What’s in a name

This post was written by admin on June 30, 2009
Posted Under: teaching stories,true story

This is a true story about Alfred Korzybski the creator of general semantics and the author of the seminal book Science and Sanity: An Introduction to Non-Aristotelian Systems and General Semantics (International Non-Aristotelian Library).

Alfred Korzybski is the person who came up with the statement, “The map is not the territory.” This is one of the basic tenants of NLP (neruo-linguistic programming).

One day Alfred Korzybski was giving a lecture on general semantics and he brought out some biscuits (cookies in American) from a brown bag. He said, “I’m hungry,” and ate one with relish. He said, “I have a few left. They are so tasty and wish to share them with you. Who wants one?”

A few of the students in the first two rows asked and got one each. They too enjoyed the biscuits. After they had finished he asked if they liked them, and all the students who had received the biscuits agreed that in deed they were yummy (technical term).

Next Korzybski opened the brown bag to reveal the original package of the biscuits. They were dog biscuits. The student who had ate them got queasy and three of them ran to the bathroom to throw up. This clearly demonstrated that the map (the symbols that we use – typically words) is not the territory.

Lao Tzu stated this idea in the first chapter of Tao Te Ching when he wrote:
The tao that can be told
is not the eternal Tao
The name that can be named
is not the eternal Name.

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