Words and Worlds: philosophy, language and truth Since it is now too late for anybody to steal bits

of this, I can post it.

---------------------------------------------------------Words and worlds: philosophical literary struggles with language and truth. Copyright: GS Dann, May 2007 Introduction: Ceasing to be whole and becoming partial. ,“What is truth?, ,“What is knowledge?, ,“What is reality?, ,“What am I?, Humanity has sought answers to questions like these for a very long time. Asking them, or gaining the capacity to ask them, led to the expulsion of Adam and Eve from Eden. The serpent did not lie, Eve did not die. But the day humans learned to use language to ask these questions a sequence of events began which may yet lead to the self-destruction of the human race, victims of our own runaway success (if we can call it that) and our failure to think holistically. Antiquity , Parmenides and Lao Tsu Parmenides initiated this debate for western Philosophy, in a poem known as ,“On Nature.. The bulk of this poem consists of two sections, one entitled "The way of truth" (aletheia) and the other "The way of appearance/opinion" (doxa.) The doxa represents illusion or deception, the world we know through our fallible senses, whilst aletheia represents knowledge gained via pure reason. The picture painted by Parmenides concerns the relationship between duality and unity: The mortals lay down and decided well to name two forms (i.e. the flaming light and obscure darkness of night), out of which it is necessary not to make one, and in this they are led astray. (8, 53-4) Parmenides here echoes Lao Tsu and the over-riding principle which runs throughout the Tao Te Ching, although the Tao Te Ching makes clearer the interdependence and reconciliation of perceived polar dualities. One must not mistake Yin for Yang, but neither exists in isolation and together they form a unified whole. When people see some things as beautiful, other things become ugly. When people see some things as good, other things become bad. Being and non-being create each other.

“to be. Kant’s revolution involved ceasing to ask what reality . warring parties of what he called . Since all human minds share certain essential . thereby eliminating the verb . (Tao Te Ching.“is not. conducted unresolvable battles about . Phenomena and Noumena The Parmenidean division of aletheia and doxa. that things that are not are.“transcendental realists.. He changed the question from . Either way. (Tao Te Ching.“is.. to . regardless of Kant) One group.. a state of absolute nothingness cannot prevail.. Something exists necessarily. How do I know this is true? I look inside myself and see.and . High and low depend on each other.“Copernican Revolution in philosophy. determine the world we experience. the rationalists claimed it can only come via pure reason..“Critique of Pure Reason. Long and short define each other.“is. the empiricists claimed that this knowledge can only come via the senses. He undermined the foundational assumptions made by both parties and split the world into phenomena and noumena. The other. and starting to enquire about the conditions of the possibility of experience instead. Whether Kant made a substantive claim about noumena depends upon whether Kant proved the non-spatio-temporality of noumena and whether a negative claim about something amounts to a claim about that thing. or the . Since before time and space were.“the being of non-being.“What reality is.“How could we know?. and the way we experience it. we can say little or nothing about noumena. declaring noumena forever unknowable. from the question. the Tao is. It is beyond .“world as it appears to us. attempting to describe something which transcends . verse 21) Kant .“is. and implies that neither senses nor reason to leads to this knowledge. leads to a series of questions which remained unasked and unanswered until the publication in 1781 of Immanuel Kant’s .“is not. Kant claimed that .“What is it?.(and one glance at the current chaotic and turbulent state of the philosophy of cognitive science will confirm that these battles continue to this day.“world as it is in itself. verse 2) The Way of Truth contains an ontological argument against . Before and after follow each other. establishing modern epistemology and marking the first step towards the end of ontology. Taoism states it slightly differently.with its demand for a . along with the claim that pure reason can support aletheia.Difficult and easy support each other. For never shall this prevail.“synthetic a priori constraints.and . and the . Before Kant.

“ideas.to human enquirer. knowledge of self and knowledge of Noumena If you want to be given everything. Schopenhauer elevates art above reason . in going beyond Kant.(cognition independent of experience) but only with regard to what we ourselves contribute to these objects of experience. although Buddhism rather than Taoism influenced the thinking of Schopenhauer. has the capacity for . soothing words about the ubiquity of human suffering. For to him who does know. Luckily we do not know what really will appear. The mind gives form to the object rather than the object informing the mind. Some of his writing reads like a therapy for desperate people.. the human mind.): In our early youth we sit before the life that lies ahead of us like children sitting before the curtain in a theatre. He starts the move towards a philosophy which has given up hope of ever finding the absolute truth about reality. In the wake of Goethe. I should also note that German history takes a slightly different path to that taken by rest of Europe. and the first beginnings of a new type of philosophy. who have not yet discovered what their punishment will consist of.the world of science and reason provides no home for the genius. Schopenhauer . such as the following quote (Schopenhauer. (Tao Te Ching. So for Kant the focus has moved from the supposed . Culture does not construct it (it does not vary across different cultures and different eras) yet it remains a construction. Schopenhauer. children can sometimes seem like innocent delinquents.or . Germany produced great philosophers instead of great novelists. in happy and tense anticipation of whatever is going to appear. sentenced not to death but to life. Knowledge of self therefore becomes knowledge of things-in-themselves.on Kant and Schopenhauer . Nietzsche .and noumena with the .“object itself. He equated phenomena with Berkeley’s . phenomenal reality becomes objective for humans. From a literary point of view. section 8 . This enquirer. His own subjective attitudes have clearly shaped his philosophy (which he does not hide) even though the underlying metaphysical problems belong to the whole of humanity. Indeed he has effectively given up hope altogether. Instead.“On the sufferings of the world. What went into literature elsewhere at this time went into philosophy in Germany.“will.“I. verse 22) Arthur Schopenhauer provides the next step in this genealogy. but tries to fill in the missing part of the picture without any attempt at supporting the filling with reason. The objectivity depends on each of us constructing it alike.“a priori cognition. support comes from looking inside yourself and seeing.similarities. 1851. did so in such a way that makes it impossible to separate Schopenhauer’s philosophy from Schopenhauer himself. People like Schopenhauer and Nietzsche played in Germany the role played elsewhere by people like Dostoyevsky and Dickens. give everything up. Schopenhauer believed that he alone had properly understood Kant. He recognises the epistemological limits set by Kant.

and all endeavour to acquire a possession which will follow us to the grave is in vain. . section 3. gentle and honest account of the condition of humanity. says nature's evil principle. I am one of those readers of Schopenhauer who when they have read one page of him know for certain that they will go on to read all the pages and will pay heed to every word he ever said. Nietzsche refers not only to Schopenhauer’s simultaneously brutal.in the Untimely Meditations (Nietzsche. Though this is a foolish and immodest way of putting it." he writes in his moving way. which I feel free to do because I have no reason to fear it will shatter you so profoundly and painfully as it has me. when will they again learn to assess the meaning of a philosophy in the "most sacred part" of their being? And a further clarification: â₦this is how Schopenhauer's philosophy should always be interpreted at first: individually.Nietzsche felt Schopenhauer’s desperation. 1873-1876. Nietzsche’s comment on this: When indeed will men feel in this natural Kleistian fashion. section 2) he says It was in this condition of need. I understand him as though it were for me he had written. If Kant ever should begin to exercise any wide influence we shall be aware of it in the form of a gnawing and disintegrating skepticism and relativism. "I became acquainted with the Kantian philosophyââ‚”and I now have to tell you of a thought I derived from it. and what has to be sought shall never be found. into his own limitedness. In .“Schopenhauer as Educator. or whether it only appears to us to be. Nietzsche then quotes Heinrich von Kleist. so as to gain insight into his own want and misery. The section from which I took the above quotes ends with a summary of Nietzsche’s assessment of Schopenhauer’s view: The thinkers of old sought happiness and truth with all their might.) “‘¦the philosopher in Germany has more and more to unlearn how to be "pure knowledge": and it is to precisely that end that Schopenhauer as a human being can serve as an example. distress and desire that I came to know Schopenhauer. as an example of the experience of the effect of the Kantian philosophy: Not long ago. but to his relationship with the idea of absolute truth (part 3. But for him who seeks untruth in everything and voluntarily allies himself with unhappiness a miracle of disappointment of a different sort has perhaps been prepared: something inexpressible . I trusted him at once and my trust is the same now as it was nine years ago. part 3. by the individual only for himself. If the latter.We are unable to decide whether that which we call truth really is truth. Later in the same section he refers back to Kant. then the truth we assemble here is nothing after our death.

coins which have lost their pictures and now matter only as metal. In this he is greatly to be admired. and embellished poetically and rhetorically. the events and powers of the earth become dreamlike. it seems. he provides possibly the most eloquent description of the nature of truth which exists anywhere in philosophy or literature: What. Yet we are the movers and shakers. Upon whom the pale moon gleams. canonical. By this point. When someone hides something behind a bush and looks for it again in the same place and finds it there as well. Nietzsche sounds more like a poet than a philosopher. Nietzsche .in short. In part I of . World-losers and world-forsakers. Of the world forever.“crown.as a name for the monarchy) and anthropomorphisms.(published in 1874. metonyms (the description of something via a simplified characteristic such as . We are the music-makers. Yet this is how matters stand regarding seeking and finding "truth" within the realm of reason. And sitting by desolate streams. As a genius of construction man raises himself far above the bee in the following way: whereas the bee builds with wax that he gathers from nature. man builds with the far more delicate conceptual material which he first has to manufacture from himself. exactly contemporaneous with the Nietzche’s Untimely Meditations). So words and concepts carry their (human) histories with them and ultimately this makes truth itself all too human. To him who sees these things it is as though he were just beginning to awaken and what is playing about him is only the clouds of a vanishing dream. is truth? A mobile army of metaphors. Somehow. there is not much to praise in such seeking and finding. These too will at some time be wafted away: then it will be day. and which after long use seem firm. Wandering by lone sea-breakers. And we are the dreamers of dreams. no longer as coins. one must lose the world in order to find it.(1873). metaphors which are worn out and without sensuous power. metonyms. . When we carry out a genealogy of words. transfiguration spreads itself about him as on summer evenings.“On Truth and Lie in an extramoral sense. Nietzsche’s love of philology and etymology allowed him to see all too clearly that language consists to a large extent of metaphors (indirect comparisons between things). conjuring up imagery reminiscent of Arthur O’Shaughnessy’s . we see that we create new concepts/words out of old ones. and anthropomorphisms.of which happiness and truth are only idolatrous counterfeits approaches him.“Ode. then. and obligatory to a people: truths are illusions about which one has forgotten that this is what they are. a sum of human relations which have been enhanced. but not on account of his drive for truth or for pure knowledge of things. transposed. the earth loses its gravity.on Truth and Lie Nietzsche reduces all truth to metaphor.

The work of Kuhn and Feyerabend should have shattered this cosy illusion. so science works unceasingly on this great columbarium of concepts. but the . Feyerabend’s claim that we cannot find or specify any single scientific method and that effectively . and renovating the old cells. Part II begins with a discussion of science. powers which oppose scientific truth with completely different kinds of "truths" which bear on their shields the most varied sorts of emblems. have argued that subjectively experienced mental states do not exist. human subjectivity intervenes in the supposedly objective progression of scientific ideas. science tries to eliminate subjectivity in order to arrive at the truth.to feed into the process (with the possible exception of Parmenides’ . like language. How would one justify any other kind of truth? Subjectively? No.“pure facts.So humans invent words and concepts and then try to use them to arrive at what humans call truth. Moreover. for no account of such states can be given in terms of neuroscience. it takes pains to fill up this monstrously towering framework and to arrange therein the entire empirical world. Just as the bee simultaneously constructs cells and fills them with honey. I will return to part I of . the graveyard of perceptions.. but it does so in a much more restrictive manner.remains highly controversial within scientific circles.. Kuhn’s account of science as occasionally lurching between incommensurate paradigms. higher stories and shoring up. science nevertheless aims at rationality. 2000. so to speak. regardless of the fact that Copernicus and Galileo’s own revolution provide a paradigmatic example of the psychology and politics involved in a .“Eternal Return.“anything goes.“Garbage in. p161) for an account of just how taboo): In recent years. above all.) . garbage out. constructs new concepts.. they . for there are frightful powers which continuously break in upon him. Much of the scientific community feels threatened when confronted with the idea of .later in this essay. cleaning. And he requires shelter.. proponents of eliminative materialism. Even though it sometimes fails.“non-scientific truth. including Patricia and Paul Churchland. See (Wallace. we never arrive at pure truth. restated by Nietzsche in his doctrine of the . the precise timing and dynamics of the lurch governed by human nature rather than reason.“The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. It does this on a realist foundation which has become sacrosanct to the extent that questioning this foundation remains heresy within the scientific community. â₦.. unsettles many science-oriented people .“On Truth and Lie. We have no . something always is. At the critical point where the concepts change. It is always building new. Science tries to build a single coherent body of knowledge about the empirical world..provokes even more controversy and vitriol than Kuhn.the scientific investigator builds his hut right next to the tower of science so that he will be able to work on it and to find shelter for himself beneath those bulwarks which presently exist. Subjectivity has become taboo. Science.“Nothing cannot be.“paradigm shift. but for all our striving. only at something that we put there ourselves.

True art seems artless. doctrines which totally deny the subjective element of truth/knowledge affirmed as highest by Lao Tsu and Schopenhauer.“defenders of science..at which I am no adept . he claimed that language gains it’s meaning by picturing the logical form of something in reality. (Tao Te Ching. you can understand the appropriateness of Nietzsche’s account of the situation. Two things are indeed astonishing about this materialistic account of our existence: (1) that its advocates so enthusiastically embrace an unconfirmed. Wittgenstein retired from philosophy. .“Subjective truth. Material truth matters. speculative theory that utterly denies the validityâ₦of their personal inner life. verses 47 & 78) On completing the Tractatus (Wittgenstein.could satisfy that kind of thirst for knowledge. mechanistic doctrines like behaviourism and eliminative materialism.such as Richard Dawkins or Daniel Dennett. 1921).present this theory as a fresh. In this book. thereof I shall remain silent. the rational and the intuitive.becomes oxymoronic. True wisdom seems foolish. Language as a game True straightness seems crooked. astonishing hypothesis that should startle modern thinkers much as the heliocentric theory unsettled the scholastic contempories of Galileo. We have then a distinction between two different sorts of person. For Nietzsche. Wittgenstein . or two different ways of approaching the truth . So this taboo of subjectivity leads to lifeless. Kant made the same claim in the Preface of the Critique (Kant. Nietzsche goes on to explain that we cannot extinguish the desire for truth by the failure of reason to take us where we want to go.. my answers to these questions have not turned out to be such as a raving dogmatist's thirst for knowledge might expect.must go the same way that alchemy did because minds don’t even exist. xiii)): To be sure. . It ends: 7. contrasting it with what we can . 1781. True words seem paradoxical. The Tractatus tries to place a limit to what we can say with words. If you observe the bunker mentality and ideological zeal exhibited by the self-appointed . this unextinguished desire turns to art and literature to express itself. all else we can discard. Nothing but magical powers . The very language of so-called . (Preface A.“show. the scientist and the artist or the mystic. believing he had solved all the major problems in philosophy. and (2) that anybody believes there is anything fundamentally new in this updated version of materialistic reductionism.0 Whereof I cannot speak.“folk psychology.

“Semantics as Epistemology. For Wittgenstein. Wittgenstein tried to draw attention to the ultimate paradoxes as the border between what we can say and what we cannot say. True words look like ultimate paradoxes.. a group which includes Kripke and Putnam.problems. we really refer to a fictional Holmes. In . philosophical problems turn into . hence statements about Sherlock Holmes refer to Conan Doyle’s stories. In the Tractatus.He did not mean that what we cannot speak of does not matter or that we should dismiss it as without value. philosophy has become an entirely therapeutic exercise.: . Searle still holds on to some form of (1).“causal theories of reference.“speech acts. Rorty claims this view depends on something he calls .“The Philosophical Investigations. insomuch as both of them involve a claim that the meaning of a sentence depends upon some sort of hook-up to (or picture of) reality . not solve them. We can forget about absolute truth. Rorty starts with Russell’s . This view relates to Wittgenstein’s .64: Here we see that solipsism strictly carried out coincides with pure realism. 1982) Richard Rorty offers us his assessment of the underlying factors which drive the current debate about the ontological status of fictional discourse. value must come from outside the world which language pictures. it lies on the boundary. not fictions.“everybody would agree with them. 5. If ultimate truth lies anywhere. The mature Wittgenstein’s view of truth echoes that of Nietzsche. conducted in natural language. We should attempt to dissolve philosophical problems. Rorty .. then . Truth exists only within the context of a specific language game. but because it refers to a fictional referent. various replacement theories of fiction emerged. Wittgenstein tries to show us that all the different uses of language operate like different sorts of games. this defeats Russell’s point in proposing (1) in the first place . statements about fictional entities must refer to something which actually does exist.focuses on meaning as use.“(1) Whatever is referred to must exist. because if they did. He analyses four of the competing viewpoints and then explains why all of them depend on the same misplaced . John Searle’s concept of .“picture theory. the argument about Fictional Discourse In (Rorty. These theories deny that we use proper .“Parmenidean urge. a view of language as .“picture theory. For Searle.. Instead. According to Russell’s view.. when we refer to Holmes we don’t talk about Conan Doyle’s stories and neither do we pretend to refer to a real Holmes. Philosophical theories don’t really exist... After the later Wittgenstein’s theory of language games had undermined the younger Wittgenstein’s .“the axiom of existence.. In effect. Rorty chooses Keith Donnellan as a representative of ..he wanted to refer to realities..“a mirror of nature. On the contrary. They have different rules and different assumptions.“grammatical.

g. Donnellan has a physicalist agenda and aims to recover the hook-up between language and reality which seems threatened by Russell and Searle. Donnellan invokes historical connections as a means of distinguishing between fictional and real referents.“make true and intelligent assertions about the spatio-temporal world which contain no referring expressions. Donnellan tries to avoid a perceived . However.from physicalism . Rorty would rather pursue his wider project. .“Whatever is referred to must be an object.“irresponsible. because no answer exists.discourse . Rorty’s dispenses with the first and accepts a full-blooded language-game approach to language.“reference. the speaker just refers to whatever he talks about. He offers two alternatives: firstly. both intelligible and true (e. Holmes becomes ..and . Donnellan’s view implies we can . possible.“all truth is.“mythmaking.. No philosophy of language can answer the question of how language hooks up with reality. In other words. Donnellan wants to explain how we can understand each other when using a singular expression with no referent (such as fiction which has become included in some people’s version of reality . a realistic epistemology and picture theory of language which . by this point in his paper. Instead. somehow. and that involves a discussion about whether we can dissociate the whole notion of . hallucinated and . This view replaces Russell’s . The last of the four views. Why.“something in the speaker’s mind. which causes problems. he asks. but our historical connections with JFK ensure that we refer to a real historical person and not a mythical character.“Whatever is referred to must exist. non-existent object â₦ .in Searle and Russell’s positions.. semantic or otherwise. Donnellan also defends Russell’s (1).“disallows truth about fiction altogether.“truth by correspondence with reality. However. John F. The section on Donnellan ends with the first hint of what really motivates Rorty’s paper..understood as a relation which satisfies (1).“idealism.establishes reference.with .“incomplete.. Meinongianism. did philosophers ever take (1) seriously in the first place? We should now just abandon the . .and accept that all language consists of game-playing and that we cannot provide a justifiable hook-up between language and reality. to adopt a pure language game approach and completely sever the link between language and reality.g.“responsible. including fictional. Santa Claus)..“Santa Claus does not exist. from the idea that .“Holmes objects. Rorty believes this realist project cannot succeed.“picture picture. e.names only by possessing identifying descriptions of what they refer to.. between science and . and secondly.). All the above views have a common motivation to find a theory of language usable as a defence against brain-in-a-vat skeptics. Kennedy no more exists than does Santa Claus. since both of them imply that . so we gain nothing by warping our theories of language in a doomed attempt to provide one.“an incomplete. but it leaves him unable to say what propositions certain statements.This leads to an apparently infinite array of partially complete . truth about the layout of the spatio-temporal world. grants existence to any sort of intentional object. express. with no such thing as .objects. we do need to distinguish between . No effective philosophical defence exists against a brain-in-a-vat skeptic.

Rorty’s paper ends: â₦it would be well that [the absurdity of the picture picture] should not become widely known.“a prolegomenon to a realistic epistemology. but rather as a matter of acquiring habits of action for coping with reality. but if we defend (1) as . the account of philosophy progresses in the form of mysterious letters sent to Sophie. Rorty . We could arguably make exceptions in the cases of quantum mechanics. The fundamental appearance/reality distinction has subsided. Should the mainstream scientific world ever manage to catch up with Rorty (bearing in mind my previous comments about Kant and the current state of cognitive science). p. showing us a route around scientism.. would have anything to say in a world without people like Russell. then it will surely fail in its purpose. Gaarder uses notions of truth and fictionality as a device to introduce the reader to metaphysical dilemmas in the philosophy lessons contained in the letters. partly an introduction to the western philosophy.“does not view knowledge as a matter of getting reality right. Science. does not render it pointless. has no use for metaphysics. Philosophy without Mirrors Rorty’s hopes that analytic philosophy. Rorty defends a position which . but no such obligation applies to the poets. This.underpins the whole debate. Instead. then the scientific culture could survive a loss of faith in the philosophical tradition. . but the literary culture might not. at least for 99% of the time. Perhaps by treating language as a picture of reality. has nevertheless earned itself a critical role in the history of ideas. Rorty closes the paper by pointing out that the literary culture.The penultimate section of Rorty’s paper therefore focuses on the relationship between physicalism and factuality. For the ironist poet owes far more to Parmenides and the tradition of Western metaphysics than does the scientist. Authors make much of the ambiguities regarding the nature of existence. it leads to a way of differentiating between science and non-science .. but apart from these specific areas. The need to equate truth or knowledge to . The scientific culture could survive a loss of faith in this tradition. 1991. the main characters gradually discover that they themselves exist only as fictions in a book. This drives (1). Neither William nor Henry James. cosmology and cognitive science.“truth or knowledge about the spatio-temporal world. unlike the scientific culture. critically depends on the history of western metaphysics. however. Scientific language at least must attempt to hook up to physical (or empirical) reality. Perhaps Jostein Gaarder’s Sophie’s World provides an obvious example part novel. as have claims about privileged forms of representation. Rorty tells us. As the story progresses. it gives us a way of distinguishing science from myth-making. science can operate perfectly well without any recourse to philosophy. with deliberate plays on the very fictionality of the fiction.1) His anti-representationalism bypasses the entire realist/anti-realist debate by rejecting the idea that beliefs can represent reality. whilst having failed to deliver the solutions to the problems it aimed to solve. materialistic science can justify its demands that we accept its truthclaims on its terms.(Rorty.

. The everyday practice of science has no use for a distinction between . Kantians.is just the idea of a proposition which is believed because the ... or a method for getting knowledge.“sense data objects. literature. The essential feature of the analogy is that knowing a proposition to be true is to be identified with being caused to do something by an object. The whole of Part I of .“Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature. On knowledge as needing a foundation: (p157) The major point I wish to make about the necessary-contingent distinction is just that the notion of . Its methods and truth claims apply just as well to them both.of the object upon us is ineluctable. The notion that our chief task is to mirror accurately. namely.“real external objects. is the fruit of the Greek (and specifically platonic) analogy between perceiving and knowing.“Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature.“grip. the universe around us is the complement of the notion.“necessary truth. The object which the proposition is about imposes the proposition’s truth. so that it provides us with an ever-more perfect reflection of reality. and positivists: that man has an essence . to discover essences. He argues that philosophy has so far depended on two theories which have proved inadequate: a representational theory of mind and a correspondence theory of truth.of reality.“the foundations of knowledge.“true nature. The idea of a . Our present notions of what it is to be a philosopher are so tied up with the Kantian attempt to render all knowledge-claims commensurable that it is difficult to imagine what philosophy without epistemology could be. if it were not in some sense a theory of knowledge.“reality tunnels. or at least a hint as to where some supremely important kind of knowledge might be found. Even with a coherency theory of truth. in our own Glassy Essence. art.. truths which are certain because of their cause rather than because of the arguments that are given for them . but defends them as a useful tools rather than true. Science requires a working assumption of materialism/naturalism/realism.“philosophy.defends Rortyan materialism and naturalism. with mind and language thought of as a mirror. and philosophy responsible for the business of polishing the mirror. a completely coherent account may prove impossible. it is difficult to imagine that any activity would be entitled to bear the name . between mere appearance and . such as trying to understand human minds and behaviour. The difficulty stems from a notion shared by Platonists. We must then make it clear exactly what uses we have for them. If we want to stand a decent chance of understand those things then perhaps we may need to suspend our belief in materialism and think about the world through various other . Richard Rorty surveyed the current debate and concluded that the time has come to write an obituary for philosophy-as-we’ve-known-it. Kuhnian paradigm shifts. This raises a question about whether or not we can ever get all the accounts of reality to cohere. such as the everyday practice of normal science. It may prove less than useful for other purposes. but we should not confuse this pragmatic move with a truth claim about the .“gripped by the real.and . religion or the history of philosophy between Parmenides and Wittgenstein.if it had nothing to do with knowledge . More generally.In his 1979 magnum opus . Thus this argument dates all the way back to Parmenides and doxa and aletheia . common to ..

Thus she is truly whole. Robert Anton Wilson .. (Tao Te Ching.. what counts as genuine knowledge. simultaneously debunking them and concocting them.Democritus and Descartes. clearly and distinctly knowable things.“guerrilla ontologist.“Illuminatus Trilogy. The Master is her own physician. more often than not somewhere unfamiliar.).D. better..“find new. His best known work.“the truth about reality. verse 71) We are all greater artists than we could possibly imagine. He loved conspiracy theories.. The quote directly above comes from . First realize that you are sick. but agnosticism about everything. a prolific novelist and self-styled . He refers to our sub-conscious world-making . thesis. Kai Nielsen (Nielsen.We must not privilege any one type of discourse as the one which delivers . that the universe is made up of very simple.“to get people into a state of generalized agnosticism.His method of doing so involved presenting his readers with so many different versions of truth and lie that by the time they’d finished reading one of his books. they had lost their certainty about anything at all.“Prometheus Rising. Rorty tells us we must set aside this picture of knowledge. p270) on Rorty: With the abandonment of foundationalism and with it a Kantian understanding of the key task of epistemology. or indeed in any substantive domain.(co-authored with Robert Shea) consisted of a seamless . Guerrilla Ontology Not-knowing is true knowledge. then you can move toward health. more fruitful ways of speaking. 2003. not agnosticism about God alone. knowledge of whose essences provides the mastervocabulary which permits the commensuration of all discourses. common throughout philosophy and science and replace it with Hermeneutics (literally meaning . Wilson. Presuming to know is a disease. This in effect means we must cultivate the ability to understand things from other people’s point of view. although they may now have a better understanding about the way things look from somewhere-else . We must . the cult classic . the book version of Robert Anton Wilson’s psychology Ph. We give up the deceptive self-conceit that the philosopher can know things that no-one else can know so well. more interesting. She has healed herself of all knowing.the fact that we make our worlds rather than finding them.“the study of theories and methods of the interpretation of all texts and systems of meaning. and that includes science as well as philosophy.wanted . we abandon a classical self-image of the philosopher as someone who stands in some privileged perspective and can tell us in all domains.

Wilson claimed to have no beliefs at all.circuits. and if one does not think Capitalism is perfect. some of it misreported deliberately. one must be a dogmatic atheist. Wilson claimed that we must not confuse any grid we use to organise our experience of the world with the world itself. and if one does not have blind faith in X. all intellectual activity ceases.“The map is not the territory.appears explicitly in the prologue and the agnostic attitude is revealed again and again in the text. I therefore want to make it even clearer than ever before that ********** I DO NOT BELIEVE ANYTHING ************ It seems to be a hangover of the medieval Catholic era that causes most people.of all creeds... the less there is left to think about.. He deliberately antagonised . well-researched fact. a charlatan.. The word . the following quote (from . that if one is not a theist. p201) appears in the description of what Wilson calls .“Operation Mindfuck. The following quote comes from the preface of the 1986 reprinting of Cosmic Trigger.“the collective neurogenic circuit. charity.“Prometheus Rising.Semanticist Alfred Korzybski used the slogan . I have received several quite nutty and unintentionally funny poison-pen letters from two groups of dogmatists -Fundamentalist Christians and Fundamentalist Materialists. As soon as one believes a doctrine of any sort. the seventh of Timothy Leary’s eight .mixture of fiction. one must believe fervently in Socialism. or assumes certitude.circuits which in most .to say the same thing. Both groups share in the same crusading zeal and the same total lack of humor. It should be obvious to all intelligent readers (but curiously is not obvious to many) that my viewpoint in this book is one of agnosticism.some of the metaphors and models employed here.. As an example of Wilson at work.“antique. active in most people. split into four . Aside from this minor difference. to think that everybody must "believe" something or other.“future. and common human decency. Philosopher and mystic Alan Watts put this as . but many people still think I . The Fundamentalist Materialists inform me that I am a liar. not all the mail I have received about this book has been intelligent and thoughtful. He called the result . where absence of brain activity is taken to mean that life has ended.“the menu is not the meal. and material derived from the strangest of the letters sent to Playboy during the time Wilson edited that magazine. fraud and scoundrel. My own opinion is that belief is the death of intelligence. and four . and a person sure of everything would never have any need to think about anything and might be considered clinically dead under current medical standards. even the educated. one stops thinking about that aspect of existence. one must alternatively have blind faith in not-X or the reverse of X. The Fundamentalist Christians have told me that I am a slave of Satan and should have the demons expelled with an exorcism. The more certitude one assumes.“agnostics. These intolerable cults have served to confirm me in my agnosticism by presenting further evidence to support my contention that when dogmas enter the brain.“mental circuits. The preface continues: Finally as a matter of some entertainment value. Wilson wanted to liberate people from the selfcreated prison of a too-restrictive belief system or a one-dimensional attitude to the truth and his method involved stealth and shock.“believe.“true believers. the letters are astoundingly similar.

Alfred Korzybski.into E-Prime. his emblematic lion (always shown with him in medieval art). both the river Anna Liffey in Ireland and Huck Finn’s Mississippi.“Livvy. I don't see how to take death seriously. to a materialist.“True.. just like the Irish river..“to be. the four bedposts surrounding the sleeper.If you cannot translate a sentence using the word . so this . the four elements of the ancients. The book concludes with the slogan ..mean? It looks like an attempt to make a statement which simultaneously makes use of two different and incommensurate language games.“external.“consciousness. symbolising the four evangelists. plus Mark the apostle. not the one in the mirror.part of the sentence refers to a real .The inventor of E-Prime. all interweaved and overlayered.in material reality.“Consciousness is brain activity. but certainly not to everyone.“is. general and special relativity and a long list of other things. and all the other fours which Jung has found present in the .which prohibits the verb . plurality and unity presented together.brain.. Wilson simultaneously tried to make sense (and nonsense) of quantum mechanics.“language.provides endless opportunities to make claims which sound meaningful but actually mean nothing at all. English without fig leaves. and of the Four Old Men who haunt the dreamer all night long. Gurdjieff’s self-observation exercises.“E-Prime.Obvious enough.“is. you might think. supposedly logical and meaningful statements and arguments spin on nothing more than a fig-leaf apron in the form of an indiscriminate usage of the word . Wilson acted as a promoter and populariser of a form of the English language called . I love you all and I deeply implore you to keep the lasagne flying. Please pardon my levity.“consciousness. But the word . Many words and many worlds. Finn Mac Cool of Irish legend reborn and Huck Finn again also. sailing down . It seems absurd.“collective unconscious. Leo in the zodiac and all associated fire-signs.“The Whole System is a Whole System. At many critical points. The . What does statement . the four suits of the Tarot or ordinary playing cards.does not exist . The .“out there.. five days before his death on January 18th of this year reads: I look forward without dogmatic optimism but without dread. .“Brain activity. effectively means that something existing in mind or language accurately mirrors something .does not even exist in that language game. . but Mark the Twy is Mark Twain. Leo the lion. waiting for a James Joyce or an Aleister Crowley to come along and activate them..“out there. The final message posted on his blog. while Marcus Lyons is all of them. married to a wife he called . cuckolded by Tristran.in material reality..people lie inactive.“Missus Liffey. Yoga.of this circuit is the multi-level language of Finnegan’s Wake.here clearly belongs to the language game of materialistic science. the four antique circuits. had pointed out that the verb . where Mark the Wan is King Mark. where Finnegan is Finn-again.“â₦is brain activity.“to be. E-Prime . The word . then it probably doesn’t mean anything. and Mark the Tris is cuckolded Mark and cuckolding Tristran in one.

lacks a non-subjective definition.“consciousness.“consciousness supervenes on brain activity. A truly rational materialist therefore ought to deny that the word .. If you try to translate the first four questions into E-Prime.“consciousness exists. The claim .“What is the Being of being?.“false. Even the concept of . subjective language game. I will now offer a fifth.If it means anything else. Heidegger claimed that despite the obsession of western philosophy with the idea of .refers to anything at all.“Squares are squares.“What class of animal do I belong to?. I started this essay with four questions which have dominated philosophical thought for most of its history. we could translate it as ..“truth. . . How could we translate the original claim into E-Prime? Well.statement .“consciousness.“How do I define the word/concept ‘I’?. Either you bypass the argument and fast-forward to the conclusion. after inspecting a camel. such as . or the questions simply disappear because you cannot even ask them in EPrime. In response.“How do I define the word/concept ‘knowledge’?. but it is a truth of limited value. he asked: .then the statement will not achieve what the materialist who makes it wants it to achieve.“How do I define the word/concept ‘reality’?. it had failed to provide a proper account of this concept. This forces us to acknowledge Nietzsche’s attitude to the meaning of words and the nature of truth. The antipodeans invent neuroscience before inventing the wheel (somehowâ₦). . (From On Truth and Lie. declare "look. they become definitions of words or concepts. . and then.“What am I?.“The antipodeans.“The word ‘consciousness’ means brain activity. but that just renders the original claim as pointless as the statement . Rorty’s tale of .. It wasn’t what .“consciousness exists. part I): If I make up the definition of a mammal.should evaluate .in Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature makes this clear enough.. thereby failing to set up the mind-body problem in the first place because they never define the word . which only appeared more recently.“being. We can translate question 4 (. because it will specify some sort of relationship between the concept of brain activity and the concept of consciousness (as the totality of subjective experience) which will in turn lead to something like epiphenomenalism or anomalous monism.) into E-Prime as .only makes sense in a specifically 1st-person. a mammal" I have indeed brought a truth to light in this way. but the question then loses all philosophical interest.by the materialist’s own normal standards of judging truth. The traditional arguments about the mind-body problem don’t even get started in E-Prime.“How do I define the word/concept ‘truth’?..

“is. let yourself be partial. Conclusion: Becoming partial in order to become whole.or . constantly gave our conversation the character of an authoritarian interrogation.“What is the Being of being?. On the fictional island of Pala.the questioner tried to ask. Maybe he tried to ask what Heidegger asked. But this explanation only made them more insistent. The answer applies far beyond ecology in the natural world. Then I noticed for the first time that there were two of them and that this distortion of the traditional method.“success. But because there were two of them. 1935). I am sure. The questioner may not even know himself what question he tried to ask. asks about science education. No stories. you cannot even ask most of the really difficult questions that philosophy has never conclusively answered. Their society actually works. (Tao Te Ching.“The Madness of the day. that a writer.. A visiting journalist. E-Prime forces us to describe things from our own subjective perspective. overseen and controlled by a strict set of rules. Of course neither of them was the chief of police.(Blanchot. there were three..“to be. Aldous Huxley’s final novel and his attempt to construct a vision of a true utopia . an isolated community founded by an eastern mystic and a Scottish scientist exists in a state of harmony between themselves and their environment. is always capable of recounting the facts that he remembers.“to be.“a scientist of relationship. a man who speaks and who reasons with distinction. never again I will conclude with two quotations from Island. Huxley’s Eden. the user naturally becomes .E-Prime forces you to focus on a clear specification of relationships .of humanity will lead to the destruction of Pala. Laurence Blanchot delivers a firstperson narrative account of a shattered person who has long ago given up on any search for truth.. and humanity with it. You certainly can’t ask . I have written the whole of this essay in E-Prime. I had lost the sense of the story. If you want to become whole. A story? No. This essay has .. and it forces us to explain what we mean every time we feel tempted to use the word .except in quotes taken from other people or direct references to the word/concept . as an example of what English looks like without . the other a specialist in mental illness. or for a coherent story of . Nowhere in the text of this essay will you find any instances of any form of the verb . he has attained some sort of peace ..“what he is.wholeness achieved by ceasing to strive to become whole. even though it was explained by the fact that one of them was an eye doctor. that happens in a good many illnesses. In E-Prime. but increasingly aware of how the runaway .“being. a spy from an oil company interested in exploiting Pala’s oil reserves. and this third remained firmly convinced.“who he is. But in allowing himself to become shattered. I had to acknowledge that I was not capable of forming a story out of these events. verse 22) In .

1873 Nielsen...A. R. . Kai. Relativism and Truth. First lessons in ecology.“The Taboo of Subjectivity.“And let me add. References: Blanchot. .“How early do you start your science teaching?" "We start it at the same time we start multiplication and division. 1781 Nietzsche. Huxley.“Critique of Pure Reason. in the village and the country around it. 1986) . R. in . (OUP. "that we always teach the science of relationship in conjunction with the ethics of relationship.2000) Wilson.“Prometheus Rising...“Essays and Aphorisms." "Ecology? Isn't that a bit complicated?" "That's precisely the reason why we begin with it. . B." .“Rorty. .. It has asked for conceptual biodiversity. 1979) Rorty. nor however sublime. nor is action.. the Palanese .“The Madness of the Day.. in the fields. 1983) Wilson.“Bible. 1962.(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Never give children a chance of imagining that anything exists in isolation. R.“Is there a problem with Fictional Discourse?. (New Falcon Publications.“The World’s Great Philosophers.... 2003) O'Shaughnessy. 1991) Schopenhauer. Kant .“Old Raja’s Notes on What’s What. nor is love. F... 1873-1876 Nietzsche. . 1935. in the ponds and streams. Essays 1972-1980) (1982) Rorty.“Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature (Princeton: Princeton University Press.. F.. Music and Moonlight. .“On Truth and Lie in an Extra-Moral Sense. (Consequences of Pragmatism. Nothing short of everything will really do. . . R." said the Principal.. Science is not enough. give and take. religion is not enough. no excesses---it's the rule of nature and translated out of fact into morality..“Island..A. . . The final quote comes from the . it ought to rule among people. R. 1851 Wallace. . nor is duty. is contemplation. Show them relationships in the woods. But neither is anything else.called for diversity among ways of looking at the world. Patriotism is not enough. however disinterested..“.A.(Blackwell. A.“Untimely Meditations.. Make it plain from the very first that all living is relationship. L. 1874 Rorty. . .“Cosmic Trigger. Rub it in. A. politics and economics are not enough... (New Falcon Publications. Balance.“Objectivity. A.

" (Huxley) "God is.“Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus. as it were. 1921 Last edited by UndercoverElephant on Sat May 12." (Hegel) Top . 2007 2:27 pm. . edited 2 times in total. "The poets did not win." (Umberto Eco) "Nothing short of everything will really do. the philosophers surrendered.Wittgenstein. the sewer into which all contradictions flow..

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