Sunday, April 5, 2015

Chapter 54 - War Work: Part 6 - "Some Non-Aristotelian Data on Efficiency for Human Adjustment" or Overworked Like Hell—As Usual

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.

Alfred worked with great efficiency. Within the limited human and financial resources of the Institute—especially now with the war going on—he had a systematic way of dealing with problems, and achieving goals, and he got things done. Key for this: he knew how to delegate work, and he had co-workers whom—though insufficient in number—he could trust. 

Nonetheless, he habitually seemed to have too much to get done. For example, he was inundated with letters. He certainly tried to have Kendig and others deal with whatever correspondence he didn’t have to touch. However, people were constantly writing to him and the Institute—some students, some not—requesting advice, referrals, or other help that no one else could deal with. He encouraged his seminar students to write to him and report on how they were getting along and he responded with care and concern to every one of them who did so. His typing skill and speed had deteriorated over the years and he dictated his letters whenever he could—to his trusted confidential secretary Pearl or to Charlotte if there were privacy issues—but sometimes he had to type them himself, which he disliked. Then there were his seminars, not so bad to prepare for and give, but followed by the ‘killing job’—especially if he had a large class— of conducting personal interviews. But given the importance he gave to students’ personal applications (the ‘meat’ of his work), he felt he had to continue to offer them. 

And then, unexpected events that created new problems—sometimes significant ones—could be expected to happen. Such an event happened on December 16, as Alfred was gearing up for the Holiday Intensive that would start in a little more than a week. Institute trustee and lawyer, Samuel G. Clawson, died suddenly of a heart attack at the age of 46—an especially heart-rending loss given that he left a wife and 28-month old twins, a son and daughter. Clawson, a student of Korzybski’s work, had ably provided the Institute with legal advice throughout the negotiations with Cornelius Crane and had helped with other matters as well. A specialist in tax law, Clawson had served as one of the prosecutors in the Federal case against Al Capone, which put the Chicago crime boss in prison. (Korzybski, fascinated by the case, had gotten the story first-hand from Clawson.) Clawson’s renown resulted in national coverage of his death. As if Clawson’s death was not bad enough, I can imagine Korzybski scowling and shaking his head as he read the obituaries in The Chicago Daily News and The New York Times which both repeated “...[Clawson] was appointed a member of the board of trustees of the General Semantics Institute, an organization devoted to the study of words.”(28) Now Korzybski and Kendig were going to have to scramble to find a replacement for him on the board. Within a couple of months they got Lee R. LaRochelle, another relatively young Chicago-area lawyer. (Unfortunately, in 1947, he too would die of a heart attack.)

It’s not surprising then that Korzybski, himself constantly skirting on the edge of too much to deal with, had long had great personal interest in the work of V. A. Graicunas, discussed earlier, who had quantified the long-noted reduction in a manager’s ability to adequately manage as the number of assistants or tasks increased; leading to increasingly poor and confused management and ultimate failure. British management writer Lyndall F. Urwick had included Graicunas’ original paper, with his own further development of it, in his 1937 book, Papers on the Science of Administration. Korzybski had been presenting this material to his seminar classes and recommending the book to all of his readers. Now at the end of 1942 and the first couple of months of 1943, he was working on what he considered an important introductory/expository essay to the original note Polakov had written to him about Graicunas’ work. His essay and Polakov’s note would go into the Congress Papers as the final article, an appendix of the volume that would take up the whole of the final “Part IV”: “Some Non-Aristotelian Considerations”.

In their “Foreword”, Korzybski and Kendig had put the following on their list of faulty aristotelian assumptions: “The belief that the principle of additivity (in mathematics called linearity) can adequately account for all the relations involved in the fields of science and life processes, which is implied in the three-letter word, and.”(29) Graicunas’ work opened up for consideration many of the practical aspects of non-additivity that Korzybski had long tried to get across to his students and that he worked to apply in his own life. In the article, entitled “Some Non-Aristotelian Data on Efficiency for Human Adjustment”, he expanded upon the importance of non-additive, non-linear relationships in everyday life—even beyond the particular management/administrative applications Graicunas had emphasized:
If in personal life we undertake or have to carry too many responsibilities, interests, involvements, etc., the complexities often grow beyond the capacity of one human brain to manage them adequately, and human tragedies, disorganizations, etc., follow, very often culminating in maladjustment and even neurosis or psychosis. 
Many times a single painful event in childhood or even later in life distorts the attitudes and colors the whole life. Thus, the ‘addition’ of a single factor results in unnecessary complexities which are certainly not additive, but spread all through life in some geometrical ratio. (30)
Korzybski demonstrating the Graicunas diagram at the August 1947 seminar. 

The Graicunas “Span of Control” diagram and this material on non-additivity would continue to have an important part in Korzybski’s seminar teaching on how to manage oneself.(31)

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. 
28. Samuel Clawson Obituaries. AKDA 41.210. 

29. Korzybski and Kendig, “Forword to a Theory of Meaning Analyzed”, in Alfred Korzybski Collected Writings, p. 378. 

30. Korzybski, “Some Non-Aristotelian Data On Efficiency For Human Adjustment”, in Alfred Korzybski Collected Writings, p. 392. 

31. Korzybski wrote:
In human life one of our difficulties is that we are ‘both the marble and the sculptor’, as Carrel says, and so we are both the managed and the manager of our personal lives, the supervised and the supervisor, the co-ordinated and the co-ordinator. Perhaps one of the main sources of a great many maladjustments is exactly that self-reflexiveness and circularity which we do not know how to manage simply because we don’t know that there are non-aristotelian methods to do so. [“Some Non-Aristotelian Data On Efficiency For Human Adjustment”, in Alfred Korzybski Collected Writings, p. 394.] 

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