Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Chapter 53 - Question Marks: Part 2 - A Congress and a Book

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.

In her January 5 memo, Kendig also reported to Korzybski about a long phone conversation she had with Elwood Murray about a Congress on General Semantics they hoped to hold sometime that year at the University of Denver. As early as 1939, Kendig had thought about having a symposium in 1943 to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the publication of Science and Sanity. But now it seemed that enough students had come through Korzybski’s seminars—and experienced personal results, made professional applications, and done sufficient research—to justify pushing up the time to the present. The publicity and interest engendered by a Congress on General Semantics might give a critical nudge to Crane and could also lead to new funding opportunities. 

But another more immediate push existed for holding such an event now—U.S. entry into the war seemed more likely than ever. If they were going to have it, they needed to get going without delay. Murray, who had infused the University of Denver Speech department with a strong korzybskian flavor, believed the University would support such an event and could cover the costs—including Kendig’s and Korzybski’s travel and other expenses—from the conference fees. Murray had initially wanted to limit papers to the field of education, but Kendig and Joe Brewer had convinced him to open the Congress to all fields from which they could possibly draw papers. During their phone conversation, Murray asked Kendig to provide names of possible presenters and a small number of invited speakers—besides Oliver Reiser, whom he wanted to have for an opening address on the broader cultural framework of Korzybski’s work. He also wanted Korzybski on the “advisory committee”. Kendig felt assured enough to give Murray the go-ahead over the phone without getting Korzybski’s permission first. Murray had gotten Kendig on the program of the Rocky Mountain Speech Conference in Denver from February 13-15. Once there she would stay an extra day to meet with him and solidify plans. In the meantime, Murray would put together a prospectus. (5) 

At their February meeting in Denver, the plans gelled. By the beginning of March, work had gotten underway on the Second American Congress on General Semantics, scheduled for August 1-2 under the auspices of the University of Denver. As the central theme of the Congress program they chose: “General Semantics and Methodological Foundations For Cultural Integration In Our Time”. Murray, the General Chairman of the Congress, would take care of the arrangements in Denver while Kendig, the General Secretary, would “secure the papers, organize and direct the program, etc.”(6) University of Denver Chancellor Caleb Gates, Jr. agreed to serve as Honorary President of the Congress. A slew of dignitaries (predominantly IGS Honorary Trustees) agreed to serve with Korzybski on the General Advisory Committee. A sponsoring committee from the University and the City of Denver, as well as program and organization committees were also formed. Writing in 1943, Kendig gave a sense of the flurry of activity required to bring it off:
...The decision to hold the Congress at the University of Denver in August, 1941, was not made until March first of that year. The announcement of the Congress and call for papers were sent out in April to some two thousand persons or institutions known to be interested in the subject. 
Citing these dates suggests the conditions under which the program was organized and the papers produced. For both the organizers and the contributors to the Congress, it was a race against time in the midst of world chaos, accelerating insecurity and disintegration of national morale. Our temerity in attempting to organize the Congress in four months, and those the busiest for the majority of the contributors (75 percent were in academic life), has been justified by developments. Had we aimed at an ‘ideal’ program ‘completely’ representative of those applying general semantics and doing allied work, had we taken a year to secure papers and arrange the program as common sense and the experience of others said we should, there could have been no Congress on General Semantics until after this war. By August, 1942, many of the contributors were in the armed forces, or otherwise engaged in war work, and travel conditions alone would have prevented the holding of a congress. (7) 
Korzybski probably felt glad that he didn’t have to do more than advise Murray and Kendig as they planned the Congress. He had enough else to keep him occupied. At the end of January, he started teaching an evening seminar, which ran until February 27. Beyond the immediate exigencies of teaching and the day-to-day business of the Institute, he also had to get out the Second Edition of Science and Sanity, to fulfill the large accumulation of back orders. Having just received the publisher’s proofs of the “Introduction to the Second Edition” in early February, he was editing and adding to it. (He would finish it in March although further correction of proofs would continue afterwards.) He was also working on the “Supplementary Bibliography of the Second Edition”, the new book jacket, and editing the proofs of the rest of the new front matter. A new page of the volumes in the International Non-Aristotelian Library listed one already published (Science and Sanity), those in preparation (including the upcoming Lee and Hayakawa books) and a revised list of the books whose authors would “be announced later”. Of the fifty-seven titles listed on that page only the three noted above ever got published. (Korzybski could be called naive but he believed in aiming high.) 

He also selected a new opening epigraph for the book in place of the ‘Fable of the Amoeba’ he had used in the First Edition. The new epigraph, placed after the dedication page, consisted of several related passages from Chapter II of Part III of Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift. They described Gulliver’s visit to the flying island of Laputa and his experience with some of its well-to-do but rather odd inhabitants. Although adept in mathematics and music, they indulged so ceaselessly in high-order abstractions and had so little practical sense that they had to hire individuals called “flappers” to remind them to pay attention to what was going on around them. (At least the residents of Laputa had sense enough to know they needed flappers.) (8) 
As with Swift, fierce indignation at human folly had long torn Korzybski’s heart. He probably couldn’t have chosen a better parable to illustrate the message of his book. Whether they recognized it or not, many if not most people (including mathematicians and scientists) seemed more or less in need of an extensional ‘flapper’ to bring them ‘down to earth’. Indeed, as he was finishing the “Introduction to the Second Edition”, the whole world seemed in need of flapping. With this Second Edition, Korzybski was taking another opportunity to flap people and, even more, to emphasize how they could flap themselves. 

In the “Introduction” he sought to cover not only the formulational refinements he had made since 1933, but also aspects of the original text of Science and Sanity he felt needed special emphasis. After the brief introductory section A. on “Recent developments and the founding of the Institute of General Semantics”, he devoted a lengthy Section B. to “Some difficulties to be surmounted” wherein he hoped to clarify some of the formulational blockages that seemed to prevent some people from understanding his work. 

This section concluded with part 5.“Methods of the Magician”. Korzybski had long had an interest in stage magic, employing simple tricks in his teaching to dramatically demonstrate mechanisms of misevaluation to his students. A brilliant young psychiatrist from California, Douglas McGlashan Kelley, who had attended Korzybski’s 1939 holiday intensive seminar, had stimulated his interest in magic still further. Korzybski would come to see Kelley as another of his most gifted students. As an undergraduate Kelley had already developed professional level skill as a stage magician. He had used magic as an adjunct to his psychiatric and educational work. In 1940, in the Journal of Occupational Therapy and Rehabilitation, he published an article on “Conjuring as an Asset in Occupational Therapy”. Korzybski referred to it in part 5, while pointing out: “A scientific study of magic with its methods of psycho-logical deception is most revealing, as it shows the mechanisms by which we are continually and unknowingly being deceived in science and daily life.”(9) 

Korzybski would come to see the various forms of misdirection Kelley discussed as a good basis for understanding the psychology of deception the Germans and Japanese had been using so successfully in their war propaganda. And Kelley suggested in his Congress paper that: “At present the most efficient methods which we have of actively overcoming such misdirection are the principles involved in extensional evaluation and Korzybski’s non-aristotelian system.”(10) Korzybski very likely had read this by the time he completed the “Introduction”. In Section D, where he counterpoised “Old Aristotelian Orientations” to “Non-Aristotelian Orientations”, he had added “Methods of magic (self-deception)”, under the first and “Elimination of self-deception” under the second. He considered it important. In later teaching and writing he would often refer to Kelley’s work on magic and other writings of his as well.

The “Introduction to the Second Edition 1941” contains more material than I intend to elaborate here—much of it refinements Korzybski developed in papers published after 1933, which I’ve already covered. Perhaps the most important contribution of the “Introduction” consisted of the fact that Korzybski’s digest of the developments in his work would now be available alongside the original text of Science and Sanity. Those who took the time and effort to read carefully would be able to see the continuing evolution of his formulating. 

In some cases the innovations presented in the “Introduction” consisted of new packaging to clarify what he had already treated in the original text. The prime example of this consists of his discussion of the neuro-linguistic devices (indexes, dates, etc., quotes, and hyphens) that he had used throughout the book. Korzybski held that using them—along with slight hand motions when appropriate—modified the structure of people’s language and could help nudge their evaluating in an extensional direction. Based on the non-aristotelian principles he had elaborated, the devices provided a means of ‘self-flapping’. After 1933, he had explicitly written about the extensional devices in articles, but readers of the “Introduction” of this new edition could now find his filled-out treatment of them in one place in Science and Sanity. Since he hadn’t discussed them in one place in the original text as extensional devices, he considered this summary under one term a development of major significance in his work.(11) 

The “Introduction” also contained extensive discussion of the World War which the United States had not yet entered. Korzybski’s distress and anger about the continuing Japanese army assault against the Chinese and about the madness of Nazi German exterminationism, etc., appeared evident if restrained. The final sentence of the “Introduction to the Second Edition”—followed by his initials and the place and time-signature, “Chicago, March, 1941”—hints at his urgency: “A non-aristotelian re-orientation is inevitable; the only problem today is when, and at what cost.”(12) 

In addition to the new front matter, Kendig had suggested they include as back matter the scientific opinions he had obtained about the First Edition (previously printed as a promotional booklet in 1933). Science Press had to reformat this material which then needed further editing. He also was arranging to have the Front Matter, including the “Introduction” and “Supplementary Bibliography” of the Second Edition, printed as a sixty-page booklet, which the Institute would then be able to sell and distribute separately. Additionally, the Institute was obtaining and editing statements about professional applications from some of Alfred’s students to include in a thirty-two page promotional booklet, which would also contain selections of reviews of the First Edition. With all this to occupy Alfred and the Institute staff—besides the ongoing seminars and the Congress planning (soliciting and selecting papers, organizing the program, writing and editing the program pamphlet, etc.)—he could still write to Marian Van Tuyl, Douglas Campbell’s new wife, on April 6: “All the material for the second edition is already in the printer’s hands, and we expect the book out in two or three weeks.”(13) That was not going to happen. 

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. 
5. Kendig Memorandum to AK, 1/5/1941. IGS Archives. 

6. “Introduction”, Papers From The Second American Congress on General Semantics, p. xv. 

7. Ibid., pp. xv-xvi. 

8. See Swift, qtd. in Korzybski 1994 (1933, 1941), p. vi. 

9. Korzybski 1994 (1933, 1941), p. xlviii. 

10. Douglas M. Kelley, “Mechanisms of Magic and Self-Deception: The Psycho-logical Basis of Misdirection; An Extensional Non-Aristotelian Method for Prevention of Self-Deception” in Kendig, Papers From The Second American Congress On General Semantics, p. 59.

11. AK to Charlotte Schuchardt, Notes transcribed by C.S., 5/24/1949. IGS Archives. 

12. Korzybski 1994 (1933, 1941), p. lxxxi. 

13. AK to Mrs. Douglas Campbell, 4/6/1941. IGS Archives. 

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