Thursday, February 5, 2015

Chapter 45 - Seminars: Part 3 - Extensionalize

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.

From the start, Korzybski considered what he was doing as training. He aimed at “extensionalization”, i.e., getting his students to ‘think’ in terms of ‘facts’ about themselves and their problems. He had used the term, “extensionalization”—the name of a process or an act—once in his 1934 “Outline”, and he used it again in 1935. Indeed, by the end of that year, he had turned it into a verb—“to extensionalize”.

In November, after his last seminar of the year , he stayed in the Midwest to conduct further business in Chicago with Campbell and Congden, and to prepare two papers for presentation at the 97th annual, end-of-year meeting of the AAAS in St. Louis, where Kendig was also presenting. (3) 

The first paper, which he gave at the Psychology Section meeting on December 31, had the potentially tongue-tying title of “Neuro-Semantic and Neuro-Linguistic Mechanisms of Extensionalization: General Semantics as a Natural Experimental Science”. The paper, as its title suggests, focused especially on neurological and psychiatric aspects of Korzybski’s developing work. His paper seems to have impressed not only some of his professional listeners (it was published the following July in the American Journal of Psychiatry), but also a newspaper reporter attending. The next day’s St. Louis Globe Democrat included the following report of Korzybski’s talk at the end of a general article on the conference:
“Science of Man.”  
The possibility of establishing a “science of man” was discussed yesterday before a subsection on psychology by Count Alfred Korzybski of Brooklyn, N.Y. 
[The article quoted almost exactly from the last paragraph of Korzybski’s paper.] “The white race has come to a real impasse, the actual conditions of life are shaped by extensional science while our inner orientations and language remain intensional,” he stated. “Increasing maladjustment must follow, as it actually does. Either we return to primitive states and abolish extensional science and then perhaps survive, or we bring about our orientations to conform with the actualities of our lives, in other words extensionalize them.” (4)

Korzybski gave his second paper, originally titled “Extensionalization in Mathematics, Mathematical Physics, and General Education: General Semantics” two days later on January 2, 1936 to the AAAS Mathematics Section. It surely qualifies as one of his most succinct presentations of his work—general semantics stripped down to its roots in mathematical method. Whatever the response of the mathematicians to the paper, the notion of “extensionalization” had certainly captured Korzybski’s attention. Over the next few years, he wrote two more papers with that main title and different subtitles for AAAS mathematical venues, although other than abstracts they never appeared in AAAS publications. (Korzybski later changed the ‘subtitle’ of this first “Extensionalization in Mathematics,...” paper from “General Semantics” to “Paper I – The Extensional Method” and eventually published it himself along with the others in the series.)

The two St. Louis papers had importance beyond their general emphasis on extensionalization. In Science and Sanity, Korzybski had used Indexes, Dates, Quotes, Hyphens, and Etc., but he had not summarized them sharply as part of a single mechanism. Although the 1934 “Outline”, referred in general terms to “linguistic extensional devices” it said nothing specific about them. For the first time, in the St. Louis papers, Korzybski used “extensional devices” as the common summary term for Indexes, etc., which he then listed and discussed. In retrospect, it may seem obvious to us to do this. But to create a common term for them, Korzybski had to take himself to another, higher level of abstraction in order to clearly enough see the similarities of the different devices. The common term made them more usable and teachable. And the extensional devices served as essential tools for the work of extensionalizing his seminar students, the ultimate purpose of his teaching.

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. 
3. AK to Jacques Cattell, 11/26/1935. AKDA 35.238. 

4. “Phases of Research in Different Fields Occupy Scientists. New Developments Are Discussed at Joint Meetings”. St. Louis Globe Democrat, 1/1/1936. AKDA 42.72.

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