Sunday, March 8, 2015

Chapter 53 - Question Marks: 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.

On January 2, 1941, Korzybski finished the lecture portion of the Holiday Intensive, a seminar notable not only for the presence of his old friend Joseph Brewer, but also for two exceptional students, Francis P. Chisholm and Harry L. Weinberg, each of whom would become important general-semantics teachers. 

Chisholm, an English instructor at Syracuse University, had already attended the June 1940 seminar with his wife. He had a particular interest in the implications of general semantics for graduate school training in the humanities. Korzybski would develop a high regard for Chisholm and his talents. Within a few years, Chisholm was teaching an introductory course in general semantics at the Institute—a job few people had in Korzybski’s lifetime.

Weinberg—an industrial research chemist from Philadelphia—had first read Science and Sanity in 1939 and as he later wrote, “swallowed it whole—the book, the line, the thinker.” He and his wife Blanche—anticipating imminent U.S. entry into the war and the possibility of Harry getting drafted (as it turned out an accurate prediction)—had quit their jobs in 1940 to take a four month, thousand-mile-long canoe trip together. As Harry wrote:
Neither of us had ever been in a canoe before and so our progress at first was slow. Even slower was my reprogress through Science and Sanity. Each morning I would read a page or two and spend the rest of the day thinking about them while paddling. I like to think that my understanding and my biceps improved at about the same rate. (1) 
Attending Korzybski’s Holiday seminar improved his understanding still further. After the war he began his next career as a teacher of speech communication and GS. Korzybski would declare him one of his most gifted students.

The Holiday seminar had gone well for other reasons. R. F. Hedin, a surgeon who ran the Interstate Clinic, a multi-disciplinary medical practice in Red Wing, Minnesota, attended with his wife. Impressed with what he had absorbed at the seminar, Hedin not only decided to add a psychiatrist to his staff but also invited Korzybski to come to Red Wing to give a seminar. The Hedins and another attendee, independently wealthy Red Wing artist and photographer John Anderson, also donated money to the Institute. Both the Hedins and Anderson probably came to Korzybski at the suggestion of Charles Biederman, a painter/sculptor friend of Anderson, who had spent time in Red Wing and had attended one of the Institute’s earliest seminars in August 1938. (Biederman, profoundly affected by Korzybski, had begun work on a non-aristotelian theory of art and art history, later published in the 1948 book, Art As The Evolution Of Visual Knowledge.)

While Korzybski was giving his final lecture on January 2, Kendig was having meetings and making plans for the coming year. In a January 5 memo to Korzybski, she reported on the two-hour meeting she had with Irving J. Lee, who had gotten very busy. Besides his regular teaching, he had just had an article published on “General Semantics and Public Speaking” in the December 1940 Quarterly Journal of Speech and was in the midst of giving a series of talks around Chicago to men’s and women’s groups. As he told Kendig, he also planned to meet with an official from the Rosenwald Fund, an educational foundation, to see if he could get money for the Institute. He would present GS as a method for dealing with race prejudice and antisemitism.

Lee also told Kendig perhaps his most exciting news: he had just signed with Harper & Row to write a book based on the material from the “Language and Thought” course he’d begun at Northwestern in the Spring of 1940. (Kendig and Alvin Weinberg, among others, had served as guest lecturers.) He’d contracted to deliver a manuscript to the publisher in April. Lee showed Kendig the chapter outlines of the book, to be called Words Are Not Enough!: An Introduction To General Semantics.(2) (It seems unfortunate he later changed this catchy and quite fitting title to the more academic and restrictive one of Language Habits In Human Affairs.) He would write it in less than five months while teaching his regular course load. Along with Hayakawa’s Language In Action, Lee’s book would for many people provide an entry to Korzybski’s work more easily accessible than Science and Sanity. Korzybski unhesitatingly promoted the work of both men in private letters and in Institute announcements, although it seems clear that Lee had especially impressed Korzybski. He read Lee’s manuscript and Lee asked him to write the foreword, which he did in August, commenting that,
...Its theoretical foundations are solid, presented in a common-sense practical language. Besides, from his long study the author gives a wealth of examples which are very illuminating and important. For years I have been hoping that a student of general semantics would write just such a book. I am satisfied that Dr. Lee has done it. In my own work I shall have to keep his book on my desk as a handbook that I may benefit from his erudition and examples. (3) 
After the book came out in December, Korzybski told Mrs. Dewing, “It really is a very workable and remarkable book. Lee is one of my best students, and for the time being, if I coagulate he is the best man at present we could have as the head of the Institute.”(4) 

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. Weinberg, p. xii. 

2. Lee’s book was listed as Words Are Not Enough! in preliminary ‘Front Matter’ page proofs of the Second Edition of Science and Sanity. IGS Archives. 

3. Korzybski, “Foreword” Language Habits In Human Affairs, p. x. 

4. AK to F. Dewing, 12/11/1941. IGS Archives. 

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