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November 1, 2019

What is it that makes us different from plants and
animals in this world? What makes us on the top of the food chain? Human beings
are on the top of the food chain because of rationality and reason, as argued
by Plato, an ancient Greek philosopher. Human beings have progressed from Stone
Age to Modernity. It is a great evolution that has occurred but what remains
still a primitive issue is that we have failed to resolve our conflicts; on the
contrary our conflicts have progressed too, from bad to worse. We have
witnessed many civil wars among different civilizations and also two World
Wars. Presently we are witnessing ongoing ethnic conflicts and power struggles
between different civilizations and states at the International arena.

The question that immediately comes to our mind is
that if human beings are considered as rational and have the capability to
reason then why we have not been able to resolve our conflicts in a decent way
i.e. without violent methods like wars. Such issues were the concern for Alfred
Korzybski (1879-1950), a war veteran, engineer and scholar who witnessed the
World War I and had served as an Intelligence Officer in the Russian Army. He
disliked wars and wanted to search for solutions about how to resolve human
conflicts without violence. He wanted to provide some principles for resolving
such conflicts and create a better world. Alfred Korzybski developed a theory
of General Semantics, in this theory he talks about time binding.

He explains that plants are chemical binders since they
bind chemicals within them through the process of photosynthesis to survive.
Animals are territory binders since they bind territories and try to survive
within the boundaries of their territories. Animals are chemical binders too.
Human beings are chemical binders and territory binders as well, since they too
follow this binding process like animals. What differentiates human beings as
different from the animal world is their capacity to be time binders. It is
only unique to human beings that they have the capability to bind time. We can
preserve time, record time, transmit knowledge, record history etc. so that the
future generations can learn from it and inherit the human experiences of the
past in their present cultures. Knowledge of the past gets encoded in the
present cultures.

Korzybski argues that since we are rational beings and
time binders, it is our responsibility to become ethical time binders. He
suggests that we should record history in non violent ways so that the future
generation can inherit the good past and shun violence and learn to resolve
conflicts through nonviolence. Korzybski talks about his methods and how to
achieve this kind of world in his two popular works titled:  Manhood
of Humanity
(1948) and Science and
Sanity (1994),

1) Korzybski, Alfred. (1948). Manhood of Humanity: The Science and Art of Human Engineering, New York: E.P. Dutton and Company, pp. 66-92.
2) Korzybski, Alfred. (1994). Science and Sanity: An Introduction to Non-Aristotelian Systems and General Semantics, New York: Institute of General Semantics, pp. 315-325 .

Author: Dr. Udayprakash Sharma, Assistant Professor, USLM

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