Thursday, October 23, 2014

Chapter 25 - "The Brotherhood Of Doctrines": Part 4 - Midwest Sojourn

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.

By April 29, they had settled in at Mira’s sister Amy’s farm in Lees Summit. They used the next couple of weeks to make plans. Mira was looking for some quick portrait commissions and arranging to give some presentations. She had a talk coming up at the Kansas City Women’s Club on May 3 and might have a client in Cleveland. Meanwhile, Alfred was busy writing letters, working on his articles and book, and making his own arrangements for lectures and meetings around the Midwest. 

At La Jolla, Alfred had met a vacationing Milwaukee pathologist, Dr. William Thalhimer, and his wife. When Thalhimer returned home, he helped arrange for Alfred to give a talk at The City Club of Milwaukee on May 16 and invited Alfred and Mira to stay at his home. On May 6, Alfred wrote to Miss Conway, the secretary of The City Club, with requests for the upcoming lecture:
… If possible please provide something like a blackboard for my lecture, a blackboard helps greatly the visualizing and therefore the understanding. The blackboard does not have to be large two feet square will do. In case you would have too much troubles in getting a blackboard half a dozen of sheets of heavy paper (stiff), white or grey will do also, in such case it would be necessary to provide heavy black pencil or chalk of dark blue color would be good. In such case we would nail with two nails all the papers at once and after using one sheet I would take it off like from a block.  
Here are some titles for my lecture select one please to your liking they mean just the same, all of them, to me. I give them in the order of my preference but you know your public better so please don’t be influenced by my order. 1) The science and art of human engineering 2) Mathematical revolution and social progress 3) A new natural law 4) Mathematics and life 5) Is peaceful progress possible? 6) Can political and social sciences become exact, genuine sciences? 7) Mathematics as common sense elevated to the dignity of science...(11)

The use of a blackboard for visualizing his ideas had by this time become a staple part of his presentation method. For the remainder of his life, he would continue to stress the importance of visualization with diagrams, etc., making great use of them as a speaker and teacher. In fact he had just come up with a way to visualize logical fate—a diagram which seemed to him to make evident some aspects of the formulation that even Keyser had not made clear.(12) He would use it in his upcoming talks and articles and over the years would continue to use it and refine it. (You’ll find an early form of the diagram in the next chapter.)

The suggested titles for the Milwaukee lecture indicate how the concerns of Mathematical Philosophy were taking up more and more of Alfred’s attention. He had already abandoned the article on evolution and time-binding that Ritter had suggested he write. Now he held off working on what he had called “the big guns”, an article for Science intended to serve as an overview of his second book. To write this he would have had to connect the various strands of what he had been studying (which now included logical fate and related material from Keyser’s new book) into some kind of coherent, consistent whole. But obstacles had emerged due to “verbal difficulties”.

Meanwhile, he had been invited by the editor of The Call, a ‘progressive’ newspaper in New York, to write a joint review of Polakov’s and Keyser’s books, with one of the titles he had suggested for the City Club talk, “Mathematical Revolution and Social Progress”. Perhaps his way to at least write this review would seem clear if he just ‘spit things out’ in a letter to Keyser with the hope his mentor might have some suggestions for him.When Mira saw the letter, she jokingly called it Alfred’s “sermon on the farm”. In the meantime, he was also ‘spitting things out’ in his correspondence with McEwen for their Science review of Keyser’s book, and in his various other letters, and talks with people. As he wrote to Keyser in his ‘sermon’, he felt sure of one thing: “Einsteinian ‘joint phenomenon of the observer and the observed,’ your ‘logical destiny’ and the theory of types and classes are three tremendous milestones which will show the road.”(13)

On May 15, Alfred left for Milwaukee with Mira since she had decided to go with him rather than to Cleveland in pursuit of a questionable portrait job. The Korzybskis stayed with the Thalhimers. On the 16th Alfred spoke at the City Club which didn’t use any of his suggested titles but advertised the subject of his talk as “The Manhood of Humanity”. (14) Several Milwaukee newspapers published stories on it the next day. Alfred was now specifically presenting his notion of time-binding within the framework of logical fate. One of the main points he made to his somewhat ‘radical’ audience—Milwaukee had a socialist mayor at the time—was that social reforms that seek new solutions but start from the old premises (such as viewing ‘man’ as an animal) are destined by logical fate to fail. (15) 

As much as the Thalhimers might have wanted them to stay longer, Alfred and Mira had to get to Chicago. Alfred had a talk scheduled at the May 19 meeting of the Chicago Chapter of the American Association of Engineers. Since Alfred also had a couple of people he wanted to see around the state of Illinois, and since Mira had friends in the city and might be able to get some business there, they decided they would use Chicago as their Midwest base of operations. They moved into a suite at the Drake, a luxury hotel near Lake Shore Drive. (16)  

One of the people Alfred wanted to meet with was mathematician James Byrnie Shaw, a professor at the University of Illinois-Urbana, which lies about 130 miles south of Chicago, in East-Central Illinois. Shaw had a deep interest in the foundations of mathematics, having written a book, Lectures on the Philosophy of Mathematics (1918), and a review of Principia Mathematica that Korzybski had found inspiring and useful. He wanted to see Shaw and get his opinion about some new ideas. McEwen, who knew Shaw, had given Alfred a letter of introduction. Just before leaving Amy’s farm, Alfred sent Shaw a copy of Manhood with McEwen’s letter, requesting a meeting. Shaw, happy to receive the book and to meet with Alfred, replied promptly. He booked a room for Alfred at the University Club in Urbana. Alfred arrived there on May 24 and stayed for over a week.

Shaw proved himself a gracious host, arranging meetings for Alfred and introducing him to colleagues. Alfred felt especially grateful to meet R. D. Carmichael, another mathematician in Shaw’s department who had wide-ranging interests in physics (he had already written a book about relativity), philosophy, and literature. Carmichael quickly became interested in Alfred’s work. Alfred later wrote to Keyser about his time with the two men:
During my stay in Urbana I spent all my time with Dr. Shaw and Dr. Carmichael. We had endless debates. I had two lectures before them, one was the official one before the [mathematics] faculty [which some philosophers and engineers also attended], where of course I was very modest, simple but trenchant, some of the older mathematicians wanted to trap me with silly and tricky questions. The lecture was adjudged by Shaw and C. as “masterful”. It seems to me that really this lecture could be successfully reproduced before any mathematical faculty, and afterwards I had a 3 hours lecture-debate before Shaw and Carmichael. In this one I went very far and spoke about things which are still in the making and which I would not dare to speak publicly. Both S & C were very responsive and participated in the dreams…(17) 

Alfred considered his trip to Urbana a success. With Carmichael, he had found a real ‘fan’. A couple of months afterwards, Carmichael wrote to Alfred from his family farm in Randolph, Alabama where he was spending his summer vacation, “…I have read “Manhood of Humanity” for the third time; and I have enjoyed it more on the third reading than on either of the other two.”(18) The two men would continue an active correspondence for a number of years with Carmichael eventually writing Supplement I, “The Logic of Relativity” for Science and Sanity.

Shaw’s immediate evaluation seemed rather more restrained. As he wrote to Alfred on June 24, time-binding seemed to him, “…as old an idea as the thinking part of the [human] race itself” and a consequence of “man [as] an individual of a spiritual essence and immortal.” He had more to say than Carmichael about Alfred’s presentation to them of the practical application of mathematics to life:
I think you stress entirely too much the value of mathematical logic in the discussion of your theme. Very little of your reasoning is mathematical logic. …anyone who studies logistic [mathematical logic] in the hope that thereby he will find a method directly applicable to the discussion of the making over of human progress, will be disappointed. He may gain some sharpness of wits, he may become a better thinker, but he could do that equally well in studying other things than mathematical logic. 
As a philosopher, then, what do I think of your plans?...It seems certain to me that most of our action is not instigated by what we think or believe, though these will determine some features of the things we do or the manner of acting. I am of the opinion that what we desire in our inmost selves determines our action. In other words we do not act on account of reasoning…(19)
As he wrote to Keyser later, Alfred got depressed reading this. He hadn’t gotten across to Shaw what he wanted to get across but he did appreciate Shaw’s honesty and desire to be helpful. He knew he would have to work harder to clarify what he was trying to express. In his reply to Shaw a couple of days later he wrote:
Many thanks for your long letter and frankness. It is impossible for me to form at once an opinion about it, generally speaking I see your point and I agree that most of what you say is legitimate in the old way. It seems that in the “new” way I will have to elaborate my problems further with more details and maybe I will be able to convince some day such important critics as you are. I value your letter greatly and it will be for me a precious and competent indication where are to be found the weak spots in my theory. 
There is a fundamental principle as expressed by Professor E. H. Moore which has taken strongly hold of me namely, “The existence of analogies between central features of various theories implies the existence of a general theory which underlies the particular theories and unifies them with respect to those central features.” I see my way clear to show it and prove it theoretically but also experimentally. Of course only the future will show if I will fail or not.  
I will keep in touch with [you], and hope we will exchange our writings, my permanent address will be Fifth Avenue Bank New York City. Many thanks once more for all your kindness and also your kind wishes,
     cordially yours (20) 
Korzybski and Shaw would indeed keep in touch over the years. Shaw later became more favorably disposed towards the further developments in Alfred’s work. And he helped Alfred by providing him with an amended table from his book showing the structure of mathematics, which Alfred used in Science and Sanity (pp. 251-2).

Mira sent a telegram to Alfred in Urbana a few days before he was ready to leave. She couldn’t find some of her jewelry and thought it might have been stolen. Alfred wrote back to her advising her on what to do, how to deal with the police, etc., but there seemed little else he could do immediately so he proceeded with his plans to head north to La Salle, Illinois before returning to Chicago. He was going to La Salle to see Dr. Thomas J. McCormack, the principal of the La Salle-Peru Township High School. The two men had begun corresponding while Alfred was still in La Jolla. Korzybski had read an article by McCormack that greatly impressed him. McCormack in turn had learned about Korzybski through reading Keyser’s piece about his work in the Hibbert Journal. McCormack invited Alfred for a visit. Especially after McCormack finished reading Manhood in early May, both men felt eager to spend some time together.

McCormack, trained in science and mathematics, had a long association with Dr. Paul Carus, his wife Mary Hegeler Carus, and their Open Court Publishing Company, which had been founded in the final decades of the 19th century in La Salle with money from Mrs. Carus’ father. Open Court, which published a wide range of serious philosophical and scientific books and a journal called The MonistMcCormack felt favorably inclined towards Korzybski’s work, having in his own writings expanded on Mach’s view of science as the economy of thought, was dedicated to the rapprochement of science and religion. Since Dr. Carus’s death in 1919, the enterprise, now with offices in Chicago, had been in the hands of Mrs. Carus. McCormack, had worked as an editor for Open Court and had translated numerous books on science, mathematics, and even religion. He was perhaps best known as the authorized translator of Ernst Mach’s works into English. having in his own writings expanded on Mach’s view of science as the economy of thought. By formulating progress as due to the accumulation of intellectual labor, which thereby became intellectual capital, McCormack—similarly to Polakov—had already come close to Korzybski’s formulation of time-binding.

Alfred stayed with McCormack for a week before returning to Chicago on June 8. As Korzybski described it in a letter to Keyser,
The visit ended not only in a complete theoretical understanding but also it developed into a “love affair.” The whole family of Dr. McC., himself included, and myself we fell in violent love. Well they really are splendid people…I met three times the Caruses once at their home, once at my lecture in Dr. McC.’s house and once at a party they gave to us in the Carus country home…(21)

As soon as Alfred left, McCormack wrote to Mrs. Carus. Alfred had mentioned his interest in stopping at the Open Court office in Chicago to obtain some books for his research. McCormack asked Mrs. Carus to give Korzybski a discount and, surprisingly, she wrote back saying Korzybski could have whatever books he wanted for free. Although McCormack wrote to Alfred with this news, Alfred didn’t find out about it until he walked into the Open Court office and was told by Catherine Cook, the office manager. He felt most grateful to both McCormack and Mrs. Carus for what amounted to a $600 gift, a substantial number of volumes in 1922. Unfortunately Korzybski had most of the books shipped to England where he and Mira expected to stop over on their way to Poland later in the year. When they ultimately didn’t go, they couldn’t recover the books. Open Court later graciously replenished part of Alfred’s lost library.

Among the volumes Alfred managed to hold onto were McCormack’s English translations of Mach’s writings. In Science and Sanity, Alfred would include Mach on the dedication page list of those whose works greatly influenced his inquiry. It seems likely Alfred’s personal friendship with Mach’s authorized English translator boosted his interest and gave him extra insight into Mach’s writings, which amplified Alfred’s already strong sense of the importance of epistemology (the theory of knowledge) for science and had a significant impact on how Alfred eventually developed his work to apply epistemology in daily life.

In the following years, Korzybski and McCormack stayed in touch. Korzybski felt deep shock when he learned of McCormack’s death in 1932, a year before Science and Sanity—the fruit of the labors McCormack had given early assistance to—was published.

Alfred returned to Chicago late in the evening at the end of the first week of June. He was eager to see his wife. Tired and hungry, he rushed to meet Mira whom he discovered giving a speech on his work. Alfred, sitting in the back of the room, stomach growling, had a momentary shock when Mira got stuck at a certain point in her presentation and called out to him, “Alfred, come on and finish my speech.”(22) Besides this unexpected presentation, he had several more talks scheduled for June. He had lobbied to talk at an upcoming conference of engineering educators at Urbana but was unable to get a last minute slot. But other groups wanted him. He was not just giving ‘boring’ talks on science and mathematics. He had learned how to shape his message to draw people’s interest. For example, the headline of a Chicago newspaper reported on a June 13 lecture he gave, “Count Denies Women Are Illogical”.(23) With this kind of publicity, he might get a few more opportunities to speak in Chicago before heading east. Since Mira also had some clients to see around the city and in Detroit, they decided to stay in Chicago a little while longer. The Drake was beginning to seem too expensive, so they found a nearby studio to stay in more cheaply.
"Count Denies Women Are Illogical"
From the pages of Alfred Korzybski Scrapbook 3 in the Alfred Korzybski Digital Archives (AKDA)

Haywood, had just moved to Animosa, Iowa where The Builder was published. He sent Alfred an advance copy of his review of Manhood for the August edition. Alfred was impressed with Haywood’s intelligence and writing ability. Haywood was already working on a review of Keyser’s book for the October edition. Alfred wondered about writing a separate, longer article on Mathematical Philosophy which might serve as a nice complement to Haywood’s shorter piece. More than a review it would provide a kind of commentary on Keyser’s book, expanding on some of the themes Alfred had been developing. At the end of June, Haywood wrote to Alfred approving the plan. Perhaps because the project was more limited, it seemed more doable than the joint review of Keyser and Polakov that Alfred had contemplated doing for The New York Call. He was still working with McEwen on the Keyser review for Science, but most of the job was in McEwen’s lap at the moment. So Alfred set to work with his full energy on the article for Haywood, which would also serve as a preliminary sketch for his second book, which he now conceived of as Volume II of Manhood of Humanity.

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. 
11. AK to Margaret Conway, 5/6/1922. AKDA 8.285. 

12. AK to V. S. Sukanthar, 5/10/1922. AKDA 8.277. 

13. AK to C. J. Keyser, 5/13/1922. AKDA 8.254. 

14. City Club News, 5/12/1922. AKDA 1.290. 

15. The Milwaukee Leader, 5/17/1922. AKDA 3.102; The Wisconsin News, 5/17/1922. AKDA 3.99. 

16. “Drake-A-Day”. AKDA 3.110. 

17. AK to C. J. Keyser, 8/27/1922. AKDA 9.54. 

18. R. D. Carmichael to AK, 8/14/1922. AKDA 7.377-8. 

19. J.B. Shaw to AK, 6/24/1922. AKDA 7.450-452. 

20. AK to J.B. Shaw, 6/26/1922. AKDA 8.124. 

21. AK to C. J.Keyser, 6/8/1922. AKDA 8.188. 

22. AK to T. J. McCormack, 6/8/1922. AKDA 8.189. 

23. “Count Denies Women Are Illogical”. Chicago Evening American, 6/14/1922. AKDA 3.112.

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