Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Chapter 28 - Advancing Human Engineering: Part 2 - The Library of Human Engineering

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.

At the start of 1924, Mira and Alfred were once again putting aside their move to Poland. Mira was lining up new work. In February, she left for Chicago—where she had several months’ worth of portrait commissions—setting up her headquarters at the Drake Hotel. Meanwhile, Alfred had already unpacked the books from his trunks and was continuing with his effort to get his own second book completed. But the task he had set for himself was growing. 

Alfred had found a unity in the new theories and modes of thought that had sprung up in many fields. With his expanded notion of logical fate and the Anthropometer (which he and his friends had nicknamed “the bug”) he believed he had found a way of conveying that unity to others. He aimed to build a deductive system (based on the notions of logical fate and abstracting) that connected isolated areas of knowledge and had practical results. There existed no established scientific discipline for doing this but he felt that as an engineer he was as qualified as anyone to lead the effort—perhaps even more so. Under the banner of “human engineering”—the new discipline he had named in Manhood of Humanity—he hoped to rally the interest of brain-workers, especially scientists and mathematicians. A few short papers wouldn’t do. One man alone couldn’t do it. The areas of knowledge needing to be integrated seemed too vast. If his Anthropometer was to be taken seriously as an educational device in schools, he needed to produce something scientifically solid and he needed other people’s help. About a year later he would write something to Ernst Cassirer which fairly summarized his attitude even at this earlier time:
As an engineer I am trying to formulate modes of action but this involves a host of theoretical issues, some as yet unsolved, and until the scientists scrutinize the theoretical issues, it will never become a mode of action. It seems to me that the conditions of the world are deeply upset mostly [due] to the exposure (destructive) of old doctrines, which were false and at present of a lack of a general theory of human action,…(6) 

His first idea was to get some of his friends to provide appendices for his book on the broad methodological aspects of their particular disciplines. Among others, Jeliffe, White, and Meyer could contribute something on psychiatry, Tenney Davis something on the logic of chemistry and physics, while R. D. Carmichael could provide an appendix on relativity. When he solicited their contributions, most of his friends hesitated due to the time and effort involved. Writing a succinct methodological summary of their disciplines for educated laymen and scientists outside their own fields would not be easy. Ultimately, of the people Alfred originally solicited in 1924, only Carmichael would contribute a supplement for Alfred’s book. (Carmichael’s “The Logic of Relativity”, which he sent to Alfred within a year, became Supplement I of Science and Sanity.)

Carmichael definitely seemed ‘on board’ with Korzybski’s general program. Over the last few years he had written a number of articles on the philosophy of science and the foundations of mathematics, which were published in The Monist, The Scientific Monthly, and Scientia. In these pieces, Carmichael had embraced Keyser’s humanistic understanding of mathematics, emphasized the importance to exact science of postulational methods and the doctrinal function, and accepted Korzybski’s schema of the development of the sciences in terms of the evolving relation between observer and observed. Korzybski suggested that Carmichael could put his essays together into a coherent book (perhaps adding one or two new chapters as well) and that Dutton might be interested in publishing it. Alfred even suggested a title for the book, The Logic of Discovery, the title of one of the essay-chapters. Carmichael responded enthusiastically. By the beginning of April 1924, he had the manuscript in the mail to Korzybski who agreed to present it to Macrae. As Alfred read the manuscript, a plan evolved.

With Carmichael and Korzybski as editors-in-chief, they would launch an international “Library of Human Engineering”, which at Carmichael’s suggestion they also gave the Latin name “Principia Scientiae Hominis” (Principles of Human Science). Dutton had already published the first two books: Manhood of Humanity and Mathematical Philosophy. With Carmichael’s book The Logic of Discovery, Korzybski’s upcoming book now to be titled Time-Binding: The General Theory, and an English translation of French economist Jacques Rueff’s book From the Physical to the Moral Sciences, they had five books to begin with. (Rueff’s book had impressed both men with its call—in a somewhat more limited way than what Korzybski proposed—to apply scientific methods to human affairs, specifically economics.) The Library would have a group of associate editors from various scientific fields vetting potential books for Korzybski and Carmichael who would have the final say on publication. Korzybski envisioned adding one or two books per year focusing on the unity of method that was becoming more apparent within the exact sciences, books applying Keyser’s doctrinal function, postulational approaches, and “the revision of language” to promote the development of a deductive science of man.(7)  

Korzybski definitely had big ambitions for the Library. Going back to the notion of “The Department of Cooperation” he had written about in Manhood, he saw the Library as perhaps the “official library” and potential nucleus for a world movement of scientific workers, a “permanent congress of scientists for the revision of language and doctrines”, which could have an impact on policy making and world affairs.(8) As their plan developed, before submitting Carmichael’s manuscript they decided the first order of business: to get Dutton’s commitment to the Library. After a number of letters back and forth with Macrae, Alfred met with him at the end of April. Further letters ensued over the next month. By the beginning of June, when Alfred went to join Mira in Chicago, the future of the Library seemed likely.

At the end of May, Alfred got additional ammunition for his campaign to persuade Macrae on the wisdom of starting the Library. Alfred had recently met Sergei Vasiliev, then living in New York, one of the sons of Russian mathematician A. N. Vasiliev. Alfred had given a copy of Manhood to Sergei who sent it to his father in Moscow. The elder Vasiliev read the book and sent a letter to Korzybski. A. N. Vasiliev, a respected world figure in mathematics, had a special interest in relativity and mathematical physics. He had also been involved with the late Georg Cantor in promoting the first international congresses of mathematicians. Manhood of Humanity inspired him. His letter had just what Alfred needed to show Macrae:
My dear Sir Korzybski,  
I spent with great pleasure a whole day in reading and studying your beautiful book “Manhood of Humanity”, which my son has sent to me for a while (has lent for my perusal). The main idea of the book, that the fundamental difference between man and animal is in the conscious relationship of man toward time, the past and the future, is deeply true… 
…You are certainly right in seeing as the reasons for the catastrophes and the mysteries of mankind the discrepancy of the laws of growth of the necessities and the means of satisfying them.  
All these thoughts which you have so brilliantly expounded, make your book the most valuable contribution…to this old science which was called sociology, and to this new science, which after you will be called Humanology [a term used by Korzybski in a few places in Manhood as a synonym for “human engineering”].
As much as this may have flattered Korzybski, the letter also had a plan for a future international conference which strengthened his case to Macrae on the need for the Library:
…naturally you do not want to stop with this theoretical contribution, and you probably cherish the idea to lay down in fact the foundations for this institution to which you gave the modest name of a “Department of Cooperation”, and which deserves to be named “The Senate of Humanity”. Undoubtedly you have your own plans, but I hope you will not refuse to cooperate with other plans which lead toward the same goal, …(9)
A few days later, Alfred received a letter of invitation from John L. Synge, Secretary of the International Mathematical Congress, to present one or more papers at the Congress scheduled from August 11 to 16 in Toronto.(10) 

The confluence of events (Vasiliev’s letter and the invitation) could not have been better for promoting the Library and the larger vision it represented. But over the next couple of months things began to fall apart. Korzybski had come up with a plan to use a revised version of Vasiliev’s letter (with Vasiliev’s permission) to make an announcement in Toronto about the need for a conference along lines Vasiliev had suggested in his letter. Vasiliev planned on coming to Toronto and would lend the needed moral and rhetorical support. Then Alfred began to question the wisdom of making such an announcement. He simply did not have the clout—the organizational or personal support—to organize anything of this sort on his own. Carmichael, involved with the organization of mathematicians in the U.S., didn’t consider feasible an international congress in 1926. When Alfred learned that Vasiliev was not going to be able to come (and, as with Keyser, not coming due to health problems), he abandoned his plan to make an announcement. The best he could do was to mention the “Senate of Humanity” in the written text of the paper he delivered.

Alfred still made plans for the Library of Human Engineering (he had also mentioned this in his paper). Macrae had shown interest but clearly felt ambivalent about supporting such a project. He was not keen about having Dutton take on additional scientific books, which promised limited audiences and minimal profit for the company. To announce a series seemed even more risky. Both Alfred and Mira wrote and met with Macrae. The negotiations seemed endless. The summer, fall, and winter of 1924 came and went with no commitment from Dutton.

By January 1925, Carmichael and Korzybski agreed it would be better to simply publish their books first and then to work on establishing a library.(11) By this time Alfred and Mira were staying at a friend’s rural estate in Maryland. Mira made a special trip to New York City to get Carmichael’s manuscript out of their safe deposit box and deliver it to Macrae.(12)  They decided Macrae’s acceptance or rejection of Carmichael’s book would determine the further prospects of the Library of Human Engineering at Dutton. Macrae dithered, finally sending the manuscript to a reader who was still evaluating it at the end of July. Carmichael finally got back his manuscript in October with Macrae’s rejection. Alfred felt apologetic for tying The Logic of Discovery to the Library’s fate, but Carmichael had approved of the plan and did not hold Alfred responsible for Dutton’s response. (Carmichael submitted it to Open Court, which finally published it in 1930.) (13)  

By mid-1925, Alfred was too involved with other things to pursue the idea of the Library of Human Engineering with another publisher. But he didn’t abandon the idea and would revive it a few years later under another name.

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. 
6. AK to Ernst Cassirer, 4/28/1925. AKDA 16.456. 

7. AK to E.T. Bell, 4/26/1924. AKDA 14.74. 

8. AK to William Morton Wheeler, 5/16/1924. AKDA 700-701. 

9. A. N. Vasiliev to AK, 3/28/1924. AKDA 14.157-151; Translation by AK of Vasiliev letter. AKDA 13.623-626. 

10. J.L. Synge to A.K, 5/29/1924. AKDA 15.127. 

11. AK to R.D. Carmichael, 1/7/1925. AKDA 16.194. 

12. AK to C. J. Keyser, 1/14/1925. AKDA 16.209. 

13. R.D.Carmichael to AK, 10/10/1925. AKDA 17.231. 

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