Types of Being

Thinking Tools / Information /
@ K. 2001 01 23

I once quoted Korzybski’s map / territory distinction to a friend who snapped, “That’s obvious.” The following moments showed me that this talented writer and successful programmer didn’t see the implications, relevance, or importance: his “obvious” was opaque to him. Those moments showed me further that the door of inquiry had closed, there would be no illustration or discussion. I do no better with Bateson’s compelling refinement. Bateson says that we are not wired to maintain these key epistemological distinctions. Human evolution has gotten away with it so far (seems to have) but I doubt that such epistemological sloppiness will pass muster much longer.

At the time of that incident with that friend, I labored at my expansion of Korzybski’s point and Bateson’s refinement in my fiction and, for a breather, in my diary. Now my home page continues the labor in expository prose. My modules on Macroinformation attempt to condense and to clarify the structure of the other modules on this and related subjects. I wish here to start from scratch distinctions recently written in two other Macroinformation pieces: Batesonian Semantics and Bishop Berkeley and Semantics. The points tie in with other Thinking Tools modules: to whit, Mental Modeling and Extension.


The terms first to be synchronized as essential to typing existence are: map, territory, Pleroma, Creatura, extension, intension.

Existential Classification will be beyond the capacity of all who do not follow the above distinctions (which it is my purpose to add to). The above linked modules discuss some of the problems inherent in not following those distinctions. I iterate that I believe man has exceeded his evolutionary fitness and is on the verge of exceeding it fatally. (These points I develop in my Social Pathologies directory.) No where is our confusion more pronounced or more dangerous than in sacred traditions: does the flag represent physical territory or a particular human organization, an artifact? (Is the artifact well or ill crafted?) Answer: the material from which the flag is made has extension. It is a terrritory unto itself. The flag “itself” is symbolic, intensional, a map. The continent of North America is part of Pleroma (in large part physically remodeled by Creatura): Mexico, the United States, and Canada are human intensional artifacts with no more physical or Pleromic existence than my “self.” There is no United States in Pleroma any more than there are babies in Pleroma (“baby” stars maybe). The Music of the Spheres was a quintessential human confusion. There can be no music in Pleroma (except through Creatura).

Korzybski’s raw “territory” needs refinement. Not only can there of course be sub-terrritories; but there are intensional territories as well as extensional territories. The planet Earth’s satellite is a territory we call the moon. The satellite is extensional. Calling it the moon is intensional. The vibrations of our utterance occupy space; the naming is strictly mental. Shakespeare’s plays and poems comprise an intensional territory. The quartos, folios and reprints, like the above mentional “painting,” occupy space; the contents — from Hamlet to the Dark Lay — occupy only mental space. Shakespeare commentary is still another intensional territory.

Pleroma and Creatura are categories. As words, names, descriptions … both are intensional and a sub-order of Creatura. Convenience is the only reality of categories. To survive, a caterpillar must be able to distinguish light from dark: it follows the light and finds food [Korzybski]. To survive, I submit that a man must learn to distinguish between abstract and concrete. Our rhetoric is forever fostering new confusions over and above our natural confusions: for control, not for survival (or for survival (temporary) of political man, not biological man (potentially longer lasting)). We’ve survived the physical “world”: now can we survive the symbolic? The symbolic world is changing the physical world to the point where we may not survive in it. (Creatura changed the continents (and the seas: and now space too.) Sentiens is changing both extensional and intensional territories.)

My examples above challenge political man. Politics are an artifact of kleptocracy and kleptocracy is only a half-dozen millennia recent in human “history.” Here’s an older and perhaps more fundamental challenge:

Does the utterance “God” call on a man or a “spirit.” If the latter, what is the nature of the reality of spirit? Is the choice of word well-advised? How is it different from “principle”? And if the answer is spirit, and if something like background radiation could “prove” that spirit is “real,” leaves fingerprints, how would the uttered or printed consonant-vowel-consonant “g-o-d” be that spirit?

(At least one module on syncope, transformation, deep structure, surface structure (and other structures) is on its way here. For the moment I’ll just say that the spoken language is highly abbreviated. Many steps are left out as obvious. Unabbreviated would be unendurable as well as impractical, but practicality has a cost. “who’s this?” asks the teacher, pointing at whatever sort of AV material: a blackboard, a magazine clipping, a slide projection … “George Washington,” answers the class. That’s the answer wanted: not “It’s chalk you’ve used to silhouette George Washington’s iconic bust”; not it’s a dollar bill with George Washington invoked as a totem; not “It’s a lithographed representation of the portrait of George Washington by Gilbert Stuart painted in oils in 1795.”)

The most important things are the hardest to talk about. Trying is often taboo. England’s Parliament had no ladies room because the subject could not be brought to the table. Being, the one subject that subsumes all others (?), cannot be rationally analyzed. There’s no background to hold it against. Everything cannot be distinguished as a foreground. Non-being? What would that be? Even the “vacuum” bristles with stuff. A principle joke in my short story of thirty-odd years ago, The Model, has a student god explain to his design school critic that the theme of his Creation is Existence: as though it were one choice of many. I’ve noticed good responses to many of the jokes in that story, but never to that one: the most fundamental of all. Woody Allen writes, “What if all is illusion and nothing exists? Then I shouldn’t have put such a big down payment on that furniture.” [I quote from memory but will correct and footnote it later.] By itself, the first sentence wouldn’t win too many readers; we’re rescued by the bathetic crash immediately following.

Bateson’s Logical Types
2016 10 16 Bateson says the cop gives you a citation for speeding: it is not the cop’s business to put his foot on your brake. Ditto the judge.
But klepto-thugs prefer not to understand, and rather than comply, flaunt their power to get things wrong. Today’s news has video of a judge ripping off his robe and tackling a defendant.
No, no, no, no. We lose our license to have a justice department.
Later the media morons sit around and agree that the judge did the right thing. It’s his duty to maintain order in the courtroom. Sorry: that’s disorder; not order.

Development of this file was here interrupted 2000 August. Redraft scrap I move to a notebook file.

Existential Sets


About pk

Seems to me that some modicum of honesty is requisite to intelligence. If we look in the mirror and see not kleptocrats but Christians, we’re still in the same old trouble.
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