Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Chapter 64 - Hardly A Day Off: Part 6 - The Third Congress on General Semantics

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.

Charlotte and Alfred returned home in mid June. Even though they hadn’t finished the Introduction, at least they had gotten far enough along—with several more drafts and a structure that had gelled—to have it near the semi-final form Charlotte had hoped for. They could return to it in the fall. With most of the other new material for the Second Edition of Manhood in proofs, the book seemed well on its way to publication, but unfortunately not in time for the upcoming Congress. They had also started the somewhat simpler process of getting Alfred’s 1924 and 1926 Time-Binding papers photographed for reprinting in a booklet, as well as setting up for the production of lithographed Structural Differential wall charts on heavy linen-backed map stock—both the booklet and wall chart to be ready for sale later that year. Now back in Lime Rock, Alfred and others prepared for the upcoming Third American Congress on General Semantics at the University of Denver and a very busy next few months. 

On July 3, he had his 70th birthday. They gave a little party for him at the Institute. Mira sent a note. He planned to see her shortly and telegrammed ahead to her. On July 8, Charlotte and he would leave on the New York night train with a next day afternoon stopover in Chicago so that they could visit with Mira at the station for a few hours, before traveling on to Denver. Arriving on July 10, they would then have a day and a half to ‘rest’ before things started up with the short pre-Congress intensive seminar Alfred was teaching at the University.

When they did finally arrive at their Denver Hotel, which Charlotte described in a note to Kendig as an “old people’s home”, Alfred seemed “all right.” Charlotte had felt concerned about his health. He had been having a lot of colds, seemed a little rundown, and had not responded well to the high elevation on his previous trips to Denver. She had already wondered to Elwood Murray when they were planning things, if Alfred should minimize his time in the mile-high city. Perhaps Alfred was taking on too much by teaching the pre-Congress intensive. There was nothing she could do about it now. Alfred seemed intent on fulfilling everything they had planned.

After they arrived, Charlotte just wanted “to sleep and sleep” but she didn’t have time for much rest.(33) She was assisting Alfred in his short seminar at the University ‘barracks’ where Elwood Murray had his office. The afternoon and evening course ran from Tuesday, July 12 to the following Tuesday, July 19 with a break for the weekend and a ‘whopping’ tuition fee of $18. The fifty or so students were supposed to have read Science and Sanity or Selections from Science and Sanity ahead of time, but it’s a good guess many of them didn’t. Alfred and Charlotte had prepared a class handout of “Books And Articles Referred To By Korzybski In His Lectures”—a short list of works of significance for him. The list might confuse those who viewed Korzybski’s work in terms of ‘semantics’, but seemed a good example of the wide scope of Korzybski’s actual concerns:
Lenin: A Biography by David Shub  
Topological Psychology and Resolving Social Conflicts by Kurt Lewin 
‘The Mathematical Way of Thinking’ by Dr. Hermann Weyl, Science, Nov. 15, 1940. 
‘Qualifications of a Research Physicist’ by Dr. Albert W. Hull, Science, June 12, 1931. 
‘Two Modes of Social Adaptation and Their Concomitants in Ocular Movements’ by Trigant Burrow and Hans Syz, Journ. Of Abnormal and Social Psychology, April 1949.  
The Nature of the Physical World by A. S. Eddington (34)
Before the course ended, that scope would—with any luck—begin to make sense to the students who hadn’t known much about general semantics. Given the limited time Korzybski had for presenting the material or for getting to know the students (no personal interviews), when the seminar finished, he considered it “very successful.”(35) 

Korzybski and Charlotte had only a couple days break before the start of the Congress on Friday July 22. Kendig had flown in on July 16. With Dave Bourland and Lynn Gates to help her, Elwood Murray, and Douglas Kelley, they managed to pull off a well-organized and highly successful event. Kendig had a lot of issues to contend with. For one thing, she had worried that Hayakawa and others might boycott the Congress, but both he and Rapoport came and presented papers, as did Chisholm. Peace seemed to prevail despite the recent unpleasantness of the ISGS election. 300 people registered for the Congress with 75 presentations given over the Congress’s three days.(36) 

Korzybski helped start out the Congress with his keynote address at the opening general session on Friday morning. His talk was entitled, “Implications of Time-Binding Theory for Human Progress in A Free Society Versus Stultification by Dictatorships of Human Time-Binding Potentialities”. At least in his outlined notes (according to Charlotte, he diverged from them in his actual talk), he began by discussing how the notion of time-binding emerged from his early life experiences and how the development of his later work (in a way summarized in the structural differential) came out of time-binding—the structural differential representing the fundamental difference between animals and humans. Time-binding progress depended “on our freedom to revise our higher order abstractions in conformity with study of facts.” Dictatorships, in basic opposition to human time-binding potentialities, kept people infantile, clinging to authority, unable to think for themselves, fearful, and isolated from others. To the contrary,
With a realization of time-binding, we realize we are not 25 or 50 or 75 years old. We are millions of years old. All dependent on each other. Time-binding involves feelings of responsibilities, duties to ourselves and others, duties to future generations. What do we want to leave as a legacy to our children? If we are conscious of ourselves as time-binders, we take pride in doing our part in carrying forward the best wisdom of the race and enlarge on it, for the benefit of future generations. This involves serious obligations and moral issues.  
In closing, I want to quote some wisdom from Shakespeare which applies to us here very directly: ‘To thine own self be true, and it will follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man.’ But before we can be ‘true to ourselves’ we have to know ourselves, and this is the chief aim of general semantics. I will end with a quotation by Robert Browning [he had gotten this from Mira and planned to use it in his introduction to the Second Edition of Manhood]:  
‘Tis time new hopes should animate mankind, new light should dawn.’

I hope you are feeling as encouraged and hopeful as I do when I see this splendid group here, carrying on so constructively and helping to realize more fully our potentialities as time-binders. (37)
Over the next three days, the Congress featured several general sessions plus separate sectional meetings on Education; Socio-Economic Issues; General Semantics in a Communication Program (with enough papers for two panel discussions on the University of Denver’s use of GS to unify its curriculum); Theoretical, Methodological and Linguistic Issues; Speech and Clinical Psychology; “An Organismal Approach to the Liberal Arts Curriculum” (another University of Denver panel on applying GS); Psycho-Somatic Issues and Applications; Education Applications; Education and Communication: Special Applications; A Panel on Methods and Materials for General Semantics Study Groups and Adult Education; and a Round Table on the Arts as Communication.(38)  The surprising number, variety, and quality of presentations over just one weekend, pleased Korzybski; the surfeit of stimulation must have set participants’ heads abuzz. Kendig intended to produce a volume of Third Congress papers. This never happened, probably due to subsequent financial and manpower issues at the Institute, but a number of the papers were subsequently reprinted in the General Semantics Bulletin and ETC.

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. Charlotte Schuchardt to M. Kendig, 7/12/1949. IGS Archives. 

34. “Books and Articles referred to by Korzybski in his Lectures”. IGS Archives. 

35. AK to MEK, telegram, 7/22/1949. AK Archives, Box 22, Folder 1. 

36. The printed Congress Program Notes seemed as remarkable for its distancing from the term ‘general semantics’ as for its emphasis on the Congress theme of ‘time-binding’. Its opening page, Historical: On General Semantics and Korzybski’s Works, devoted much space to explaining what ‘general semantics’ was not, reflecting how problematic the confusion of ‘general semantics’ with ‘semantics’ had become for Korzybski and others at the Institute. (On the day he left for Denver, Korzybski had written bluntly to Hayakawa about the latter’s role in that confusion.) [AK to S.I. Hayakawa, 7/8/1949. Alfred Korzybski Collected Writings, pp. 837-841.] The opening paragraph of the Program’s “Theme and Organization of the 1949 Congress” rather significantly expressed Korzybski’s and others’ growing estrangement from the term ‘general semantics’ which could easily have been crossed-out without any significant loss of comprehension:
The work of the Third Congress will stress the General Theory of Time-Binding as a foundation for a science of man, and applications of the non-aristotelian methodology derived from this functional definition of man as a time-binding class of life. It will stress the implications of Time-Binding and the non-aristotelian methodology of General Semantics for organization and integration, without regimentation, of human progress on the various personal, social, scientific levels of sane development. It will stress the criteria of sane progress on the dynamic bases of human time-binding potentialities when released from static statistical thinking and orientations of current aristotelian modes of evaluation. It will stress the extensional methods as generalized physico-mathematical method, its implications for concrete creative thinking on non-verbal levels as distinct from our ingrained aristotelian methods of verbal thinking by definition from which stem many blockages in personal and social adjustment and scientific advance. [Program Notes - Third Congress on General Semantics, “Theme and Organization of the 1949 Congress”. AKDA Scrapbook 6.205.]
37. Korzybski, “Implications of Time-Binding Theory for Human Progress in A Free Society Versus Stultification by Dictatorships of Human Time-Binding Potentialities”. Unpublished Notes of Keynote Address at 1949 Congress. IGS Archives. 

38. See Third Congress program sections and scheduled presentations in Alfred Korzybski Collected Writings, pp. 774-782. Except for a Friday evening reception, which he had to attend, Korzybski had the freedom to go to the sessions that interested him. The presentations underlined or otherwise marked in his copy of the Congress Program indicate what he might have attended—or at least what interested him. These included: Allen Walker Read’s presentation on “Linguistic Revision as a Requisite for the Increasing of Rigor in Scientific Method” (Korzybski marked-up a draft of his paper); Francis Chisholm’s “Positive Training for Maturity”; George K. Zipf’s “General Semantics and the Principle of Least Effort: Towards a Synthesis” (Korzybski also marked up a draft version of this); and Guthrie Janssen’s “A Time-Binding Measure for Democratic Action”, which represented a more worked-out version of the political theory that Korzybski had pointed toward over the last few years. (A version of Janssen’s paper, “Time-Binding: Functional Basis of Democracy” was published in the 1951 General Semantics Bulletin 6 & 7). A few other notable presentations marked in Korzybski’s program included: “Executive Training and General Semantics” by Sam Bois (so impressive to Korzybski and his colleagues that only a few months later they distributed it to IGS members); “Some Neglected Considerations of Order in Current Reading Methodologies” by Ray Bontrager; “General Semantics as Applied in a Course in Municipal Affairs” by W. Donald Fletcher of the Coro Foundation; “The Semiotic versus the Idiotic in Patent Law and Practice” by Cecil Kent; “On the Varieties of Research in General Semantics” by Irving Lee; “Therapeutic Techniques for the Loss of Abstract Ability in Patients with Cortical Damage” by Lawrence LeShan, who had taken some seminars with Korzybski; “Semantic Dilemmas in Neurology, Psychology and General Semantics” by neurosurgeon Russell Meyers, who only just met Korzybski at the Congress and would later become friendly with Kendig, and teach at IGS seminar-workshops; “Admitting the Patient to the Medical Team” by physical therapist May Watrous Niles; and “Some Functional Patterns on the Non-Verbal Level: Laughter at the Comic” by Harry Weinberg, Korzybski’s prize student who by this time had become an “Instructor in Public Speaking and General Semantics” at Temple University. [Third Congress Program (personally marked by AK). IGS Archives.] Papers read at the Congress included: “The Why and Wherefore in Everyday Life: An Application of Extensional Devices” by Ken Keyes; “The Island of Phenomena” by Korzybski’s old friend P. W. Bridgman; ‘Philosophical’ Interpretations of Physical Theories, Discussed from a Semantic Angle” by Einstein biographer Phillip Frank; and “The New Mathematical Philosophy” by scientific philosopher Lancelot Law Whyte, author of The Next Development in Man. Korzybski, who considered cybernetics “a turning leaf in human evolution and socio-cultural adjustment”, [Qtd. in Book Comments on Cybernetics by M. Kendig in General Semantics Bulletin 1 & 2, p. 46.] probably felt disappointed that Norbert Wiener declined his personal invitation to attend or even to provide a paper to get read by someone else. (Anthropologist Gregory Bateson, with whom Korzybski had exchanged articles, also got invited, but finally didn’t attend or contribute a paper.)

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