Tag Archives: alfred korzybski

Robert Anton Wilson, Finitude, and Realism

The late Robert Anton Wilson has been a person of interest to me for a while now, and although his thoughts are very sporadic and aphoristic (being spread amongst his numerous novels and speeches), his contributions to Discordian thought have been vital. More specifically, however, a quotation by him in The Historical Illuminatus Chronicles has held my attention for a long time. In Nature’s Godwriting as Sigismundo Celine, Wilson says the following:

“Is,” “is.” “is” — the idiocy of the word haunts me. If it were abolished, human thought might begin to make sense. I don’t know what anything “is”; I only know how it seems to me at this moment.1)Robert Anton Wilson, Nature’s God: The History of the Early Illuminati (The Historical Illuminatus Chronicles Vol. 3), (Las Vegas: New Falcon, 2007).

Clearly channeling the general semantic theory of Alfred Korzybski and its later incarnations as E-Prime (topics that will no doubt be written about in the future),2)Indeed, in later posts on general semantics and E-Prime, which ‘is’ we’re talking about must be sorted out as the ‘is of identity’ — for example, “Max is a dog” — is, arguably, ontologically different than the ‘is of predication’ — for example, “Max is diabetic.” the quotation has a certain ring of idealism to it. Indeed, while I think Wilson’s comment is insightful, I’ve been hesitant to fully accept his disdain for the word ‘is’ insofar as such an acceptance seems, at first glance, to relegate one to a strictly phenomenal (and arguably, consequently idealist) understanding of the world. While I’m unsure whether or not I’m willing to jump aboard the ‘anti-is’ train, I do think there is a way to reconcile Wilson’s view with ontological realism by utilizing both a brief discussion of what Quentin Meillassoux calls “finitude” and Graham Harman’s ontology of objects.

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References   [ + ]

1. Robert Anton Wilson, Nature’s God: The History of the Early Illuminati (The Historical Illuminatus Chronicles Vol. 3), (Las Vegas: New Falcon, 2007).
2. Indeed, in later posts on general semantics and E-Prime, which ‘is’ we’re talking about must be sorted out as the ‘is of identity’ — for example, “Max is a dog” — is, arguably, ontologically different than the ‘is of predication’ — for example, “Max is diabetic.”