Sunday, January 24, 2021

RAW's philosophical style

Did you notice Brian's sly illustration when he talks about RAW's alleged "garage philosophy"? 

At the RAW Semantics blog, Brian Dean writes about Robert Anton Wilson's prose style as a philosopher in a new blog post, "Philosophical Style," and argues that RAW's ability to use vivid, concrete examples rather than relying on generalizations makes RAW's ideas easier to grasp than the ideas of many philosophers.

Brian also has this to say about RAW's prose style:

Elsewhere, Bob said it was his habit to do multiple re-writes, alternatively stoned and unstoned, until he felt happy with the writing from both perspectives. I suspect that process would, if anything, tend to remove “superfluous” elements, particularly on difficult philosophical areas prone to misinterpretation. 

Brian also reflects on how to describe RAW as a philosopher, and here is a paragraph that seemed interesting to me:

I’m not sure who coined the term “garage philosophy”, but Erik Davis uses it to refer to the philosophical output of both Robert Anton Wilson and Philip K. Dick. I appreciate the term – it conjures up a rough-hewn DIY approach to styling one’s own concepts (I assume “garage philosopher” is used in a kind of ironic way, like the “lowbrow” pop-surrealism art movement), but I think it probably better describes many of those who appreciate and write about Robert Anton Wilson than it captures RAW himself. Erik has also referred to RAW as a “hands-on occult philosopher”, which contrasts with (and possibly also complements) Tim Leary’s description of Bob W. as “One of the most important scientific philosophers of this century”.

Brian also compares aspects of RAW's thought to the philosopher Richard Rorty. I am much  too ignorant of modern philosophy in general and Rorty in particular to be able to comment, but Brian did get me interested enough in Rorty to read the Wikipedia bio. I won't pretend that I understood most of it, but I did like Rorty reflecting, toward the end of his life, about how he wished he had read poetry more often:

"I now wish that I had spent somewhat more of my life with verse. This is not because I fear having missed out on truths that are incapable of statement in prose. There are no such truths; there is nothing about death that Swinburne and Landor knew but Epicurus and Heidegger failed to grasp. Rather, it is because I would have lived more fully if I had been able to rattle off more old chestnuts — just as I would have if I had made more close friends. Cultures with richer vocabularies are more fully human — farther removed from the beasts—than those with poorer ones; individual men and women are more fully human when their memories are amply stocked with verses."


Oz Fritz said...

I would describe RAW as an experimental philosopher.

Van Scott said...

Rorty and RAW definitely had some things in common. Rorty wrote about “final vocabularies” that seem very similar to reality tunnels, and his “ironist” has a lot in common with the guerilla ontologies. Probably their biggest similarity is that they both wrote sentences that are comprehensible to someone with a limited background in philosophy.