Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The 'Right' To An Opinion

I feel happy to have Ralph Hamilton as my friend. Ralph attended Alfred Korzybski's summer seminars in 1946 and 1947, and then became Korzybski's personal assistant for over a year. Ralph lived at the Institute of General Semantics in Connecticut and spent a great deal of time with Korzybski. An extremely astute fellow, Ralph has helped me quite a bit and in many ways, in my research on Korzybski's biography, including giving me letters and other documents he obtained and kept, and giving me a personal angle on Korzybski, his habits, his conversation, etc. (Ralph does a good imitation of Alfred that sounds very much like the recordings). Ralph just had his 90th birthday on December 28 and I just got off of the phone with him to wish him a happy one with many many healthy more! Happy Birthday, Ralph!

In a letter he wrote to me on March 13, 2005 Ralph wrote:
As to opinions, [Korzybski] used to say, "In the old, 'democratic' way, everyone has a 'right' to his opinion. In the new way, scientifically, no one has a 'right' to his opinion—if he has not studied the matter and informed himself."

Friday, December 25, 2009

Korzybski and Stoicism

I see the Stoics, especially Epictetus, as important forerunners of Korzybski's extensional ('fact'-oriented) methodology that he called "general semantics."

Indeed, Epictetus who influenced Albert Ellis (also a student of Korzybski's work), seems well worth studying today for his practical insights on extensional living. Epictetus after all was the one who said, "It is not the things themselves that disturb people, but their judgments on those things." Ellis' book How to Stubbornly Refuse to Make Yourself Miserable about Anything: Yes Anything! seems like a rather good description of Epictetus' thrust.

One on the Stoic path experiencing some 'unpleasantness', learns to say to it "You are just an impression and not what you seem to be." And then one can go further and ask, "Is it in my power to change this? Or is it outside my power?" Those questions and the distinctions they help to elicit, my friends, seem to me to provide a powerful method for not letting yourself become unduly miserable about the many inevitable slings and arrows of life. Simple, but not easy.

And what frame of 'mind' does it encourage but what Korzybski called "consciousness of abstracting," the sine qua non of what he sought to teach? Check out Corey Anton on Youtube for Reading Group, Epictetus #1

Friday, December 18, 2009

Progress Report on Korzybski Biography

Just to let the curious know—I'm continuing to plug away at the Korzybski biography. Am now dealing with issues and events of 1947. (Korzybski died in early 1950.) It looks like I will have a completed, in-fairly-good-shape manuscript in a few months time. When I first decided to get started on this project, in mid-2004, I had no notion of the amount of work I would have to do nor an inkling of the difficulty, even pain, sometimes involved, the pain of 'thinking' perhaps most of all.

Some quotations on writing that resonate to the bone for me*:
There ain't nothing more to write about, and I am rotten glad of it, because if I'd a knowed what a trouble it was to make a book I wouldn't a tackled it, and ain't agoing to no more.— S. L. Clemons (Mark Twain): Huckleberry Finn, XLIII, 1885

The business of writing has altogether become contemptible to me; and I am become confirmed in the notion that nobody ought to write, —unless sheer fate force him to do it; —and then he ought (if not of the mountebank genus) to beg to be shot rather. — Thomas Carlyle: Letter to R. W. Emerson, June 2, 1858

This writing is an unnatural business. It makes your head hot and your feet cold, and it stops the digesting of your food. — John Burroughs (1837-1931)

* All quotations from H.L. Mencken's A New Dictionary of Quotations. under "Writing," p. 1341.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Dixie Dugan and the Tyranny of Words

From the Institute of General Semantics Digital Archive:
A 1947 Newspaper "Dixie Dugan" cartoon highlights the power of words and how to overcome their tyranny. Maybe Dixie took a seminar with Korzybski. (click on the picture for a larger view):

Sunday, December 6, 2009

From The Stray Thought Bin- Human Blindness

There is a natural opacity to human perception-thinking-feeling and the narrow fuzzy window that each of us looks through is in perpetual danger of getting fogged over even more with the added residue of habits and expectations, making us even blinder still.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Why Don't Western Elites and Governments Comprehend International Realities?

It's about maps and territories, perceptions and actualities—and yes, sanity. Although Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini explained back in 1979: 'We didn't make the Iranian revolution to lower the price of watermelons', many of the 'elite' in the West don't get it. The failure of much of the Western media, educational, and government leadership to change their maps regarding Islamist fundamentalism sure doesn't seem like sanity to me. Barry Rubin tries to understand Why Don't Western Elites and Governments Comprehend International Realities?