Sunday, March 1, 2015

Chapter 52 - "Recognition But Very Little Money": Part 3 - Sanity Update

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.

He considered his conference paper an important project. Entitling it “General Semantics, Psychiatry, Psychotherapy and Prevention”, he managed to get an extra ten minutes to present it (over the usual twenty minute allotment for such papers). Douglas Campbell, also presenting a GS-related paper, and Adolf Meyer were picked to discuss his paper afterwards. Korzybski had already been working on the various changes and additions to the front matter for the Second Edition of Science and Sanity. With new copies of the book no longer available, back orders were accumulating. Getting out a new edition seemed urgent. His paper for the psychiatric conference would serve as a prototype for the main job he needed to do for the Second Edition—a new Introduction.

In both, he would present an updated picture of his work with the refinements and sharpened formulations he had developed since 1933. In the psychiatry paper he would include more detail about the preventive, educational work he and his students had done with groups and individuals, giving a number of examples to show the application of his evaluation-oriented epistemology to personal problems that psychiatrists were apt to view as strictly medical. (These, as well as a number of other illustrative examples, plus a couple of diagrams, and a table showing the differences between aristotelian and non-aristotelian orientations all got deleted from the abridged version of the paper published in the September 1941 American Journal of Psychiatry.) He also addressed the role he thought psychiatry and general semantics should play in the developing war-related complex of world problems.

Only a few days after the invasion of Poland the previous September, Korzybski had sent letters to the Polish government-in-exile, and to British and U.S. government officials—including President Roosevelt—explaining that role:
Today newspapers everywhere, except in Germany call Hitler a mad man, etc., ...Name-calling, to which politicians and newswriters are making us so accustomed, will, of course, be ineffective in the long run. The Institute of General Semantics suggests that the respective governments stop calling names, and call experts. By experts, in this case, we mean competent professional sit as a sanity tribunal. After studying all the available data, furnished by the governments, this psychiatric tribunal would, without doubt, technically speaking, unanimously establish the ‘insanity’ of Hitler, Goering, Goebbels, etc. ...We in the Institute feel that if such a professional verdict of psychiatrists would be published and distributed by governments, it would stop the ‘insanity’ of the present situation. This would become the most powerful verbal weapon to break the spell of Hitlerism. It is not realized what a profound psycho-logical effect such a diagnosis would have on the people, particularly in Europe...The Institute of General Semantics is willing to offer all the professional help eventually needed, but we are not in a position to undertake such activities on our own. (6) 
As he later noted he “received only two polite acknowledgements” to these letters.(7) Still, he would repeat the suggestion and elaborate upon it throughout the duration of the war and afterwards.

One of the things he would emphasize both in the psychiatry paper and the “Introduction to the Second Edition” was the importance of “New factors: [and] the havoc they play with our generalizations.”(8) If medicine and the behavioral/social sciences needed psychiatry, then psychiatry, in turn, needed GS. In particular, the new factors—as he had formulated them—of “our neuro-semantic (neuro-evaluational) and neuro-linguistic environments as environment”(9) seemed to him crucial for psychiatrists and governmental leaders to take seriously.

In his paper for the psychiatric conference, Korzybski recommended the expansion of the sanity tribunal he had suggested in his earlier letter to leaders. The Germans under Hitler showed a notable ability to use “pathological verbal distortion” and other propagandistic and psychological methods as part of its ‘war of nerves’ against the allies. (Korzybski would soon refer to this in his “Introduction to the Second Edition” as the Nazi ‘war on nerves’.) The ‘sick’ Nazi, Fascist, and Japanese governments at least intuitively understood the importance of shaping the neuro-linguistic and neuro-evaluational environments, even if they didn’t formulate exactly in those terms. To this end, the Nazis, et al, purposely employed psycho-logical methods against their enemies. As he saw it, the governments of the so-called free world needed to marshal their psychiatrists and other experts in human behavior—including advisors in GS—to consciously counteract these methods and fight back with their own explicit neuro-evaluational, neuro-linguistic means.(10) 

Korzybski estimated that something like five hundred people attended his talk and he felt happy with his reception at the conference. As he wrote to Crane soon afterwards, he found the people he met there “very warm and friendly and interested.” Despite this, the bad war news weighed painfully upon him, though it also seemed to goad him to continue his hard work. As he noted to Crane (trying to goad him as well):
The first World War ruined me financially, very considerably, and I was also injured physically, for which I am still paying the price. The recent annihilation of Poland deprived me of the rest...I have seen too many dead and dying, too much destruction and suffering, not to realize what it all means for the future hence my investigations of factors of proper evaluation, predictability, sanity, etc., ...You may understand at present, judging by facts, why the work of the Institute is now, more than ever, of such extreme human importance.(11)

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. AK to President Franklin D. Roosevelt, 9/7/1939. IGS Archives. 

7. “Introduction to the Second Edition 1941” in Korzybski 1994 (1933), p. lxxvii. 

8. Ibid., p. lv. 

9. Ibid., p. lvi. 

10. “General Semantics, Psychiatry, Psychotherapy And Prevention”, American Journal of Psychiatry, Vol. 98 (2), September, 1941. p. 213. Reprinted in Alfred Korzybski Collected Writings, p. 306–307.

11. AK to Cornelius Crane, 6/3/1939. IGS Archives.

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