Saturday, May 16, 2015

Chapter 60 - SNAFU: Part 3 - Promising Developments

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.

Korzybski didn’t seem worried about the move—at least not in the letters he wrote at the time. Despite the Institute’s problems, he could see many promising developments for his work. More people than ever were ordering Science and Sanity, which had finally gotten into print again in February. Science Press was already looking for paper (still in scarce supply) for another printing. Meanwhile, new articles about GS continued to appear. Elwood Murray and two co-authors, Wilson Paul and Frederick Sorenson, had written, “A Functional Core for the Basic Communication Course”, about their University of Denver curriculum for the April Quarterly Journal of Speech. “Human relations”, they wrote, “[are] the core of the Basic Communications Course with General Semantics as the principal method for training in appropriate evaluative reactions.”(8)  Another article, “General Semantics and The Science of Man”, by Charles L. Glicksberg had come out in the May Scientific Monthly—“really a splendid paper” by Korzybski’s standards.(9) Glicksberg had just become a Professor of English in the Department of Education at Brooklyn College, where he would go on to a long, distinguished career as a teacher of literature and creative writing. A prolific writer, he had already produced several articles and reviews for ETC. since 1943 and had another article, “General Semantics in English Teaching”, published in February in The English Leaflet, a journal for English teachers. Glicksberg, who had attended the 1945 New York seminar, was invited to teach at the upcoming seminar-workshop, wherever it would be held. 

Korzybski’s work had also gotten favorable mentions in some recently published books. In A Nation of Nations, social critic/historian Louis Adamic devoted several pages in a chapter on “Americans from Poland” to Korzybski, describing him so: “Picturesque, patently honest, immensely learned, often witty, [he] is still essentially an engineer. He uses engineering and mathematical terms; they are constructive, they mean what they say.”(10) University of Chicago philosopher Charles Morris in Signs, Language and Behavior, his new book on semiotics, briefly noted, “The work of A. Korzybski and his followers, psycho-biological in orientation, has largely been devoted to the therapy of the individual, aiming to protect the individual against exploitation by others and by himself. ...”(11) 

Korzybski’s name had turned up in the U.S. Congressional Record as well. This came about primarily through the efforts of James A. Saunders, a retired U. S. Navy Captain, who had worked for a number of years as liason officer with the U.S. Senate Committee on Naval Affairs—soon to get incorporated into the Senate Armed Services Committee. A long-time enthusiastic student of Science and Sanity, Captain Saunders had made explicit use of korzybskian methodology in his work for the Committee, making note of it in reports published in the Congressional Record as far back as 1940. Most recently he had made use of GS in a March 13, 1946 report published in June by the Naval Affairs Committee, entitled “A Scientific Evaluation of the Proposal that the War and Navy Departments be Merged into a Single Department of National Defense”. The report recommended preserving institutional structures of the different armed services that had already proved effective. Part VI of the report, “Methods Employed in Making the Evaluation” included Science and Sanity and other GS references. The report may have had some influence in helping the Navy and other armed service branches to maintain some relative independence when in 1947 the cabinet level Department of the Navy, along with the other armed services, got absorbed into the newly created Department of Defense.

By mid-1946, Saunders had corresponded with Korzybski and Kendig, but had not met them in person. Nonetheless, on the strength of his letters and his Congressional reports, they invited him to lecture on his committee work at that summer’s seminar-workshop. At the end of the year, he also attended Korzybski’s Holiday Seminar. Korzybski seems to have found Saunders a helpful influence and a commendable teacher. In 1947 Saunders got appointed to the IGS Board of Trustees and also for several years taught at the IGS seminar-workshops—in 1948 serving as chief administrator and lecturer of the workshop sessions and in 1949 lecturing on GS and problem solving. He began teaching General Semantics at the Graduate School of the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 1947 and—at least into the late 1950s—continued giving that course and others in the Washington, D.C. area. Saunders, a central figure in stimulating GS-related activities in Washington, D.C. throughout the 1950s, doesn’t seem to have published any articles or books of his own. But a student of his, Frank Reed Eldridge a Washington, D.C. diplomat and intelligence officer, published a book, General Semantics, in 1949 with his wife Kathleen Tamagawa Eldridge, based on Saunders’ course lectures. (When Eldridge joined the Central Intelligence Agency in 1951, he was asked to cease his leadership activities with the Lemma Society, the local GS group.) (12) 

Partly through Saunder’s influence, Korzybski’s work caught the attention of others in the Navy. After the August seminar, Saunders wrote a lengthy memorandum to his Naval Academy classmate Vice Admiral Louis E. Denfeld, then Chief of Naval Personnel (soon to become an Admiral and Chief of Naval Operations).The memo suggested incorporating GS into various aspects of Naval operations and training.(13) Apparently Denfeld got interested. Captain Karl Poehlmann, attached to Denfeld’s office, attended Korzybski’s Holiday seminar—on orders—and got deeply interested. Korzybski and Kendig both met with him privately during and after the seminar. The Office of Naval Research had a section exploring various kinds of medical, behavioral and social science research pertaining to human relations, instruction of officers, psychological warfare, combating propaganda, etc. Poehlmann believed that GS, providing a kind of ‘master map’, could play an important role in guiding such research.(14) Perhaps the Institute could provide some training for the Navy. If this took off, a contract to do GS training throughout the Navy could do a lot to ensure the survival of the Institute.

Korzybski was willing to devote a lot of time and attention to such a project, which he believed could have world-changing effects.(15) The kind of project he envisioned—a long shot—ultimately didn’t work out. However, Korzybski’s work still had notable influence in the Navy. Either Saunders or Poehlmann may have had something to do with the strongly GS-flavored 1949 edition of Naval Leadership, a manual for Naval Academy midshipman published by the U.S. Naval Institute. Part I of the book, “Psychological Principles”, particularly Chapter 1 “Science and Human Relations”, was described in a subsequent General Semantics Bulletin as “an excellent example of general semantics-in-action. [The unknown author’s] account of scientific attitudes and methods applied to the problems of leadership is written in a lively, down to earth fashion, refreshingly free of ‘rehashing’.”(16) 

Interest in Korzybski’s work was not limited to the United States. In June, he had received two separate letters of invitation to speak at the Second International Summer Conference of the Netherlands-based International Society for the Study of Significs, from August 24 to August 31. The Dutch Significs circle—to some extent influenced by the work of Lady Victoria Welby—had started as a discussion group among psychiatrist Frederik Willem van Eeden (who had met Lady Welby), L. E. J. Brouwer (founder of the non-aristotelian, intuitionist school of mathematics), and Brouwer’s teacher, mathematician Gerrit Manoury, among others, in the early 1920s. These individuals—and those who joined them later—had some interest in more ‘holistic’ (i.e., non-elementalistic) living, and in practical approaches to problems of symbolism, the foundations of mathematics, the unity of science, etc. At least some of the younger members of the circle had carefully studied Korzybski’s work, seeing a connection to their concerns. Psychiatrist P. H. Esser had published two articles on Korzybski in Dutch journals just prior to the Nazi invasion. Korzybski felt that, for the most part, neither Lady Welby nor her Dutch followers went far enough. But he did recognize their aims as similar to his. He particularly admired Brouwer’s work and felt deeply honored to be invited to speak to the group.

Dr. W. M. Kruseman, the Assistant Secretary of the organization, and one of the editors of its journal Synthese, wrote that he and his colleagues had read Science and Sanity “with great interest and approval.”
...They would welcome your visit as an opportunity to establish and to further a regular scientific contact between your Institute for [sic] General Semantics and our International Society for the Study of Significs. They would be delighted if, on this occasion, you would be willing to read on a special subject (e.g. on “Everyday language with regard to the Structure of our nervous system”). (17) 

In a letter written a few days later, E.W. Beth, University of Amsterdam professor of mathematical logic, apologized to Korzybski: the Conference’s organizing committee only had enough money to offer him free food and lodging. They could not pay for his travel expenses.(18) The Dutch organization had only recently reconstituted itself after years of Nazi occupation and they undoubtedly had a quite limited budget. But apart from the question of money for a trip to the Netherlands, going there was not an option for Korzybski, given the impending move and the seminar-workshop scheduled at the time of the conference. However, his work was represented by E. A. Pritchard, an American educator living in New York with an interest in GS. Pritchard hadn’t studied with Korzybski or even met him. The two men corresponded briefly but Pritchard wasn’t able to see Korzybski before leaving in early August. Despite some reservations, Korzybski decided to cooperate with him since no one else was going to represent the Institute. In addition to a talk Pritchard prepared, he read Korzybski’s latest version of the “Silent and Verbal Levels” handout written in July, and organized a booth of GS publications.

In the fall, Pritchard visited Korzybski and reported on the conference, having found a great deal of interest. With at least one other presentation by a Dutch student of Science and Sanity, a whole conference day had been devoted to GS. The GS booth was always crowded. (Given that it was the only booth there, Korzybski likened this to the increased public interest when a new animal gets brought for exhibition to a zoo.) (19)  Over the next few years, Korzybski continued to correspond and exchange publications with members of the Dutch Significs group. However, although subsequently invited, he couldn’t attend further conferences either.

Through the influence of Esser, a small significs group—and with it a pocket of interest in Korzybski’s work—continued in the Netherlands for a number of decades after Korzybski’s death. Esser, who was made an Honorary Trustee of the Institute, seems instrumental in having founded a Methodology and Science Foundation in Haarlem, which operated at least throughout the 1970s. Its journal, Methodology and Science, had a “Special Korzybski Issue” in 1977 (Volume 10, No. 2). Synthese, although still (2011) getting published in the Netherlands, has become a philosophy of science journal and seems to have little if any connection to its earlier roots in the now apparently defunct Dutch Significs Movement.

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. 
8. Qtd. in IGS Student Newsletter, Summer 1946. IGS Scrapbook 4, AKDA. 

9. AK to Jerome Alexander, 5/20/1946. IGS Archives. 

10. Adamic, p. 304. 

11. Morris, p. 283.

12. Robinson and Creef. “Introduction”, p. xxx in Tamagawa. 

13. Memorandum – Captain James A. Saunders (U.S. Navy, Ret.) to Vice Admiral Louis E. Denfeld, 9/27/1946. IGS Archives. 

14. Kendig, “Report on Talk with Capt. K.F. Poehlmann, 10 to 12:30 PM Dec. 29, 1946”. IGS Archives. 1

5. AK to Captain Karl F. Poehlmann, 1/21/1947 with “Some Notes Taken At An Interview January 4, 1947 [between A. Korzybski and K. Poehlmann] by C. Schuchardt”. IGS Archives. 

16. “Items Biographic and Bibliographic: News of People, Their Writings, Activities, Comments, etc”, General Semantics Bulletin 4 & 5, p. 68. 

17. W.M. Kruseman to AK, 6/14/1946. IGS Archives. 

18. E.W. Beth to AK, 6/17/1946. IGS Archives. 

19. AK to Ken Keyes, 11/2/1946. IGS Archives.

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