Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Chapter 51 - Nothing To Do But Continue

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.

On September 1, the day of Korzybski’s last August 1939 Seminar lecture, World War II began with the German invasion of Poland. He had seen it coming. English translations of Mein Kampf had become readily available by the start of 1939 and he had been telling his students to prepare themselves by reading the book for insight into German intentions. The week the seminar started, newspapers had covered the visit to Moscow of German Foreign Minister Ribbentrop. A few days before Korzybski’s first lecture, Ribbentrop and the Soviet foreign minister Molotov—with a smiling Stalin behind them—had signed a Nazi-Soviet non-aggression pact (also known as the Hitler-Stalin pact) leaving both nations free, for a start, to aggress against Poland. At his first lecture on August 25, Korzybski predicted how the war would begin. A writer from the Chicago Daily News attended, and the next day reported what Korzybski said (Kendig’s notes from the lecture confirm the newspaper account):
...Never in the history of the world has civilization been so seriously menaced by the threat of paranoic rulers....Hitler and his henchmen have been outwitting their opponents with the cleverness of the monkey or the paranoic...It is not their intention to ‘declare war’ on Poland. They intend to send in a ‘police force’ to protect the ‘German minority’. (1) 

The Nazis did just that. On August 31, the SS collected a bunch of German convicts, dressed them in Polish uniforms, and staged a phony assault by them on a German radio station in the town of Gleiwitz near the Polish border. After a brief broadcast in Polish, the SS ‘recaptured’ the station, marched the hapless convicts outside, and machine-gunned them down, leaving their Polish-uniformed corpses as evidence of the ‘attack’. The Nazis now had an excuse to ‘defend’ Germany from Polish ‘aggression’ and ‘protect’ the German minority in Poland.

Early in the morning of September 1, a German battleship fired the first shots of the war on the Polish garrison in Danzig. This was followed in a few hours by a Blitzkreig attack from the west: one and a half million German troops and two thousand tanks streamed into Poland while the Luftwaffe sent in waves of aircraft for strafing and bombing runs. Polish civilians were deliberately targeted along with Polish troops. The British and French governments had signed a common defense pact with Poland but although they both declared war against Germany on September 3, they failed to help the Polish forces. Then on September 17, the Soviet Union attacked Poland from the east, as Stalin and Molotov had agreed to do in the secret protocol that accompanied the ‘non-aggression’ pact. By the end of the month, the Nazis and Soviets had divided the country. The Soviets accepted a smaller portion of Poland, east of the Bug River in exchange for the Baltic states (including Finland) which they wished to take over. The remnant of the Polish army was scattered, captured, or driven out. The brutalizing of Poland by both Germans and Russians was well underway.

On top of his dismay at the onset of a worldwide war and the general sorry state of homo sapiens (whom he said should be called “homo the sap”), Korzybski felt terribly distressed at the fate of his ravaged homeland. He had suddenly been cut off from friends and relatives and other contacts in Poland. But through his connections with various Polish organizations in the United States and the free remnant of Europe, he would do his best to learn what was happening there in forthcoming years. Otherwise, there was nothing to do but continue along the path he’d been treading. Democracy had to be defended. He didn’t want the barbarians to win. He felt he had something important to offer in the fight against them. The survival of democracy presupposed intelligence—a quality the leadership (governmental, business, academic, etc.) of the so-called free world seemed to seriously lack. Without such intelligence—not just facts crammed in school—things indeed looked hopeless. The dire situation called for a system of standards and a set of methods for developing effective practical education for intelligence in a sufficient number of individuals to make a difference that could make a difference.(2)  That’s what he was selling. He would be working even harder to deliver the goods.

One good he would have to deliver very soon was a second edition of Science and Sanity. Almost 3,000 books had been sold, orders continued to come in, and the second printing of the first edition would soon be exhausted. By the end of the August seminar, Science Press reported they had only 140 copies left.(3) It didn’t seem necessary to revise the text. Despite a great deal of new scientific knowledge, the methodological data he had based his work upon hadn’t significantly changed. So the main part of the second edition could be run off from the existing printer’s plates. However, he wanted to add some new front material. Since 1933, he had refined some of the formulations, devised new ones, and learned a great deal about applications from teaching seminars and working with individuals. It seemed time to put his work into a fresh framework for the coming decade. He had new books to add to a supplementary bibliography. He had some things to say about the war. He also wanted to deal with the growing confusion between ‘semantics’ and ‘general semantics’. He had gotten clearer about the inadequacy of talking about ‘meaning’. To emphasize his work as a theory of human evaluation he would have to disassociate it from the work of Ogden and Richards, for example. The epigraph he had taken from their book The Meaning of Meaning would have to go and he needed something to replace it. In addition, he now had a chance to revise the listings for the International Non-Aristotelian Library, both the “Volumes In Preparation” and those whose authors were to be announced later. He hoped to get Campbell, Congdon, Polakov, and others to commit themselves to books they would write.

But this was getting a bit ahead of things. He had other more immediate priorities. First he and Kendig were putting together a memorandum on the first two years of the Institute. Since its founding, Korzybski had taught 250 students in 11 seminars (the Holiday Intensive at the end of December would make 12). Kendig was compiling a list of the academic institutions and the various fields represented by the students, as well as a summary of the sales statistics and geographical distribution of the first edition of Science and Sanity. Korzybski wrote a brief description of other GS courses, new publications, and the results and mechanism of training. A description of the various formats of the IGS seminar and a tentative schedule for 1940 were also included. On the opening page, they decided to put a picture of the front of the Institute building and another of the August Intensive group. With a list of monographs, articles, and books for sale by the Institute and an order form insert in the back, they basically had an Institute brochure for the interested public. It could also be sent, along with a press release, to scientific journals and the general press.(4) A preliminary version of the memorandum had been prepared for Institute board members for the annual meeting originally scheduled in October. Korzybski was also sending copies to those he was in the process of inviting to become Honorary Trustees (a list of whom was included in the final version of the memorandum). On October 20, Kendig sent a copy of the memorandum to Cornelius Crane along with a brief note asking him when he could come for another meeting, which they had decided to defer until some time in December when both he and Campbell presumably could attend.

Crane had communicated little since attending the March 1939 board meeting, although they did get the expected $10,000 check from him by the second week of July. Otherwise Korzybski had heard nothing from him since getting a letter in mid-August. (Crane wrote then that he might consider giving more money to the Institute after July 1940.) Korzybski did his best to keep Crane informed about Institute doings. In August he sent a financial report that Crane had requested. In September, Kendig sent a long newsy letter. On October 26, Korzybski got a typed letter signed by Crane in New York City, perhaps stimulated by the note and memorandum Kendig had just sent:
Dear Alfred:  
I have been thinking over the matter for several months and have decided to resign as Vice President and Trustee of the Institute of General Semantics.  
This decision has nothing to do with the scientific side of the work, but is a purely personal matter. I will be glad, if you wish me, to continue the same financial arrangement with the Institute until the first of July, 1940, but thereafter the Institute must do its own financing.  
With best wishes for the continued success of your work, I am,
Sincerely yours, 

Cornelius Crane 
P.S. I will be glad to receive any publications you put out from time to time. (5)

ough Korzybski knew a lot about Crane’s personal problems (having counseled him in the past), he couldn’t know what Crane meant by “a purely personal matter.” But the letter didn’t bode well. Concerned about the influence on others if it appeared that Crane was suddenly dropping the Institute, he wrote back asking Crane to at least hold off his resignation until after July 1, 1940. He also asked Crane to maintain his connection to the Institute in other ways. For one thing, he wanted Crane to become an Honorary Trustee. Crane had promised two more endowment checks. Until they could get some other funding sources, Korzybski felt very concerned about how they were going to tide over the Institute after July 1. As a consequence, as he told Crane, he was adding more seminars to the 1940 schedule—for a total of seven once again—in order to make more money (so much for more time to attend to other Institute business). He still wanted to have a regular board meeting Crane could attend, to personally take care of the matters surrounding Crane’s resignation. (6) 

Crane replied that he would be glad to become an Honorary Trustee. But he would not be able to attend any forthcoming meeting and didn’t think it would harm the Institute for his resignation to go ahead. Indeed, he wrote, “I must make it a condition of sending the Institute any further funds, that the Board of Trustees send me before the end of 1939 an official acceptance of my resignation.”(7) 

Kendig sent a copy of Hayakawa’s new book to Crane at the end of November and a newsy note to him at the beginning of December. A week later, Korzybski wrote to him again—more news (a list of eighteen prominent men had already agreed to become Honorary Trustees) and an expression of his concern for Crane:
Speaking to you as my student and, I hope, my friend, I am sort of worried about you. I believe you are in the midst of some personal difficulties and I would like to help you, if we ever have a chance to get together again, which somehow you seem to evade. (8) 
Regarding the business of Crane’s resignation, Douglas Campbell couldn’t get to Chicago just then, so Korzybski, Congdon, and Kendig would have to hold a meeting before Christmas to act on it. Would Crane write a formal resignation that could be placed in the minutes? Korzybski hoped Crane would reconsider and make his resignation effective in mid-1940 rather than at the end of the year.

Crane had not yet responded when Korzybski, Congdon, and Kendig met for their truncated Board of Trustees meeting on December 19. Their main business was to pass a motion to accept Crane’s resignation with regret “to take effect on June 30, 1940, or at any other date which Mr. Crane might indicate as more acceptable to him.” As part of the motion they urged Crane “to withdraw his resignation and remain on the active board.” Korzybski also announced Crane’s “acceptance of the invitation to become an Honorary Trustee at whatever time his resignation may take effect.”(9) Campbell had been very busy studying for specialist board exams, but if his presence as a Trustee was needed later, he’d be in Chicago since he planned to attend the Holiday Intensive from December 27 to January 2.

At the end of December 1939, a great deal occupied Korzybski besides his problems with Crane. Among other things, in September he had submitted an abstract for a paper accepted for the December meeting of the American Mathematics Society at Columbus, Ohio. The abstract was for the third and last of his series “General Semantics: Extensionalization in Mathematics, Mathematical Physics, and General Education”. He had developed a new formulation for Paper III on “Over/Under Defined Terms”. Without the use of extensional methods, most terms could be considered as over-defined by intension or verbalism while under-defined by extension or fact. He hoped to print this together with the first two papers as the second IGS monograph. He made a quick bus trip to Columbus before Christmas to make his presentation. (He must have done it from notes because only the abstract remains.) He immediately returned to Chicago, just in time to start the Holiday seminar, and had no time to deal with the letter from Crane, dated December 23, he had just received. In no uncertain terms, Crane said he would send no further funds until he received an official letter accepting his immediate resignation both as an active Board Trustee and Honorary Trustee. Although he was still seeing people for interviews, Korzybski called a Trustees meeting (including Campbell) for January 3, the day after his last lecture. That very day he sent Crane a personal note as well as the official letter. He had done what Crane had asked. He hoped Crane was not making a complete break with him and the Institute. But as the days progressed, the next check did not arrive.

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 quoted in “Hitler’s ‘Insane’ Cleverness Likened to That of Monkey”. The Chicago Daily News, Saturday, Aug. 26, 1939 by Gene Morgan. AKDA 41.57. 

2. Korzybski. Five Lectures on General Semantics. Los Angeles Society for General Semantics, June 1939. Unpublished. IGS Archives. 

3. Kendig to Crane, 9/2/1939. IGS Archives. 

4. “A Memorandum on the Institute of General Semantics”, in Alfred Korzybski Collected Writings, pp. 277-293. 

5. Cornelius Crane to AK, 10/26/1939. IGS Archives. 

6. AK to Cornelius Crane, 10/31/1939. IGS Archives. 

7. Cornelius Crane to AK, 11/12/1939. IGS Archives. 

8. AK to Cornelius Crane, 12/8/1939. IGS Archives. 

9. Minutes of Trustee Meeting, December 19, 1939. IGS Archives.

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