Sunday, November 2, 2014

Chapter 27 - Measure Of Man: 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.

Keyser had told Alfred about a curious passage he found while browsing through a New Testament at a funeral, a line from Paul’s First Corinthians that especially struck him: 
“For he hath put all things under his feet. But when he saith all things are put under him, it is manifest that he is excepted, which did put all things under him.” 
The quotation struck Alfred too. He wrote it down in his notebook.(1) It might seem with his inquiry into time-binding and human knowledge, he was trying to put all things under his feet. But if anything appeared certain, it was the impossibility of saying all about anything, let alone ‘everything’. The quote from Paul connected to Russell’s types. It related to the ‘complete’ map of England that Royce had written about. Such a map would have to map itself mapping itself—endlessly. In the new orientation affirmed by Alfred in “The Brotherhood of Doctrines” and “Fate and Freedom”, the observer had to be included in any account of knowledge, another incomplete and endless process, since observers always could step back to observe themselves making their observations, etc. Alfred had this and other issues, i.e., the difference between man and animals, logical fate, etc., incubating in his brain as he worked on some upcoming lectures. 

Henry C. Metcalf who ran “The Bureau of Personnel Management”, an independent educational and consulting firm in New York City, had invited Alfred to speak to a group of businessmen and labor unionists there. On March 29, 1923 Alfred addressed them on the topic of “Fate and Freedom in Personnel Management” and the following week on April 5 on “The Implications and Applications of Man as Time-Binder”. Some snippets from transcriptions of these two extemporaneous talks give a feel for what he wanted to bring to people’s attention and for his down-to-earth manner of address:
…A few people come together and begin to talk. What is the talky-talk? The using of terms, ladies and gentlemen. To start anything we must start with the using of terms. We make a trust; again we talky-talk, using terms. Now let us see the other side. We make a strike; we begin with talky-talk, using terms again. How do revolutions happen? Talky-talk as before, using terms. A war happens. What then? Talky-talk, using terms again. A peace conference when war is over. What happens again? Talky-talk, using terms. All human life is dependent on our talky-talk and therefore we should at least know what we are talking about, and should at least know if our terms carry or if the terms are such that they carry nowhere… The problems of man have to be solved in terms of man…If you get clearly in your head those two terms, what is the term “term” and the term “man”, you have got the key to the solution of human problems. There are plenty of mysteries to men in the universe, but when we go to the bottom of those two terms we have the key to the solution of most of them…What exists in nature are neither objects nor labels. What exists in the universe are only events. What we deal with are objects. What are objects? Abstractions; because you do not consider all characteristics. But we have abstracted a few, and that is what we deal with. We deal with objects which are abstractions, and when we talk we do not deal with objects even, we deal with labels. The whole mess can be boiled down to this; the universe is filled with events, we perceive objects, and we talk in labels. I want to give you the thought that you should take seriously, it is not to be passed over lightly, the mixing of a label with ten characteristics for an object with a million characteristics, and both of them for an event with an infinity of characteristics; it is a ready source of enormous errors, which we all constantly commit…All the sciences of the world are groping in the same direction. Mathematics is in the lead. There is one absolute language for the universe as far as man is concerned, and that is mathematics. Today we have a language in which in an absolute way we can deal with all problems, provided we know how to enlarge the language, to enlarge the method to embrace more subject matter. Einstein’s theory of relativity is the quest for the absolute through the relative…(2)  
…Mathematics does not start any more today with numbers, points, lines, and surfaces; mathematics starts today with a notion, a concept, which is purely logical—the concept of order…(3) 
These examples show how Korzybski had begun to pull together various ‘threads’ of influence into a larger pattern more recognizable in terms of his later work. He would refer to this material again in his talk at the New School for Social Research in mid-May.

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. AK to R.D. Carmichael, 9/20/1922. AKDA 9.70-71; AK Notebook, n.d. AKDA 37.799. Korzybski later quoted the passage in Science and Sanity, p. 753. 

2. Korzybski, “Fate and Freedom in Personnel Management”. AKDA 13.390-395. 

3. Korzybski , “The Implications and Applications of Man as Time-Binder”. AKDA 13.396-401.

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