A Lethal Fundamental Error: How to Recognize, Reject & Replace It


  • C. A. Hilgartner Hilgartner & Associates


Human species-suicide, underlying fundamental error, hidden untenable assumptions, sustainable culture


A Lethal Fundamental Error: How To Recognize, Reject & Replace It C. Andrew Hilgartner, MD Director, Hilgartner & Associates, 2413 North East Street, Kirksville, MO 63501, USA: cah5@hilgart.org Abstract Experts within various specialties warn of crises in their individual areas of expertise—usually in myopic, single-issue terms. In this paper I present a more holistic view, an alternative frame of reference that offers a novel perspective on our difficulties. I diagnose our culture as experiencing an acute suicidal emergency—we may soon render ourselves extinct (along with most of the rest of the biosphere). I have found a previously unnoticed fundamental theoretical error encoded in the generalized grammar of the western Indo-European (WIE) family of languages. This error I find embedded––hidden––in notational (written) as well as discursive (spoken) locutions, and it appears to afflict all of our ‘disciplines’ (sub-languages) including the WIE logics, mathematics, sciences, philosophies, jurisprudences, religions, etc. We humans use our languaging as a sort of ‘map’, by which to represent and transact with the ‘territory’ of our experiencing (the world). However, no ‘map’ can satisfy the criteria as identical with the ‘territory’ that it purports to represent. But, by assuming tacitly that it does, we continue to generate lethal errors and misunderstandings. This error leads us to misunderstand our relationship with ourselves-and-our-environments, and has led our culture unawarely to commit a cascade of survival errors, the accumulated weight of which now would allow us to exterminate living organisms (that includes us!) from this planet with only a moment’s notice. The fundamental error I have disclosed appears to me of magnitude and scope sufficient to account for the human-species-suicidal emergency in which we have placed ourselves. In this paper I elaborate on these issues and discuss alternative ways of viewing ourselves-in-the-world that offer the possibility of averting catastrophe. Here, I suggest, you may come to see your disciplines, your languages, your culture, your place in the biosphere (the terrestrial…sidereal universe), etc., as not fragmented, but as a whole.

Author Biography

C. A. Hilgartner, Hilgartner & Associates

Independant Scholar C. A. Hilgartner 2413 North East Street Kirksville MO 63501 URL: http://www.hilgart.org Email: cah5@hilgart.org Phones: Voice (660) 627-2519 Fax and modem: (660) 627-2930 (Voice contact first, please) EDUCATION: Phillips Exeter Academy, Exeter, NH (Diploma) 1950 Amherst College, Amherst, MA A.B. 1954 Biology Johns Hopkins Medical School, Baltimore, MD M.D. 1958 Medicine University of Rochester, Rochester, NY (Postdoc) 1959-61 Biochemistry University of Rochester, Rochester, NY (Postdoc) 1961-62 Biochemical genetics RESEARCH AND/OR PROFESSIONAL EXPERIENCE 1947-54: Student: I initiated my long-term research project when I figured out that our theories of human behavior DON’T WORK and declared that I intended to revise, or reject and replace, them. I soon recognized that if our theories of behavior don’t work, our theories of biology don’t either, for roughly the same reasons. In 1952 I recognized what happens to a culture whose theories of human behavior and biology don’t work: Its members make so many survival-errors that they eliminate themselves and their culture from the planet. I set out to study self-destructive behavior at the level of cultures as well as at the level of individuals. 1962-68: Research biochemist, U. of Rochester. I studied the structure of chromosomes in cell nuclei. 1968-present: Independent scholar. Basing my research on the General Semantics of Alfred Korzybski, I began to develop a rigorous, testable theory of human behavior. 1983-present: Director, Hilgartner & Associates. In the process of studying self-annihilating behavior at the level of cultures, I and my collaborators have examined several fields of study, to see if they contribute to our headlong flight towards self-annihilation. • We have disclosed a hidden, lethal, untenable assumption encoded in the grammar of Western Indo European (WIE) languages -- which leads those who subscribe to it to enact survival-errors. • We find this lethal assumption encoded in the premises of: • Our logics and mathematics. I derived a “grammar” from my chosen premises, and on that derived grammar I and the linguist, Ronald V. Harrington, built up a non-standard notation free of this lethal assumption. • Modern physics. I and my collaborators have criticized and proposed revisions to relativity and quantum theory, and have gotten most of our proposals printed in physics journals. • Biology. We have proposed a rigorous, general theory of biology. Standard biologists have never had a comparable theory. • I began by proposing a rigorous, general theory of human behaving-and-experiencing which appears to work. Thus we have revised the foundations of the human psycho-social sciences. Looking back on a lifespan’s work, I recognize that I have focused on human survival. In effect, I have framed, asked and answered a pair of related questions: • A) What do we, as members of the currently dominant world culture, ASSUME that leads us to court species-suicide, extinction, and, perhaps, pan-biocide—the annihilation of the non-human organisms as well as the human species; and • B) What alternative assumptions might we adopt that could in principle, and might in fact, support us to generate viable, sustainable, life-affirming ways for humans to live? At this point in my lifespan, I and my collaborators have generated robust answers to both questions. We show how the assumptions encoded in the WIE languages repeatedly foil our best attempts at working towards survival, and we demonstrate what we need to change to direct our efforts to better effect.



How to Cite

Hilgartner, C. A. (2006). A Lethal Fundamental Error: How to Recognize, Reject & Replace It. Proceedings of the 50th Annual Meeting of the ISSS - 2006, Sonoma, CA, USA. Retrieved from https://journals.isss.org/index.php/proceedings50th/article/view/366



Systems Philosophy & Ethics