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

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