Thursday, January 15, 2015

Chapter 42 - Reviewing Reviews: 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.

Korzybski clearly knew he could no longer carry on with no one but Mira at his side. He didn’t have the energy, knowledge, money, or time to do it. Others would need to make applications in various fields (especially mental hygiene, psychiatry, psychotherapy, and education) and do research. An ideal situation, however unlikely, would involve either some group or agency within the U.S. government or some foundation (or both) getting interested in promoting his work. Or perhaps some kind of university position was possible. With adequate funding, he and Mira wouldn’t have to scramble for money and he could focus his attention on training people and promoting applications and research with, and in, his methodology. 

The International Non-Aristotelian Library had the potential to play a significant role in getting a general non-aristotelian movement off the ground. Science and Sanity was just the first volume. For the Library program to happen as originally planned, a number of Alfred’s friends—like Calvin Bridges—who had put their names to various “Volumes In Preparation”, would have to come through with their books, preferably soon. For various reasons, they didn’t. Bridges, for example, unfortunately and unexpectedly died at the end of 1938. Korzybski’s work had inspired him to begin consciously reformulating basic biological notions in non-aristotelian terms. Who knows what effect his promised volume on Non-Elementalistic Genetics could have had on future developments in biology and on Korzybski’s work if he had lived long enough to produce it.

The first edition’s longer list of “Volumes” with authors “to be announced later” provides a fascinating list of other titles that never saw the light of day, such as Principles of Non-Aristotelian Political Science, Non-Aristotelian Comparative Religion Analysis, and From Infantile to Adult Civilizations, among many others. 

International Non-aristotelian Library page,
in front matter of the First Edition of Science and Sanity (1933)

In subsequent editions of the book (the second and third published in Korzybski’s lifetime) the list was revised. Eventually, some monographs and books actually did get published as part of the Library, but the extensive publication program originally envisioned by Korzybski never materialized. Even as he was getting Science and Sanity to press, he had hoped to produce “a brief and simplified book for school use” to be titled General Semantics.(1) But the next—and as it turned out final—17 years of his life, despite their successes, required Alfred to do quite a bit of hustling in order to get his work established to the extent it did. As a result, despite a great deal of other writing, he never produced that book. (Although General Semantics Seminar 1937, Olivet College Lectures—in its First Edition published by Olivet College with the shortened main title of General Semantics—comes close to the kind of brief and simple presentation Korzybski intended for the book he never wrote.)

Along with their long-term plans for the work, Alfred still hoped he and Mira could move to Poland to live, as soon as his work was going well enough in the U.S. The Poles needed his work as much as any group of people did and he thought he would get a good reception there since it seemed to him to fit in so well with the national culture. After his mother’s death in 1937, he may still have held out the hope of at least going back there to lecture and perhaps to repair some of the mess in which his mother left family business affairs—even if he didn’t live there. But his work in the U.S. would become more involving by that time and the Nazi invasion of Poland in 1939 and the start of World War II ended the possibility of even a visit to his homeland.

At the end of 1933, the world already seemed to be getting crazier. The German people had elected Hitler as Chancellor of Germany earlier in the year and his Nazi party had begun to consolidate its dictatorship in Germany and to persecute German Jews, political opponents, and others. Korzybski found the “mass psychopathology of the Hitler movement” highly disturbing. If a revolution in Germany couldn’t extinguish it, he was already predicting another war.(2)

He had come to see the situation in Russia as equally bleak. In Science and Sanity, Korzybski had restrained the expression of his negative views about communism. He still had some radical friends who may have continued to see the Soviet Union, despite ‘setbacks’, as a promising laboratory for the development of a ‘new man’. But if Korzybski had once felt willing to at least stay open about the Soviet experiment, by this time he had no illusions about Stalin’s regime: “...[T]hrough a purely Tartar fanaticism they have subjected tens of millions to terrible sufferings, and killed outright millions.”(3)

The political-economic situation in the U.S. seemed somewhat more hopeful to Korzybski. President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s first year in office had started off well. In his March inaugural address he had made his memorable multiordinal statement “...the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” Alfred liked Roosevelt but he wondered how the “New Deal” policies could work if guided by outdated evaluating. He hoped some of his contacts could help him to get someone or other in the Roosevelt administration to take an interest in his work. Polakov was working as a consultant for the Federal Government’s new Tennessee Valley Authority project and would do what he could. Perhaps Doctors White and Graven at St. Elizabeths—and others—could put in a good word (or more) for him where it mattered. He would try to take advantage of any contact he could find within F.D.R.’s administration to promote his work, which he felt could help the administration.

Whatever the long-term possibilities, at the end of 1933 Alfred and Mira were nearing financial depletion. They badly needed immediate income. They still owed money to Science Press and would not completely clear up this bill for another two years. They had not paid their rent for a number of months and even had an outstanding bill at the food store. Mira was trying to sell some of her paintings and to get new commissions. Alfred was scrambling in various ways to sell books, get reviews, and generally promote his work. By the beginning of December, almost two months had passed since publication, and he had not seen a single review.

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. AK to C. M. Child, 2/28/1933. AKDA 25.351. 

2. AK to Robert H. Allen, 10/26/1933. AKDA 27.160.

3. AK to A. Ranger Tyler, 11/26/1933. AKDA 27.188. 

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