‘All we see are the thingified images in our heads; we don’t know what’s out there.’ – RAW, letter; June 1987
I’ve been meaning to write this brief post since I came across a letter from RAW to someone named Kurt Smith (courtesy of rawilsonfans.org, via @mgathers23 – see note below*). I tweeted about it last year.
It’s dated 3 June 1987, and contains a mix of typefaces which look like they’re printed on an old (dot-matrix?) printer. I’ll refer to it as RAW’s “Dynamite Dave’s” letter, because of its letterhead. The scan isn’t very OCR-able – I’ve tried. But it contains some wonderfully lucid passages that clarify parts of Bob’s whole approach and philosophy in a way that I haven’t seen elsewhere – so I’ve typed a few passages out for use here (and to make them copy ‘n’ pasteable):
‘I find polemic one of the most exhilarating ways to communicate my “vision” or my lunacy or whatever it is. Banging my ideas against somebody else’s ideas seems to me to produce lovely dialectical sparks. Straight exposition, as in Prometheus, seems to me to merely produce popular science or journalism. Dialectical conflict seems to raise me or excite me to the level of real philosophy.’– RAW, Dynamite Dave’s letter, 1987
There are also some striking and highly quotable bits on “Platonic/Aristotelian systems” (amongst other things). But I’ll leave those until my next posts (RAW’s anti-metaphysical takes on Plato & Aristotle), which I’m less than half-way through.
“things may not exist at all” – RAW, letter (Dynamite Dave’s)
‘I am amused more than aghast that you confuse my position with solipsism. Shea has confused it with solipsism for 15 years or more and we argue about that regularly. Einstein confused this position with solipsism, also, and his 30-year debate with Bohr was based on the notion that Copenhagenism is solipsism. Other physicists still accuse Wheeler of solipsism. It seems rather hard to convey that transactionalism is not the solipsist pole of the Aristotelian-solipsist either/or but is a third alternative. I have tried to explain this dozens of ways in all my books, and the fact that some people still don’t get it just shows (I think) the extent to which the Aristotelian dualism still controls Western thought. Einstein didn’t understand this position even after 30 years of debating it with Bohr.’– RAW, Dynamite Dave’s letter, 1987
* Mike adds that “Kurt Smith was a coworker of Wilson’s from the Playboy days. They kept in touch via letters through the 80s. He has a shoebox full of letters from those days”.
(Note: I corrected a few minor, obvious typos from the letter, rather than adding “[sic]” after them: “exhilerating” from the first quote, and “Cophenhagenism” from the second).