Alexander Petrunkevitch (essay date 1922)
SOURCE: "The Science of Social Engineering," in The Yale Review, Vol. XI, No. 2, January, 1922, pp. 431-33.
[In the following essay, Petrunkevitch praises Korzybski's theory of "time-binding" as discussed in The Manhood of Humanity.]
Unlike practical discoveries in the field of applied science or industry, new conceptions in pure science and thought have innumerable forerunners whose chief work lies in preparing the human mind for the final reception of the great truth to be formulated by some genius. Neither new religions, nor philosophies, nor theories have ever been called into being without such preliminary work, and whenever a genius put forward some thought too early for the rest of the world to grasp it, such a thought invariably perished and had to be rediscovered centuries later. Yet the time comes when the world finally grasps a new truth, makes it part and parcel of its own method of thinking and wonders how people could have been so blind as not to have seen the plain truth before. Such a truth concerning the nature of human thought is now beginning slowly to dawn on the world and, when once clearly conceived, will profoundly change not only scientific conceptions of energy and its laws of preservation, but human relationships as well.
I do not want to convey the impression that the author of The Manhood of Humanity has spoken the word which will reverberate throughout the thinking world. He, too, is only a forerunner, though he brings us considerably nearer the goal. His theories revolve around the idea that man is neither an animal nor a creature endowed with a spirit, but alone belongs to the "time-binding" class. By this he means that man has "the capacity to summarize, digest, and appropriate the labors and experiences of the past… "; and he contrasts man with animals as representatives of the "space-binding" class. Now this thought in itself would not be anything new, were it not for the elucidation of its meaning given by Korzybski. For he shows that not only do we learn from the experiences of the past, not only do we make use of things done before us and of wealth accumulated, but that in all our calculations of work done by ourselves, of wealth accumulated by us, of production based on our possession of knowledge, an inalienable element has been persistently overlooked, an element which he terms the "dead men's work." That work represents energy which may be and is being made use of in our daily life, but as yet has not been taken into account by any scientific thinker or student of human affairs. Like a true engineer Korzybski is not interested in...
(The entire section is 1087 words.)