"When former Senator S. I. Hayakawa died last week at 85,
the San Francisco Chronicle described him as 'one of the
nation's specialists in semantics and linguistics,' and
the New York Times called him 'a noted scholar.' That's
probably overstating things a bit. But it was a life lived
by language, and it took him on a remarkable course. He
was an obscure professor of English in 1941 when he wrote
a surprise best-seller called Language in Action. It was
a popularization of the curious theories of the Polish-born
philosopher Alfred Korzybski, who held that misunderstanding
and social pathologies are the results of a uncritical
acceptance of the patterns of 'Aristotelean logic' that are
implicit in our speech. The book was not serious scholarship,
and Korzybzki's theory of 'general semantics' has remained
something of a cult."
--Geoffrey Nunberg, "Fresh Air," National Public Radio, broadcast aired on February 4, 1992.
"If [Korzybski] was not a crackpot... why was he so repetitive, verbose, pugnacious, redundant and self- congratulatory, manifesting all the symptoms of crackpot delusions?" --Anatol Rapoport, as quoted in Edward MacNeal's Mathsemantics (1994) Professor Rapoport is a former associate editor of the Review of General Semantics.
"Although there have been numerous explanations of Korzybski's
ideas since the appearance of Science and Sanity there has
been little development or refinement of the basic principles.
General semantics1937 = general semantics1990 is a serious
criticism for an approach which champions scientific progress.
... Throughout the chapter you've probably noticed the use of terms like mission, cause, and movement. These are strange words to appear in a book which catalogs objective theories of communication, yet they appropriately describe the zeal with which general semanticists enlist others in their goal to change the structure of language... In their quest to win converts for the general semantics perspective, its true believers abandon the very objectivity which they so strongly advocate."
--Em Griffin, Professor of Communications, Wheaton College, A First Look at Communication Theory (1991)
"... Alfred Korzybski's Science and Sanity, a book that started the whole 'General Semantics' religion of language, in the 1930's ... making
claims about how humanity could be transformed ..."
--Professor Courtney Schlosser, Worcester State College, The Matrix of Philosophy (2001)
"In view of Korzybski's fundamental thesis, his misuse
of scientific terminology is ironic, and many scholars
and scientists were quick to dismiss Korzybski as a
dilettante, at times a crank. This impression was
reinforced by Korzybski himself. On occasions he
lectured to scientists in the manner of a patronizing
schoolmaster on subjects to which they had devoted many
years of hard, careful work and of which he had only a
smattering of knowledge."
--Anatol Rapoport, Semantics, p. 392 (1975).
"There have been many fads of an extravagant nature that
have been believed by many people, often with little more
justification than that it seemed a nice thing to believe
in. Wilhelm Reich's Orgone Energy (or Life Energy) and his
Orgone Box: Pyramidology and its pseudo-archaeological
determination of the sacred Cubit and the sacred Inch;
Dr. S. C. Hahnemann's Homoeopathy and his Law of Similia:
Iridiagnosis, in which all physical ailments can be
diagnosed by inspection of the iris of the eye; Count
Alfred Korzybski's General Semantics: Naturopathy;
Phrenology; these and many more, people have believed in,
have accepted 'proofs' with an astonishing naivety. Most
of these subjects have contained a basis of factual observation upon which a superstructure of wild assumption has
--Cyril Vosper, Mind Benders (1971)
"Clearly, the methodology of transformation has fascinated
Humanity since our earliest recorded history. It constituted
the basis of the Egyptian theurgic arts, manifested in the
mudras and asanas (hand gestures and body postures) of yoga,
in the tantric applications of Tibetan Buddhism, and the
rituals of early Christian sects who sought gnosis, or direct
heuristic knowledge of the divine. It sparkled in the metaphor
of the alchemists who searched for a universal solvent to
transform the base metal of inquiry into the gold of liberation,
and resonated in the allegories and poetry of the sufis who
found transformation in the experience of the ordinary. It
captivated Victorian Hermeticists of the Golden Dawn like
Eliphas Levi, A. E. Waite, and W. W. Westcott, and provided
the impetus for Blavatsky's Theosophy, Gurdjieff's 'Work,'
Freud's Psychoanalysis, Steiner's Anthroposophy and
Korzybski's General Semantics. And it was a fascination with
the possibilities of such a methodology that led a young
science fiction writer to develop Scientology's progenitor."
--Tom Joyce, "Hubbard's Ladder," Gnosis No. 12 (Summer 1989)
"Science and Sanity is filled with unsupportable
assertions and not a few errors, some of them
--Neil Postman, Conscientious Objections (1992)
"Korzybski's reach exceeded his grasp."
--Neil Postman, Conscientious Objections (1992)
"Science and Sanity is . . . . also filled with
annoyingly novel punctuation and abbreviations."
--Edward MacNeal, Mathsemantics (1994)