Maps and Territory: William James Precursor to Alfred Korzybski’s

William James: born January 11, 1842 - died August 26 1910

Alfred Korzybski: born July 3 1879 – died March 1 1950

Quotes from : 1911, Some Problems of Philosophy: A Beginning of an Introduction to Philosophy, 1996, University of Nebraska Press

Example 7: No real thing can be in two relations at once; the same moon, for example, cannot be seen both by you and by me. For the concept ‘seen by you’ is not the concept ‘seen by me’; and if, taking the moon as a grammatical subject and, predicating one of these concepts of it, you then predicate the other also, you become guilty of the logical sin of saying that a thing can both be A and not-A at once. Learned trifling again; for clear though the conceptual contradictions be, nobody sincerely disbelieves that two men see the same thing. (89)

Concepts not only guide us over the map of life, but we revalue life by their use. (71)

Concepts thus play three distinct parts in human life.

1) They steer us practically every day, and provide an immense map of relations among the elements of things, which though not now, yet on some possible future occasion may help to steer us practically;

2) They bring new values into our perceptual life, they reanimate our wills, and make our action turn upon new points of emphasis;

3) The map which the mind frames out of them is an object which possess, when once it has been framed, an independent existence. …

We thus see clearly what is gained and what is lost when percepts are translated into concepts. Perception is solely of the here and now; conception is of the like and unlike, of the future, of the past, and of the far away. But this map of what surrounds the present, like all maps, is only a surface; its features are but abstract signs and symbols of things that in themselves are concrete bits of sensible experience.  (73-74)

We extend our view when we insert our percepts into our conceptual maps. We learn about them, and of some of them we transfigure the value; but the maps remains superficial through the abstractness, and false through the discreteness of its elements; and the whole operation, so far from making things appear more rational, becomes the source of quite gratuitous unintelligibilites. Conceptual knowledge is forever inadequate to the fullness of the reality to be known. (78)

1)     Conception is a secondary process, not indispensable to life. It presupposes perception, which is self-sufficing, as all lower creatures, in whom conscious life goes on by reflex adaptions, show. To understand a concept you must know what it means. It means always some this, or some abstract portion of a this, with which we first made acquaintance in the perceptual world, or else some grouping of such abstract portions. All conceptual content is borrowed: to know what the concept ‘color’ means you must have seen red or blue, or green. To know what ‘resistance’ means, you must have made some effort; to know what ‘motion’ means you must have some experience, active or passive, thereof. …Whether our concepts live by returning to the perceptual world or not, they live by having come from it. It is the nourishing ground from which their sap is drawn. (79-80)

 But since the relations of concepts are of static comparison only, it is impossible to substitute them for the dynamic relations with which the perceptual flux is filled. Secondly, the conceptual scheme, consisting as it does of discontinuous terms, can only cover the perceptual flux in spots and incompletely. The one is no full measure of the other, essential features of the flux escaping whenever we put concepts in its place. (81)