Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Chapter 21 - Leibniz's Dreams: Part 1 - Introduction

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.

In the final pages of Manhood of Humanity, Alfred had presented a dream for the future of humanity which seemed to expand upon some of the old Polish ideals he had grown up with*:
In humanity’s manhood, patriotism—the love of country—will not perish—far from it—it will grow to embrace the world, for your country and mine will be the world. Your “state” and mine will be the Human State—a Cooperative Commonwealth of Man—a democracy in fact and not merely in name... guided ...by scientific men, by honest men who know. Is it a dream? It is a dream, but the dream will come true. It is a scientific dream and science will make it a living reality. (1) 

How to bring about this dream? Korzybski made an admittedly vague proposal for “the establishment of a new institution which might be called a Dynamic Department—Department of Coordination or a Department of Cooperation” (whether wholly governmental or not, it didn’t seem quite clear). Korzybski wrote: “Its functions would be those of encouraging, helping and protecting the people in such cooperative enterprises as agriculture, manufactures, finance, and distribution.”(2) 

However, now that Manhood of Humanity had been published, Alfred wasn’t planning to dwell on this or any other social, economic, or political applications of the time-binding notion. He hoped others would do so. His need to figure things out in the most comprehensive way, what he called his “innate abstractness”—one of the main factors driving him to write Manhood—was still driving him. It led him now to explore and uncover the foundation of time-binding, its underlying mechanism.(3) Since he seemed inclined to see the broadest theory as potentially the most practical, he had confidence this might actually lead to some far-reaching social benefits.

What lay at the foundation of time-binding? It seemed to him that the very mathematical spirit he had tried to apply in developing his definition of Man, exemplified time-binding at its best. He had given this spirit—the spirit of rigorous thinking—more attention in his original manuscript. But in the editing process, he had moved it into the background. In the published book, much of his discussion of mathematics had either been deleted or moved to an appendix or footnote. Now he wanted to move time-binding to the background—as it were—and to shift his focus to this mathematical side. He felt strongly that by digging into the foundations of mathematics and the physico-mathematical sciences, he would be digging to uncover the roots of time-binding itself.

Much of the deleted material was contained in a manuscript of Manhood which he had loaned some time before to an acquaintance in New York City, a businessman and writer named John Martin. He could get other manuscripts in various states of revision but this was the first draft, which contained material not available in the other versions. Now in San Francisco, he urgently wanted it back. He wrote to Martin asking for its return. But Martin had loaned the draft to someone else, hadn’t been able to locate the man he had given it to, and didn’t seem to understand Alfred’s urgency. Martin sent back a curt letter and several months of somewhat acrimonious correspondence ensued until Alfred finally did get it back.

Perhaps he had needed the draft. Still, he had also begun to find deeper issues in his theory, issues he simply hadn’t dealt with in the first book or at least hadn’t been able to treat with much clarity. He had already established that “Language no doubt is an essential instrument or vehicle of time-binding.”(4) But how did it work to impede or improve progress? Perhaps there were problems with some of the language he himself had been using. How did this all relate to mathematics? Somehow, he felt, the mathematical theories of dimensions and types could be extended to “bring order in the confusion of wrong language and wrong logic in the affairs of men”.(5) But how exactly? In broad terms, he knew what he was aiming for. If Manhood contained his “special theory”, to use an analogy with Einstein’s work on relativity, he was now aiming to formulate a more “general theory”. But what did he need to do to get there?

Such a general theory, he expected, would have great practicality, an application to life that Russell and Whitehead, among others, had not been able to demonstrate. This was the thrust of the new book he was planning. He had already started to work on it before the publication of Manhood. Macrae had an option to publish it. The book would deal with the dreams and ideals of Man and the problems of human happiness from this mathematical perspective. He had hoped to be able to get it out within four to five months (it would take 12 years) and already had a title—When Dreams Become True: The Mathematical Theory of Life.

The title referred to Alfred’s dreams but also alluded to the dreams of Leibniz. Among the many historical figures studied by Korzybski, Leibniz looms as one of his greatest conscious and acknowledged influences. Years later, Alfred would include him (spelling his name with a “t”, i.e., “Leibnitz”) in the list of those to whom he dedicated his second book. This was not only for Leibniz’s discovery/invention (along with Newton) of the calculus, which over the years so inspired Alfred. The dreams of Leibniz—various schemes and speculations Leibniz proposed over his lifetime to advance mathematics, science, and society—stirred Alfred as well.(6) 

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. 
The motto “For your freedom and ours”, used by Polish fighters in various independence movements around the world, encapsulates the universal democratic ideal long interlinked with traditional Polish patriotism. See Olszer. 

1. Korzybski 1921, p. 199-200. 

2. Ibid., p. 200. See pp. 200-203 for more detail on Korzybski’s Dynamic Department proposal. 

3. AK to C. J. Keyser, 6/20/1921. AKDA 11.335-338. 

4. AK to V. S. Sukthankar, 6/12/1921. AKDA 11.388. 

5. AK to Keyser, 6/6/1921. AKDA 11.409-411. 

6. Indeed, he noted twice in Science and Sanity—the book that was finally published 12 years later—that the system presented in it implied a theory of universal agreement that would allow “the dreams of Leibnitz” to become “a sober reality.” Korzybski 1994 (1933), pp. 52, 287. 

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