Connections to other disciplines
General semantics has important links with analytic philosophy and the philosophy of science; it could be characterized without too much distortion as applied analytic philosophy. The influence of Ludwig Wittgenstein and the Vienna Circle, and of early operationalists and pragmatists such as Charles Sanders Peirce, is particularly clear in the foundational ideas of general semantics. Korzybski himself acknowledged many of these influences.
The concept of “silence on the objective level” attributed to Korzybski and his insistence on consciousness of abstracting are parallel to some central ideas in Zen Buddhism. Korzybski is not recorded to have acknowledged any influence from this quarter, but he formulated general semantics during the same years that the first popularizations of Zen were becoming part of the intellectual currency of educated speakers of English. On the other hand, later Zen-popularizer Alan Watts was influenced by ideas from general semantics.
L. Ron Hubbard is widely believed to have used the theory in his creation of Dianetics and later to have incorporated it into Scientology, and acknowledges this in several texts; the first of these two movements in turn introduced General Semantics to a wider audience in the early 1950s, including popular science fiction writer A. E. van Vogt, personal growth theorist Harvey Jackins and his movement Re-evaluation Counseling and movements like Gestalt therapy. The founders of these movements did not themselves credit Korzybski for their ideas.
Albert Ellis (1913-2007), who developed Rational emotive behavior therapy, acknowledged influence from general semantics and delivered the Alfred Korzybski Memorial Lecture in 1991. The Bruges (Belgium) center for Solution Focused Therapy operates under the name Korzybski Instituut Training and Research Center.
During the 1940s and 1950s, general semantics entered the idiom of science fiction, most notably through the works of A. E. van Vogt, The World of Null-A and its sequels, and Robert A. Heinlein, Gulf. The ideas of general semantics became a sufficiently important part of the shared intellectual toolkit of genre science fiction to merit parody by Damon Knight and others; they have since shown a tendency to reappear (often without attribution) in the work of more recent writers such as Samuel R. Delany, Suzette Haden Elgin and Robert Anton Wilson. In 2008, John Wright extended van Vogt’s Null-A series with Null-A Continuum.
Neil Postman, founder of New York University’s media ecology program in 1971, edited ETC.: A Review of General Semantics from 1976 to 1986. Postman’s student Lance Strate, a co-founder of the Media Ecology Association, served as executive director of the Institute of General Semantics from 2007 to 2010.