Random Theory: Words and [Not[-]]Things

“The word is not the thing.”

-Alfred Korzybski, Science and Sanity (1933)

Of course, Korzybski establishes a contradiction in that the word ‘thing’ that is being used to display what the word does not represent is, in being a word itself, also not the thing.  What then is it that that word, ‘thing’, is?  Since the context is hypothetical—there is no specific identification being ascribed to the term ‘thing’ other than, perhaps, some vague, highly arguable implication of physicality—the thing that ‘thing’ represents is purely conceptual, that concept being expressed within discourse.  But, then, what is the word itself besides a discursive concept?  At best, then, we might say that the word and the thing—or, rather, the word and ‘thing’—are separate concepts within the same realm of conceptualization; they are both conceptualizable, extant within a language system that can refer to each in kind, and, therefore, comparable, just as we are setting them in contrast to one another now. They are each nodes of some proximity to one another within the linguistic structure, a dynamic proximity that is subject to their respective and collective uses within discourse.  And since, for all the influence it might have over the realm of things, the linguistic structure only ever deals in representations and associations[1], that would seem to put our relationships with our own discursively-constructed identities in a similar position to that of the thing and the word.


[1] For everything that is represented within the linguistic order is made subject to and of it.

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