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Wednesday, November 16, 2022

Chad Nelson on the 'Natural Law' book he edited


[As I announced last month, the Natural Law online reading group will begin on Nov. 28. Chad Nelson, who edited the book's contents, has penned the following blog post about the book and the upcoming reading group. -- The Management]

By Chad Nelson
Special guest blogger

I particularly like RAW’s essay collections in book format (Email to the Universe, Coincidence, Chaos and Beyond, etc.; and now, Natural Law). I hope it’s a subgenre of his we can continue to grow given how much worthy material is at our fingertips. 

The new Natural Law collection is unique among them, I think, in that it is probably the collection with the most consistent thematic thread running throughout its essays. More importantly, the questions posed in Natural Law and its accompanying essays are central to RAW’s intellectual legacy: What is reality? And, assuming that’s an unanswerable question (at least not with any certainty or finality), what are we to learn from this mystery? 

Witnessing RAW grapple with these questions over the course of five decades helps us to see how he fine tuned his arguments over time. The changing style throughout Natural Law also serves to bolster its thesis. Its essays are written for different audiences at various points along RAW’s intellectual trajectory, and thus, his presentation throughout the collection morphs. At times, we get essays intended as direct responses to critics, others showcase an idea RAW simply wants to play with. We might encounter a testy RAW, a jokey RAW, or a subversive RAW. In one part, he’s presenting his ideas in dialogue; in another, he's psychically fusing with Nietzsche. The extreme variety from one chapter to the next works on the reader on a subconscious level — a kind of metaphysical cross-training.

I’m of the belief that getting comfortable with questioning reality requires one to keep at it, sort of like a good meditation practice. I still spend 99.9% of my time subsisting on a fixed, objective reality, even long after committing to a steady diet of Maybe Logic. But having a dozen cracks at reality over a sustained, book-length period, definitely gives the reader the best chance of spontaneous return to a place of ambiguity. 

I’m looking forward to reading others’ impressions and takeaways from the book, coming at it from new angles, and considering its relevance to today’s world.  


Spookah said...

"I’m of the belief that getting comfortable with questioning reality requires one to keep at it, sort of like a good meditation practice."
That seems like a very good point to me. I think there might also be a vast gap between understanding an idea at an intellectual level, and actually living your life while embodying this idea. Or perhaps what I am trying to say is, having this idea modifying your thoughts patterns or neural pathways.

Thank you for this pregame post, Chad. Will you be posting regularly here during the reading group? Looking forward to it.

Chad said...

Thanks, Spookah! I’ll be participating throughout the reading group for sure. Can’t wait.

Eric Wagner said...

I really enjoyed the new edition of Natural Law, especially the final story. The original short book Natural Law seems like a watershed in Wilson's writing. It comes at the end of his residence in Ireland, and it shows how much he had learned from reading the complete Jonathan Swift. It shows him just before his emersion in E-Prime in the 90's.