IGS Discussion Forums: Learning GS Topics: Time-binding consciousness
Author: Ralph E. Kenyon, Jr. (diogenes) Monday, October 31, 2005 - 08:47 pm Link to this messageView profile or send e-mail

Nora Miller asks,


Who was it who said "If not us, who? If not now, when?"

Google reports 7960 instances of this quote on the internet. One site attributes it to Mikhail Gorbachev (Russian President of the Soviet Union (1985-91), b.1931) Another cites an example of where Ronald Reagan used it.


Can anyone here say that if we can't do it, someone down the road can do it? And if no one does it, what happens to the country? ... I know it's a tremendous challenge, but ask yourselves: If not us, who? If not now, when?

The fragment "If not now, when?" is part of another frequently copied quotation, and google reports 224,000 instances of it. The source quotation is quite old.


If I am not for myself, who will be for me?
If I am not for others, what am I?
And if not now, when?

Rabbi Hillel - - 30 BC-9AD

Now there's time-binding for you.

Author: Ralph E. Kenyon, Jr. (diogenes) Monday, October 31, 2005 - 10:28 pm Link to this messageView profile or send e-mail

I suppose it's time for me to weigh in on this discussion vis-a-vis the original claim.

Korzybski defines time-binding much more succinctly in his two papers TIME-BINDING: The General Theory, in which he very carefully describes time-binding as "accumulative class of life, with a rapid rate" (TB:tgt, p.10)

Page 10 also states,


We observe again our genetic series; we note that 'man' is an accumulative class of life with a special high rate, in that the son may start where the father ended, and that 'animals' are not accumulative, or, if accumulative, they are so with a different and slower rate. With Korzybski we label these two different rates of accumulation 'Time-binding' for 'man', and 'Space-binding' for 'animals'.

Korzybski notes that time-binding includes the accumulation of "un-improved" information when he uses the phrase "inherited or inhibited false doctrines" in reference to "many cases of insanity and different unbalanced stated". (ibid. p.22)

When he presents the Anthropometer, explains abstracting, and describes the circularity of human knowledge, he makes a claim that strongly suggests that time-binding per se does not imply "progress".


We would then find, at once, the interest of the masses aroused, and thinking would start on an unprecedented scale, with all its beneficial results. The 'scientific temper' would overrun mankind in a few years, facts and correct symbolism would count, and the exponential law PRt would begin to work properly.

He clearly is proposing that use of the Anthropometer as an educational tool would allow the general population to approach "knowledge" in a more "scientific" manner.

So Korzybski did not include scientific progress as part of conception of time-binding, merely the accumulation of information [and that includes false doctrines, beliefs, fallacies, etc.], but he did propose that teaching the Anthropometer (structural differential) would improve reasoning.

On page 25 he says,


We still educate man, drug him with doctrines thousands of years old, doctrines which are inconsistent and false to facts.

, indicating that he clearly includes the bad information with the good information in his notion of time-binding.

The post general-semantic theory "genetic epistemology" predicts that progress will eventually be made for any surviving "knowledge". Those maps that "work" will be kept, and those maps that "don't work" will be discarded. "Good knowledge" survives. But "bad knowledge" is eventually discarded by the knower. Perhaps we should use the term "information" or "map" in place of "knowledge" in the beginning of this paragraph.

General semantics, however, did not make this prediction; general semantics offered us many tools and the "structural differential" as a model, with a number of "oughts" or "shoulds" commanding us to try to behave more like the scientists in our daily operations. General semantic suggests that we will be "better adjusted" and will produce better maps if we follow its principles.

The mechanism of general semantics is primarily abstraction, but verbal abstraction is afflicted by the circularity of knowledge.

The mechanism of genetic epistemology involves not only abstraction, but the re-combination of abstractions, and the selection of those that "work" while allowing those that do not work to fall into disuse.

The structural differential makes no explicit provision for association and memory, but those are what form the major basis of time-binding for the individual.

I can begin where my parents left off by starting with an abstraction that they produced. But do I begin "rightly" or do I begin "wrongly", am I blessed with a very good map or a poor one to start with? It depends on what cultural beliefs I was born into. I have the capacity to alter a map as I use it, but I can only alter my maps provided I remember them and can compare previous uses to current use. But if I remember what went before, (good or bad), that's the essence of time-binding - cumulating experiences (at the more rapid "geometric" rate).

Time-binding per se does not automatically entail progress or improvement. It is only the testing and re-testing in a culture that accepts the scientific method that allows for reevaluating "received" doctrine and the possibility of discarding some time-bound information as "no longer a good map".

Note that all the major (conflicting) religions survive because of time-binding, but they can't all be right, as each claims the others are wrong. For thousands of years each new generation has been indoctrinated in the respective traditions, and each generation adds something to those passed on (via the means of time-binding) doctrines. Is this "progress" or "improvement"? What was the theme of the Twelfth International Conference on General Semantics (2003)? Conflicting world views. [http://www.xenodochy.org/gs/cccwv.html] It would seem that time-binding exacerbates the conflicts by preserving all the insults, injuries, and disagreements of the past for the current generation to take new offense to. Is this "progress"? Is it "improvement"?

I do not think so. Time-binding allows the accumulation and preservation of information, good or bad, as well as the accumulation and preservation of records of all conflicts, disagreements, and insults, just as effectively as it preserves the results of cooperation.

Author: Ralph E. Kenyon, Jr. (diogenes) Wednesday, November 2, 2005 - 06:29 pm Link to this messageView profile or send e-mail

Milton wrote:


Korzybski wrote in S&S, page 394: "Among 'humans' the abstractions of high orders produced by others, as well as those produced by oneself are stimuli to abstracting in still higher orders. Thus, in principle, we start where the former generation left off." (As an aside: Note "as well as those produced by oneself") I emphasize this since some students of the discipline do not realize this "intra-personal time-binding" process. This recognition for me, moves time-binding from a definition and a description, to a tool for personal improvement.

Milton's quotation illustrates how taking a fragment out of context can lead to misunderstanding.

Korzybski wrote in a whole paragraph:


Here is found the fundamental mechanism of the 'time-binding'
power which characterizes man, and which allows him, in principle, to
gather theexperiences of all past generations. A higher order abstraction,
let us say, of the n+1 order, is made as a response to the stimulus
of abstractions of the nth order. Among 'humans' the abstractions of
high orders produced by others, as well as those produced by oneself[,]
are stimuli to abstracting in still higher orders. Thus, in principle, we
start where the former generation left off. It should be noticed that, in
the present analysis, we have abandoned the structurally el methods and
language, and the whole analysis becomes simple, although non-familiar
because it involves new non-el s.r.

In Korzybski's topic sentence introducing the paragraph he notes gather the experiences of all past generations. He describes abstracting to the "n+1" order on this basis. He then notes what the stimuli for such abstracting are, and here he includes what the person learned plus his reactions to what he learned. Korzybski then returns to his primary claim, that, in principle, one can start where the previous generation left off.

Milton is definitely going of in a new direction, different from Korzybski when he extracts the stimulus for abstracting and identifies it with the characterizing of "time-binding" per se; he goes further afield [astray] by suggesting that "time binding" has an "intra-personal" component.

Korzybski is being misinterpreted here: Among 'humans' the abstractions of high orders produced by others, as well as those produced by oneself are stimuli to abstracting in still higher orders. Stands alone as a sentence that points out that a person abstracting does so using what he learned when he started as well as what he added to what he started with.

"Thus, in principle, we start where the former generation left off." becomes the paragraph summary statement that goes back to the topic statement; it restates that the fundamental mechanism of "time-binding" is the passing of information from generation to generation.

It should be noted, and people tend to not realize this, that each person does NOT start where the previous generation left off. "Blasphemy", you say? Think for yourselves. Each person must undergo a long and arduous learning process to learn what his prior generations ended up "knowing". That's what school (both academic and "hard knocks") is all about. The person cannot learn all his parent's experiences. The person can only learn a limited abstraction from past experiences. In the beginning the person does not select what to learn; it is selected for the person by members of the proceeding generation.

The better the abstracting process of the previous generation in choosing what to teach the next generation, the better the subsequent generation will be able to navigate the physical and semantic environments. "Improvement" is NOT in time-binding per se; it is in the abstracting process, and that happens only within the generation that is selecting what to pass on.

Once a member of the succeeding generation has undergone enough learning, including learning how to learn, under the guidance of the prior generation, the person can begin to search and abstract and produce new abstractions for later generations.

Time-binding, simply put, is accumulating information.
Improvement is in the abstracting process (together with testing).
Time binding can enable improvement, because experience is required in order to have data to abstract from.

A note on "intra-personal" "time-binding". This is an oxymoron, because time-binding is fundamentally "inter-personal", the passing of information from generation to generation. There are, however, aspects of human information processing that are conductive to time-binding. In order for a person to pass information on to another, he or she must be able to remember his experiences, and he or she must be able to express them symbolically using conventionally understood means - shared understanding.

Prior to writing, time-binding depended on oral traditions, hence it was a much slower level of accumulation. Once writing was invented, records of events could last much longer because they did not depend upon the memory of individual persons.

Author: Ralph E. Kenyon, Jr. (diogenes) Wednesday, November 2, 2005 - 11:03 pm Link to this messageView profile or send e-mail


In general, no. In practice far to often.
Did you miss the following:?


Once a member of the succeeding generation has undergone enough learning, including learning how to learn, under the guidance of the prior generation, the person can begin to search and abstract and produce new abstractions for later generations.

I believe this already answered your question, but let me expand a bit. The younger generation is initially at the mercy of the older generation, but sooner or later, some of them "rebel" and start to do thing differently. Sometimes "differently" turns out to be "better" (by some criteria), sometimes not. "Differently" gets added to the accumulated pool of "knowledge" to be passed on.

Author: Ralph E. Kenyon, Jr. (diogenes) Thursday, November 3, 2005 - 01:56 pm Link to this messageView profile or send e-mail


"Progress" can mean simply "moving forward", but which direction is "forward"? Do you associate "better" with "progress"? "Better" is a value judgement, which, according to relativism, requires a judge. To try to claim that there exists some "fact of the matter" with respect to "better" boils down to the belief in "intrinsic value". This topic has a long historical trail in philosophy. Nihilism claims there is no intrinsic value. The opposite claim would entail that there is some "essentially good" property to some things or acts that exists apart from any circumstance, context, or observer. This smacks of "Platonic essences". Pick your poison (Platonic) "essences" or Nihilism. Got something that does not boil down to one of these? You choose, but you must live with your choice.

Author: Ralph E. Kenyon, Jr. (diogenes) Friday, November 4, 2005 - 09:16 am Link to this messageView profile or send e-mail


Teleology crosses the divide; it is a variation on the intrinsic value question, in that "purpose" is either "intrinsic", or it is "relative" to a presumed creator. So "value" derives from "intrinsic purpose" or is "given" by the creator.

The positions are called "intrinsic" or "extrinsic" teleology. With the "intrinsic teological" position, "value" is derived from or relative to the "purpose", so it is contextually determined by a prior characteristic. The "latest developments" in this view is the "intelligent design" argument. As early as Plato teleological perspectives formulated "final cause" as a way to deal with the problem of infinite regression entailed in the notion of extrinsic value, purpose, or cause. This eventually led to the teleological argument for the existence of God.

In another form this basic problem was the subject of my dissertation where I dealt with atomism versus infinite divisibility. It's the "same" problem but applied to space and matter or the conception of space and matter.

In modern day computer science the conflict is resolved in applications using the notion of recursion. Recursion is different from infinite regression in this context by the addition of a base condition. The "chain" of lower level instances is followed back until the base condition is achieved. The paradigm case example is the definition of N! (N Factorial, which is the product of N and all natural numbers less than N). See Note 27 for the recursive definition and an example computation using it.

The notion of purpose includes the notion of a being with the purpose. Something has purpose to a being in support of a goal or end "value" relative to the being and the context. The notion of "purpose" "simpliciter" as an "intrinsic property" of a thing or act independent of any context has no meaning other than as an "essential" property. But essential properties are just those that define the thing or are necessary for its existence or to "identify" what it "is", and "purpose" goes beyond that, so the notion of "essential purpose" is self-contradictory in this regard. "Purpose" and "value" are not independent notions; either one can be taken as primary, and the other becomes dependent. In "Something is valuable if it enables a purpose.", "purpose" is primary and "value" is dependent. Otherwise, value is primary, and values generate purposes. Staying alive is valued, the purpose of things and acts is to support staying alive.

Because of this dual relation, all the problems of "intrinsic value" immediately pertain if one prefers to subordinate value to purpose.

André, Nora,
I bid you welcome to the club of thoroughgoing relativists. This leaves us with the problem, first discussed by the ancients, of "first cause" versus infinite regression. I have expressed my "answer" here.

Author: Ralph E. Kenyon, Jr. (diogenes) Saturday, November 5, 2005 - 01:04 pm Link to this messageView profile or send e-mail


Your meaning is not clear to me.
I always subordinate value to purpose, except ... for the physical existence of fundamental electromagnetic energy and the massive elementary particles that it can convert to, leading to the stabilisation of the basic elements, which I can only conclude to be essential.

What does "essential" refer back to? Stabilization? Energy? Existence?

Apart from resolving this ambiguity, you appear to be saying that purpose comes first, and it generates value, except in the case of "physical existence" of matter-energy. In that case you appear to be saying that "value" comes first, and that generates "purpose".

My personal view, of course, is that neither of these, whichever comes first, is essential. They are both determined by the interaction of some observer or entity. But once life is there, then structure generates purpose, and purpose generates value. See my Philosophy of Mobile Life for a related discussion.

I could go back and review Aristotle's four causes, but I think not. ("I think not.", said Descartes, and promptly disappeared.) I'll stop here.

Author: Ralph E. Kenyon, Jr. (diogenes) Monday, November 7, 2005 - 12:08 am Link to this messageView profile or send e-mail

André wrote, This simply is the way neural nets (in this case the neocortex) naturally work, by first perceiving coherences in sets. Perception of a coherent set (a generalization) is the only possible starting point of a reasoning chain regarding that set, whatever extension the starting set considered may have.

The cortex performs abstractions using a hierarchy of columnar organizations that function with an "on center, off surround" organization. Adaptive resonance allows the recall of the whole of a pattern with stimulation by a part of the pattern, and the columnar organization allows reacting to "coherent sets" by abstracting the common property through activation of the proper column, while supressing the surrounding ones. See "How the Brain Evolved language" by Donald Loritz, and "The Feeling of What Happens" by Antonia Damasio.

I may have said this elsewhere, but I think that structure embedded in a dynamic context generates purposes, and these purposes generate values. I'm still a "relativist" in this regard, because the selection of the structure and the context depends on the observer's choice.

Author: Ralph E. Kenyon, Jr. (diogenes) Sunday, December 11, 2005 - 11:40 pm Link to this messageView profile or send e-mail

Hmmm.... It also suggests a movement from competitive relations ("barbaric") to cooperative relations ("civil").
Let's see... Lawyers, businessmen, gangs, sports, beauty pageants, "adversary system of jurisprudence", war, terrorism, gehad, Jerry Springer, and more... These are all "cooperative" and "civil", yes?

Author: Ralph E. Kenyon, Jr. (diogenes) Monday, December 12, 2005 - 03:40 pm Link to this messageView profile or send e-mail

They are all activities that are enabled by the increasing complexity of "civilization" and by the information provided through the mechanism of "time-binding". I think such activities, which pervade human societies, show that "time-binding" promotes neither cooperation nor civility.