Thursday, August 21, 2014

Chapter 14 - Mira: Part 3 - Newlyweds

Korzybski: A Biography (Free Online Edition)
Copyright © 2014 (2011) by Bruce I. Kodish 
All rights reserved. Copyright material may be quoted verbatim without need for permission from or payment to the copyright holder, provided that attribution is clearly given and that the material quoted is reasonably brief in extent.

As soon as they got married, Alfred moved from the hotel where he had been staying to Mira’s studio at the landmark Stoneleigh Court apartments at Connecticut and K Streets. The technical details and problems of Mira’s painting methods had interested him when she first described them. With the opportunity to observe her at work, he came up with a couple of inventions to help her.

One problem she had struggled with involved the drying of the large ivories which she used as her canvases. Watercolor paint on ivory was unforgiving and did not allow for much starting and stopping or correction of mistakes after it dried. Telltale spotting and lines and streaks could appear. Thus she had little leeway for error. To get around this, Mira had devised a method of “painting backwards”—doing the entire background of the portrait quickly without a place for her subject. Then while the paint was still wet she would daub off the intended areas for the face and body with a small moistened cotton swab, leaving an unpainted outlined surface for the actual portrait which she could then spend more time with or do later. With this two-step method, the final portrait would appear seamless. Unfortunately, her ivories still had a tendency to crack as they dried.
She was painting [a] $2,000 portrait. One nice morning after [a] night [drying] we come to the portrait—a big crack, the whole thing. Then I made immediately, invented a box with sponges with water on the bottom and some screen on the top so that when for the night she put them in the damp air…it did not crack.(18) 

Another problem involved the large and expensive pieces of ivory themselves. They had to be cut or trimmed, which Mira did with a large scissors. Unfortunately, the pieces often got cracked and ruined with this process:
I immediately bought a little electric motor, put some saws on it, and made a little table, metal, so she could saw [the ivories more precisely]. It saved an enormous amount of waste because cutting with scissors, they cracked like the dickens, so I eliminated the cracks, and this remained with her for life. The rest of her life she used those things.(19) 

The newlyweds continued the marathon conversations they had had when they first met. They had a lot to talk about. The Paris Peace Conference had begun the day after their wedding. A Polish delegation was preparing to make its case before the so-called “Council of Ten” of Allies at the Conference. Alfred still hoped the Council would strongly support Polish aspirations. He also hoped that a properly constituted League of Nations proposed by President Wilson might provide some kind of stable foundation for peace among nations. Meanwhile the Russian Bolshevik regime loomed with an ominous presence. With growing labor unrest, not only in the United States but throughout Europe, the spread of Bolshevism seemed like a real threat, even to people like Alfred and Mira who both strongly supported the organized labor movement. Schemes for social reform were in the air—prohibition, woman’s rights, etc. Years later, Mira recalled one early conversation she had with Alfred on how to ‘fix’ the world. It mirrors Alfred’s account of their differences:
In those days we drank five to ten cups of tea a day. One day at tea time I held forth how civilization should be run, repeating the conclusions that were given every night when a group of us used to talk in the Latin quarter of Paris. I had a very clear verbal pattern of an ideal civilization, and I burst into speech, repeating an artist’s notion of running the world. Then he asked me to repeat what I said—in other words, “Do you know what you are saying?”, and I did. Then with a very firm voice he said, “Dearest, that’s only a private opinion. I’m very glad you have it, but until human beings become aware of the natural laws of our environment as Newton and Leibnitz did in physics, there can only be a clash of private opinions.” Then he analyzed my statements and I was losing out, as very shortly he had me with no logical legs to stand on. I would try to beguile him into making love to me, but he would push me away and say this has nothing to do with making love. He said, “You stay on your side of the room and I’ll stay on my side, and we’ll thrash this out.”(20)

Their discussions did not necessarily denote serious discord. Alfred noted, “we were on the same side…except that she had no technique of expression in a harder language.”(21) Mira sensed that Alfred was beginning a struggle to express something significant about the world situation and encouraged him to make a serious effort as a writer and speaker.

Notes 
You may download a pdf of all of the book's reference notes (including a note on primary source material and abbreviations used) from the link labeled Notes on the Contents page. The pdf of the Bibliography, linked on the Contents page contains full information on referenced books and articles. 
18. Korzybski 1947, p. 204. 

19. Ibid. 

20. C. S. Read 1955, p. 55. 

21. Korzybski 1947, p. 210. 




Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Chapter 14 - Mira: Part 2 - A Quick Romance

Korzybski: A Biography (Free Online Edition)
Copyright © 2014 (2011) by Bruce I. Kodish 
All rights reserved. Copyright material may be quoted verbatim without need for permission from or payment to the copyright holder, provided that attribution is clearly given and that the material quoted is reasonably brief in extent.

Alfred had decided some time before that he would probably remain a bachelor. Not that he was a puritan. As he put it, “all my life in many ways I was spoilt by women.”(6) But many of the women he had previously met, while charming, did not live up to his expectations for a mate. He didn’t want to end up with some version of his mother whom, though educated in a literary sense, he considered both frivolous and manipulative.

Now here beside him sat another charming lady. He had heard about her before while visiting the Duke of Connaght and his daughter Patricia in Ottawa during his time at Petawawa. Mira had stayed with them earlier and painted their portraits. As Mira told him about her work, he realized she was far from frivolous, but indeed rather industrious and dedicated. Despite her “queer” horseback-riding getup, he found her attractive. She also had a directness he liked. She seemed to have a genuine concern for the larger circle of humanity beyond herself. As a child, she had gotten a “little 2-inch gold ruler with the golden rule engraved on it” as a gift “and she took it with her everywhere.”(7) As Alfred put it years later, “her feeling and my feeling went parallel....she’s not a radical, just an honest, intelligent person who knows how to face facts.”(8)

He found out fairly quickly that they also had some very different ways of looking at and talking about things.:

From a linguistic point of view our temperament somehow did not agree, …she was a flowery, verbally very polite [person] in a parlor sort of way and I was a solid, scientific man who was teaching hard stuff all his life. So linguistically we did not fit.”(9) 
They immediately got into an argument. Alfred described it as follows:
She began to talk about nothing and blurt out opinions that were perfectly unjustified, not based on facts. And I had to say something. I couldn’t get up and say go to hell. That’s not done in polite society, so I was sitting and having clever conversation, and finally whatever she said somehow I cornered her that she does not know what she is talking about, of course, very polite, very polite. But I couldn’t help it. I would be either silent or if I said something, I had to say what I meant. And so finally, this is already [a] funny thing, when she could not argue at all, because whatever she said, it was turned around…she began to kick, and being a horseman, when a horse misbehaves, you put your hand on the horse and quiet it down. This was not very parlor-like. I put my hand on her knee this way. You see. Pipe down. I didn’t say pipe down, but I said, If you want to argue, argue, but don’t kick. …She piped down immediately, stopped kicking...I just looked at her, by jove, perhaps that woman could eventually fit me. So far…I was fitting her. (10) 

They left the tea party and went to a restaurant where they talked into the early morning hours. They met the next day and talked some more. “She told me about her life. I told her about my life...We became more and more acquainted.”(11) Mira may have told him at this time about her brief marriage in 1914 to a fellow artist, Frederick Burt.(12) At any rate, Alfred certainly knew he was not getting involved with an inexperienced young girl. Nor did he want to. After a brief courtship, they got married in January, one day after Mira’s birthday. 
Alfred and Mira, Wedding Day
A wedding notice appeared in the Washington Herald:
Announcement is made of the marriage of Mrs. [sic] Mira Edgerly and Col. Count Alfred Skarbek de Korzybski. The wedding took place yesterday morning [Friday, January 17] in the chambers of Associate Justice Ashley M. Gould of the Supreme Court of the District of Columbia, with a little group of intimate friends of the bride and bridegroom to visit the ceremony. Mrs. Edgerly wore a traveling costume and the bridegroom was in uniform.(13)  

The story of the wedding was picked up in many of the major newspapers in the U.S. and Canada. The romance of the well-known portraitist of the rich and famous with a Polish Count had definite news value. Mira Edgerly had now become Countess Mira Edgerly-Korzybska. The noble title would give her a notch up on the social scale and thus perhaps some advantage in appealing to her wealthy clientele. Conversely, Alfred was now married to a U.S. citizen and thus had an added bit of security if he wanted to stay in America. A Washington gossip columnist speculated on what seemed like a marriage of convenience:
Myra Edgerly, who has been about Washington for a year or more painting all the notables she could lure into purchasing her ivories or sitting for them, has swapped the name she has made famous for that of something less pronounceable...Myra has an excellent eye to business for she could have found few better ways of advertising her miniature exhibition now being held in the Perry Belmont house. The count is one of those romantic characters brought to the shores of this country by the war…Myra should certainly get some new commissions from her clever publicity work.(14) 

Despite whatever side benefits either might have gotten from their marriage, the primary reason for it clearly seems to have been love, i.e., mutual attraction and—despite their differences in intellectual style—companionability. Mira, who had not found fulfillment among her artistic and intellectual friends, found in Alfred someone who lived up to her high ideals in a man. As she was entering middle age, she had finally found someone whom she would want to be the father of her child. Mira’s friend, the writer Mildred Aldrich, who introduced her to Gertrude Stein, had described Mira as an “altruistic enthusiast in search of a great mission.”(15) In their early conversations, she sensed Alfred was at the brink of starting such a mission and she could think of nothing better than to help him bring it to fruition. For Alfred’s part, he could clearly feel her encouragement. This, combined with her attitude of independence (so different from his mother and other aristocratic ladies he had known), drew him to her—beyond her physical attractiveness. (Years later, Alfred told Ralph Hamilton privately, “We had a glorious sex life.”) (16) 

Just before meeting Mira, he had been thinking about returning to Poland. The country needed good men for the work of reconstruction. His family’s properties required his attention. Mira and he had discussed going to Poland and simply living together, since as far as he knew the country had no civil marriages at the time and neither of them wanted a church wedding. However, she was in debt. Despite her significant income, money seemed to fly out of her hands. She was in the midst of a painting “campaign” where she could earn a significant amount of money. If they went to Poland immediately, she probably would not have been able to get commissions, given the bleak post-war economic circumstances of the country. So in the meantime, having married here, they could enjoy each other and the Washington social scene, while Mira could paint and have exhibits and Alfred could see about getting some income. They could go to Poland in the fall.(17)

Notes 
You may download a pdf of all of the book's reference notes (including a note on primary source material and abbreviations used) from the link labeled Notes on the Contents page. The pdf of the Bibliography, linked on the Contents page contains full information on referenced books and articles. 
6. Korzybski 1947, p. 201. 

7. C.S. Read 1955, p. 56. 

8. Korzybski 1947, p. 208. 

9. Ibid., p. 208.  10. Ibid., pp. 200, 202. 

11. Ibid. p. 202. 

12. The fact of Mira’s first marriage is not mentioned in Charlotte Schuchardt Read’s biographical account of Mira or in Korzybski’s 1947 autobiographical statement. I first discovered it by chance while looking through old New York Times archives. See “Sculptor To Wed Artist”. New York Times, Jan. 30, 1914 and “Mira Edgerly Weds. She Becomes Wife of Frederick Burt At Quiet Wedding”. New York Times, Feb. 2, 1914. 

13. Wedding Announcement, Washington Herald, 1/17/1919. AKDA 1.51. 

14. “The Club Fellow and Washingon Mirror”. Jan. 22, 1919. AKDA 1.55. 

15. Qtd. in Simon, p. 339. 

16. Ralph C. Hamilton, Personal Interview. 

17. Korzybski 1947, pp. 199, 208. 




Sunday, August 17, 2014

Chapter 14 - Mira: Part 1 - Introduction

Korzybski: A Biography (Free Online Edition)
Copyright © 2014 (2011) by Bruce I. Kodish 
All rights reserved. Copyright material may be quoted verbatim without need for permission from or payment to the copyright holder, provided that attribution is clearly given and that the material quoted is reasonably brief in extent.

While attending to business in Washington, D.C., Alfred was staying at the Sterling Hotel (giving Sobanski’s New York City apartment number as his permanent U.S. address and 66 Wilcza St., in Warsaw, as his home). As a genuine Polish count and a well-publicized war veteran, he had a certain cachet within the D.C. social scene and got invited to various parties, teas, and other gatherings. With some spare time now, he went—even if for the most part they bored him. Sometime at the very end of November or in early December, he attended one such event:
Some Vasser students [were giving] a party for young “returning heroes” you know and we had, there were several American officers, a Britisher, a Frenchman, and I was the only Pole. So I entered, bored, there’s another god damn tea party. Nothing exciting about that. Tired. And here on a two-seat little sofa was some very queer woman sitting. She just came from a riding party. Oh, dressed in britches, boots, and stock, tailored, with a most hideous one of those derbies you know. And she had some hideous, perfectly hideous Chinese…wide rim…glasses. She looked like hell. But I was looking around…I don’t know what to do. In the meantime, my wife-to-be immediately moved aside, left space for me. She was also bored with the party. So I had nothing better to do than to sit opposite her …And we began to chat…I began to learn that she was a very famous artist. (1) 
Indeed, Mira Edgerly (her first name sometimes got misspelled as Myra) was at the peak of her career as a painter specializing in portraits on ivory. Her work had become sought after by the nobility and well-to-do of Europe and England, and now by nouveau-riche patrons in the United States. Within the last year she had come to Washington, set up a studio at Stoneleigh Court, and was painting portraits of members of Washington high society like Assistant Secretary of State Breckenridge Long and his family, Captain and Mrs. Perry Belmont, and members of the Washington foreign diplomatic corps. An exhibition of her paintings was being held at the Belmont’s Washington, D.C. mansion. She was charging something like $2000 to $5000 per portrait and was making $10,000 to $15,000 a year, which in 1918 amounted to a substantial sum.

Mira had struggled hard to succeed. She was born in Aurora, Illinois, the youngest of three daughters of Sam Edgerly and Rose Haskell, on January 16, 1872 or 1876. (The year remains uncertain. Though previous accounts of her life give the year of birth as 1872, affidavits provided by a family neighbor and one of her sisters give 1876 as the year.) (2) The family moved to Jackson, Michigan and later Detroit where Sam Edgerly worked as an official of the Michigan Central Railroad. The family lived a well-to-do, upper middle class existence. Mira attended a private school. But things dramatically changed when she reached her teens. Her father, well-liked in the community and generous to a fault, made a large loan to a friend who then defaulted on the payment. When Sam died soon afterwards, the family was left destitute.

After his death, the family lived in Kansas City, Missouri for a few years. Then Rose Edgerly and her two younger daughters moved to San Francisco. Rose, a wise and caring woman, gave her daughters some important advice. First, she told them she would not be able to continue to take care of them as they got older so they would have to learn to make do on their own. Second, in regard to the opposite sex, she warned each of them to ask herself one question if she became interested in a man—“Do I want this man to be the father of my child?” All three of the brilliant and beautiful sisters managed to achieve some success in later life. Minnie had been married and was a gifted artist, although she struggled financially. Amy, the oldest, had studied mathematics at the University of Michigan, married a Missouri politician, Rush C. Lake, and lived with him on a farm outside of Kansas City. Lake had died near the start of the 1918 influenza epidemic. Afterwards, Mira had stayed with Amy on the farm before coming to Washington.

At sixteen, Mira had started out by selling encyclopedias. She did that for about a week but didn’t like getting pinched by her boss and quit. Possibly inspired by Minnie, she decided to try her hand at painting. She had read about miniature portraits done on ivory, got herself some old ivory poker chips and a discarded watercolor kit, and began to paint and learn. She soon realized she could carve out a niche for herself in the art market by doing something unique. Instead of painting the standard miniature portraits, she would paint portraits on larger pieces of ivory. She began to develop new techniques for doing this. In the San Francisco art world, her reputation grew. (She met art photographer Arnold Genthe there, who noted her talent and also used her as a model.)
Mira Edgerly, 
Portrait by Arnold Genthe (3)
Charlotte Schuchardt Read, who knew Mira for many years, detailed Mira’s artistic development in a short biography, from which I will quote here at length(4):
[Mira’s] first contact with great paintings of the world was through Arnold Genthe, the portrait photographer. Genthe fermented her ambition to achieve high standards of portraiture. Of this mutually inspiring friendship Genthe wrote in 1936 in his book As I Remember, ‘Among my friends was a young miniature painter, Mira Edgerly, who besides being a gifted artist had great beauty and intelligence. Sure that I had started something new in photography, she not only posed for me but gave me many valuable suggestions on arrangement and composition.’
During these years she was invited through a client to be a guest in Guatemala, with her mother and sister, at the home of a retired president of Guatemala, halfway up a mountainside above the ocean. This was a most exciting event for her. 
Although she was making rapid progress in San Francisco, she was determined to eventually get to Paris. About 1900 she came to New York, where she had a studio on 35th Street. There began a lifelong friendship with Burges Johnson, who was starting out in New York in his profession as a writer. Looking back at those days, he wrote in 1944 in As Much as I Dare:
Mira Edgerly was an artist entirely self-taught, who was experimenting with miniatures in her own original fashion… She made her way on the strength of real talent plus skillful self-management plus an engaging personality...I do not remember how she broke into the magic circle in New York City, if I ever knew; but I do know that within an astonishingly short time a list of her subjects was a roll of the inner circle of the so-called Four Hundred. She was always wise in the management of herself; never granting interviews or encouraging the sort of newspaper publicity she would have found easy to secure. 
When Mrs. Patrick Campbell, whom she had met at a social gathering in New York, urged her to come to London and be her guest, she made her decision to go. Now she began to establish herself as a portrait painter in London, and with her resourcefulness, pluck and tenacity, she was soon winning commissions among the pre-World War I ‘privileged classes’ [devastatingly portrayed in Kind Hearts and Coronets, the 1949 British movie satirizing Edwardian high society–BIK]. She painted in their homes in England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales, and in Germany and France.

She learned to know her clientele intimately, and many times she was deeply disturbed about the socio-economic system of that era. Often she was able to get sums of money from those to whom it meant little, for the purpose of giving it to a friend in need. In 1913 she crossed the Atlantic to New York in the steerage of the Mauretania ‘to study the poor’, and in September 1914 she brought seven penniless but gifted creative workers, who otherwise would have been in the breadline, with her from London to the United States, and helped them find work here.

For some years between 1905 and 1914 she also had a studio in Paris. There she enjoyed a friendship with Gertrude Stein, [And Alice B. Toklas–BIK (5) ]...
In 1914, as the war was breaking out in Europe, she returned to this country. Here she had to create contacts anew. But she had learned to accept it as a challenge to arrive in a strange city almost penniless, get a first commission within a few days, and go on from there. During the war years she painted in New York, Aiken, South Carolina (where her potential clientiele kept their horses for hunting), Newport, Rhode Island, Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, etc.
And now here she was at a tea party sitting next to Alfred Korzybski, whom she had just met. They were both trying to be polite and made some conversation.



Notes 
You may download a pdf of all of the book's reference notes (including a note on primary source material and abbreviations used) from the link labeled Notes on the Contents page. The pdf of the Bibliography, linked on the Contents page contains full information on referenced books and articles. 
1. Korzybski 1947, p. 199. 

2. Edgerly Family Records. AKDA 20.673. In later life, both Alfred and Mira treated the earlier date of birth as the actual one. 

3. “Mrs. Frederick Burt” (Mira Edgerly), portrait photograph 1914 by Arnold Genthe. Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, Arnold Genthe Collection: Negatives and Transparencies, [reproduction number, LC-G432-0545], http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/agc1996003605/PP/ 

4. C. S. Read 1955, pp. 53-54.

5. For Gertrude Stein's reference to "Myra [sic] Edgerly" in The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas, see Stein, pp. 118-119.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Chapter 13 - A Veteran Of The Great War: Part 3 - Painful Legacy

Korzybski: A Biography (Free Online Edition)
Copyright © 2014 (2011) by Bruce I. Kodish 
All rights reserved. Copyright material may be quoted verbatim without need for permission from or payment to the copyright holder, provided that attribution is clearly given and that the material quoted is reasonably brief in extent.

The war’s legacy included an exhausted and wary state of the world. The leaders of England, France, Italy, and the United States were now working things out in France at a peace conference—with representatives of what was left of the disempowered Central Powers awaiting results. President Wilson had with hope declared “The Great War” (as it had come to be called) as the “war to end all wars”. Would wars end? Alfred didn’t feel so sure. He wondered what it would take to actually make world peace an actuality.

More specifically, Alfred's thoughts turned to the pain of Poland, the battleground of the Eastern Front, where millions of soldiers and civilians had died or been injured and where many had been rendered homeless. The economic infrastructure had been wrecked. True, there was now an independent state, a Second Polish Republic—Alfred’s lifelong dream. But uncertain borders, and problematic relations with neighboring national groups and with its own ethnic minorities, made the new state’s peaceful existence tenuous.

With this general situation at the start of 1919, the war’s personal legacy for Alfred included his own portion of ongoing insecurity, loss, and pain. Korzybski had not been able to establish contact with his mother and friends at home, but he was still trying to reach them by means of people he knew who were traveling to Poland. Had they survived and were they reasonably alright? They were. He would get a letter from his mother later in the year and continued a regular correspondence with her throughout her life. But he had reasonable assurance that the family properties had been ruined in the war. A lot of work would be needed to repair the damages and restore the farm’s productivity.

The war had not only damaged his property. It had left its traces on Alfred himself in the form of scars clearly—and not-so-clearly—visible. Ever since his hip injury and the terrible pain he had felt afterwards, he had observed in his gait a certain more-or-less unconscious carefulness. He knew he never wanted to experience such pain again. Beyond that, he had to contend with a definite stiffness in his left leg, now shorter than the right; he needed to wear a specially-made shoe extension and lift which in turn caused other problems, a sore and callused foot. For the rest of his life, he used a cane and walking was never normal.

'Lieutenant' Alfred Korzybski - 1918

His hearing too had suffered. The incessant din of artillery both at the front and at the Petawawa testing range had caused damage and sensory loss. Within the next few years, he would notice difficulty with telephone conversations, which he learned to avoid. Later as he aged, he had difficulty hearing even in personal conversations unless the room was quiet and the other person enunciated loudly and clearly enough. This led to Alfred appearing at times like a “one way conversationalist”.(8)

Other war-related health problems which he considered nuisances persisted. Every so often, some extra exertion and the resulting heart palpitations or shortness of breath would remind him of the strain he had sustained from lifting that artillery piece singlehandedly during the retreat of the Russian Army from Lodz. The resulting hernia also required a truss later on. Poor hygiene and irregular diet during the war also left him with dental problems he would have to deal with later, eventually requiring dentures.

The nervous tics he had first noticed when he arrived in North America had long since vanished. Yet a residue of anxiety remained from his war experiences. For example, he would find himself looking upwards at times and realize he was unconsciously reacting to a plane flying overhead as if expecting a bomb attack. And he had vivid memories of the Eastern Front still charged with painful feelings. (The unpleasantness of these memories would diminish but never entirely vanish.) Alfred’s later interest in helping those with shell shock, or battle fatigue as it was called during World War II (now termed “post-traumatic stress disorder”), was stimulated by his own experiences with the phenomenon.

In spite of these negatives, Alfred could see things after the war as not entirely dark. For one thing, at least for the next few months, he had some money to live on. He had not spent much of his stipend from the Tsarist government or his wartime salaries. Altogether he may have had about $5000 in savings. And the exigencies of his wartime service had led to another benefit—he had been forced to learn and become fluent in English. A new world of literature, scientific and otherwise, had become available to him. And now he would have some time to read. Since the start of the war he had been too busy to be able to follow much of what had been happening in the scientific world. In 1915, for example,  Einstein had proposed a general theory of relativity which was turning the world of physics topsy-turvy. Alfred’s work as a speaker for the French-Polish Army and the U.S. Fuel Administration also opened up another new world for him. He realized that he could move an audience with his words and that, furthermore, having an audience helped him to develop his ideas. A career as a writer and speaker now seemed like a definite possibility. And in his brief time in North America (he had arrived only a little over three years before) he had managed to develop a network of contacts throughout Canada and the United States. His file of correspondence with friends and acquaintances was growing.

The war also left him with a definite preference in clothing which he felt most grateful for: khaki. "Since the first day of war, I got khaki and never got out of it." Although he occasionally would wear a jacket and tie or even more formal evening clothes when required, these seemed to him like so-much uncomfortable “armor”. He considered anything as formal as a suit and tie, a “monkey suit”.(9) In his khakis he had room to move and felt comfortable. A clean and pressed khaki ‘uniform’ had all the decorum he felt he needed.

In regard to his personal grooming, he seems to have started shaving his head long before the war, as he began losing his hair: “I decided to abandon what was abandoning me.”(10) Undoubtedly conditions during the war (with lice and other vermin) confirmed for him the wisdom of that decision. He continued to shave his head for the rest of his life.

Alfred’s many close calls with death during the war left him with what to some people at first might not seem like a benefit—a significant sense of his own mortality. For Korzybski this appears to have served as a gift. He may not have dwelled on it but I believe a consciousness of his own mortality—and therefore of the preciousness of every life-moment—remained in the daily background of his awareness, more or less as a constant, for the rest of his life. On the back flyleaf of his copy of Barrack-Room Ballads, he had written a line from another Kipling poem, Arithmetic on the Frontier, that had obviously struck him:

The flying bullet down the pass
that whistles clear
“all flesh is grass.” (11)
 On the Eastern Front, Alfred had actually heard the flying bullet (and artillery shell) and seen the results for those to whom the bullet had not whistled clear. If 'all flesh was grass'—he was no exception. He was lucky to be alive. Already naturally inclined to involve himself fully in whatever he was doing, from this time on he seemed to make a concerted effort to live ‘balls out’ with the greatest intensity. Later, he would tell his students—with passion—to do what he worked to do in his own life—“Be conscious!”(12)

Such was the mixed legacy of the Great War for Korzybski. Though not especially happy with the state of the post-war world, he didn’t seem so constituted as to become consumed with bitterness. In the way he would put it, he didn’t have a ‘bad liver’, so for him the world didn’t seem bad through and through—only ‘hopeless’. Some ways forward for the world and for himself might exist—some unknown possibilities for hope. Before the war, he had attempted to write and to burst through some of the blockages he had perceived in the sciences, politics, etc. He had not succeeded. His experiences during the war had filled him with a new sense of urgency—an urgency that now seemed as if it was going to burst through him.



Notes 
You may download a pdf of all of the book's reference notes (including a note on primary source material and abbreviations used) from the link labeled Notes on the Contents page. The pdf of the Bibliography, linked on the Contents page contains full information on referenced books and articles. 
8. Ralph C. Hamilton, Interview. 

9. Korzybski 1947, p. 499. 

10. I ‘know’ Korzybski said this about his baldness but can't find the reference now. I guess that every biography has at least one of these. Here's one of mine.

11. Kipling, p. 77. In the line" all flesh is grass", Kipling was quoting the Hebrew Bible— Isaiah 40:6—the metaphor going back to the Book of Psalms (see Psalm 90 for example). 

12. “Be conscious!” Korzybski wanted students to stop dragging themselves through life, inattentively, passively, unconsciously. In one lecture he gave at the 1948-49 Holiday Intensive Seminar, he drilled the point home:
...Do you know that with us humans, we have such a thing as consciousness—do you know that—do you understand the word ‘conscious’? Are you fully conscious that you are conscious? No. Great many of you are just a flop—not conscious of anything [he purposely mumbled this to simulate the attitude of 'half-assed' awareness he was criticizing]. Well it isn't on the human level. Be conscious! If you want to relax, relax consciously. Otherwise [in other words]—it means be conscious of your possibilities as well as your shortcomings, as well as taking care of the environment; because we are a product not only out of our organismal possibilities but we are also connected with the environment. There is no way out—no way out; therefore let's not look for utopias. The secret of your own adjustment lies in you, nobody else. Not a doctor or me.  
[Alfred Korzybski: 1948-1949 Seminar, (mp3-20b, 8:07 ); p. 220 (in the written transcription)]

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Chapter 13 - A Veteran Of The Great War: Part 2 - In Flanders Fields

Korzybski: A Biography (Free Online Edition)
Copyright © 2014 (2011) by Bruce I. Kodish 
All rights reserved. Copyright material may be quoted verbatim without need for permission from or payment to the copyright holder, provided that attribution is clearly given and that the material quoted is reasonably brief in extent.

In the first few months after the armistice, one thing seemed abundantly clear—the war had left things in disarray. Alfred, lover of the mathematical sciences and an engineer, had already started wondering, analyzing, trying to figure out what could be done, not only for himself but for Poland and the larger world. His lifework was on the verge of being born.

Alfred had gotten a Little Leather Library edition of Kipling’s Barrack-Room Ballads (which included “Danny Deever") and in the back of the book—small enough to fit into his breast pocket—he kept a card printed with John D. McCrae’s poem “In Flanders Fields”.(5) McCrae, a Canadian-army field surgeon, had composed the poem just outside his surgical tent in the rear of an ambulance after the bloody Second Battle of Ypres in war-torn Belgium in the spring of 1915. McCrae had seen many men die and by the time he himself died in early 1918, his poem was already becoming famous. Alfred had likely heard it recited and sung at many Liberty Bond rallys and memorials for the war dead:

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly 
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago 
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow, 
Loved and were loved, and now we lie, 
In Flanders fields. 

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high. 
If ye break faith with us who die 
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow 
In Flanders fields.      

Alfred had pasted “America’s Answer” by R.W. Lillard, to the back of the card with McCrae’s poem. The last verse of Lillard’s poem, read:
Fear not that ye have died for naught. 
The torch ye threw to us we caught. 
Ten million hands will hold it high, 
and Freedom’s light shall never die!
We’ve learned the lesson that ye taught in Flanders Fields! (6) 

Years later, in 1934 Korzybski recalled both poems while writing a letter explaining the origin of his work to the psychiatrist Helen Flanders Dunbar (Dunbar’s middle name had jogged his memory).
Do you remember the answer? ‘Fear not that ye have died for naught. The torch ye threw to us we caught. Ten million hands will hold it high, and Freedom’s light shall never die! We’ve learned the lesson that ye taught in Flanders Fields!’ Did we? ‘that is the question’. Well Gen. Sem. [General Semantics] was born through pain and in pain. It is an illegitimate child of Mars and the World War, and like Oedipus it fulfills an ancient prophecy and kills the father. If I may quote from my ‘Manhood of Humanity’: ‘Is this climax of the pre-war civilization to be passed unnoticed except for the poetry and the manuring of the battlefields, that the "poppies blow" stronger and better fed?...Is the great sacrifice worth analyzining? There can be only one answer—yes. But, if truth be desired, the analysis must be scientific.' This is approximately the birth certificate of Gen. Sem.(7)

Notes 
You may download a pdf of all of the book's reference notes (including a note on primary source material and abbreviations used) from the link labeled Notes on the Contents page. The pdf of the Bibliography, linked on the Contents page contains full information on referenced books and articles. 
5. See Patterson, Michael Robert. 

6. "Flanders Field and Replies to Flanders Field" at http://www.nbc-links.com/miscellaneous/FlandersField.html (accessed on 10/26/2010) for a number of poems written in response to McCrae's. 

7. AK to H. Flanders Dunbar, 12/4/1934, AKDA 32.940. 



Sunday, August 10, 2014

Chapter 13 - A Veteran Of The Great War: Part 1 - Introduction

Korzybski: A Biography (Free Online Edition)
Copyright © 2014 (2011) by Bruce I. Kodish 
All rights reserved. Copyright material may be quoted verbatim without need for permission from or payment to the copyright holder, provided that attribution is clearly given and that the material quoted is reasonably brief in extent.


After the Pan-American Labor Conference, Korzybski returned to San Antonio, wrote up his report about it for the Fuel Administration, and rested a few days. He had gotten word that his job would be terminated at the end of the month. On November 25, he took a train to New Orleans and from there to Washington (riding in Pullman Sleepers, his custom on long trips). He arrived in Washington on November 27, checked into a hotel, and spent the next few weeks settling his accounts with the U.S.F.A. and exploring job possibilities.

Alfred did not yet know how his mother, other family members, and friends were doing back home in Poland. He assumed he would probably be going back sometime soon. On the other hand, he did not seem in a great hurry to return. Throughout his time in Canada and the U.S., he had maintained contact with individuals and organizations in the Polish √©migr√© community. Of course, he felt interested in helping to relieve the immediate desperate social-political-economic situation in Poland and Europe. But he considered that by staying in the United States for a while he might be able to do something constructive, not only in regard to his own immediate welfare but also for Poland and Europe.

He had already come to some conclusions about the role of America in the world. In a speech he had given at a Chamber of Commerce meeting in Texas, Alfred compared the cramped spaces and dense population of Europe to the wide-open and less densely-peopled U.S., which seemed to him like a giant “department store” of opportunity for more people to able to help turn Europe into “a large department store of democracy” as well.(1)

This ‘store’ would be based on President Wilson’s vision of peace as presented in his "Fourteen Points", in particular the final one—the establishment of an association with the purpose of mediating just and peaceful settlements among disputing nations. Of course, independent Poland—the thirteenth point of Wilson's program—would play a significant part in this community of nations. But Korzybski feared that opposition to the League of Nations, as well as other factors, might prevent the League from acting effectively. Alfred had some ideas about how to improve its chances for success. He wasn’t shy about writing a letter to the President to offer his help. He hoped to meet with a representative of Wilson to present his ideas before the President left for the Peace Conference in Europe. Unfortunately, Korzybski must have missed seeing the news of when the President’s ship for Europe was leaving (December 4). There is no indication anyone at the White House ever responded to Alfred’s offer.(2)

Along with such lofty goals, if Alfred was going to stay in the U.S.—even for a brief time—he needed to address some more immediately practical concerns. For one thing, still technically a Russian national, he needed to clarify his status as a resident alien. One of the first things he did after his arrival in Washington was to fill out a form for the Naturalization Service of the U.S. Department of Labor, declaring his intent to “renounce allegiance to The Present Government of Russia.”(3) As an ethnic Pole born in Warsaw, he soon was recognized as a citizen of Poland.

And in the meantime, though he had collected salaries and spent little money since coming to North America almost three years before, he needed to find some employment. Among other possibilities, Alfred offered his services as a translator to Harry Garfield, the head of the U. S. Fuel Administration, whom—he had learned—was planning a trip to Europe. No go. An anticipated job with the Anthracite Board of Conciliation in Scranton, Pennsylvania also didn’t come through. Then, since government service appealed to him, he applied to the Department of Justice – Bureau of Investigation (the immediate forerunner of the F.B.I.) for a position as a “Special Agent”. With his intelligence background and experience with legal work, he probably would have made a good one. His application came armed with recommendation letters from three U.S. senators and his sterling record of wartime service. With his status as a foreign national and his war injury ( “Am very healthy, and strong but a little lame.” ) working against him, he lied about his age. Being just about six-months short of his 40th birthday, he gave his age as “34”. (4)  It didn’t help. He kept on looking. With connections he was making with Poles in Washington and elsewhere in the U.S., and with contacts he had made in the U.S. government, in military intelligence, and elsewhere, he hoped to find something soon.


Notes 
You may download a pdf of all of the book's reference notes (including a note on primary source material and abbreviations used) from the link labeled Notes on the Contents page. The pdf of the Bibliography, linked on the Contents page contains full information on referenced books and articles. 
1. "Ideal Democracy. Officer of Polish Army Says U.S. Is Department Store for Europe to Copy". Unamed Newspaper (Eagle Pass, Maverick County, Texas). 11/12/1918. AKDA 1.45. 

2. AK to Woodrow Wilson, Undated letter, (1918). AKDA 5.91. 

3. Alfred Korzybski, "Facts For Declaration of Intention [to renounce allegiance to The Present Government of Russia'], U.S. Dept. of Labor, Naturalization Service", nd. [probably Dec. 1918]. AKDA 5.35. 

4. Alfred Korzybski, "Application for Appointment to Position of Special Agent of the Dept. of Justice", 12/9/1918. AKDA 5.39. 





Friday, August 8, 2014

Chapter 12 - "Buy Liberty Bonds And Work Like Hell.": Part 7 - The Pan-American Labor Conference

Korzybski: A Biography (Free Online Edition)
Copyright © 2014 (2011) by Bruce I. Kodish 
All rights reserved. Copyright material may be quoted verbatim without need for permission from or payment to the copyright holder, provided that attribution is clearly given and that the material quoted is reasonably brief in extent.

While he was in San Antonio, one of the local newspapers had carried a quadruple headlined story about Alfred—"Polish Officer Has Served In Three Armies. Lieutenant Karzybski [sic] Now Wishes to Help Uncle Sam Win the War. Mine Coal, His Plea. He Speaks Seven Languages and Talks to Miners in Native Tongue.”(33) By now this kind of coverage had become somewhat routine for Korzybski. Reporters tended to find him, "a remarkably interesting man”.(34) His background as a Polish nobleman and soldier added to his appeal and his work as a public speaker for the government added to his news value. As he developed his work in later years, he would continue to get press coverage—not all of it welcome. Whether complimentary or not, he remained interested enough in what got written about him to clip the articles and later to employ clipping services to keep tabs on pieces about him, and reviews of his work.

At the Laredo conference, he met Samuel Gompers, a man he came to admire. Korzybski characteristically came prepared, having researched Mexican miners’ problems. He had wanted to speak about what he considered to be the negative influence of the Bolsheviks and the I.W.W.—a radical labor organization at odds with Gompers’ group—in fomenting discontent among these workers. Alfred had some ideas about alternative ways of promoting fraternity among the nations of the world, but he couldn't get an official place on the program. He tried to have his say anyway. He considered it ironic: he, a Polish national, was “representing [the] United States government in a Pan-American Congress of labor.”

Referring to a picture of the attendees, he said:
Everybody there looks like a criminal, and you will recognize me easily because I was the only one in a uniform. I also was so damn sick of the whole group, South American sort of communists, anarchists, I don’t know what not, and poor old Gompers [who had just lost his daughter to influenza]...conservative, solid man and here dealing with us crackpots, you know. And I had to address that group in the name of the American government. By jove, I did my best, but I was so sorry and bitter that I don’t believe I did any good. I believe...that the Laredo meeting was one of the last which I had in the government service in this war.(35)

Notes 
You may download a pdf of all of the book's reference notes (including a note on primary source material and abbreviations used) from the link labeled Notes on the Contents page. The pdf of the Bibliography, linked on the Contents page contains full information on referenced books and articles. 
33. San Antonio Light, Thursday, November 7, 1918. AKDA 1.39. 

34. "War Talks To Be Resumed". U.S. Miners, Number 1, Cumberland, Maryland, Nov. 9, 1918. AKDA 1.45. 

35. Korzybski 1947, p. 196



Thursday, August 7, 2014

Atlas Shrugged?: A Korzybskian Look at Ayn Rand

I wrote this piece many years ago in a journal notebook after struggling as best I could to get through Ayn Rand's epic novel of ideas, Atlas Shrugged. I didn't find it at all compelling as a novel. Her square-jawed, steely grey-eyed, and singularly humorless heroes and heroines had too little human glow and complexity to make them believable to me. It was not her character's seriousness I didn't like but what seemed to me then and now as their over-extended, overly-confident certainties, which reflected Ayn Rand's own views but which I didn't see as so certain. For what it's worth here's my evaluation from 1979 of her views. My assessment 2014 remains pretty much the same: in some ways admiring but ultimately appalled. So here, my youthful review—with some emendation—of Atlas Shrugged: 

Ayn Rand's story in Atlas Shrugged tells what happens in a society when all the competent people leave. Her purpose: to paint a picture and philosophy of what she calls the "heroic man" and of the opposite whom she calls the "mystic". 

What does her philosophy consist of? In broad strokes: in its emphasis on reason, the lone individual, criticism of religious values and social conformity; it has a certain nietzschean flavor which I do admire. But Rand (not only in Atlas Shrugged) lacked the all-important grace and humor of expression and the complexity of distinctions that often relieved Nietzsche's work for me. In a way, her work seems like a shadow puppet of Nietzsche's views, overgeneralized and lacking in Nietzsche's essential saving graces. Indeed, Rand's philosophy has the flavor of the worst of Nietzsche: the adolescent trumpeting of cartoonish romanticism in the most tedious parts of his Zarathustra

Rand may have gotten some direct inspiration from Nietzsche, but in an epilogue to her book, she acknowledged her main debt to Aristotle. Her unabashed aristotelianism—and I specifically refer here to her elevation of 'the laws of thought' (Aristotle's epistemology, as it were) and underlying structural assumptions (his metaphysics) formalized by him and his followers—puts her more in cahoots with medieval scholasticism than she would probably have cared to admit and makes her philosophy, though on the surface free-thinking and libertarian, ultimately a reactionary one.  

As with Korzybski, Rand is interested in the question, 'what is man?' [the usage 'man' referring to both male and female humans]. Rand answers that man is a being of volitional consciousness. Matter simply exists. Non-existence is a null set. The existence of living things as living things is not so unconditional. There is even for plants and animals the alternative of non-existence as a living thing. Plants and animals have for the most part fairly automatic programs of activity for their continuation of life. However, man requires the making of choices. Proper choices for the continued survival of a human being are not automatically programmed but call for thought.  According to Rand then, for living things the basic alternative is to live or not to live (shades of Hamlet). And for man this choice boils down to the choice: to think or not to think. Thinking and to think well, for Rand, is the primary moral commandment. 

Rand outlines a trilogy of values for human life. A value consists of "that which one acts to gain and keep", what one holds dear, one's standard of behavior. And Rand's trilogy of human values consists of: First, Reason, the use of the mind to enhance one's existence as a living thing; Second, Purpose, the development of the proper goals for a reasonable life; and Third, Self-Esteem, the confidence one has in one's abilities to solve the problems and confront the challenges of one's life. 

Virtue, for Rand, consists of those sort of actions in which one gains and keeps those values of life. The virtuous actions include honesty, independence, integrity, rationality, justice, productivity. Honesty consists of not faking existence, not pretending that something is so that isn't so. Independence is the insistence on using one's own thinking apparatus to come to conclusions, i.e., "I know what I know." Integrity consists of not faking one's consciousness, i.e., not agreeing on an opposing viewpoint just to be sociable. Rationality is the insistent use of one's thinking apparatus as opposed to blanking out, e.g., depending on one's wishes to guide one's view of reality.  Justice consists of judging other men and valuing them according to their nature, not in loving indiscriminately those who don't deserve it. Productivity is shaping reality, ones life, the earth, through the application of one's reason. 

Rand emphasizes the importance of productivity and it serves as the basis for her idea that capitalism is the most reasonable politico-economic relationship. In this regard it seems significant that she labels the ideal man of her system of thought, the trader. The trader produces things, ideas, with the practice of the virtues in the service of the values  mentioned before. He does not demand that the products and property of another man are his due or that he is obligated to turn to anyone else. His only right is to be allowed to follow and use his own reason. To coerce another to do as he would like is to demand that the other choose between life and reason, which is really anti-life no matter which he chooses. Therefore the use of physical violence except in self-defense is immoral in Ayn Rand's eyes. 

The ideal relationship between people is rather one that is entered into contractually, as serving the self-interest of both parties, i.e., exchange for trade. Any ideology that demands self-sacrifice and downgrades selfishness is evil in Rand's eyes. 

She sees two schools of Western thought that are in this anti-life, anti-reason vein. One, the spirit mystics, are represented by the Church. In this school, the nature of man is considered sinful (original sin) and self-sacrifice is encouraged. The other school, the muscle mystics, claim that society is more important than the individual and that individual desires must be sacrificed for the good of the entire system. She sees a large number of intellectual trends supporting this latter view. The two schools of mystics though apparently far apart are brothers under the skin and have supported oppressive governments since the long ago ages. 

Rand is a minimalist in her view of government's role: a police function should exist to protect individuals from coercion and violence of others. An army should exist to protect citizens from foreign invasion and coercion. Courts should exist where people can settle disputes. Beyond that, nothing else—government should be kept to a bare minimum. So far so good?

Not exactly.
 Rand cut her heroes from a cartoonish mold where, just as with the fabled politician, they built with their own two hands the log cabin they were born in. She elevates to sacred doctrine an extreme individualism that takes little to no account, even scorns, the social matrix upon which any individual human accomplishment is based. Her version of individuality, is embodied in the title of one of her books The Virtue of Selfishness. She has no place for altruism, as she defines it, at all, at all.  

In response to this sort of view, Korzybski told the following story to his seminar students. at his 1948-1949 Winter Intensive Seminar: 
…some friends gave a dinner for my wife and me, and they invited also an Oxford graduate,…very wealthy, educated, Oxford and so on. He was extremely British in what is definitely known—it is seldom believed in America but they believe in it—that’s the British theory of selfishness. And he was nagging me all through the dinner—I had of course to tell them some development in [my work]; naturally they all expected me to say something. Well, I did. He was nagging, interrupting, and I was trying to explain to him time-binding, how we are not like animals, every one for himself and all of that, but we are interdependent. We build upon the work of the dead, and we depend on the work of every one else in our civilization and so on. And I was telling how I worked to get my formulations, to deal with human messes all around.

Then he began to pick at me: ‘why was I so ‘altruistic’, doing all this work for my fellow men?’—I don’t know what not. ‘Oh, this ‘altruism’ would not work, there is no sense in it, a selfish outlook is the only workable one’, and so on and so on, picking at me with his theories about ‘selfishness’. And ultimately I got annoyed with that petty criticism, that picking at me. I just shut him up—successfully. I said, ‘You want me to be selfish? I am selfish! I work the way I work because I don’t want to live in a world made by men like you!’ That shut him up alright.

In a way—this is serious—remember there is no sense talking whether I am selfish or not, because that argument remains valid that I am say ‘altruistic’ because I eventually want a better world for me to live in. But you see the argument: ‘selfish’-‘unselfish’ is actually useless. It is a good place for quarreling. … 
[This quote comes from the CD audio record of Korzybski’s 1948-1949 Winter Intensive Seminar (available for purchase from the Institute of General Semantics) combined with material (missing in the recording) from the unpublished transcript of the seminar.]

Ayn Rand's  downplay of the social, time-binding nature of human existence is cemented by her view of rationality. The essence of rationality lies in submission to the aristotelian "laws of thought".  The law of identity states that A is A. In Rand's words "Existence exists...existence is identity." That is a stone and cannot turn into water whatever a thirsty man in the desert may wish. Reason consists of integrating and identifying the identities (essence or what is) of existence. 

The tool of reason is logic; logic being the art of non-contradictory identification. Contradiction cannot be tolerated. The law of causality is the law of identity applied to action. Any action implies an entity, an actor. The notion that
activity and process can go on in its own right as some modern philosopher suggest is irrational, for it implies that these activities are caused by nothing. According to Rand, there are two sides to any argument, the right side, and the wrong side including the fence straddling side. She sees as fence straddling and denial of the law of identity to find, for instance, good qualities in a rotter. A man is either a rotter or he isn't and cannot be both a rotter and a non-rotter at the same time. Can you see now that Rand follows her premises of thought to the letter. Admirable. But, it is not her espousal of reason, various virtues and values that I disagree with but rather with her characterization of reason. 

I do not deny that an 'objective' world exists, external to our senses. But I dispute Rand's fundamental premise that existence is 'identity' and the role of reason as identification. 'Whatever I say something is, it is not', said Korzybski—and so do I. 

Yes, the function of reason to integrate the evidence of our senses and verbally formulate our notions of what is going on seems very important for intelligent advancement in life. But to believe that we have thereby discovered and pinned down the 'identity' or exact unchanging nature of what we are talking about does not seem intelligent or reasonable to me, especially in light of what is now known in neurology and in physics. The word is not the thing, the map is not the territory. And a reasonable, rational use of one's reason seems to me to require that one always be on vigil against the temptation to identify one's classifications with non-verbal reality. Logic, the art of 'non-contradictory identifications' as Rand puts it, appears necessary but not sufficient as a guide to one's reason. As a tool for deriving conclusions from premises it is needed; as a guide to reality it is faulty. For it seems very much possible that a person can 'be' both a "son of a bitch" and a wonderful person at the same time. 

I have little doubt that Ayn Rand, though an atheist, would have responded to Korzybski's views with as much horror as did the Jesuit professor of mathematics, who met Korzybski at a A. A. A. S. (American Association for the Advancement of Science) conference they both attended in 1931. After Korzybski's presentation on "A Non-Aristotelian System and its Necessity for Rigour in Mathematics and Physics" (published as Supplement III in Science and Sanity), the Jesuit professor, came up to him to protest. As Korzybski later described it, the professor told him: 
…I destroy the very foundation of ‘religion’ and I should abandon it or I will get in trouble with the church and get on the index. Among others he said “You certainly will not deny that everything is identical with itself.” I asked him if he ever heard of modern physics, and as he admitted that he teaches it, I said “I certainly will deny that a submicroscopic process is ever ‘identical’ with itself.” He said nothing to that, but on his face he exhibited the most bewildered and horrified attitude. (AK to William Morton Wheeler, 7/16/1933. Alfred Korzybski Digital Archives, 24.78)

Yes, Aristotle’s logic may still remain useful—where it applies as a limited set of guidelines for discourse. But as the overarching basis for human ‘rationality’ and ‘reason’, as Ayn Rand interpreted it, the essentialist structural assumptions or metaphysics which Aristotle’s logic embodies no longer hold.

To conclude, both her view of humanity (in it's undervaluing of human time-binding inter-dependence) and her view of rationality (with its over-valuing of aristotelian logic), make Ayn Rand's views seriously deficient and unreliable guides to reason or life.