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Science and Sanity: An Introduction to Non-Aristotelian Systems and General Semantics Hardcover – April 1, 1995

4.5 out of 5 stars 48 customer reviews

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Visual Intelligence: Sharpen Your Perception, Change Your Life by Amy E. Herman
Visual Intelligence
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 927 pages
  • Publisher: Institute of General Semantics; 5th edition (April 1, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0937298018
  • ISBN-13: 978-0937298015
  • Product Dimensions: 2.2 x 6.5 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (48 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #236,410 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

In his book, Science and Sanity, Alfred Korzybski succeeds in presenting to his readers a distillation of many seemingly diverse branches of knowledge, including: Anthropology, Biology, Education, Logic, Mathematics, Neurology, Physics, Physiology, Psychiatry, Semantics, etc.
Specialists in the above mentioned disciplines may be disappointed or even insulted at Korzybski's general, integrative style. However, Korzybski was mainly concerned about extracting the aspects of the above mentioned disciplines that have the most human value.
Korzybski's attitude was definitely NOT "science for science's sake." Instead, he sought to integrate diverse branches of knowledge into a system that would be simple enough to teach to young children, so that each young child would begin life with the knowledge and wisdom that took the human race centuries of labor to achieve. Of course, if this goal could actually be achieved, the progression and survival of the human race would be greatly enhanced!
Although Science and Sanity is certainly a difficult book to read and understand, Korzybski's system can be easily taught to young children. The reason for this is that Korzybski summarized his system as a non-verbal diagram. Probably, the wisdom of thousands of books are represented non-verbally on that diagram!
It's true that one must know what the different parts of the diagram represent in order to appreciate or understand it; however, Korzybski's system is certainly unique in that one can explain the system to another while referring (pointing) to a diagram. This visual aid, called the Structural Differential, could be used in the education of young children as a way of simply and easily imparting "the wisdom of the ages."
Note: Science and Sanity uses some abbreviations throughout the book. There are charts on pages 15 and 16 that explain these. Don't miss those charts, or you'll miss the whole book!
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I first read this book over 25 years ago, and it stunned me. Only a fool or the bitterest cynic could come away from this book unchanged. Whether or not you agree with all or even some of its premises and conclusions, Science and Sanity will make you keenly aware of language, psychology, and communication in all aspects of your life. You will realize how little most people know or understand about the deep and complex role language plays at home and on the world stage. This book will give you a different platform to stand on. Yes, it is a difficult book to read, but like another difficult book, Samuel Hahnemann's timeless Organon of the Medical Art, it rewards the patient and thoughtful reader in countless subtle ways over the course of time. I'd rate this book in my top ten books of a lifetime spent reading everything under the sun.
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This book should probably be on any short list of the century's most influential books but would, ironically, never make a list of most read books. A significant number of people did read and internalize the book's message and Korzibsky's thought thus found its way into a number of diverse fields. But despite the wide dissimination of the book's message, the book itself, because it is so dense and difficult, has never had a wide reading audience. In fact, early critics made the point that a book about language and meaning should not have such difficult language that its meaning is difficult to understand. Yet this is the problem that Korzibski faced - having to use language to demonstrate the inherent limitations and dangers of language.
I have read the book, having come to it from a number of popular treatments of Korzybski's work. These at least provided a framework for understanding what otherwise might have been lost to me in the author's stiff prose. The book's most basic message, that 'the map is not the territory' (the Word is not the Thing it represents), can seem trivial when stated simply. However, only a little analysis will suffice to show how easily even very bright people fall into the trap of the 'Is of identity' - the semantic error that is inherent in the syllogistic form of reasoning that makes use of statements of the form 'All A are B, C is A, therefore C is B'. Note that 'is' suggests, and indeed often is taken to be, a statement of identity - that category A is identical in some ways, to category B. This is false. As words, these simply stand for, or 'point to' certain things, which themselves are identical only on the verbal level - the level of conceptual thought - not on the non-verbal level of external reality.
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By A Customer on November 25, 2002
I would first like to say that I read this book at the age of 17 and understood it rather easily; so for me, it was not a difficult book. I would describe it as densely packed, but not particularly difficult. The author has specific instructions on how to read the book -- and even what to do if you don't understand something -- and so if you follow these instructions, you should do fine.
One of the fundamental notions presented in Science and Sanity is that we always see the world through the altering prism of our nervous system; that is, we never experience the world directly, but only through the lense of our 'abstractions' (our individual nervous system's responses to the world). When we talk or think, the world is further altered (abstracted) by the language or words we use in dealing with our nervous system's responses. And because in words we can talk or think about the words and thoughts we have used previously, our abstractions can build on previous abstractions, and extend into many orders or iterations. Therefore, because our thoughts and our words are abstractions from what we are thinking or talking about, and because we don't experience the world directly (but only through the prism of our individual nervous systems), there exists an unavoidable element of uncertainty in even our best statements. They are "from our point of view" so to speak, not "the way it is."
I think you can see from this discussion that Korzybski was trying to generalize Einstein's and Heisenberg's notions of relativity and uncertainty (in science) to the whole of life in its myriad aspects (and create a system to train us in that attitude). Not only is "beauty in the eye of the beholder," everything is in the eye of the beholder.
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