A Critical Look at E-Prime As It Is Explained by Robert Anton Wilson

Robert Anton Wilson promoted E-Prime as a path towards enlightenment, but there are some severe flaws in his reasoning.

If it were not for Robert Anton Wilson I very much doubt I would be who I am today. His thoughts and writings sent me spiraling out into so many inter-disciplinary paths of knowledge that it kept my head spinning for twenty years before I was able to become critical of his works at all. I am not saying that I am a superior writer or thinker to RAW now, but I do think I am pushing even further than he could have taken me, which is what I think he would have wanted for his audience. So keep in mind that, even though I am once again being critical of one of my own heroes and his pet theories, I do so only from the utmost respect and desire to continue challenging dogmas in the spirit of his life’s work.

Killing the Buddha in the road, as it were.

I will be pulling quotes from Wilson’s Towards An Understanding of E-Prime and responding to them as I see problems arise.

“Korzybski felt that all humans should receive training in general semantics from grade school on, as “semantic hygiene” against the most prevalent forms of logical error, emotional distortion, and “demonological thinking.””

  • Semantic Hygiene – This term is nothing less than disturbing, as it was about this same time that a rather famous fuhrer was talking about genetic hygiene. Tyranny calling itself cleanliness was all the rage in that era. Make no mistake, there is a judgement being made here.
    ‘You are unworthy. You are full of semiotic sin. You must seek repentance in E-Prime.’
    I am disturbed by any suggestion of a standard which all must conform to in order to meet the ‘hygiene’ requirements of some ideologue(s). This is how terrible things get justified by unscrupulous opportunists.
  • Logical Error – Again, another standard for the contents of others minds and speech is being set according to the desires of an ideological interest group.
  • Emotional Distortion – Emotions are a normal part of our existence. They are not obstacles to some true rational self that is burdened by feeling. Emotions are what make life worth living, and any argument that cannot recognize and incorporate emotional elements is weak. If you must deny emotions to deal with them, buddy, you got emotional distortions.
  • Demonological Thinking – Gee, that wouldn’t be an appeal to emotions would it? I guess we need some scary terms to frighten people into submission to the One True Semantic Way?

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