Friday, October 24, 2014

Chapter 25 - "The Brotherhood Of Doctrines": Part 5 - "The Brotherhood of Doctrines"

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.

Over the last year Alfred had been “sweating blood” trying to more clearly formulate the mechanism of time-binding. Now he was sweating to get this article into acceptable shape for Haywood. He and Mira, who had also been working hard, thought they both deserved a little rest and decided to take a day off on his birthday, July 3. Here is how Alfred described the day to Keyser (I can imagine a wry smile on Korzybski’s face as he typed the letter the following day):
…Yesterday was my birthday (I began 43) we decided with Mira to loaf all day, once in a year. Well - it wasn’t such, we both got up with headaches, then worked at home until noon, then we decided to go lunch. Mira heard from the wife of the head of Marshall Field (you know the Field Marshall of drygoods) that the lunches there are very good, so we went there. After waiting for three quarters of an hour we did not succeed in placing our order (the place looks very rotten) disgusted we went away hungry angry etc etc. On the corner we found a “Harmony” cafeteria we went there sick angry and hungry, the food LOOKed pretty well, we made our choice, well it was so rotten that it is impossible to describe, but we were hungry and had no time because of an appointment, so we ate a little and kept our appointment. This rotten food did not improve our headache or temper, after our appointments we decided to go to a “movie” I saw a movie the “Son of the Wolf” with a lot of snow pleinty of wolfs and dogs etc etc we thought it should be good (Jack London) we went there, there was no noise (music) no wolfs no dogs, a miserable show. So perfectly miserable we walked “home”, and we went to bed and I read loud to Mira “Mathematical Philosophy, The Study of Fate and Freedom” occasionally making some remarks about the rotten fate.   
Today we felt better, and your dear old letter made us happy, so the real birthday mood will prevail today. Mira of course said “Bless his heart”.  
Love from both to both (24) 
In July, Mira had more trips around the Chicago area. Alfred worked hard on the article, to be entitled “The Brotherhood of Doctrines”. (By the end of the month, he was already working on his third rewrite.) When he wasn’t working on the article, he was writing letters to newspapers and magazines throughout the country asking for copies of reviews of Manhood and articles about him or Mira that his clipping service had not already provided them. He and Mira wanted to get back to New York soon, possibly sometime in August. They would be packing to leave for Europe and he wanted to have as complete a scrapbook as possible before he left. They didn’t leave Chicago until September. Alfred was busy tuning up his Builder article. Haywood had come to visit for a couple of days in early August and undoubtedly made some comments. Then Mira did some editing. Finally, Alfred sent the manuscript to Keyser to edit as well. Keyser liked it, quickly sent back his comments, and Alfred was pleased. He had to leave out some of the details, but he could expand on them in a later article. Now at least he would be able to use the material about logical fate to explain the importance of Polakov’s book in The New York Call piece he was still planning to write. He sent the completed article to Haywood on August 27, along with a request for 1000 reprints.

Alfred’s review article of Mathematical Philosophy for The Builder began with a reference to the revolutionary changes that had been going on in science and mathematics. The ‘Brotherhood of Man’ could be advanced through the ‘Brotherhood of Doctrines’, an “empire of sound logic” where people guided their human affairs by means of “scientific knowledge.”(25) As Eddington and others had made clear, relativity in its deepest ‘philosophical’ aspect epitomized the empire of sound logic because it required recognizing the role of the observer in any observation. In the article, Korzybski put it thusly, “...all that man can know is a joint phenomenon of the observer and the observed.”

Korzybski used the relation of the observer to the observed to roughly characterize the evolution of human knowledge according to three stages of development, one stage emerging out of the other. In the first “Absolutist” or “Pre-scientific period…the observer was everything, the observed didn’t matter.” In this period, humans projected their own reactions, ‘thoughts’, ‘emotions’, etc., onto the rest of the world. A second, “Mixed Absolute-Relativist” period, otherwise called the “Classical or Semi-scientific” period, emphasized the observed phenomena. It had advanced further than the pre-scientific by eliminating the grosser animistic projections of the observer. However, although it made use of logic, it assumed the subject–predicate logic used was ‘perfect’. Thus, it continued to project the built-in assumptions of that logic (made by the observer) onto the observed. The third, “Relativist”, “Mathematical or Scientific Period” had started with Boole’s The Laws of Thought in 1854, which had begun the modern examination of mathematical/logical foundations. Here the interaction of the observer (in particular his logic and assumptions) with the observed had begun to be clear. As Korzybski put it,
…for science and life logic is as vital a factor as “facts” because, for human knowledge, there are no “facts” free from the share of the observer’s mind....if there is such a thing as general knowledge, its foundation must be found outside of gross empiricism. Most probably such a thing does exist and its origin may be traced to the constitution of the human mind itself—to sound modern logic (mathematics). 
Perhaps a “qualitative” mathematics could exist, where a general mathematical approach could be applied to more and more aspects of life. Alfred wrote, “...all man can know is an abstraction....some of his abstractions were false to fact;...a few abstractions…were at once the easiest to handle and were correct,…[t]hese abstractions were numbers.” As he discussed at some length, “The creation of number was the most reasonable, the first truly scientific act done by man...” Mathematics constituted “...the first perfect instrument by which to train his brain, his nerve currents, in the ideal way befitting the actual universe (not a fiction) and himself a part of it.”
Now it is easy to understand from this physiological point of view why mathematics has developed so soundly....The biggest triumph of human thought was, and forever will be, the discovery of new mathematical methods embracing larger and larger parts of the whole—these are the milestones of man’s progress. 
This went along with something he had mentioned earlier—that so-called ‘intuitions’, ‘emotions’, etc., “will fall into line automatically.” Qualitative mathematics will affect them since “It is a fallacy of the old schools to divide man into parcels, elements; all human faculties consist of an inter-connected whole.”

Keyser’s book was not mentioned until the second half of the article. Korzybski provided a lengthy quote from Keyser regarding logical fate and freedom. Korzybski emphasized its importance: “Because of this logical fate, the analyzing of these doctrines, which underly all human activities, becomes the most important—nay, the all-important—fact for all the future of man.” Korzybski discussed the significance of Keyser’s “new mathematical method whereby this can be accomplished” with his “theory of postulates and doctrinal functions.” Korzybski then provided a list of some of the topics from Keyser’s table of contents deliberately leaving out mention of “Korzybski’s Concept of Man.” He was getting to ‘the grand finale’: “The layman, the “practical” man, the man in the street, says: What is that to me?” Korzybski pointed out that even some scientists might ask this question dismissively. His answer:
If they [the next generation] are taught false logic and false doctrines, mental cripples are produced, destined for a life of misery…It may take a still more terrible World War to whip mankind into the realization that man should use his brain and the knowledge already at hand.* 
[*Keyser’s insightful little book Thinking About Thinking (1926) gives his own extended answer to the ‘practical man’s’ question, “What is that to me?”.]
The final page “Summary” contained Korzybski’s logical destiny diagram with an accompanying explanation. He did not mention the term time-binding anywhere in the piece.

He had indeed put out a dazzling display of suggestive ideas, though readers might be forgiven for feeling overwhelmed. Even now, some readers might miss how much Korzybski’s views—despite some areas of agreement, i.e., the inspiration he had gotten from Principia Mathematica—put him at odds with the “logical positivist/empiricist” program which was coming to dominate the philosophy, particularly the philosophy of science, in the first half of the 20th century. Korzybski’s rejection of ‘empiricism’, his emphasis on the role of the observer and of the observer’s doctrine (theory) in observation, his bringing in of a “physiological point of view”, his strong emphasis on the living life applications of some seemingly esoteric notions from mathematics and science, and his advocacy of logical fate, i.e., his rejection of an assumption-free viewpoint for doing science (or living life for that matter), didn’t fit well within a “logical positivist” mold (although some of Korzybski’s students later tried to fit it).

Korzybski’s work would appear not only at odds with but also odd to people whose view of objectivity and rationality required sharp boundaries between philosophy and science, mathematics and science, disparate fields of science, and between these various theoretical areas and practical life. Where many saw sharp boundaries, Korzybski explored murky borderlines and found unceasing connections. In his own time, only a few philosophical ‘renegades’ like Gaston Bachelard, Oliver Reiser, F. S. C. Northrop, and L. L. Whyte would pay serious attention to Korzybski’s work. (26)  

At the end of August, Alfred also sent a typed version of the just-completed article to McEwen. He wondered what happened to McEwen’s review of Mathematical Philosophy. He hoped McEwen was not delaying just because he wanted to see Alfred’s latest piece of writing. Alfred had a shock when, a few days later, he got a letter from Keyser with the news that Science had just published a review of Mathematical Philosophy by G. A. Miller from the University of Illinois. Alfred had thought that Ritter had let the editor of Science know McEwen was planning to submit something. But obviously, the communication had gone awry. McEwen later expressed his disappointment. Although Miller’s review seemed generally favorable, it was not the blockbuster Korzybski and McEwen had hoped for. Well, Alfred couldn’t do anything about it now. He and Mira were otherwise occupied. They were getting ready to leave Chicago on September 1.

Their last minute preparations to leave Chicago included arranging to leave behind some of Mira’s luggage—a couple of trunks, some suitcases, hatboxes, and packages with art materials and portraits—at the Drake. This would reduce the amount of stuff Mira would have to lug since she was planning to come back to Chicago in about a month to do the portraits of the grandchildren of a Mrs. Shed. Mira didn’t travel light. There was much more of her stuff in storage in New York City. The Korzybskis were anxious to get there. If they were going to Poland they had a lot of sorting and packing to do.

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. 
24. AK to C. J. Keyser, 7/4/1922. AKDA 8.90. 

 25. This and subsequent quotes in this chapter related to “The Brotherhood of Doctrines” come from that article, found on pp. 39–54 of Alfred Korzybski Collected Writings

26. Korzybski’s views here seem more or less compatible with those of a number of epistemologists/philosophers of science whose work became prominent after his death (David Bohm, N. R. Hanson, Thomas Kuhn, Michael Polanyi, and others). See Harold I. Brown, Perception, Theory and Commitment: The New Philosophy of Science

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