Saturday, January 10, 2015

Chapter 41 - What Had Alfred Wrought?: 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.

‘You can ride a tiger; try to dismount.’ As Korzybski once noted to a seminar class, he knew this from personal experience—literally—although he had learned it from a young bull, not a tiger. As a boy of eighteen or nineteen, he had impulsively jumped a fence and grabbed the bull by the tail to impress a young lady visiting his family’s farm in Poland. The bull ran and Alfred couldn’t let go for fear of getting gored or trampled. The bull threw him off anyway and turned to attack him. Because of the bull’s flat forehead and widely spaced horns, Alfred escaped a goring by managing, again literally, to grab the bull by the horns. He tried to wrestle it to the ground as the bull pummeled him with its forehead. The bull threw him off, he slipped and fell, and he was only able to save himself by kicking the bull in the nose with the heel of one of his boots, which he wore with spurs attached. The girl, calling for help, attracted workers who ran and fended off the bull with pitchforks while Alfred scrambled back over the fence to safety.(1)  

By the time Science and Sanity came out in the fall of 1933, Alfred had been hanging on to a figurative bull by the tail for 13 years. He had leaped over the fence (encouraged by his ‘girl’) by writing Manhood. Once he had grabbed hold of the definition of man as time-binder he hadn’t let go until, in the new book, he had pinned down and elaborated— to some extent anyway—how time-binding worked. Maybe he hadn’t let go yet. Still he and Mira could now rightly feel somewhat pummeled by the tremendous effort they had both put forth. Alfred felt “thoroughly tired.”(2) 

It had taken him 12 years to bring together material from anthropology, biology, chemistry, epistemology, general history, history of science, logic, mathematics, neurology, physics, psychiatry, psychology, physiology, etc. With his reading, his massive working correspondence, as well as his research at St. Elizabeths, and his years of work with Graven, among other things, the writing of the book had dragged on. Just the amount of reading he had done seems staggering. A student of Alfred’s in the mid-1940s, W. Benton Harrison, once “...brashly asked him whether he had read all the books included in the bibliography of Science and Sanity (619 in the first edition, 100 additional in the second). With a quick look of surprise and even scorn, he replied ‘Certainly—and studied all of them and many articles not included’.”(3) Had it been worth it? He thought so.

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. 
1. Korzybski 1949. 

2. AK to Jean Rennie nee Huggins,10/10/1933. AKDA 26.232. 

3. Harrison, p. 408. 

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