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Sunday, September 13, 2009

Quotations from The World of Null-A

Many of the chapters in Van Vogt's classic The World of Null-A have epigraphs, most of them taken from  Alfred Korzybski's magnum opus Science and Sanity, the bible of non-Aristotelianism.  Most of them are credited by initials, and while some are obvious (AK is Korzybski; BR is Bertrand Russell) others are more obscure.

Chapter 1

Common sense, do what it will, cannot avoid being surprised occasionally. The object of science is to spare this emotion and create mental habits which shall be in such close accord with the habits of the world as to secure that nothing shall be unexpected.

Bertrand Russell,  The Analysis of Matter

Chapter 2

The gifted ... Aristotle ... affected perhaps the largest number of people ever influenced by a single man. ... Our tragedies began when the "intensional" biologist Aristotle took the lead over the "extensional" mathematical philosopher Plato, and formulated all the primitive identifications, subject-predicativism ... into an imposing system, which for more than two thousand years we were not allowed to revise under penalty of prosecution. ... Because of this, his name has been used for two-valued doctrines of Aristotelianism, and, conversely, the many-valued realities of modern science are given the name non-Aristotelianism. ...

Alfred Korzybski

Chapter 3

To be is to be related.

Cassius J. Keyser, Charles Sanders Peirce as a Pioneer

Chapter 4

Science is nothing but good sense and sound reasoning.

Stanislaus Leszcynski, King of Poland, 1763.

Chapter 7

To be acceptable as scientific knowledge, a truth must be a deduction from other truths.

Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, Circa 340 B.C

Chapter 16

The human nervous system is structurally of inconceivable complexity. It is estimated that there are in the human brain about twelve thousand millions of nerve cells or neurons, and more than half of these are in the cerebral cortex. Were we to consider a million cortical nerve cells connected with one another in groups of only two neurons each and compute the possible combinations, we would find the number of possible interneuronic connection-patterns to be represented by ten to the power of two million, seven hundred, and eighty-three thousand. For comparison ... probably the whole sidereal universe does not contain more than ten to the power of sixty-six atoms.

Alfred Korzybski, Science and Sanity

Chapter 17

We copy animals in our nervous processes. ... In man such nervous reactions lead to non-survival, pathological states of infantilism, infantile private and public behavior ... And the more technically developed a nation or race is, the more cruel, ruthless, predatory, and commercialized its systems tend to become ... all because we continue to think like animals and have not learned how to think consistently like human beings.

Alfred Korzybski, Science and Sanity

Chapter 19

Even Leibniz formulated the postulate of continuity, of infinitely near action, as a general principle, and could not, for this reason, become recon¬ciled to Newton's Law of Gravitation, which entails action at a distance and which corresponds fully to that of Coulomb.

Herman Weyl

Chapter 20
Excitation rather than inhibition is important in correlation because from what has been said it appears that so far as is known, inhibition is not transmitted as such. The existence of inhibitory nervous correlation is, of course, a familiar fact, but in such cases the inhibitory effect is apparently produced not by transmission of an inhibitory change but by transmission of an excitation, and the mechanism of the final inhibitory effect is obscure.

Charles M. Child

Chapter 21

A famous Victorian-era physicist said, "There's nothing for the next generation of physicists to do except measure the next decimal place." In the next generation ... Planck developed the quantum theory that led to Bohr's atomic structure work ... Einstein's mathematics were proven out by some extremely delicate decimal-place measuring. ... Obviously, the next question is going to involve the next set of decimal places. Gravity is too little understood. So are magnetic field phenomena. ... Sooner or later somebody will slip in another decimal place, and the problem will be solved.

John W. Campbell, Jr.

Chapter 22

Quisnam, igitur sanus? (Who, then is sane?)

Horace, Satires, Circa 25 B.C.

Chapter 26
Nevertheless, the consuming hunger of the uncritical mind for what it imagines to be certainty or finality impels it to feast upon shadows.

Eric Temple Bell, Debunking Science

Chapter 30

In the elder days of Art,
Builders wrought with greatest care
Each minute and unseen part;
For the Gods see everywhere.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, The Builders

Chapter 34

"What you say a thing is, it is not" ... It is much more. It is a compound in the largest sense. A chair is not just a chair. It is a structure of inconceivable complexity, chemically, atomically, electronically, etc. Therefore, to think of it simply as a chair is to confine the nervous system to what Korzybski calls an identification. It is the totality of such identifications that create the neurotic, the unsane, and the insane individual.


1 comment:

  1. Thanks for posting these! I was prepared to do a little sleuthing to figure out the person behind the set of initials beneath each quote, but you beat me to it. John W. Campbell's quote is my favorite! Good work!