Sunday, September 21, 2014

Chapter 20 - Manhood of Humanity: Part 4 - "Please Drop This Time-Binding"

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.

Soon after arriving, Alfred went to visit Professor Guido Marx of the Stanford University Department of Mechanical Engineering. Marx, well-known for his work on systematic analysis in machine design, also had a broader interest in the social responsibilities of engineers. In the spring of 1920 Marx had lectured on that subject in New York at the New School for Social Research under the auspices of Thorstein Veblen. He also gave popular lectures to the citizenship classes at Stanford and helped found the American Association of University Professors. Having corresponded with Korzybski since the autumn of 1920, he seemed naturally drawn to the notion of time-binding. Alfred had given him a copy of the manuscript which he was “reading with interest although at times not with understanding.”(13) 

After their meeting, Marx wrote to Korzybski and offered to put together a “smoker” gathering of academics whom he thought would have an interest in hearing Korzybski speak—exactly what Alfred had been looking for. Alfred described the May 28 meeting in a letter to Keyser:
A friend engineer, who is a professor at Stanford [Guido Marx] got interested in Time-binding and gave me a smoker where there was about 25 professors. The audience was very mixed, engineers, philosophers, economists, lawyers, biologists, mathematicians, linguists, and so on. It was a rather difficult task to satisfy them all. I was told later on that I did well, they were very friendly anyway. I was quiet and careful in my expressions. I explained that the speaking of this subject is so difficult that a serious exposé could be given only in writing. They understood my difficulties and were lenient to the form.  
I had some gratifying moments. Few days before I met a young very promising biologist from Columbia, Calvin Bridges which is already an acknowledged authority on heredity. He read the MS. And at the smoker he made a fight for my theory and gave the explanation of the Biological App. AND EXPLAINED TO THEM THE VALUE AND APPLICATION OF THE SPIRAL THEORY...After the lecture an old lawyer, professor of Stanford and mayor of the town said that’s all moonshine and nothing new...a fight began in which I did not participate, the audience was simply dying from laughter. It was the most funny thing I ever witnessed, and especially when the lawyer could not find arguments, and with desperate gesture said in a sad voice to the biologist, “Please drop this time-binding.” We all rolled on the floor [with laughter] for about five minutes.(14) 

Alfred got a few pieces of good news from Keyser at the end of May. Dutton had picked up Keyser’s book Mathematical Philosophy. Korzybski had recommended the book to Macrae and felt overjoyed. Also in June the Pacific Review of the University of Washington would publish an article by Keyser, “Mathematical Obligations of Philosophy”, which mentioned Alfred’s forthcoming book. The third piece of news had perhaps the greatest importance for Alfred. In a few days, Tuesday May 31, Keyser would give the annual Phi Beta Kappa address at Columbia University on “The Nature of Man”. The address, centering on Korzybski’s formulation of time-binding, was subsequently published in the September 9, 1921 issue of Science. Keyser decided to make it the basis of the penultimate chapter of Mathematical Philosophy. Keyser would continue to promote Korzybski’s work whenever he had the opportunity and Alfred felt deeply grateful.

Alfred and Mira, ‘on pins and needles’, awaited the publication of Manhood of Humanity, expected for the end of June. In the meantime, the San Francisco papers printed a few articles on Mira and her exhibit. The articles included some mention of Alfred. In the May 29 San Francisco Chronicle, the headline of another article specifically about Alfred read, “Fourth Dimension Discovered at Last! Secrets of Algebra and Soul Bared[.] New Mathematical Theory By Count”. (15) On June 26, The Boston Evening Transcript published a four-page article based on an interview with Polakov entitled “Korzybski, Time-Binder, Upsets Darwin and Proves the Golden Rule True”.(16) A couple of days later, the book went on sale.(17)

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. 
13. Guido Marx to AK, 5/19/1921. AKDA 11.493. 

14. AK to C.J. Keyser, 5/29/1921. AKDA 11.466. 

15. “Fourth Dimension Discovered at Last!...”. San Francisco Chronicle, 5/29/1921. AKDA 1.103. 

16. “Korzybski, Time-Binder, Upsets Darwin...”. Boston Evening Transcript, 6/26/1921. AKDA 3.13. 

17. John Macrae to AK, 6/27/1921. AKDA 11.273. 

< Part 3      Part 5

No comments: