Friday, June 26, 2015

Chapter 64 - Hardly A Day Off: Part 7 - A Bequest To His Fellow-Sufferers

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.

At Sunday night’s closing banquet at one of Denver’s mountain-view restaurants, Korzybski was presented with a check for $1,837 raised over several months by the Alfred Korzybski Fellowship Fund Committee, intended to pay for tuitions and stipends for working Fellowships with Korzybski at the Institute. (39) 

Korzybski’s scheduled banquet speech followed, beginning with a couple of stories, before the meat of his presentation: the text of the “Bequest of Pavlov To The Academic Youth of His Country”, written shortly before Pavlov’s death in 1936. At the end of 1944, Korzybski had sent it to Hayakawa to print in ETC. In his 1947 ‘Protest’ letter to Hayakawa, he had referred to it again, writing “Whoever will read that ‘testament’, whenever he finds the word scientific or science, he should substitute life, since the advice of this epoch-making man applies to both science and life.”(40) He repeated this admonition to the banquet audience, then read “Pavlov’s Bequest” aloud (in italics below). Since it described so well the path he himself had followed, Korzybski was turning it into his own bequest to them:
What can I wish to the youth of my country who devote themselves to science? 

Firstly, gradualness. About this most important condition of fruitful scientific work I never can speak without emotion. Gradualness, gradualness and gradualness. From the very beginning of your work, school yourself to severe gradualness in the accumulation of knowledge. 

Learn the ABC of science before you try to ascend to its summit. Never begin the subsequent without mastering the preceding. Never attempt to screen an insufficiency of knowledge even by the most audacious surmise and hypothesis. Howsoever this soap-bubble will rejoice your eyes by its play it inevitably will burst and you will have nothing except shame. 

School yourselves to demureness and patience.  Learn to inure yourselves to drudgery in science. Learn, compare, collect the facts! 

Perfect as is the wing of a bird, it never could raise the bird up without resting on air. Facts are the air of a scientist. Without them you never can fly. Without them your ‘theories’ are vain efforts. 

But learning, experimenting, observing, try not to stay on the surface of the facts. Do not become the archivists of facts. Try to penetrate to the secret of their occurrence, persistently search for the laws which govern them. 

Secondly, modesty. Never think that you already know all. However highly you are appraised always have the courage to say of yourself – I am ignorant.

Do not allow haughtiness to take you in possession. Due to that you will be obstinate where it is necessary to agree, you will refuse useful advice and friendly help, you will lose the standard of objectiveness. 

Thirdly, passion. Remember that science demands from a man all his life. If you had two lives that would be not enough for you. Be passionate in your work and your searchings. (41) 
Korzybski then proceeded with his own commentary on this. He told those assembled in the restaurant:
Never forget that gradualness. About the third bequest, passion, sometimes I wonder whether today some of that passion of which he [Pavlov] speaks is lacking, and among some young men and women there is some cynicism, bitterness, or frustration creeping in, which are a serious handicap for further knowledge. Never lose that wonder about the world and ourselves, that capacity to ‘see the old anew’, as the great Leibnitz said, which has led mankind to its great achievements so far. Never allow that hunger to know to become too satisfied, for our human race is young and still immature, and there are many thousands or millions of years ahead in which to continue our search for structure, which is all we will ever know, since the silent levels will never be the same as the structure in which we will represent them.  
Here today, I am happy that we have taken another step forward. I am proud and honored that we can share this forward step together.  
I am grateful to Miss Kendig, who is so largely responsible for this congress and to Dr. Kelley and to Miss Schuchardt, who has helped me. I am also grateful to Dr. Murray, Dr. Larson [an associate professor in the Department of Speech Communication], Chancellor [Alfred C.] Nelson [Honorary Congress President] and the University of Denver, and the Denver students of general semantics.  
I may end with a quotation by the great physician, Dr. Alexis Carrel: ‘To progress again man must remake himself. And he cannot remake himself without suffering. For he is both the marble and the sculptor.’ My best wishes and thanks to you, Fellow-Sufferers. (42) 
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. 
39. “Report on the Alfred Korzybski Fellowship Fund”, General Semantics Bulletin 1 & 2 (Autumn-Winter 1949-1950), p. 27. 

40. “Korzybski’s Protest Letter to the Editor of ETC.”, Alfred Korzybski Collected Writings, p. 824. 

41. Pavlov’s “Bequest” qtd. from Dec. 1943 Scripta Mathematica, in Notes of AK Third Congress Banquet Speech. IGS Archives. 

42. Notes of AK Third Congress Banquet Speech. IGS Archives.

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