BATESON ANNIVERSARIES WITH THE INSTITUTE FOR GENERAL SEMANTICS
“The Map is not the Territory”
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We are excited to invite you to the Bateson Anniversaries special two-hour session with The Institute for General Semantics titled—The Map is not the Territory—a term famously coined by Alfred Korzybski. We share the following essay before our session, taken from the text of Gregory Bateson’s talk at the Alfred Korzybski Memorial Lecture in 1970—Form, Substance and Difference.
Bateson reminds us that the differences are what make it on the map and that differences have differences. What differences do you perceive?
“We say the map is different from the territory. But what is the territory? What is on the paper map is a representation…The territory never gets in at all. Always the process of representation will filter it out so that the mental world is only maps of maps of maps, ad infinitum . All ‘phenomena’ are literally ‘appearances’… the delimitation of an individual mind must always depend upon what phenomena we wish to understand or explain.” (Gregory Bateson, 1970)
In 1933, decades before the Memorial Lecture, Korzybski writes,
“Two important characteristics of maps should be noticed. A map is not the territory it represents, but, if correct, it has a similar structure to the territory, which accounts for its usefulness. If the map could be ideally correct, it would include, in a reduced scale, the map of the map; the map of the map of the map; and so on, endlessly… If we reflect upon our languages, we find that at best they must be considered only as maps. A word is not the object it represents; and languages exhibit also this peculiar self-reflexiveness, that we can analyze languages by linguistic means. This self-reflexiveness of language introduces serious complexities… The disregard of these complexities is tragically disastrous in daily life and science. (Alfred Korzybski, Science and Sanity: An Introduction to Non-Aristotelian Systems and General Semantics, 1933, p. 58).
We look forward to digging into the territory together with you.
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