Dating General Semantics

By Levinson, Martin H. | ETC.: A Review of General Semantics, July 2016 | Go to article overview

Dating General Semantics


Levinson, Martin H., ETC.: A Review of General Semantics


The general semantics dating device, attaching dates to our evaluations, is meant to remind us that things are constantly changing and the world is in flux. With that in mind, and to provide context for what is going on with GS today, this article uses the dating device to look back at some things that have gone on with general semantics in the past (Kodish, 2011; Levinson, 2013; Schuchardt Read, 1988-1989; Stockdale, Fall 2003).

Dating General Semantics

General semantics (1921): Manhood of Humanity is published. In it, Alfred Korzybski discusses the notion of time-binding, which is the ability of human beings to pass information in symbolic form across generations.

General semantics (1925): Korzybski is awarded a patent for the Structural Differential, a three dimensional GS training device that illustrates the abstracting process of the human nervous system.

General semantics (1933): General semantics is introduced to the world through Korzybski's magnum opus Science and Sanity: An Introduction to Non-Aristotelian Systems and General Semantics.

General semantics (1934): Korzybski begins traveling around America to promote his work, which he refers to as general semantics.

General semantics (1935): The First American Congress on General Semantics is held at The Washington Normal School in Ellensburg, Washington.

General semantics (1935-1938): Between January 1935 and the first seminar offered by the Institute in July 1938, Korzybski delivers seminars or lectures at 12 colleges and universities (the University of Kansas, the Washington State Normal School, the University of Washington, the Williams Institute in Berkeley, the University of Michigan, Olivet College, the Wistar Institute in Philadelphia, the Galois Institute of Mathematics at Long Island University, Columbia University, Northwestern University, the University of Chicago, and Harvard University); three hospitals (the Menninger Clinic in Topeka, Kansas; New Jersey's Marlboro State Hospital, and Peoria State Hospital); and at conferences and privately organized seminars in St. Louis and in Los Angeles.

General semantics (1938): The Institute of General Semantics is launched in May 1938, with an office in a small apartment two blocks from the University of Chicago. Two months later, the new Institute presents its first seminar, which consists of 12 lectures delivered by Korzybski on Monday and Wednesday evenings over a six-week period. Stuart Chase publishes The Tyranny of Words--a well written, deeply thought out book notated in everyday language that seeks to introduce general semantics to the general public.

General semantics (1939): The Institute moves one block west to a house with the numerically intriguing address 1234 E, 56th Street.

General semantics (1941): The second edition of Science and Sanity is published with a new Introduction. S. I. Hayakawa publishes Language in Action (later retitled as Language in Thought and Action). The book becomes a Book-of-the-Month-Club selection and goes on to be the most widely used high school and college text on general semantics. Irving J. Lee publishes Language Habits in Human Affairs. The Second American Congress on General Semantics is held at the University of Denver.

General semantics (1942): A small group of Korzybski's students in Chicago gets together to establish the Society for General Semantics, an organization whose aim is to interest the public in GS and put out a general semantics journal.

General semantics (1943): The Society for General Semantics begins publication of the quarterly journal ETC: a Review of General Semantics with S. I. Hayakawa as its editor.

General semantics (1946): The New York Society for General Semantics is founded. The Institute of General Semantics moves its headquarters to Lakeville, Connecticut. Wendell Johnson publishes People in Quandaries: The Semantics of Personal Adjustment, a book that aims to help people conquer their maladjustments through general semantics with its stress on the scientific method. …

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