WE MUST ALSO ELIMINATE PEACE
C. A. Hilgartner
Martha A. Bartter
Ronald V. Harrington
On 10 November 1987, Richard Rhodes received the National Book Award for the non-fiction work The Making of the Atomic Bomb.
Rhodes allies himself with a growing number of witnesses. In the Epilogue in particular, he describes and discusses the choice which the human species faces at present, between total destruction of the human world or else its modification into some more collegial commonality. He presents this choice as unavoidable, irrevocable.
The necessity now is to begin to dismantle the death machine. The energies rich and intelligent peoples have squandered on the elaboration of death need to be turned to the elaboration of life._1
But HOW do we do this? How do we bring this "necessity" into action? What must we DO to turn our energies from "the elaboration of death" to "the elaboration of life?"
One of the main unsolved problems for the human species at present centers on the fact that, in the most fundamental sense, we don't know how NOT to have wars. Beyond question, we do know what to do to engage in war. Equally beyond question, we may SAY that further resort to major war promises nothing beyond species suicide and extinction, and that even localized, so-called "client" wars threaten to spread into global war. But at the level of DO, we still appear to know only how to follow the patterns of inter-group hostility and conflict, the rhetoric of war. Whatever we DO, even in the name of "peace," either leads directly toward war or leaves war as our central focus. Hence we
persist in setting ourselves up for genocide, for nuclear annihilation, for pan-biocide.
In fact, we have already built enough instruments of destruction to eradicate the human species (and with it, probably all other species as well) many times over. We have the missiles already in place, aimed, poised, on a hair-trigger, waiting, waiting.... And we realize that even if the officials in charge of these instruments show enough wisdom not to fire them on purpose, they may get fired anyway, through natural disaster, accident, or miscalculation.
We do know the sequence of historical events by which we set up the "death machine," preparing the way toward ultimate catastrophe. But we know it only in a superficial, anecdotal sense -- as evidenced by the fact that, thus far, this knowing had not changed the structure of what we DO.
Before making proposals about what we might do that might have the effect of turning our energies away from death and toward life, we would do well to account for the fact that to date, our "doings" still center on war and death. Let's start with a criterion.
In the rhetoric of freedom vs. compulsiveness, a person (or a society) can claim to operate freely with respect to some activity if he knows how to DO the activity, and knows how NOT to do it, and can choose between doing or not-doing without constraint. He operates compulsively if he finds himself constrained to do the activity; or if he refrains from doing it but leaves that activity as his central focus; or if he finds himself constrained NOT to do it, even when he says he wants to. In effect, a person who operates compulsively "pretends" not to have a choice.
By this criterion, I assert, we humans engage in war compulsively. That means that we act, and talk (perhaps in the face of clear evidence to the contrary), as if we HAD to take part again and again in armed combat. In other words, we appear not to understand how the "death machine" works well enough to know how NOT to employ it, not to engage ourselves in it. We lack self-knowledge and insight in this arena.
Conventional wisdom holds that humans can't help but engage in war -- that the hostility and aggression intrinsic to human nature makes war inevitable. But when I consider the possibility that our reliance on war manifests compulsive behavior, in effect I assert that we humans do have a choice about whether or not to continue engaging in war, one which we artificially constrain. We have here a pair of opposing opinions, potential subjects of dispute. But we humans do have one method capable of settling such disputes -- namely, experimental test, the most devastating form of criticism yet devised.
So let's treat each of these views not as mere opinion, but rather as explicit hypotheses. As such, they contradict each other.
If we find evidence that we humans do in fact have a choice about engaging, or not engaging, in war (even if we display it by "pretending" not to have a choice and compulsively acting hostile and aggressive), that disconfirms the traditional view. If on the other hand our careful scrutiny turns up no evidence that humans have a choice about engaging in war, but instead indicates that hostility and aggressiveness do qualify as intrinsic to -- the deepest truth about -- "human nature", that disconfirms our alternative view.
With the dispute framed this way, we can settle it by performing a critical experiment/demonstration designed to select between the two opposing hypotheses. Then, with the dispute over feasibility settled, we can perhaps determine what to DO to switch from elaborating death to elaborating life.
In the course of performing this critical test, I utilize both logical and empirical criteria (and I do not restrict myself to the familiar Western versions of logic). I shall
a) Discuss and criticize the conventional wisdom concerning the constructs of war and peace. To get below the surface, I utilize a kind of Gestalt analysis to disclose the logic and the fundamental assumptions that underlie our ethos of hostility and conflict. This allows me to simulate and so re-construct the social institution of alternating-war-and-peace as a multi-level structure involving both behavior and feelings.
b) Propose an alternative pattern for living, based on altered fundamental assumptions which lead to an ethos of cooperation, collaboration and mutual support. Again I present it as a multi-level structure involving both behavior and feelings. In this altered milieu, the social institution of war-and-peace (as we know it) could not exist.
Conventional wisdom concerning war and peace
The body of conventional wisdom about war and peace includes a) the way we define the terms, b) attitudes about them which we share, c) operational patterns of behavior we show, etc.
a) Dictionaries define the term war as "Armed conflict between groups as groups."
For comparison, we have common terms for situations in which you and I shoot at each other (duel); and others in which our families shoot at each other (feud). But for neither one do we use the term war.
Further, dictionaries define the term peace as "The absence of war" -- logically a wide-open situation, which I shall discuss in detail below.
b) In our common attitudes, we hold war as an "external occurrence," something "out there" which just exists or occurs, which appears inevitable, and remains outside human control. Below the surface, we regard war as exciting, demanding, terrible, but useful perhaps, in that (as we believe despite the evidence) it weeds out the weak and leaves the species stronger.
We hold peace as fragile, hard to achieve, a matter of struggle and effort, something we have to work at -- peace can occur only if EVERYBODY tries very hard to remain "good," and, somehow, manages to refrain from war. Below the surface, we regard peace as boring, effete and enervating -- as what you write on tombstones -- and as perhaps likely to lead to devolution and weakening of the species.
c) Operationally speaking, in time of war, we settle our crucial differences over "what really matters" via organized combat. In time of peace, we settle our differences by other means.
Karl von Clausewitz (1780-1831) claimed that "Diplomacy is war carried on by other means." Under contemporary conditions, I maintain, peace means "war carried on by other means."
(Several years ago, a Pentagon wag defined peace as "A state of permanent pre-hostility." As unpleasant as that sounds, I find that his witticism doesn't miss the mark by much.)
These three points provide a sufficient summary of the conventional wisdom for my present purposes.
The logic of opposites
As the anthropological linguist Benjamin Lee Whorf notes, real scientists have their eyes primarily on background "happenings" that seem unimportant, as such, in our daily lives._2 And yet their "impractical" studies have a way of bringing out a close relationship between these unnoticed, backgrounded realms and foregrounded "practical" concerns.
The construct of Gestalt signifies a structure composed of a foreground or figure of focal interest to a particular organism, against a background relatively empty of interest. We can treat the conventional wisdom about war and peace as the figure of a Gestalt, a socially-shared Gestalt, and take a brief look at the background.
Part of the background for our conventional wisdom lies in the way that the terms war and peace work. They function as polar opposites: Neither makes sense without the real or implied existence of the other. This fact has logical consequences crucially important to our topic. But on this point, the situation becomes complicated. Over the years and the millennia, in different cultures and traditions, we humans have framed the logic of opposites in several different ways. Let me briefly state two of these, and consider what they mean for the problem of modeling, and eventually replacing, the social institution of war-and-peace.
A. Presuming a delimited setting
In Eastern cultures, e.g. Chinese (the Sino-Tibetan family of languages), whenever native speakers use some particular term C , they utilize a logical structure which has three "slots": They appear to assume that they have specified that term C on a setting, a delimited domain D , which includes or contains the opposite or contradictory or complement Not-C , as in Figure 1.
| ÷ Delimited
FIG. ÷ ______ | Domain
1 | | | not-C | D
| | C | ÷
| |______| ÷
Exponents of Eastern views do not do "formal logic," the way exponents of Western views do. But speaking from the present viewpoint, it looks to me like (almost) everything within this domain D that lies outside of the term C belongs to its complement Not-C . Of course, since native speakers regard C and Not-C as defined on a common domain, they see them as having much in common; and they distinguish between the complement Not-C and the domain D . Furthermore, the delimited domain D remains fairly "small," with lots of things of interest lying outside it._3
For instance, speakers of Mandarin Chinese form abstract terms by joining together a pair of opposing terms -- "buy-sell" for trade, "advance-retreat" for movement, "rule-chaos" for political conditions, etc._4
B. Presuming an undelimited setting
In the cultures which utilize Western Indo-European (WIE) languages, whenever native speakers use some particular term C , they -- we -- utilize a logical structure which has only two "slots": We do not explicitly utilize the construct of setting. We specify only the term (C) and its complement (Not-C): e.g. war and not-war (peace). Thus our version of the logic of opposites does not explicitly distinguish between the complement Not-C and the setting D . Instead, by tacitly equating them, we cause the setting to "disappear," we eliminate the construct of setting from consideration._5
To characterize the relations between a term and its opposite, with no setting specified -- the Western version of the logic of opposites -- Aristotle of Stagira (384-322 BC) offered three rules, as follows:
The Law of Identity:
Whatever is, is.
( C is C.)
The Law of Excluded Middle:
Everything must either be, or not-be.
( Everything is either C or Not-C.)
The Law of Contradiction:
Nothing can both be, and not-be.
( Nothing can be both C and Not-C.)
Aristotle called these rules the "Laws of Thought." For over two millennia, they formed the basis for Western philosophy, logic and mathematics. Today we recognize them more accurately as the rules for naming or "nouning" in WIE languages such as ancient Greek or modern English._6 Further, we recognize that they lead to unacceptable over-simplifications (e.g. fallacious opposites, where their user rigidly imposes mutually-exclusive "either/or" categories onto situations regardless of whether that fits or not).
Meanwhile, during that lengthy period, philosophers, logicians and mathematicians never said much about the presumed setting which we Westerners do posit; when they did eventually notice it, they came to call it an undelimited setting, as in Figure 2.
FIG. | ÷
2 ÷ C | not-C
| (war) | (not-war)
As one of its most salient features, the logic of opposites defined on an undelimited setting treats opposing terms as separable, as if they had nothing in common other than that they oppose.
In his book, The Two Hands of God: Myths of Polarity, Alan Watts expresses this aspect of the Western logic of opposites, this separability of opposites (which he calls "a celebration of [an] illusion"), as follows:
By and large Western culture is a celebration of the illusion that good may exist without evil, light without darkness, and pleasure without pain, and this is true of both its Christian and secular, technological phases. Here, or hereafter, our ideal is a world in which "there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain; for the former things are passed away" (Revelations 21:4).7
Thus we TALK as if peace could "exist" without war. The advocates of the Peace Movement, for example, strive to bring on a "world peace" which would permanently replace "world war." Their opponents declare this aim impossible. War, they maintain, REALLY IS inevitable. The advocates of Historical Accuracy point out that, in ongoing human affairs, the two alternate: "peace" sooner or later follows "war", and "war" sooner or later follows "peace," and so on. This alternation, they maintain, will continue. (These groups cannot agree on policy, either.)
In keeping with the Western version of the logic of opposites, our dictionaries do not tell what these terms have in common. But the way we use them, even within the framework of conventional wisdom, makes it appear that we do define war and peace on a common setting -- a setting, we assume, made up of fixed hostility and conflict. Both terms include the presupposition that, between groups, "differences" about "what really matters" not only exist, but require "settling." This amounts to a potentially violent intolerance of any group whose views on certain topics or whose practices in certain arenas differ from those of one's own. The main contrast between the two terms lies in the means they employ: in time of war, we "settle" the differences by armed combat; whereas in time of peace, we "settle" them by other means.
Furthermore, the term war signifies something we DO, a process, not something we "merely" SAY. But we cannot DO peace in the same way: The term peace doesn't signify a process, it signifies the ABSENCE of a process. No one can DO "the absence of a process."
Now, WHATEVER we do constitutes "a process." But since, by the WIE logic of opposites, every process we engage in either IS war, or else IS not-war ("peace"); and since peace constitutes "the absence of a process" and we cannot DO "the absence of a process"; therefore, whatever we DO, whatever process we engage in, IS war. To phrase this in the least inflammatory of terms, since we cannot do "peace", whatever we do, even in the name of "peace," leads toward war or leaves war as our central focus.
So when we rely on the terms war and peace as our primary vocabulary for discussing the topic of the status of the political/military relations between two groups (e.g. nation-states), we beg the crucial question before the human race, concerning how NOT to have further wars. Instead, on the basis of circular reasoning, we presuppose the inevitability of war: The fact that we repeatedly engage in war PROVES that Man is warlike, quarrelsome, aggressive, hostile. And the fact that People ARE like that -- warlike, quarrelsome --PROVES that war is inevitable. Man REALLY IS "the naked ape," the VICIOUS ape. Therefore war IS inevitable. We have wars because war IS inevitable.
According to the conventional wisdom, then, the situation seems hopeless. We feel like passive victims of circumstances beyond our control. Most of us sit around Waiting for the Inevitable End and/or Waiting for a Miracle to Occur that would save us from The Bomb which we humans created, and thus to save us from ourselves. The elected or appointed or self-appointed officials continue following the policies dictated by the rhetoric of war. The military-industrial complex continues designing, building, selling and buying, and deploying instruments of destruction, and training people to use them. Civilian opinion remains divided, the members of each faction talking only or mainly to themselves, and so preaching to the converted as they seek to impose Their wills, Their views, on Everybody Else in the rest of the country or the rest of the world. The exponents of Security through Military Strength rejoice, or wring their hands, at the latest comparative counts of missiles and warheads in the USSR and the US. The people active in the Peace Movement expend their energies working as hard as they can to end nuclear testing and Ban the Bomb, without a positive social alternative to offer in case they should succeed.
And everybody, in their heart of hearts, feels despairing.
This preliminary examination of the underpinnings of the conventional wisdom shows it as stabilized by circular reasoning, and therefore as logically unacceptable. Further, the behavior of those who rely on such fixated reasoning would appear constrained, compulsive -- including the likelihood that they might well ignore evidence which clearly contradicts its tenets.
Does any such direct evidence exist? Do we have any primary reason to believe that we humans have any choice about whether or not to remain fixated on the constructs of war-and-peace?
An alternative approach
As I pointed out above, even to consider the possibility that our belief in the inevitability of war-and-peace manifests compulsive behavior denies to the conventional wisdom its unquestioned validity, and asserts instead that we humans do have choice as to whether or not to continue oscillating between peace and war.
To explore this alternative hypothesis requires taking a different tack. Instead of settling for the conventional wisdom and the despair it engenders, I propose to consider the hypothesis that the relations between groups (e.g. nation-states) depend on PEOPLE -- on how people ACT, or TRANSACT.
This requires a change of stance. To begin with, instead of focussing on How or What People ARE, let's look at WHAT PEOPLE DO.
To get fully explicit, let's start with a little demonstration -- some actual human behavior, as reported by the psychologist Dr. John Enright:
This morning I had a longing for some orange juice. I knew there must be some in the freezer, since my roommate went shopping yesterday. I took an orange-labeled can out of the freezer, and made myself a glass; as I did so, I noticed that it was a little darker than usual, but I concluded that it must just be another variety of orange or a different mix of rind and juice. Then when I tasted it, it was just awful. I spit it out in the sink and really made a mess of things, but I was sure it was spoiled, and I didn't want to make myself sick. Then I decided that I might as well take it back to the grocer's and get our money back. I fished the can out of the garbage and looked at the label. To my surprise it said "Tangerine Juice." I couldn't believe it. I tasted some of the juice left in the glass and ... it was good tangerine juice!_8
In offering this example, I invite you to recall at least one similar example from your own experience -- a situation in which you discovered a mistake you had made and rectified it. Without a specific example to refer to, one anchored in your own experience, you will not correctly understand the rest of what I say. Do not read further until you have found a suitable personal example.
In Enright's story, the speaker perceives something ("This orange juice tastes SPOILED!"), uses that perceiving to guide herself in action (rejects the juice, and the transaction of purchasing the juice -- "I'll go get our money back."). In the process she takes in new information which leads her to revise what she originally perceived ("Hey, I didn't fix orange juice, I fixed TANGERINE juice -- and it tastes RIGHT for tangerine juice!").
In other words, the organism's (speaker's) perceiving does not yield "absolute certainties," but rather, delivers GUESSES, which the organism uses to guide her/his further "doings" or "choosings"; and by so doing, she/he puts the guesses to test. When the smoke clears, and the organism sees how things turned out, in effect she/he looks back, and judges the guesses she/he started with in terms of the outcome of this test. Where the guesses end up looking not so good, she/he discards them and guesses again; where they look okay, she/he tentatively accepts them, until the next time they may look relevant -- at which point, she/he uses them for guidance and so tests them again.
Now use these terms to re-state the example from your own experience. The fact that you CAN do this forms a central part of my point. When you do, you paraphrase your own behaving-and-experiencing into the terms of the logic of science: In the process of living, we generate, test and judge guesses or hypotheses, and we discard or revise the ones which appear disconfirmed. In general, we speak of the logic of science as image-correcting. This demonstration shows that humans can, and do, operate like an image- or hypothesis- or theory-correcting system.
Of course, we humans don't behave ONLY in an image-correcting fashion. At times, we behave so as to PREVENT disclosing our own mistakes, and correcting them. For example, sometimes when things don't turn out as we expected, we deny it and try not to notice, or we explain it away, or we pretend that we "really know what REALLY IS going on" and that our information forces us to do what we did, or we blame it on someone else or on "external" circumstances (but not on our pictures!). I call this way of behaving image-defending or hypothesis- or theory-defending.
The construct of image-defending aptly models the kinds of apparently-purposive human behavior which one would designate as rigid, fixated, neurotic, psychotic, etc. At the other pole, the construct of image-correcting aptly models the kinds of apparently-purposive human behavior which one would designate as satisfying, effective, creative, vigorous, productive, etc.
When I compare human behavior to formal deductive systems of one type or another, I display one of the key assumptions of our alternative viewpoint: I assume that humans assume, that they (we) cannot NOT-assume. You or I may assume This, or THAT, or something else (and then guide ourselves by what we assume) -- but, I assert, we cannot assume Nothing At All. In the alternative viewpoint, to say that an organism lives amounts to saying that this organism "generates, tests and judges some kind of guesses, hypotheses or assumptions concerning what goes on in and around this organism." Thus to say that an organism assumes Nothing At All amounts to declaring the organism "non-living."
Enright's story refers to a particular arena (having to do with food and eating) and to the assumptions relevant to that arena. Other arenas require other assumptions. And by logical necessity, what someone assumes in one arena shows inter-relations to what one assumes in other arenas, relations which I can legitimately call theory. Thus any human generates a lived theory, based on lived assumptions (as opposed to an abstract theory based on abstract assumptions, that we only talk or write about).
The guesses which a human generates and by which he guides himself follow from his personal lived theory. But from birth to death, we live in an environment made up in part of other humans -- parent figures, friends and relations, peers, progeny -- with whom we share one or more native languages, various customs, etc. Under these conditions, a large part of the lived assumptions we generate closely resemble the lived assumptions held by our fellow humans. I refer to these as shared assumptions. In effect, we share with our fellows the largest part of our personal lived theories. A culture, then, comprises "a group of humans with a shared lived theory."
We need one further distinction, namely, that between interacting and transacting, which refer to the setting of "how things happen."
Imagine a pair of billiard balls colliding in an almost completely elastic fashion, each taking on its new trajectory. Or as another example, say that a high wind comes up, breaks a branch off a tree, and this falling branch strikes a window of your house and breaks the glass.
In both instances, the "happenings" which took place seem mechanical, and have a kind of "one-way" character -- a "thing" impinges on (enters into a transient relation with) another "thing," without itself getting altered much. Oh, yes, at the end of one sequence, the branch lies on the ground and fragments of the window do too; and at the end of the other, after colliding, the two billiard balls continue on their new trajectories until they run into something else; etc. But the billiard balls still consist of plastic or ivory, and they still roll; the branch still consists of wood, and the smashed windowpane still consists of glass; they cannot get affected by or affect one another, they cannot enter into any kind of relation other than the mechanical or mechanistic.
After Dewey & Bentley, I designate one-way "happenings" of this kind by the term interacting._9
Now imagine a young woman meeting a special part of her environment, namely, a young man. What takes place "goes both ways." She both gives something and receives something (and so does he), and in the process, BOTH SIDES get affected, profound changes occur: they meet as strangers, but part as lovers, or friends, or enemies, or acquaintances, etc. Or for another example, notice the difference between kicking a stone and kicking a dog (or a human!). When you kick a stone, what happens next depends mainly on the mass of the stone and the energy, velocity, direction, etc., of the kicking. When you kick a living organism, what happens next depends mainly on aspects other than the physical description of the kicked and the physical details of the kicking.
After Dewey & Bentley, I designate two-way "happenings" of this kind by the term transacting.
In contrast to the undelimited setting which underlies the Western version of the logic of opposites, and the delimited but blank, abstract setting which underlies the Eastern version of the logic of opposites, the construct of transacting makes up the setting -- the specific (as opposed to abstract) setting -- for the version of the logic of opposites which underlies the present paper.
Let's use this novel setting to examine a self-reflexive topic, namely, how we humans deal with the species-term Man.
As humans born and raised among other humans, we cannot help having some kind of a definition for our term for humans. We derive this definition largely from our transacting with our fellows. We all know what "human" looks like and feels like, from within our primary group. We tacitly assume that our primary group does things "the right way." This shared, informal and perhaps tacit definition functions as a self-fulfilling prophecy: we enact in our own lives, and expect from others, the kinds of behavior spelled out in our definition for our term for humans. It also functions coercively, in the sense of self-enforcing limits: we actively EXCLUDE from the "human" any individual or group whose behavior appears to deviate from that set forth by this informal definition. (After all, instead of following their deviant patterns, They COULD do things The Right Way if they WANTED to!)
This handily accounts for the observed situation, described above, in which various groups regard each other with mutual mistrust and hostility. But I started the discussion of our alternative viewpoint by demonstrating that we humans have the capability to subject our guesses, hypotheses, theories to test, and to accept provisionally, revise or reject our guesses depending on the outcome of the tests. If we do this with the species-term Man, how do the conventional wisdom on this topic fare?
The first explicit, testable definition for this species-term came from Korzybski in 1921.10 Instead of asking, "What IS Man," as Western philosophers had done back to the era of Aristotle, Plato and Socrates, Korzybski re-frames the question. He asks, instead:
"What do humans DO that distinguishes us from other living
To express the answer he gives, we will need several different images:
As the defining mark of the species, humans accumulate human knowledge (in the form of tested guesses), at exponential rates.
a. Any human gets born at a particular time-and-place, into some specific culture, which has some body of human knowledge available within it. In the course of growing to maturity among these humans, (s)he will assimilate some fraction of this body of knowledge; and having assimilated, (s)he will then contribute to it, and pass her (his) contributions on to peers and successors.
b. In terms of what (s)he can do by way of contributing to the body of human knowledge, it matters WHEN a human gets born. Consider this from the point of view of a young person considering possible careers, and wondering about the possibility of becoming the first human to visit the moon and return: For someone born in 1900, this remained only a pipedream; for someone born in 1932, it stood as a real possibility; for someone born in 1964, it passed beyond reach, into history, during her/his childhood.
As a species, we gain our living in the biosphere by cooperating to apply what we know, in the process coming to KNOW more.
a. Humans generate and use knowledge cooperatively. Widely tested guesses do not exist as a private property or possession, but rather as a joint creation. Even within Western societies, with our ethos of "private advantage" and our well-developed constructs of "private property" and "trade secrets" and "security clearance," the human knowledge of the day affects everyone in the community. For example, an inventor takes out patents on the knowledge he generates, and manufactures or licenses the manufacture of his widget; even secret weapons research takes place within groups, which the society as a whole mandates, sponsors and pays; the technological devices which new knowledge produces get deployed in one way or another throughout the larger community, affecting the lives of everyone.
b. We Westerners often appear to take the persistence of the social institution of war as one of the best pieces of evidence in favor of the proposition that "human nature" IS intrinsically hostile and aggressive. But as the paleoanthropologist Richard Leakey points out, even warfare requires cooperation.
An individual can't wage war; you have to get people to do things together. In fact, the most extreme form of cooperation is putting an army together for battle. Everybody works together knowing that the consequence may well be death._11
In fact, it even requires cooperation between two armies to engage in combat. If one group follows a drastically different set of rules, as the Danes did when Hitler's forces invaded during World War II_12, the rhetoric of conquest and domination no longer works as expected.
c. New theories also arise cooperatively, even if the theorist lives as a recluse. (S)He cannot possibly generate ALL the knowledge which (s)he uses to theorize with. Although in the Western Indo-European cultures we have the custom of naming a new theory after an individual or a small group, we would do better to regard it as a species accomplishment.
Every human lives in a primary relation with the body of accumulated knowledge. In other words, every human lives concurrently as
a. Heir to the entire cumulative body of human knowledge: the trial-and-error, trial-and-success of all past generations.
b. Steward for, administrator of, and contributor to, the present store of human knowledge; and
c. Trustee for all future generations.
These primary relations with the time-binding heritage affect the relations of every human with himself, with other humans, with the non-living environment and with other species. They provide the foundations for a system of human values -- a kind of morality/ethics -- for the species as a whole.
Korzybski summarized these considerations by characterizing the human species as a time-binding class of life, occupying more "dimensions" than do other living systems, other classes of life._13
In the 1930's and 1940's, cultural anthropologists developed the construct of culture, which covers many of the points Korzybski covered. A decade or so later, evolutionary biologists came up with the construct of psycho-social evolution, which again covers many of these points. In my opinion, Korzybski's version of this construct turned out as the most successful and useful effort to answer the self-reflexive question of how to deal with the species-term Man.
To summarize, Korzybski draws on the precepts of scientific method. Setting aside the informal and perhaps tacit definition for the species-term Man which he shared with his fellows, he proposes instead an explicit and testable one; and examines the resulting constructs against evidence. Having reframed the traditional "IS" question so as to ask what humans DO, he arrives at an alternative viewpoint which finds a) that the species as a whole can image-correct, and b) that individuals can image-correct, and c) that these fundamental activities both distinguish humans from other species and also form the basis for how the human species gains its living in the biosphere. When we explicitly notice, and describe, such species and individual image-correcting, we provide the foundations for a system of human values, a morality/ethics, for the species as a whole.
In contrast, as long as we continue to ask the more traditional "REALLY IS" versions of this self-reflexive question, we prevent ourselves from noticing these fundamental activities, and arrive instead at traditional answers, such as the view that "human nature REALLY IS hostile and aggressive, and will forever remain so."
Now I propose to characterize the lived assumptions which underlie the activities which we call image-defending and image-correcting, and show how these assumptions affect the way we humans handle the problems posed by the constructs of war and peace.
Image-defending vs. image-correcting
When I infer the assumptions which underlie what someone DID, I play an after-the-fact "as if" game: I build up a formal deductive system which simulates what this person did (specifically, correlates closely enough with the observed "doings," as judged by a particular criterion). Then I assert that in doing what (s)he did, this person acted AS IF (s)he held THESE lived assumptions (and operated by THAT logic). Let us consider two main cases:
Sometimes, a human will act as if (s)he assumed that
"My picture of what's going on in and around me is a point-for-point perfect map of what's REALLY going on!"
This amounts to a lived-theory version of Aristotle's Law of Identity.
If indeed the image or map of what goes on in and around me which I generate corresponds point-for-point with what actually goes on, then my map confers absolute certainty. I won't need to waste time examining the territory, because I have perfect information to guide myself by, without looking. Furthermore, I won't ask epistemological questions -- the details of how I generated my (perfect) map, or when, or where, or for what purposes, don't make any difference in how I handle it, and in fact, won't even occur to me to ask. After all, I already know what's REALLY going on.
Furthermore, when things turn out different from what I expected, I will probably handle that disturbing circumstance by denying, by explaining away, by laying blame -- in effect, by finding something wrong with the situation, with the other people involved or with myself (but not with my PICTURES!).
But (according to this alternative approach) no human can actually generate a map, image or guess which confers "absolute certainty." Any test of this lived assumption, it predicts, would disconfirm it. However, when I ACT on this assumption, I don't allow it to get disconfirmed -- indeed, I do my best to keep it from coming into question at all. That forms the central feature of what it calls an image-defending system. And the image or "self" that gets "defended" here does not consist of my physical body, nor the integrity of my feelings, nor the viability of my inter-personal relationships, etc., but rather, consists of my PICTURES (and the lived premises which underlie them).
1. Relations with others: When I operate from these premises, and so pretend to "absolute certainty," my dealings with my fellow humans become quarrelsome. For example, if I encounter someone who lets on, accidentally or on purpose, that his map does not match mine point-for-point, I will regard that as disturbing. After all, we live in a world of chronic shortage: there's not enough to go around -- especially, not enough Truth. Since my map is RIGHT, yours either has to agree with mine or else it's WRONG. I do think of myself as a generous fellow -- I'll try to set you straight. Failing that, and if I cannot even persuade, manipulate or coerce you to bring your map into conformity with mine, then you leave me no choice but to defend my own Truths, and to discredit or suppress your mistaken Opinions -- perhaps, if I get a bit indiscriminate about it, I might set out to discredit or suppress YOU. The means available to do that range from verbal put-downs to fisticuffs or murder. Thus image-defending lived theories lead to one possible pattern for social relations between individuals, namely, a pattern of hostility and conflict.
2. Relations with self: Repression: This pattern of hostility and conflict also describes one kind of relationship between an individual and himself, namely, the pattern which therapists call repression. I regard this pattern as self-annihilating and image-defending. Consider an example which might at first glance seem commonplace. You see, since I'm a male, and a properly aggressive one at that, then tenderness isn't my job -- maybe it's my wife's, but certainly not mine. To survive in this aggressive, dog-eat-dog world, I have to be tough. That's the way things REALLY ARE. And if there do exist parts of me that don't fit with my-official-picture-of-me (for example, such "soft" and "feminine" traits as a capacity for tenderness), they endanger the Survival of the official "me" -- so they better just keep out of sight! I will suppress them, and then "forget" that I have done so -- which constitutes repression. Tough, after all, is the way I REALLY AM! Not only do I behaviorally amputate any other possibilities for myself, but also demand that others do likewise, and feel upset and angry when another man, say, in my presence, does that which I won't/can't let myself do. (Man, don't show tenderness around me!)
3. Absolute certainty, group relations and "The Enemy": This violent pattern characterizes not only the relations between individuals and between an individual and himself, but also the image-defending social relations between groups. As Americans, you and I may have certain differences of opinion which don't make any difference. Perhaps you vote a straight Republican ticket, whereas I vote Democratic. That doesn't really matter. However, as Americans, we solidly share all the views that do really matter. And those deviant views held by other countries are clearly wrong -- if not evil. If They can't see the way things REALLY ARE on the topics which do make a difference, that makes Them our enemies. And it IS our job to discredit our enemies, to suppress them, and perhaps to defeat them in battle and dominate them thereafter.
4. Power-struggle: The multi-level, image-defending pattern developed here begins to sound familiar. It centers about "us vs. them" reasoning, involves dominance/submission struggles within the self and between individuals, and expects zero-sum ("I win/you lose") outcomes. I call this pattern power-struggle.
But as our example concerning tangerine juice shows, the pattern of power-struggle does not define the sum and end of human capabilities.
At other times, a human will act as if (s)he assumed that
"My picture of what goes on in and around me DOES NOT and CANNOT provide a point-for-point perfect map -- of 'what's really going on,' or of anything else."
This amounts to a lived-theory paraphrase of Korzybski's Postulate of Non-identity.
If indeed my pictures cannot provide absolute certainty, that plunges me into radical uncertainty. By what principle can I tell what to do or to choose? How can I recognize opportunities or dangers? How can I find out what I need in order to survive, prosper and grow, and how can I obtain what it takes to satisfy my needs? How can I tell what to shun, and how can I manage actually to avoid what threatens and endangers me?
The demonstration concerning tangerine juice shows that that which I ALREADY DO precisely addresses these issues. By translating an example from your own experience into our terminology, you have shown that, in your own living too, the process of generating pictures amounts to making predictions or guesses, which you then use to guide your further "doings" or "choosings." In other words, I assert that every organism comes with a built-in procedure for handling radical uncertainty. Say that I, knowing at "gut level" how it works, want to cross a crowded restaurant to join my friends. I start by using my eyes, and making a set of guesses as to how and where to walk so as to get to my destination without bumping into people, tables, chairs, or whatever. I put my guesses to test in action, and I then judge them against the outcome of the situation. If it turns out that I crossed the room without mishap, the guesses with which I started out end up looking okay for my present purposes; but if I bumped into something or someone en route, then those guesses don't look so good, as judged by that criterion. I must discard them, perhaps apologize, guess again, and then try out the new set of guesses.
This supposition describes my activities, and yours, in the terminology of the logic of science. I suggest that my actions in particular, and human behaving-and-experiencing in general, at least potentially show a image-correcting structure. Here, as before, the image or "self" that gets "corrected" consists not of body, feelings, relationships, etc., but primarily of PICTURES (and the lived premises which underlie them).
In short, humans remain forever in doubt about themselves-and-their-surroundings. We live with the certainty of uncertainty, balanced against the image-correcting structure of organisms. In principle and in fact, we cannot do better than to guide ourselves by guesses which have survived testing.
1. Image-correcting relations with other persons: I may from time to time encounter someone whose maps or pictures do not match mine. When I operate from image-correcting premises, I will regard my own pictures as intrinsically inaccurate, incomplete, and self-referential, and so in need of supplementation. I will expect that you may know things from your point of view -- also inaccurate, incomplete, and self-referential, but different from my own -- which might prove useful, even life-saving, to me. This makes it more likely that I will see your concerns and endeavors as contributing to my welfare. Moreover, I may realize that if we combine what we know, perhaps we can together accomplish what neither of us could do alone. Hence I will remain willing to listen to your insights, and to share my own; and in general, to work together with you on joint projects, and to support you in your own endeavors. Image-correcting lived theories, then -- in contrast to image-defending theories -- yield inter-personal relations of cooperation, collaboration and mutual support. Furthermore, image-correcting proves contagious, more so than does image-defending: image-correcting in one person fosters image-correcting in others.
2. Image-correcting relations between groups: The image-correcting pattern also leads to wider possibilities for relations between groups -- possibilities that many people today may find difficult to imagine. For example, when I operate as part of a group which relies on the premises of the image-correcting pattern, I will regard not only my own maps but also my group's shared viewpoint as intrinsically inaccurate, incomplete, and self-referential; and will see the viewpoint of your group -- unavoidably limited, but different from our own -- as potentially useful to me and to my group. With this regard will come respect, admiration and even awe at the fact of human differences, including group differences. Humans who share the image-correcting pattern will celebrate such diversity. And where it becomes important to resolve some particular dissonance (as between viewpoints or theories), we humans will resort to the procedure of image-correcting to do so -- will design and execute critical experiments framed to select between the rival viewpoints in question.
SO: On inter-group levels also, as a part of my group I'll LISTEN to the viewpoints of your group, and SHARE those of my own; and in general, work together with your group on joint projects, and support your group in your own endeavors.
In other words, image-correcting lived theories -- in contrast to image-defending theories -- yield inter-group relations of cooperation, collaboration and mutual support.
The examination of the opposing hypotheses, in light of the available evidence, appears not to disconfirm the hypothesis that we humans do have a choice as to whether or not to continue oscillating between war-and-peace.
In this paper, I set out to explore the question of how we humans might manage to turn our energies from the elaboration of death to the elaboration of life.
I start by accounting for the fact that to date, our "doings" still center on war and death. This analysis yields the hypothesis that we humans engage in war compulsively -- which contradicts the conventional wisdom on war-and-peace, which holds that war IS inevitable. In order to settle this dispute conclusively, I perform a critical experiment designed to select between these two opposing hypotheses. I explicitly set out to use both logical and empirical evidence.
By way of logical analysis, I treat the terms war and peace as polar opposites. Then, by holding them up in turn against the background of several different traditional versions of the "logic of opposites," I demonstrate that the conventional wisdom rests on a basis of circular reasoning. Behavior based on such reasoning might well appear compulsive, and ignore clear evidence that disconfirms its premises.
This tactic allows me to simulate the conventional wisdom concerning war and peace as a structure existing concurrently on two levels, namely, behavior and feelings. Behaviorally speaking, we engage ourselves in armed conflict, or resist engaging ourselves in it, in a compulsive manner; and in our heart of hearts, everyone involved feels despairing.
By way of empirical analysis, I show that we humans have two main ways of handling lived mistakes and the detection of lived mistakes, which I call image-defending and image-correcting. The lived procedure of image-defending forms the basis both for ineffective, discomfortable, fixated, rigid, neurotic or psychotic behavior by individuals, and for the ethos of hostility and conflict between groups (where the conventional wisdom treats such behavior as manifesting the most fundamental truth about humans). The lived procedure of image-correcting forms the basis both for effective, joyous, free-ranging, flexible, creative functioning of individuals, and for an ethos of -cooperation, collaboration and mutual support among groups. It also constitutes the basis for how the human species gains its living in the world of living systems. Further, that which humans DO that distinguishes us from other living systems amounts to image-correcting on a species level.
We may regard the analysis of a problem as successful if it
opens new possibilities for action.
By this criterion, the analysis done in this paper succeeds: It opens the way to a fundamental revision of the structure of human society. It discloses a fundamental type of behavior which WE ALREADY PRACTICE (though we mostly hadn't noticed). This type of behavior makes up the defining mark of the species, provides the basis for how the human species gains its living in the world of living systems, and forms the basis for a potential ethos of cooperation, collaboration and mutual support.
Furthermore, our analysis discloses the assumptions which form the basis for our traditional, hostile and aggressive, image-defending mode of behavior, and explicitly contrasts them against the assumptions which form the basis for our usually-neglected image-correcting mode of behavior. In order to turn our energies from the elaboration of death to the elaboration of life, we need to find ways to alter the assumptions underlying our intra-personal, our inter-personal and our inter-group behavior -- consciously, explicitly, intentionally to replace our traditional image-defending assumptions with those which lead to image-correcting.
REFERENCES AND NOTES
_1Richard Rhodes, The Making of the Atomic Bomb (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1986), p. 785.
_2Benjamin Lee Whorf, Language, Thought and Reality: Selected Papers of Benjamin Lee Whorf. John B. Carroll, ed. (New York: MIT Press/Wiley, 1956), p. 211-2.
_3The figure actually drawn by native speakers of Chinese, known as
the yin-yang diagram (Fig. 3), consists of a circle divided into two halves by a curved line which resembles a sine-wave, with the lower half of the circle painted black and the upper half white. Each half contains a small dot or "eye" of the contrasting color, as if to show the opposites as
FIG. not-quite-completely mutually exclusive.
_4Chu, Yu-Kuang: "Interplay between language and thought in Chinese," ETC.: A Review of General Semantics, 22:307-329 (1965), p. 316.
Chapter 2 of the ancient Tao Te Ching expresses this version of the logic of opposites clearly and, by my standards, beautifully. In English translation, it says,
Whenever the most beautiful is perceived, ugliness arises, the least beautiful. Whenever good is perceived, evil exists, its natural opposite.
Thus perception involves opposites: reality and fantasy are opposing thoughts; difficult and simple oppose in degree; long and short oppose in distance; high and low oppose in height; shrill and deep oppose in tone; before and after oppose in sequence.
The truly wise accept this and they work diligently without allegiance to words. They teach by doing, not by saying; are genuinely helpful, not discriminating; are positive, not possessive; do not proclaim their accomplishments, and because they do not proclaim them, credit for them can never be taken away.
The Book of Tao, F. J. MacHovec, translator (Mt. Vernon, NY: Peter Pauper Press, 1962), p. 33.
_5This generalization does not apply to the revised WIE symbolic logics, set theories and other mathematics written during the Twentieth Century. The revision started when, in 1902, Bertrand Russell pointed out a paradox, framed in terms of "sets which do not belong to themselves". This paradox reveals the "Laws of Thought" (Aristotle's way of handling the logic of opposites) as flawed, unsatisfactory as the basis for logic and mathematics. Having seen that logical flaw, logicians noticed also that the procedure of defining a term C on an undelimited setting, so that its opposite not-C consists of "everything else," leads to absurdities. For if C signifies "war" and not-C signifies "everything else," the term "everything else" includes not only "peace", but also "tomatoes," "male sexual function," "Cantor's transfinite cardinal numerals," "sets that do not belong to themselves," etc. Since Russell's paradox, Western logicians and mathematicians have created a new version of the logic of opposites (one remarkably similar to that presumed in the Sino-Tibetan languages), and have re-cast our symbolic logics, set theories and eventually the whole body of Western mathematics so as to define them onto this new logic of opposites.
_6C. A. Hilgartner, "Some Traditional Assumings Underlyig Indo-European Languages: Unstated, Unexamined, and Untenable," General Semantics Bulletin Nos. 44/45, pp. 132-154 (1977/78), p. 135b.
_7Alan W. Watts, The Two Hands of God: Myths of Polarity (New York, Brazillier 1963). Paperback edition, 1969, Collier Books, p. 48.
_8John Enright, quoted in Marlys Mayfield, Thinking for Yourself Developing Critical Thinking Skills Through Writing (Belmont CA: Wadsworth Publishing Co., 1987), p. 151.
_9Dewey & Bentley, Knowing and the Known, (Boston: Beacon Press, 1949). Paperback edition, 1960.
_10Alfred Korzybski, Manhood of Humanity (New York: E. P. Dutton, 1921). Second edition, Lakeville CT: Institute of General Semantics (1950).
_11Richard Leakey, "Evidence for Aggression Does Not Exist." U.S. News & World Report, 15 February 1982. Reprinted in Marlys Mayfield, Thinking for Yourself Developing Critical Thinking Skills Through Writing (Belmont, CA: Wadsworth 1987), pp. 153-4.
_12Roy Walker, A People Who Loved Peace ( London: Victor Gollancz Ltd., 1946). "... Resistance in Norway was something more than the legitimized gangsterism that it often was elsewhere. Democratic values were asserted in a civilized way, by a largely non-violent persistence in the free way of life against the wholly material and destructive forces of totalitarianism...." (From the book jacket.)
_13For contrast to the construct of time-binding, Korzybski uses the constructs of space-binding ("animal") and chemistry-binding ("plant").