This article is more relevant to General Semantics than REBT, per se. However, some of you may know that General Semantics is among the important sources Dr. Ellis drew upon in developing REBT. We have been having a discussion on the General Semantics facebook group about one of Korzybski’s early assertions fundamental to General Semantics that humans beings are not animals, but rather an entirely different class of life. Personally I reject this assertion as a bit “19th Century” and a saddled with a hangover from the Judeo-Christian tradition. Dyed-in-the-wool GS people, however, strongly disagree and defend the premise.
Korzybski, the developer of General Semantics, characterized humanity as a “time-binding class of life” because, he claimed that information increased exponentially through the use of language passing messages from generation to generation. (Manhood of Humanity, p.20, Science and Sanity, p. 364). Ralph E. Kenyon, Jr. describes it as “cross-generation learning using symbolic communication.”
In my shallow and callow youth, I embraced some concepts very much like time-binding. I was involved with a sort of “New Agey” group, its teachings an eclectic mishmash consisting of fringe elements from the Human Potential Movement, pop psychology and the occult. Much of it came from New Thought (Christian Science, Religious Science, et al) whose cosmology and metaphysics regard the universe as “pure consciousness.”
Does “time binding” make man totally unique and different from animals?
However, to the point. There was a section of one of the basic seminars that made the case that man is not an animal, and in doing so set up the philosophical foundation for all subsequent teachings asserting that “Consciousness is all there is.” It was not quite the GS idea of “time-binding,” but did get pretty close when it presented the persuasive case that man has five unique, native abilities which non-humans do not have:
1. To review the past; individually, culturally and historically, and thereby learn from it, possibly alter the course of the present and future.
2. To stand apart from the present moment and possibly alter the course of events; to change horses in midstream as it were.
3. To anticipate the future and thereby arrive at the future better prepared to cope.
4. To create; to bring into existence that which has never been seen before; creativity.
5. To be conscious of being conscious.
That is the Readers Digest version, of course. But these five abilities or activities are all things people can do, but non-human animals cannot except in the most rudimentary sense. Robins make nests, yes, but they build by instinct and the design remains unchanged over eons. Same for beavers and their dams. Non-human animals will continue to travel a habitual route even after a new threat has been introduced along that route. Buffalo will continue to visit a waterning spot at the riverside even though members of the herd are routinely ambushed and taken by crocodiles.
1. Since humans can do these things and animals cannot, humans are not animals.
2. Since these five are mental abilities/mind abilities, what humans actually are is the ability to think; consciousness, ultimately consciousness conscious of being consciousness.
To be sure, this is heady stuff, quite capable of producing peak experiences under the right circumstances and with the right delivery system, especially for those of my generation who were already “benefiting” from chemical assists in addition to non-chemical practices and processes.
However, as I matured I began to realize that while these concepts could be quite thrilling, in the long run, identifying myself as “consciousness” and renouncing my obvious biological heritage as an animal, did not serve me very well, did not make me saner, did not help me to function more effectively, did not help me become more fruitfully engaged with life, did not improve my relationships. Much of it was, in fact, just the opposite of that. However, it was not until I began learning about REBT-CBT two decades later that I began rethinking and relinquishing most of these highfalutin concepts that I began to gain a much better sense of sanity and clarity.
I am afraid I will have to respectfully disagree with Mr. Korzybski in his conclusion that human beings are not animals. Even if I should come to understand GS a great deal better than I do at present, and even if I were to come to give more credence to Korzybski’s theory, I am quite sure that the potential for misunderstanding and misapplication offers more disadvantages than advantages.
In conclusion, I prefer to regard humans as animals-among-animals, but as animals with exceptional, extraordinary abilities of mind. That’s the truth and there is no need to get any fancier than than in my opinion.
Khon Kaen, Thailand
YOUR PARTICIPATION IS THE LIFEBLOOD OF REBT Info. PLEASE JOIN IN AND ADD YOUR QUESTIONS, COMMENTS,
OPINIONS IN THE BOX BELOW. WE LOVE HEARING
Rule 4: Compare yourself to who you were yesterday, not to who someone else is today. From the book "12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos"Jordan Peterson Professor of psychology, Univ. of Toronto, author, public intellectual… (next quote)
Rex Alexander and REBT Info are participants in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.
When you buy items using the links on this website, we may get a small commission which keeps me in coffee, which keeps me working, which keeps me providing valuable content for you. Thank you for your continuing support of REBT Info.com.~Rex
TOS / Terms of Service
Pretty basic stuff: No fussing, no fighting, no cussing, no spamming, no scamming, no blaming, no flaming, no hating, no bating, no trolling, no personal attacks. No pornography (Damn!). The Golden Rule applies. Focus on issues, ideas and principles rather than on personalities and you will fit right in. Please keep your contributions friendly and polite, treat your fellow members and readers with respect and all will be well.
All content and information submitted become the property of REBT Info (REBTinfo.com)
We at REBT Info value your privacy. Your personal information is secure with us. Secure server software (SSL) encrypts all information you enter before it is sent to us, and all of the customer data we collect is protected against unauthorized access.
We WILL NOT sell, rent, distribute or otherwise share your personal information, including e-mail address, to or with anyone for any reason (except in the extremely rare, unlikely case of demands by duly authorized law enforcement acting strictly in accord with due process).
All rights reserved. The content of this website or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever
without the express written permission of the publisher except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.
This website, REBTinfo.com, and others under the REBT Info family are for education, information and entertainment purposes only; are not intended as, nor should be regarded as medical or psychiatric diagnosis, advice or treatment.
By accessing this blog you understand and agree to these conditions, as well as to the other Terms of Service / TOS posted, and which may be updated and amended from time-to-time.
By accessing this website blog and related media, you affirm that you have read, understand and agree to our Terms of Service / TOS which may be updated and amended from time-to-time.
This is a public blog
Anything you post may be viewed by the public. Therefore, do not post anything you wish to remain private.