Friday, November 25, 2011

The General Evaluational Value of Mathematics and the Exact Sciences

"Now those who are professionally engaged in human affairs, economists, sociologists, politicians, bankers, priests of every kind, teachers . , [etc.,] 'mental' hygiene workers, and psychiatrists included, do not even suspect that material and methods of great general semantic [evaluational] value can be found in mathematics and the exact sciences. The drawing of their attention to this fact, no matter how clumsily done at first, will stimulate further researches, produce better formulations and understanding, and ultimately create conditions where sanity will be possible." —Alfred Korzybski, Science and Sanity, p. 538

Thursday, November 24, 2011

"The Canvas Is Not The Territory" - Dom Heffer on 'General-Semantics' and a Painter's Process

Painter Dom Heffer from England attended the end-of-October GS conference in New York City, where he spoke on the subject of his work featured on the cover of the latest ETC.: A Review of General Semantics. I hung out a bit with Dom and found him a very well-read and serious student-practitioner of 'general-semantics', err...I mean korzybski's non-aristotelian applied epistemology.

Dom's conference talk "The Canvas Is Not The Territory" went over the ground covered in his accompanying ETC. article, “The Spectacled Society: General Semantics and a Painter's Process.” If you don't want to pay $15 to download the issue containing the article (hey, Institute of General Semantics people, isn't that a bit steep for something you're trying to promote?), you can go to this interesting blogpost by, which gives a quick rundown on Dom's recursive (self-reflexive) painting process, which he documents through his art (it's recursive or self-reflexive, don't you see). Dom's website, also has a lot of interesting things about Dom's creations. Here's a link to what he showed at the conference which came with his accompanying commentary: "The Canvas Is Not The Territory." Korzybski's student Charles Biederman wrote a book published in the late 1940s called Art as the Evolution of Visual Knowledge. Check out Dom's self-reflexive take on visual knowledge.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Quote of the Day: 'Language and Evolution'

"The formation of different languages and of distinct species, and the proofs that both have been developed through a gradual process, are curiously parallel...."
—Charles Darwin, The Descent of Man 1871

Monday, November 14, 2011

"Korzybski's Legacy: What Is It? How Do We Carry It On?" - presented by Bruce I. Kodish, Author of Korzybski: A Biography, at the 2011 Institute of General Semantics (IGS) Weekend Symposium, "Communicating in the 21st Century", on 10/29/11 at the Princeton Club, New York City

Here are links to the text and audio of the presentation I gave at the Institute of General Semantics (IGS) Symposium - "Communicating in the 21st Century" on Saturday, Oct. 29, 2011 at the Princeton Club in New York City. 

Marty Levinson, President of the IGS Board of Trustees introduced me to the group. Marty organized a great conference and I want to thank him and the IGS Board for inviting me and being willing to listen even though I had some difficult things to say about the present state of GS and the IGS. I felt nervous delivering this talk and you'll probably tell when you hear it.  But I consider it one of the most important presentations I've ever made, and a valuable one for someone who wants to get a running start as to what Korzybski and his work are about. 

Here's the opening paragraph:
Korzybski’s legacy: what ‘is’ it? How do we carry it on? In the way that I’m using the term legacy here, as “a thing handed down by a predecessor,” Korzybski’s legacy has a number of related aspects. Partly, it consists of tangible objects: artifacts and archives left behind. Partly it consists of the Institute of General Semantics itself. However, mainly today I want to focus on what Korzybski taught, the legacy of the wide-ranging system of formulations, known as GS (‘general semantics’). Korzybski advised that when you study someone’s work “…read not only what you read, but study the author.”[1] In other words, do your best to get inside his or her head, find out what problems they tackled, what questions they asked, what they wanted to say. I’ve studied the author and I want to share with you some of what I’ve learned about Korzybski’s work. What constitutes the core of what he taught, his legacy? How has it come down to the present? What opportunities exist for us now to carry it on?

[1] Korzybski: A Biography, p. 8

I want to thank my friend Heron Stone of Gendo for his help in editing the audio recording and getting it up on the Gendo podcast, which I heartily suggest that you subscribe to. He's the closest thing to an internet Socrates I've met. 

Here's the audio link of Gendo Podcast 689

Here's a link to the pdf of the edited and augmented text  

Thursday, November 10, 2011

"Acceptance Speech" by Bruce Kodish on receiving the 2011 S. I. Hayakawa Book Prize from the Institute of General Semantics for Korzybski: A Biography

It seemed like just a few days after Steve Jobs died that his biography came out. It took 61 year for Alfred Korzybski's. Why did it take so long? Interesting question, I'm not going to answer now. But if you wonder why I wrote Korzybski: A Biography, I thought it had been long enough.

My friend Robert P. Pula, extraordinary scholar and teacher of korzybskian general-semantics and a former Executive Director of the Institute of General Semantics, had been working on a biography of Korzybski for many years. After he died unexpectedly in early 2004, I felt impelled 'to pick up the torch'. What Korzybski and his co-workers developed and taught was not entirely written down but had an oral and tacit dimension received through personal contact and handed down in often unspoken and even un-speakable, i.e., silent and non-verbal, ways. As a long-time close friend and co-worker of Charlotte Schuchardt Read—Korzybski's confidential secretary and literary assistant—I wanted to convey the feel of Korzybski and his work that I had gotten from her (and others) which I feared might otherwise get lost. 

I first encountered Korzybski's work in the early 1960s around the age of 13. I've studied it most of my life and worked at the Institute of General Semantics on its education and publication staffs for several decades in its post-Korzybski but still quite korzybskian heyday in the latter half of the 20th Century. I pursued and obtained a doctoral degree in Applied Epistemology/'General Semantics'. I spent seven years researching and writing Korzybski: A Biography. In all that time, I've managed to learn something. So don't be intimidated by the size of my book (694 pages including endnotes, bibliography and index): If you want to get to the core of what Korzybski taught, then I think that all of my time will save you a great deal of your own time. Besides, I did my best to make it a good read.

To conclude: I want to thank Marty Levinson [President of the IGS Board of Trustees], Jackie Rudig [IGS Vice-President] and the entire Institute Board of Trustees for giving me this award and for the opportunity to be here with all of you. Let's celebrate Korzybski here, his work, all of those who've carried it on and built upon it up to the present. And let's celebrate the Institute of General Semantics, which had its 73rd anniversary this year. Let's do it!

—Bruce I. Kodish, 
October 28, 2011

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Institute of General Semantics 2011 Conference (Initial Post-Conference Debriefing)

I'm reserving today and perhaps the rest of the week for DDD. I don't mean that I'll be spending my time watching episodes of "Diners, Drive-ins and Dives" (although I'll probably do that too); I mean I'll be Downloading (my rather chock-full cranium), Debriefing myself after a mega-busy, mega-stressful weekend in NYC at the IGS conference (lot's of input, lots of challenges, but not a lot of sleep), and Decompressing (just chilling, relaxing and 'vegging out') which often doesn't come easily to me. 

First of all, kudos to IGS President Martin Levinson and his program committee for putting together a great conference at the Princeton Club. I counted about 40 people on Saturday and somewhat fewer on Sunday (there seemed like somewhat more people at the Friday night banquet which featured awards and Sherry Turkle's Alfred Korzybski Memorial Lecture). The high quality of audience and presenters made up for the smallish crowd. I'll be blogging on about stuff related to the conference and my award, including providing a copy of my presentation on "Korzybski's Legacy...", as well as discussing Sherry Turkle's talk and some of the main themes that seemed to emerge from the different presentations, as well as links and discussions about some of the interesting people I met at the conference. 

I probably know more about the history of the Institute of General Semantics (IGS) and its varying historical and ongoing challenges/problems than anyone else alive—having had a continuous working association with the organization since 1979 up to the present, and having studied its history in depth (Korzybski: A Biography qualifies, among other things, as a comprehensive history of the first, pivotal 12 years of the IGS during Korzybski's lifetime). Although it's been quite a while since my wife Susan and I have had any significant involvement with the operation or policies of the IGS, the leadership of the Institute-2011  seemed willing at this juncture to hear some constructive suggestions and criticisms which I provided both privately and publicly to them. The Institute has had major organizational challenges over the last few years and I commend the leadership and those interested members of its governing board of trustees who demonstrated their openness to begin to deal with difficulties in a constructive way. 

I deeply appreciate the great honor they have bestowed upon me: their major book prize  for Korzybski: A Biography. I experienced their appreciation of the book as deeply genuine. It also honors them because it demonstrates their desire to reconnect to the korzybskian tradition which for various reasons has gotten lost at the Institute (once the major bearer of that tradition) over the last 10 or so very difficult years. That provided a major theme of my public presentation to the group, Korzybski's Legacy: What Is It? How Do We Carry It On, which happily seemed very well received by the audience—including the Institute leadership, who appear to want to go forward in a productive and positive way.