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Thought and Action: The Enigmatic Life of S. I. Hayakawa.

Gerald W. Haslam with Janice E. Haslam. In Thought and Action: The Enigmatic Life of S. I. Hayakawa. Lincoln. NE: University of Nebraska Press, 2011.

This book traces the enthralling life of the first editor of ETC, S. I Hayakawa, a man who greatly popularized general semantics through his 1941 Book-of-the-Monlh Club best-seller Language in Action (later published as Language in Thought in Action) and one of only two people who Alfred Korzybski allowed to give IGS seminars during Korzybski's lifetime. Hayakawa also worked as a college professor (he tried to have general semantics become an accepted major at San Francisco State University), a college president (in that role he gained lots of notoriety during the 1960s by ripping out speaker wires and halting an illegal student demonstration at SFSU), and a U.S. Senator (R) from California (during his tenure in the Senate he introduced a Constitutional Amendment to make English the official language of the United States and consistently went against his party's ideals by supporting the women's movement, abortion rights, and Ronald Reagan's search for a female running male).

Haykawa applied his own creative insights and approaches to general semantics, such as developing his own version of Korzybski's Structural Differential that he labeled the Ladder of Abstraction. This gained him some enemies among GS devotees. Charles Stade, for instance, asserted, "Hayakawa never understood anything Korzybski said," and Allen Walker Read said, "From reading Hayakawa one would never get the impression of the richness and depth that Korzybski actually provides." But other GS acolytes, such as Anatol Rapaport who said that Language in Action "clarified the basic ideas of Korzybski's magnum opus (Science and Sanity)" supported Hayakawa's takes on general semantics and Hayakawa's OS-writings and teachings exposed many in the public to the theory and formulations of GS.

For those who want to learn more about S. I. Hayakawa, a complex and complicated figure who figured prominently in the field of general semantics and twentieth-century American political and academic life, this detailed biography is highly recommended.

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Author:Levinson, Martin H.
Publication:ETC.: A Review of General Semantics
Article Type:Book review
Date:Jan 1, 2012
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