Wednesday, April 21, 2004

A lot more words to go with what is below

I have grabbed a larger chunk from RAW's book, from the section on language as a conspiracy:

Language as a mind-control device has been discussed by such philosophers as Vico (18th century), Stirner and Nietzsche (19th century), and Wittgenstein (lOth century). The most radical scientific critics of language in our time include Count Alfred Korzybski and Dr. Richard Bandler.

Korzybski, who grew up in a house where four languages were spoken (Polish, Russian, French, German) and learned English much later, observed that the words we use influence our perceptions and conceptions of the world-e.g., even in the same language, a book may be called "realistic" by one reader and "pornographic" by another, and each will tend to perceive/conceive the book that way more and more automatically if they repeat their label ( "realistic" or "pornographic") over and over. This underlies the mechanism of hypnosis, as Dr. Bandler discovered later. It also explains why you won't make much progress preaching radical equality to somebody who continually uses the word "nigger," or defending the first amendment to somebody who keeps saying "smut" (or "sexism").

But Korzybski made a more radical discovery, namely, that our perceptions/conceptions (reality-tunnels) are also shaped the structure of the language we use. A Native American, African, a Chinese, etc. - anyone using a non-Indo-Europe, language structure - will live in a different universe than those who only know Indo-European. Considering mathematics a language, Korzybski also claimed that the mathematically literate live in a different semantic system than those who only know verbal structures.
From these starting points, Korzybski arrived at a devastating diagnosis of most of our culture's habitual linguistic structures (which he called neurolinguistic structures because they act as the software with which our nervous systems, including our brains, process data). Our worst habit, he thought, lay in the constant assumption of identity implied in most uses of the verb "is. " Such sentences as "The photon is a wave," "The photon is a particle," "Beethoven is better than Mozart," "The thing I saw was a spaceship," would become, in Korzybski's system, "The photon behaved like a wave when measured with this experimental apparatus," "The photon behaved like a particle when measured with this different apparatus," "Beethoven seems better than Mozart to me," "The thing I saw seemed like a spaceship to me. "
English including "is" and its cognates ("was," "be," "will be," etc.) appears as E in the writing of some of Korzybski's students, and English without "is" and its cognates appears as E' (pronounced E-prime.)

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