The Map/Territory distinction is a foundational part of the scientific method and, in fact, underlies all of thought, and even reality itself. This fascinating and fundamental topic is addressed here by some of the world’s leading thinkers and intellectual giants, whose accessible essays cover six and more fields of endeavor.
It is imperative to distinguish the Map from the Territory when analyzing any subject, yet we often mistake the map for the territory; the meaning for the reference; a computational tool for what it computes. Representations are so handy and tempting that we often end up committing the category error of over-associating the representation with the thing it represents, so much so that the distinction between them is lost. This error, whose roots frequently lie in pedagogy, generates a plethora of paradoxes/confusions which hinder a proper understanding of the subject. What are wave functions? Fields? Forces? Numbers? Sets? Classes? Operators? Functions? Alphabets and Sentences? Are they a part of our map (theory/representation)? Or do they actually belong to the territory (reality)? A researcher, like a cartographer, clothes (or creates?) the reality by stitching together numerous co-existing maps. Is there a reality out there apart from these maps? How do these various maps interact or combine with each other to produce a coherent reality that we interact with? Or do they not?
Does our brain use its own internal maps to facilitate the “physicist/mathematician” in us to construct, in turn, the maps about the external realm? If so, what is the nature of these internal maps? Are there meta-maps? Evolution definitely fences in our perception and thereby our ability to construct maps, revealing to us only those aspects beneficial for our survival. But to what extent? Is there a way out of this metaphorical Plato’s cave erected around us by the nature? Alfred Korzybski once remarked “The Map is not the Territory”: Join us in this journey to explore the many questions, concepts and interpretations that this claim engenders.