However, within seven months Rumney had been 'amiably' expelled from the SI by Debord for allegedly "failing to hand in a psychogeography report about Venice on time".
Rumney spent much of his life living as a wanderer, and was variously described as both a 'recluse' and a 'media whore', seeing his existence as a 'permanent adventure and endless experiment'. He moved, as his friend Guy Atkins said, "between penury and almost absurd affluence. One visited him in a squalid room in London's Neal Street, in a house shared with near down-and-outs. Next, one would find him in Harry's Bar in Venice, or at a Max Ernst opening in Paris. He seemed to take poverty with more equanimity than riches."
Ralph Rumney died of cancer at his home in Manosque, Provence, on March 6, 2002, aged 67.
A book about his life, The Map Is Not The Territory (Manchester University Press, ISBN 0-71-905951-8) was published in 2001.
See also The Consul by Rumney (Verso, ISBN 1-85-984395-6) published in 2002.
An extensive interview with Rumney appears in Vague magazine, issue 22. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ralph_Rumney [Apr 2006]
The map-territory relation
The map-territory relation--the relationship between symbol and object--is one of the lasting philosophical quandaries.
The map is not the territory is a related expression meaning that an abstraction derived from something, or a reaction to it, is not the thing itself, e.g., the pain from a stone falling on your foot is not the stone; one's opinion of a politician, favorable or unfavorable, is not that person; a metaphorical representation of a concept is not the concept itself; and so on. A specific abstraction or reaction does not capture all facets of its source — e.g., the pain in your foot does not convey the internal structure of the stone, you don't know everything that is going on in the life of a politician, etc., — and thus may limit an individual's understanding and cognitive abilities unless the two are distinguished.
The surrealist artist René Magritte illustrated the concept of "perception always interceeds between reality and ourselves" in a number of paintings including a famous work entitled The Betrayal of Imagesimage, which consists of a drawing of a pipe with the caption, Ceci n'est pas une pipe ("This is not a pipe").
The expression "the map is not the territory" first appeared in print in a paper that Alfred Korzybski gave at a meeting of the American Mathematical Society in New Orleans, Louisiana in 1931. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_map_is_not_the_territory [Apr 2006]
Stefan Themerson (1910-1988) was a Polish writer and philosopher. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stefan_Themerson [Apr 2006]
Tip of the hat to W. F. Hermans
See also: semantics - Situationist International
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