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Charles Kay Ogden (1 June 1889 - 21 March 1957) was an English linguist, philosopher, and writer. Described as a polymath but also an eccentric and outsider, he took part in many ventures related to literature, politics, the arts and philosophy, having a broad impact particularly as an editor, translator, and activist on behalf of a reformed version of the English language. He is typically defined as a linguistic psychologist, and is now mostly remembered as the inventor and propagator of Basic English. He was born at Rossall School in Fleetwood, Lancashire on 1 June 1889, where his father Charles Burdett Ogden was a housemaster. He was educated at Buxton and Rossall, winning a scholarship to Magdalene College, Cambridge and coming up to read Classics in 1908. He founded the weekly Cambridge Magazine in 1912 while still an undergraduate, editing it until it ceased publication in 1922. The initial period was troubled. Ogden was studying for Part II of the Classical Tripos when offered the chance to start the magazine by Charles Granville, who ran a small but significant London publishing house, Stephen Swift & Co. Thinking that the editorship would mean giving up first class honours, Ogden consulted Henry Jackson, who advised him not to miss the opportunity. Shortly after, Stephen Swift & Co. went bankrupt. Ogden continued to edit the magazine during World War I, when its nature changed, because rheumatic fever as a teenager had left him unfit for military service.
Ogden often used the pseudonym Adelyne More (add-a-line more) in his journalism. The magazine included literary contributions by Siegfried Sassoon, John Masefield, Thomas Hardy, George Bernard Shaw, and Arnold Bennett. In 1919 Claude McKay was in London, and Ogden published his poetry in the Magazine. Ogden also co-founded the Heretics Society in Cambridge in 1909, which questioned traditional authorities in general and religious dogmas in particular, in the wake of the paper Prove All Things, read by William Chawner, Master of Emmanuel College, a past Vice-Chancellor. The Heretics began as a group of 12 undergraduates interested in Chawner's agnostic approach.
The Society was nonconformist and open to women, and Jane Harrison found an audience there, publishing her inaugural talk for the Society of 7 December 1909 as the essay Heresy and Humanity (1911), an argument against individualism. The talk of the following day was from J. M. E. McTaggart, and was also published, as Dare to Be Wise (1910). Another early member with anthropological interests was John Layard; Herbert Felix Jolowicz, Frank Plumpton Ramsey and Philip Sargant Florence were among the members. Alix Sargant Florence, sister of Philip, was active both as a Heretic and on the editorial board of the Cambridge Magazine.
Ogden was President of the Heretics from 1911, for more than a decade; he invited a variety of prominent speakers and linked the Society to his role as editor. In November 1911 G. K. Chesterton used a well-publicised talk to the Heretics to reply to George Bernard Shaw who had recently talked on The Future of Religion. He authored three books in this period. One was The Problem of the Continuation School (1914), with Robert Hall Best of the Best & Lloyd lighting company of Handsworth, and concerned industrial training; he made also a translation of a related work of Georg Kerchensteiner (who had introduced him to Best), appearing as The Schools and the Nation (1914). Militarism versus Feminism (1915, anonymous) was with Mary Sargant Florence (mother of Alix); and Uncontrolled Breeding: Fecundity versus Civilization (1916), was a tract in favour of birth control, under the Adelyne More pseudonym.
Ogden ran a network of bookshops in Cambridge, selling also art by the Bloomsbury Group. One such bookshop was looted on the day World War I ended. e built up a position as editor for Kegan Paul, publishers in London. In 1920, he was one of the founders of the psychological journal Psyche, and later took over the editorship; Psyche was initially the Psychic Research Quarterly set up by Walter Whately Smith, but changed its name and editorial policy in 1921. It appeared until 1952, and was a vehicle for some of Ogden's interests.
Also for Kegan Paul he founded and edited what became five separate series of books, comprising hundreds of titles. Two were major series of monographs, "The History of Civilisation" and "The International Library of Psychology, Philosophy and Scientific Method"; the latter series included about 100 volumes after one decade. The "To-day and To-morrow" series was another extensive series running to about 150 volumes, of popular books in essay form with provocative titles; he edited it from its launch in 1924. The first of the series (after an intervention by Fredric Warburg) was Daedalus; or, Science and the Future by J. B. S. Haldane, an extended version of a talk to the Heretics Society. Other series were "Science for You" and "Psyche Miniatures".
Ogden helped with the English translation of Wittgenstein's Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus. In fact the translation itself was the work of F. P. Ramsey; Ogden as a commissioning editor assigned the task of translation to Ramsey, supposedly on earlier experience of Ramsey's insight into another German text, of Ernst Mach. The Latinate title now given to the work in English, with its nod to Baruch Spinoza's Tractatus Theologico-Politicus, is attributed to G. E. Moore, and was adopted by Ogden. In 1973 Georg Henrik von Wright edited Wittgenstein's Letters to C.K. Ogden with Comments on the English Translation of the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, including correspondence with Ramsey.
His most durable work is his monograph (with I. A. Richards) titled The Meaning of Meaning (1923), which went into many editions. This book, which straddled the boundaries among linguistics, literary analysis, and philosophy, drew attention to the significs of Victoria Lady Welby (whose disciple Ogden was) and the semiotics of Charles Sanders Peirce. A major step in the "linguistic turn" of 20th century British philosophy, The Meaning of Meaning set out principles for understanding the function of language and described the so-called semantic triangle. It included the inimitable phrase "The gostak distims the doshes."
Although neither a trained philosopher nor an academic, Ogden had a material effect on British academic philosophy. The Meaning of Meaning enunciated a theory of emotivism. Ogden went on to edit as Bentham's Theory of Fictions (1932) a work of Jeremy Bentham, and had already translated in 1911 as The Philosophy of ‘As If’ a work of Hans Vaihinger, both of which are regarded as precursors of the modern theory of fictionalism. The advocacy of Basic English became his primary activity from 1925 until his death. Basic English is an auxiliary international language of 850 words comprising a system that covers everything necessary for day-to-day purposes. To promote Basic English, Ogden in 1927 founded the Orthological Institute, from orthology, the abstract term he proposed for its work (see orthoepeia). Its headquarters were on King's Parade in Cambridge. From 1928 to 1930 Ogden set out his developing ideas on Basic English and Jeremy Bentham in Psyche.
In 1929 the Institute published a recording by James Joyce of a passage from a draft of Finnegans Wake. In summer of that year Tales Told of Shem and Shaun had been published, an extract from the work as it then stood, and Ogden had been asked to supply an introduction. When Joyce was in London in August, Ogden approached him to do a reading for a recording. In 1932 Ogden published a translation of the Finnegans Wake passage into Basic English.
By 1943 the Institute had moved to Gordon Square in London.
Ogden was also a consultant with the International Auxiliary Language Association, which presented Interlingua in 1951. Ogden collected a large number of books. His incunabula, manuscripts, papers of the Brougham family, and Jeremy Bentham collection were purchased by University College London. The balance of his enormous personal library was purchased after his death by the University of California - Los Angeles. He died on 21 March 1957 in London.
For more information, see Wikipedia entry at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Kay_Ogden .
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Described by Nina Cust as ""Editor of the "International Library of Psychology". Author of "The Meaning of Meaning" (with I.A. Richards), "The Foundations of Aesthetics", "ABC of Psychology" "Basic English" etc." See: Mrs. Henry Cust, (ed.) Other Dimensions: A Selection from the Later Correspondence of Victoria Lady Welby, London: Jonathan Cape, 1931, pp. 335-337.