Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Chapter 56 - Time To Try New Things: Part 5 - 'A Deaf Ear'

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.

Hayakawa had gotten some pieces of general semantics but had insufficiently grasped the system that connected them. You could get to some useful places by climbing his ladder. He had skillfully translated Korzybski’s new vision into the old elementalistic language that people could use without getting too discomforted. But at a certain point, you would have to kick away the ladder after you had climbed it, in order to understand and make use of Korzybski’s more comprehensive and radical approach.

Korzybski was becoming more concerned about Hayakawa’s lapses, especially since Hayakawa had come to appear to more and more people as a major spokesman for his work. At this point, he had written to Hayakawa about some of these issues in a friendly way. Despite these differences there seemed little rancor between the two men in the summer of 1944. They still seemed like friends. But trouble had been brewing.

As early as 1940, Kendig had written a memo to Alfred discussing some of these issues. It had bothered them that Hayakawa had never had a personal interview with Korzybski, nor attended a complete seminar (and as noted before, typically fell asleep when he sat in on Alfred’s lectures). He later explained he got bored hearing Korzybski repeating the ‘same’ things he already ‘knew’.(12) So much for ‘Lecture
1 is not Lecture2, Lecture2 is not Lecture3, etc.’—the form of which Hayakawa had enthusiastically praised as “the most simple, most general, and most efficient of the rules for extensionalization.”(13) But Hayakawa didn’t follow his own rules, as he admitted in a 1990 interview with Roy E. Fox:
SIH: I’m not conscious of approaching some things with a non-Aristotelian point of view. 
RF: So to carry general semantics around with you all the time is not something you would advocate? 
SIH: That’s right. To carry it around with you all the time, you’d have to be more obsessed than I have ever been. (14) 

Up until 1944, Korzybski had mainly decided to overlook such things in consideration of the young professor’s merits. On December 2, 1943, he had written a two-page report recommending Hayakawa for a Guggenheim Fellowship.(15) There’s no evidence that Korzybski’s appreciation of Hayakawa’s talents as a teacher, writer, and editor was anything other than entirely genuine. He had agreed to having Hayakawa put the Institute as the nominal publisher of the 1940 second lithographed edition of Language in Action—despite the abstraction ladder. Korzybski had helped Hayakawa get a commercial deal with the Book-of-the-Month Club through his contact with David Fairchild. Despite its flaws, he had spoken well of the book, and of Hayakawa, in public and in private letters. The Institute had promoted the book and reprints of Hayakawa’s articles on its publication list, had promoted his work in seminars, and had honored him by making him an Institute Fellow. Korzybski had expressed delight with his appointment as Editor of ETC. He seemed to think the problems with Hayakawa could be resolved with suggestions and corrections. But it didn’t all depend on Korzybski.

Hayakawa had developed some disparaging notions about Korzybski and some grandiose ones about his own relation to Korzybski’s work. Whatever the reasons, his attitudes toward Korzybski seemed to make Hayakawa impervious to any of Korzybski’s efforts to get through to him. These attitudes are revealed in detail in two remarkable documents—one, an interview-memoir of the Hayakawas conducted in 1989—and later—by Julie Gordon Shearer (publically available on the internet from the University of California, Berkeley); and the 1990 Fox interview, published in ETC. in 1991.

Margedant Peters Hayakawa noted in the Shearer interview that she had felt an instant aversion to Korzybski when she first met him.(16) Despite a number of friendly gestures and invitations to come to seminars and have an interview with him, she assiduously avoided such contacts. Both she and her husband soon came to look at Korzybski in terms of her initial snap judgment: he ‘was’ in their view a dogmatic and demanding dictator who encouraged unquestioning, cultish followers.(17) By the end of their lives, the Hayakawas did not hesitate to cast aspersions about Korzybski’s ‘nuttiness’, his supposed failure to develop his work after writing Science and Sanity, his discouragement of student’s contributions to the development of general semantics, etc. I’m not sure they exactly qualify as lies because the Hayakawas apparently accepted them as innocent truths. The notion that Hayakawa and his wife might be projecting their own issues onto Korzybski and identifying him with their projections never seemed to occur to either one of them. Hayakawa seemed to see every action of Korzybski—every comment and suggestion—as an unreasonable demand for obedience. (18) Perceiving Korzybski thusly and given his own significant drive for power (he later became a controversial university president and then a U.S. Senator) he seemed determined to put himself in the role of “disobedient and disloyal son.”(19) I can imagine a likely reply from Alfred: “I am not your father!”

The Hayakawas still maintained a veneer of pleasantness with Korzybski in 1944. However, Hayakawa’s resentments would become overt, at least behind Korzybski’s back, within the next few years. Much of what he said and did influenced other people’s attitudes toward Korzybski. Much of this eventually got back to Korzybski and his colleagues at the Institute. Hayakawa’s misunderstandings and hostility became not only a significant source of personal pain for Korzybski but a major source of the problems that would occur between the Institute and the Society for General Semantics. And Hayakawa’s influence would help perpetuate misunderstandings about general semantics that continued long after Korzybski’s death.

Hayakawa’s behavior in relation to Korzybski from 1944 on seemed consistent with attitudes he expressed much later: he believed that he—and to a lesser extent Johnson and Lee—had made Korzybski famous and that Korzybski felt jealous of him because of that. In the ETC. interview with Fox, he remarked:
S.I.H.: When my Language in Action became a Book-of the-Month Club selection, that made him furious!....

R.F. [Interviewer Roy Fox]: “So Korzybski thought your book was incomplete? or inaccurate?”

S.I.H. : [Laughing] Just unfair competition! He wanted people to buy his book and not mine! (20) 

At bottom, probably even by 1944, Hayakawa had very mixed feelings about Korzybski, his work, his colleagues, and the Institute. He gave little value to the Institute courses, which he considered ‘religious indoctrination’.(21) Korzybski’s more dedicated students seemed suspect too: “I’m sure there were people who made a kind of cult out of it, and I’m sure Korzybski encouraged it.”(22) In short, the Institute didn’t seem academically respectable to him.(23) To believe this in 1944, he would have had to ignore the fact of Korzybski’s many students from academia who were making use of his work in university courses around the country. However, Hayakawa’s discomfort with Korzybski’s work may eventually have had some self-fulfilling effects on the attitudes of academics with whom Hayakawa interacted and influenced.

As he indicated in the Shearer interview, the Society for General Semantics, not the Institute, represented the future of general semantics for him. Hayakawa believed he had done more than anyone else to make Korzybski and general semantics famous. ETC., which he later claimed to have founded and took credit for naming, constituted for him the main reason for the existence of the Society.(24)  And, as far as he was concerned, ETC. existed as his ballywick. He didn’t intend to have Korzybski interfere with the editing of the journal.(25) He seemed determined to become the major figure in ‘semantics’. He—not Korzybski—would use ETC. to define the field and determine the direction of the discipline. (26) 

At the beginning of the year, the problems with Hayakawa that had remained quiescent for so long began to blossom—quietly at first. In January, Kendig had suggested Francis P. Chisholm as a new Institute Fellow. Hayakawa rejected him. According to the rules they had set up, the appointment of a new Institute Fellow needed unanimous approval of the existing Fellows, so there was nothing else Kendig or Korzybski felt they could do. This surely must have bothered them. They both considered Chisholm to have a solid grasp of the non-aristotelian system-discipline and a gift for communicating it. It surely must have grated on them to have Hayakawa, about whom they already felt some qualms, turn down such a capable individual.

There were also inklings of problems with the editing of ETC. Korzybski and Kendig were listed as “Consulting Editors”. Korzybski certainly saw his role as more than symbolic but Hayakawa seemed lax in consulting with either him or Kendig. Korzybski was contributing pieces to the journal—mostly forewords and commentaries on articles, as well as letters and reviews. He had wanted to see the Tables of Contents of upcoming issues. He had comments and suggestions for Hayakawa, who was not communicating with him about these things as he wished. Hayakawa had also begun publishing some material that Korzybski found questionable.(27) 

Now Hayakawa was planning to publish “Newtonian Physics and Aviation Cadets”, in the Spring 1944 issue of ETC. Korzybski had seen the article by Anatol Rapoport, a mathematician then in the Army Air Corp stationed in Alaska, and liked it a lot: it seemed to provide an exceptional example of the power of hidden assumptions and the usefulness of uncovering them. Korzybski had written a foreword to another article by Jerome Alexander and wanted to do something similar with the Rapoport piece, but didn’t know what was going on with the new issue due to come out soon. He wrote to Hayakawa on March 6, in part to get some information and to make some suggestions about the journal.:
Where in hell did you get the article of Rapoport? It is an extremely fine article, just the kind of stuff we want to publish in ETC. Please let me know the history of this article, how you got it...This article is most important for our work and in many ways a justification for it. 
...I am not happy, and neither is Kendig, that you do not let us know about your plans for every next issue of ETC. We have so much fretting to do and guessing what you might do as an editor. For instance, do you plan to publish in the same number the article of Alexander as a leading article in the next issue ( I didn’t see the proofs yet)?...please don’t torture me in guessing what you will or may do as an editor. I have plenty of guessing to do altogether; I want to know what is going on. And believe me, if I am prevented from advising you about ETC. it will not be for the good of ETC. and yourself. (28)
But Hayakawa seemed to have already turned a deaf ear to Korzybski and his concerns.

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. 
12. Fox, p. 247, Shearer, pp. 79, 126-127. 

13. Language in Action (1940), p. 103-104. 

14. Fox, p. 245. 

15. AK to H. A. Moe, 12/2/1943. Ralph Hamilton Papers. 

16. Shearer, p. 132. 

17. Shearer, pp. 133, 134. It appears that Margedant Hayakawa also avoided Korzybski because both she and her husband believed ‘he was a lech’. S. I. later “recalled”: “...he [Korzybski] offered private and rather intimate “semantic massages” to some women he found especially attractive.” [Haslam,. In Thought and Action: The Enigmatic Life of S. I. Hayakawa, p. 109.] Disturbing: that S. I. Hayakawa could so blithely accept and repeat as ‘fact’ what most likely existed as hearsay or as his and his wife’s projection; there is no evidence of any inappropriate incidents that he or she directly observed or reliably knew about. Doubly disturbing: Hayakawa’s biographer, Gerald Haslam, seems to accept as ‘fact’, this unflattering gossip about Korzybski that Hayakawa ‘recalled’. (Myths and misinformation about Korzybski and his work abound. Haslam—who studied with Hayakawa—uncritically repeats in his book [and thus may help perpetuate] other unfavorable canards, projections, and unsubstantiated opinions about Korzybski and his work, from Hayakawa and others; I think a key to the enigma of Hayakawa lies therein.) If I had found any reliable evidence of inappropriate sexual conduct on Korzybski’s part (or of other such egregious activity), I would have openly dealt with it in this biography. I didn’t find any. 

18. Shearer, p. 81–82. 

19. Shearer, p. 78. 

20. Fox, p. 247-248. 

21. Fox, p. 248-249. 

22. Fox, p. 248. 

23. Shearer, p. 130. 

24. Shearer, p. 121, 123. 

25. Shearer, p. 126. 

26. Shearer, p. 123-124. 

27. Korzybski had already written a friendly note to Hayakawa about one such questionable piece. [AK to S.I. Hayakawa, 1/18/1944, Ralph Hamilton Papers.] 

28. AK to S.I. Hayakawa, 3/6/1944, Ralph Hamilton Papers.

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