General semantics is a program begun in the 1920s that seeks to regulate the evaluative operations performed in the human brain. After partial launches under the names "human engineering" and "humanology," Polish-American originator Alfred Korzybski (1879–1950) fully launched the program as "general semantics" in 1933 with the publication of Science and Sanity: An Introduction to Non-Aristotelian Systems and General Semantics.
General semantics is not generalized semantics. Misunderstandings traceable to the discipline's name have greatly complicated the program's history and development.
The sourcebook for general semantics, Science and Sanity, presents general semantics as both a theoretical and a practical system whose adoption can reliably alter human behavior in the direction of greater sanity. Its author asserted that general semantics training could eventually unify people and nations. In the 1947 preface to the third edition of Science and Sanity, Korzybski wrote, "We need not blind ourselves with the old dogma that 'human nature cannot be changed,' for we find that it can be changed."
Many recognized specialists in the knowledge areas where Korzybski claimed to have anchored general semantics—biology, epistemology, mathematics, neurology, physics, psychiatry, etc.— supported his work in his lifetime, including Cassius J. Keyser, C. B. Bridges, W. E. Ritter, P. W. Bridgman, G. E. Coghill, William Alanson White, Clarence B. Farrar, David Fairchild, and Erich Kähler. Starting around 1940, university English professor S.I. Hayakawa (1906–1992), speech professor Wendell Johnson, speech professor Irving J. Lee, and others assembled elements of general semantics into a package suitable for incorporation into mainstream communications curricula. The Institute of General Semantics, which Korzybski and co-workers founded in 1938, continues today.
Famous quotes containing the word general:
“We have wasted our spirit in the regions of the abstract and general just as the monks let it wither in the world of prayer and contemplation.”
—Alexander Herzen (18121870)