Tag Archives: kant

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.”

A Philosopher on an Island

Are knowledge and introspection enough to sustain man? That is the question I ask. If a philosopher were placed on a deserted island with no means of communicating with the outside world, yet had no need to worry about corporeal issues, is thought alone enough to sustain him? Or, to be more specific, a philosopher is placed on a deserted island with all his corporeal needs met and given an infinite amount of time and access to the treatises of Hume and Locke and Kant and the likes. He has everything he could need with one limitation: he has no means of communication and no one to share his theories with save for himself. Is isolated philosophizing enough to sustain him or will he feel a compelling, but unfulfillable, urge to share his thoughts with another?

I do not purport to know the answer, but I feel like the question is an interesting one.