Map & Territory

Map & Territory

“Alfred Korzybski (July 3, 1879 – March 1, 1950) was a Polish-American independent scholar who developed a field called general semantics, which he viewed as both distinct from, and more encompassing than, the field of semantics. He argued that human knowledge of the world is limited both by the human nervous system and the languages humans have developed, and thus no one can have direct access to reality, given that the most we can know is that which is filtered through the brain’s responses to reality. His best-known dictum is “The map is not the territory“. The mind creates maps of reality in order to understand it because the only way we can process the complexity of reality is through abstraction. But frequently, we don’t understand our maps or their limits. In fact, we are so reliant on abstraction that we will frequently create an imaginary map rather than be left with no map. These imaginary maps separate us from direct experience with the natural world, balance and reality. (Wiki)

Map & Territory“The map is not the territory is a wellknown saying among cartographers and it highlights an important aspect of mapmaking: that the map is a representation of the territory, not the territory itself. This means that a map is always an abstraction, a simplification of the reality it is meant to represent. This is necessary because it is not possible to include everything on a map and still have it be readable and useful. For example, a map of the world would need to be very small to fit everything on it, so it would need to be simplified. This is done by including only the most important features and leaving out the smaller details. The map is not the territory is also a useful metaphor for understanding how the human mind works. Our perceptions are like maps of the world around us, they are not the territory itself. This means that our perceptions are always going to be imperfect and incomplete. We can never know the world as it really is, we can only know our own individual map of it. This is why it is so important to have an open mind and to be willing to question our own beliefs and assumptions. We need to constantly update our map of the world as we learn new information and gain new experiences. The map is not the territory is a reminder that we can never know the world perfectly. We can only ever know our own individual map of it. This is why it is so important to have an open mind and to be willing to question our own beliefs and assumptions. We need to constantly update our map of the world as we learn new information and gain new experiences.” (TEWAI)

References:
Korzybski, A. (1933). Science and sanity: An introduction to nonaristotelian systems and general semantics. Lakeville, CT: International NonAristotelian Library Publishing Company.
Murphy, J. (2002). The big book of concepts. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Noble, D. (2008). The map is not the territory: An introduction to semantic technologies. Burlington, MA: Elsevier.
Peirce, C. S. (193158). Collected papers of Charles Sanders Peirce (Vols. 16). Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Russell, B. (1938). An inquiry into meaning and truth. London: Allen & Unwin.

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