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Monday, November 24, 2014

Happy E-Prime week, Everybody!!!

(Hey Everybody! If you haven't already read it, you must get a copy of this book. Along with RAW's other writings, this one really redecorated my reality tunnel. Enjoy it, and please, help spread the word about National E-Prime Week!)
From Quantum Psychology 
published by New Falcon Press

E and E-Prime

In 1933, in Science and Sanity, Alfred Korzybski proposed that we should abolish the "is of identity" from the English language. (The "is of identity" takes the form X is a Y. e.g., "Joe is a Communist," "Mary is a dumb file-clerk," "The universe is a giant machine," etc.) In 1949, D. David Bourland Jr. proposed the abolition of all forms of the words "is" or "to be" and the Bourland proposal (English without "isness") he called E-Prime, or English-Prime.
A few scientists have taken to writing in E-Prime (notable Dr. Albert Ellis and Dr. E.W. Kellogg III). Bourland, in a recent (not-yet-published) paper tells of a few cases in which scientific reports, unsatisfactory to sombunall members of a research group, suddenly made sense and became acceptable when re-written in E-Prime. By and large, however, E-Prime has not yet caught on either in learned circles or in popular speech.

(Oddly, most physicists write in E-Prime a large part of the time, due to the influence of Operationalism -- the philosophy that tells us to define things by operations performed -- but few have any awareness of E-prime as a discipline and most of them lapse into "isness" statements all too frequently, thereby confusing themselves and their readers. )
Nonetheless, E-Prime seems to solve many problems that otherwise appear intractable, and it also serves as an antibiotic against what Korzybski called "demonological thinking." Most of this book employs E-Prime so the reader could begin to get acquainted with this new way of mapping the world; in a few instances I allowed normal English, and its "isness" to intrude again (how many of you noticed that?), while discussing some of the weird and superstitious thinking that exists throughout our society and always occurs when "is" creeps into our concepts. (As a clue or warning, I placed each "is" in dubious quotation marks, to highlight its central role in the confusions there discussed).
As everybody with a home computer knows, the software can change the functioning of the hardware in radical and sometimes startling ways. The first law of computers -- so ancient that some claim it dates back to dark, Cthulhoid aeons when giant saurians and Richard Nixons still dominated the earth -- tells us succinctly, "Garbage In, Garbage Out" (or GIGO for short).
The wrong software guarantees wrong answers, or total gibberish. Conversely, the correct software, if you find it, will often "miraculously" solve problems that had hitherto appeared intractable.
Since the brain does not receive raw data, but edits data as we receive it, we need to understand the software the brain uses. The case for using E-Prime rests on the simple proposition that "isness" sets the brain into a medieval Aristotelian framework and makes it impossible to understand modern problems and opportunities. A classic case of GIGO, in short. Removing "isness" and writing/thinking only and always in operational/existential language sets us, conversely, in a modern universe where we can successfully deal with modern issues.
To begin to get the hang of E-Prime, consider the following two columns, the first written in Standard English and the second in English Prime.
Standard English
English Prime
1. The photon is a wave.
1. The photon behaves as a wave when constrained by certain instruments.
2. The photon is a particle.
2. The photon appears as a particle when constrained by other instruments.
3. John is unhappy and grouchy.
3. John appears unhappy and grouchy in the office.
4. John is bright and cheerful.
4. John appears bright and cheerful on holiday at the beach.
5. The car involved in the hit-and-run accident was a blue Ford.
5. In memory, I think I recall the car involved in the hit-and-run accident as a blue Ford.
6. That is a fascist idea.
6. That seems like a fascist idea to me.
7. Beethoven is better than Mozart.
7. In my present mixed state of musical education and ignorance Beethoven seems better than Mozart to me.
8. Lady Chatterly's lover is a pornographic novel.
8. Lady Chatterly's lover seems like a pornographic novel to me.
9. Grass is green.
9. Grass registers as green to most human eyes.
10. The first man stabbed the second man with a knife.
10. I think I saw the first man stab the second man with a knife.
In the first example a "metaphysical" or Aristotelian formulation in Standard English becomes an operational or existential formulation when rewritten in English Prime. This may appear of interest only to philosophers and scientists of an operationalist/phenomenologist bias, but consider what happens when we move to the second example.
Clearly, written in Standard English, "The photon is a wave," and "The photon is a particle" contradict each other, just like the sentences "Robin is a boy" and "Robin is a girl." Nonetheless, all through the nineteenth century physicists found themselves debating about this and, by the early 1920s, it became obvious that the experimental evidence depended on the instruments or the instrumental set-up (design) of the total experiment. One type of experiment always showed light traveling in waves, and another type always showed light traveling as discrete particles.

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