Friday, February 27, 2015

Chapter 52 - "Recognition But Very Little Money": Part 2 - A Good Name

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.

If a good name was better than riches, then things were not going too badly for Korzybski in the Spring of 1940. In March the Institute presented, to the press and public, its progress-report/pamphlet, “A Memorandum”, which showed the impressive first two years of IGS accomplishments. Among other things, it contained the list of men who had so far agreed to become Honorary Trustees of the Institute, which gave a sample of the support Korzybski had garnered among academic and professional workers. The list included notables such as: Thurman Arnold, Gaston Bachelard, Maxim Bing, Abraham Brill, Ross McC. Chapman, George E. Coghill, Arthur Stone Dewing, Franklin Ebaugh, P. H. Esser, David Fairchild, Clarence B. Farrar, William Healy, Lancelot Hogben, Earnest Hooten, Smith Ely Jeliffe, Edward Kasner, Cassius Keyser, Nolan D.C. Lewis, Ralph S. Lillie, Bronislaw Malinowski, Adolf Meyer, Winfred Overholser, Stewart Paton, Raymond Pearl, William F. Peterson, Roscoe Pound, George S. Stevenson, M. Tramer, Walter L. Treadway, and Richard Weil, Jr. Some of them he knew. Some he hadn’t met in person. But personal friend or not, their support seemed eager and heartfelt. The group included a law professor, an Assistant U.S. Attorney General, a business executive, a professor of finance, a professor of philosophy, two anthropologists, three mathematicians, five biologists, and sixteen medical doctors. A professor of pathology, a public health administrator, and fourteen psychiatrists comprised this latter group. The psychiatrists included some of the most revered and respected names in the profession. 

Among those on the list, anthropologist Bronislaw Malinowski did not seem exceptional in his enthusiasm for Korzybski and his work. He expressed this in a letter he wrote to Korzybski on December 20, 1939, which also gave a sense of his own (and Alfred’s) feelings at that time about the unfolding war and the fate of their beloved Poland:
Dear Alfred,  
Of Course I accept the honour of being associated with you [and] your work as Hon. Trustee. I’d be glad to act as OfficeBoy, if you needed one—though I’d not be an efficient O.B. 
I fully agree with your sentiments ab. the Anglo-Saxon world [and] also the importance of Science and Sanity—both in abstract [and] concrete sense in our crisis.  
I am pessimistic as you are, but a fight is better than a fall into the void of defeatism. Were I not so old I’d still go back there just to get smashed up or smart. But alas for both of us only the spirit remains! And Spirit is at a discount now.  
...We shall meet soon, as I may be in Chic and shall ring you up at once... (3)

chard Weil, Jr., President of the Bamberger department store chain, having studied Science and Sanity, had corresponded with Korzybski for about a year. In his own 1940 book, The Art of Practical Thinking, he was introducing Korzybski’s work to a business-oriented audience:
I have said that Korzybski is a genius. If you are the average reader, to whom I originally addressed myself, you must, for a time, take my word for this. If it be only a short time, which is what I hope for, it will be simply until you have implemented yourself in the armory of thinking to the point where you can read Korzybski with understanding and yourself take his measure. If it be for a longer time, posterity, as is its custom, will perform this service for you, posthumously: that is, long after you will be unable [sic] to reap the benefits. (4) 

Gaston Bachelard’s 1934 book Le Nouvel Esprit Scientifique, which Korzybski had gotten, already showed the French epistemologist as a compatible formulator. Since he had written that book, Bachelard had come to know Korzybski’s work and to give it considerable importance. The following excerpt (part of a larger discussion of Korzybski and his work) comes from the English translation of Bachelard’s 1940 book La Philosophie du Non: Essai d’une philosophie de nouvel esprit scientifique. (A translation of this done by a student of Korzybski’s, G. C. Waterston, was published in the U.S. in 1969 as The Philosophy of No: A Philosophy of the New Scientific Mind.):
Those of us who are trying to find new ways of thinking, must direct ourselves towards the most complicated structures. We must take advantage of all the lessons of science, however special they may be, to determine new mental structures. We must realize that the possession of a form of thought is automatically a reform of the mind. We must therefore direct our researches towards a new pedagogy. In this direction, which has attracted us personally for a number of years, we shall take as our guide the very important work of the non-Aristotelian school, founded in America by Korzybski, which is so little known in France...The psychological and even physiological conditions of a non-Aristotelian logic have been resolutely faced in the great work of Count Alfred Korzybski, Science and Sanity,... (5)  
The large number of psychiatrists on the Honorary Trustee list didn’t get there by accident. Korzybski had targeted psychiatrists as an audience for a number of years, since he felt that his extensional method and theory of sanity had important, though still undeveloped, implications for their work. The willingness of so many important psychiatrists to associate themselves with him by serving as Honorary Trustees surely must have gratified him, as did the invitation he received—unusual for a non-psychiatrist—to give a presentation at the upcoming conference of the American Psychiatric Association from May 20 to 24 in Cincinnati, Ohio.

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. 
3. Bronislaw Malinowski to AK, 12/20/1939. IGS Archives. 

4. Weil 1940, p. 71. 

5. Bachelard 1940, p. 108.

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