In article <9308241448.AA12286@dangermouse.mitre.org> email@example.com writes:
One important offshoot of General Semantics has been NLP, Neurolinguistic Programming. NLP was begun by John Grinder who at that time was a bright young linguist teaching at UC Santa Cruz, and his graduate student, Richard Bandler who among other things was running a gestalt therapy group. Grinder had co-authored with Suzette Haden Elgin what at the time was the only generally readable textbook on Chomsky's transformational grammar (Guide to Transformational Grammar, 1973).
Bandler and Grinder took the ideas of general semantics and added a heavy dose of transformational grammar and developed an approach to doing psychotherapy, all of which became a book called The Structure of Magic (Vol. I, 1974), which had started out as a Masters thesis for Bandler.
Bandler and Grinder then became the nucleus for a group of several graduate students, therapists, and others in Santa Cruz who developed NLP in several directions, using ideas from a number of different fields. One important influence was systems theory, including the work of George Miller who Grinder had studied with at Rockefeller University. Another strong influence was Gregory Bateson, who happened to be Grinder's neighbor and who apparently enjoyed being a mentor to young scholars.
It was Bateson who suggested that Bandler and Grinder go to Phoenix to study the late Milton Erickson. This resulted in the book Patterns in the Hypnotic Inductions of Milton Erickson which I believe is a major contribution to the field of linguistics as well as therapy. (Bateson was responsible for introducing a number of young scholars and therapists to Erickson, including Jay Haley.)
General Semantics and linguistic theory in general remain an important part of NLP. For instance, the linguistic term "complex equivalence" is an NLP buzzword, and a major topic in NLP trainings is language patterns, especially the use of presuppositions. Steve Andreas recently published a book on the language patterns of Virginia Satir, who incidentally is one of the NLP patron saints, along with Milton Erickson and Fritz Perls. (Virginia Satir: The Patterns of Her Magic) One scholar who is frequently mentioned by NLP people recently is George Lakoff.
Neurolinguistic Programming never developed into an academic subject. Grinder was denied tenure at Santa Cruz despite the strength of his research, because in his Linguistics 101 course he was putting students into trances and doing many other outrageous things that resulted in the course becoming known as "Dr. Grinder's mindfuck course." Besides that, the original developers of NLP simply did not have an academic temperament (with the exception of Robert Dilts and Steve Gilligan. Gillian eventually went on to get a Ph.D. in Psychology from Stanford and is now a licensed psychologist, as well as giving seminars in Ericksonian Hypnosis). Furthermore, at the time Bandler and Grinder had some fairly severe personal problems, including Bandler's heavy usage of cocaine.
For a while, Bandler and Grinder thought that they could turn NLP into a product which could be promoted to the general public for a lot of money. I'm sure that they must have had the examples of L. Ron Hubbard and Werner Erhard in mind. (You have to remember that at this point they had no academic position and were living on the edge of poverty. But of course this sort of attitude certainly didn't endear them to the academic world.)
Much later, an NLP student of Grinder's named Tony (Anthony) Robbins would become quite successful in offering a very watered down version of NLP to the public. (You can see his infomercials on late night television and his books on prominent display in bookstores.) But nobody doing serious NLP has ever managed to get rich from it. The subject is just too demanding to appeal to the new age crowd. (Addendum, 2000: There are now a very large number of watered-down versions of NLP around, some of them more worthwhile than others.)
NLP has now developed in several different directions. There are dozens (at least) of NLP centers around the country who offer trainings. Bandler and Grinder long ago split up and no longer play a leading role although each of them offers a few seminars of their own. Most standard NLP trainings are really oriented toward therapists but a lot of people come to them to learn skills that will be useful in a business context.
Last summer I took a course from Robert Dilts, Todd Epstein, and Judith DeLozier (three of the original NLP core group), called The Epistemology of Systemic NLP which emphasized the systems theory aspects of NLP. In my notes, under the heading Essential Reading, I have listed Pragmatics of Communication by Watzlawic, Beavin, and Don Jackson (1967), and Strategies of Psychotherapy by Jay Haley. Several times Dilts suggested that the letters NLP can be thought of as standing for Neurology, Language, and Physiology, the three foundational elements (as NLP sees it) that determine subjective experience. I also have a quote from Dilts in my notes saying "What NLP really is is an approach to epistemology."
Actually, NLP has become a lot of different things to a lot of different people. But its roots in linguistics are still an important part of it.
Being scientific is a means to an end. When being scientific becomes more important than discovering new truth, science turns into "cargo cult science" -- something that has all the trappings of science but doesn't produce much in the way of results that actually work.