On E-Prime and Existence: Can God Be Real?

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  • mookestink
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    I present to you English Prime, or E-Prime.  It transforms the English language by removing every instance of the verb "to be" from discourse.  This includes being, was, is, will be, are, am, exists, becoming, et cetera.  It forces one to use stronger, more accurate words than "to be", otherwise known as both the most over-used and the vaguest concept in our language.

    A poet would see the importance of eschewing over-utilized phrasing; nobody has improved upon the meaning and efficiency of Shakespeare's "to be or not to be".  Heidegger exhausted the concept of Being, and made a career, in "Being and Time".

    Above and beyond the necessary changes one must make to write or speak in E-Prime resides one major concern.  Ontology, or the question of what it means to be, appears to lose the plot when you try to defend any ontological position in E-Prime.  We cannot say that something exists, so questions about whether or not a Deity exists have no relevance.  Instead, we need to limit ourselves to what appears.

    A philosopher would understand how much is predicated on the verb "to be", and see that it requires many alterations to one's beliefs to speak E-Prime fluently.  For instance, we can not say that we believe in the existence of anything, as that is not a meaningful proposition.  Solipsism, the question of whether or not anything exists other than one's own mind, is similarly a question of existence, and thus irrelevant.  Truly, English Prime resolves old problems just as it engenders new ones.  Whether one should use Standard English versus E-Prime primarily manifests as an aesthetic concern.

    Furthermore, questions about identity and predication depend on the verb "to be".  For instance, to proclaim that "whatever is, is" or that "all bachelors are unmarried men" both no longer express anything meaningful.  We don't assume that we know what it means for something to exist -- "is" and "are" clue us into the fact that both propositions remain inexpressible in E-Prime.  Descartes' famously efficient maxim, cogito ergo sum, no longer remains simple.  Expressing what the "sum" actually means challenges our common sense notions of "what existence is".

    I find E-Prime fascinating, and have been playing with it for the last couple weeks.  I still have yet to find a way around the ontological conundrum, but would definitely like to hear from someone more clever than I.

    Can we talk about God from the perspective of E-Prime?  Surely, we cannot ask "whether He exists", because "exists" has, as its fundamental identity, a form of the verb "to be".

    As a starting point, I recommend the following essay by Robert Anton Wilson: https://www.nobeliefs.com/eprime.htm
  • Stronn
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    --> @mookestink
    It seems like one can get around the lack of "to be" and its variants, albeit somewhat awkwardly. For instance, rather than ask whether something exists, one can instead ask if reality contains it. Instead of saying "I am a person" one can instead say "I possess the property of personhood."
  • mookestink
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    Good response.  How does this sound for the ontic question: “does a thing possessing all the properties of God appear in reality?”
  • Stronn
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    Sure, although you are really using the word "appear" to mean "exist" in that sentence. "Does reality contain God?" is a cleaner version.
  • mookestink
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    How does one determine what reality contains?  Does reality contain this table in front of me?
  • Mopac
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    How would you introduce yourself? How would I say, "My name is Mopac?"

    How would a dictionary work? How do you give definitions?

    It seems needlessly destructive.

  • mookestink
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    I would identify myself as mookestink, and my parents named me Trevor.  A dictionary works by giving meaning to signs: a word (the signifier) means its signified. 
  • Mopac
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    So...

    I identify as Mopac

    And God means The Ultimate Reality


    There would be a lot of problems translating old texts, especially scripture


    I Am That I Am

    I am the way, the truth, and the life

    How do you translate these things?


    The is m

    E prime looks suspiciously like a direct attack on theism.. or any ism for that matter...

    Newspeak?
  • mookestink
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    I started this thread in anticipation of the problem of parsing ontological claims in E-Prime. God counts.

    Either a) We can speak of God in E-Prime, or b) we cannot.  If we can, we have no issue.  If we can't, we need to decide if 1) this presents an accidental problem, or 2) we see here a thoroughly desirable feature of E-Prime.

    I lean toward the belief that the ambiguity of theological claims makes them an undesirable element of Standard English.  E-Prime fixes the problem.  We should classify as gibberish Scripture that we cannot translate into E-Prime.  Such Scripture gives the air of profundity and mystery, when in fact it merely confuses our imagination with non-sense.
  • Mopac
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    --> @mookestink
    There is no issue talking about God in e-prime, the problem is that if you were to replace English with e-prime it would make thousands of years of writing in all languages unintelligible and untranslatable.

    With E-prime, you can't say anything is anything else. 

    I can say that in the context of theology, God refers to The Truth without a problem. But the ancient languages that scripture is based on use the is of identity quite a bit. How do you translate this? You can't without compromising meaning, or it doesn't seem so immediately clear to me that this isn't the case.

    It seems to me that this would make scripture less intelligible, leading to further ambiguity. But to at least give it a go...

    How do you say something like, The Lord is my fortress? I find my fortress in the Lord.

    The Lord is my healer. My healing comes from The Lord.

    I am The way, the truth and the life no one comes to the father except through me.

    How would you translate that into e-prime?

    The Father can only be reached through The Way, The Truth, and The Life, 

    Oddly enough, probably not that far from the intended meaning, but is something is still lost in translation? 

    What about when they asked for Jesus to arrest him, and he said "I Am"?

    You can't even say "I Am" in e-prime, can you?

    But certainly, God can be discussed in e-prime, as well as theology. The problem comes in translating texts that make use of the is of identity.
  • mookestink
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    In ancient Chinese scripture (Tao te Ching) there arises untranslatable sentences, due to twin facts: (1) ancient Chinese does not use the verb "to be", and (2) Chinese lacks the distinction between verbs and nouns.  Indeed, the very first statement of the Tao te Ching reads, literally, "[Way] [can] [way] [not] [way]."  In Standard English, we translate, "The way that can be walked is not the Way."

    If we dispose of the literal we can still understand Taoism.  I suggest a similar treatment of the Bible. Unpack the meaning.  Write commentary, not scripture.  You have all the important tools of language in E-Prime.

    Some probing questions:
    1. What series of signifiers equals "I Am"?
    2. Does it simply mean "I exist", or can we look closer (in the sense that "to be or not to be" refers to suicide, not existence?)
    3.  Why that series of words?
    4.  In what context does that selection of words appear?
    5. What signified does the writer point to? 
  • Mopac
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    --> @mookestink
    There is actually an e prime bible.

    "I proclaim Myself as the one who exists Eternally"
    Is how what normally gets translated to " I Am That I Am" is interpreted.


    So yes, there is an e prime bible based off of the NASB translation.









  • Mopac
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    I can already tell you that a lot of meaning will be lost.


    The thematic connection between concepts such as "bread" as an example, is lost in interpretive translations such as "the message" when they translate "give us this day our daily bread" into "3 square meals" or something to that effect.


    Another problem with all of this is that it doesn't just effect the meaning in the translation, but it is an assault on thousands of years worth of commentary.

    As much as I personally like e-prime, and have read several of Korzybski's books( I like to point him out to people who think the Polish are dumb, because he was really quite brilliant)I am much more wary about actually altering language in this fashion.


    Think in e-prime? Sure. Talk in e-prime? Sure. Changing all of language to conform to e-prime? This I have a problem with. It seems like far too big of a leap to be hasty about.

    But can theology be discussed in e-prime? Certainly, and if you are actually interested in doing this, I would be more than happy to.





  • mookestink
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    "I proclaim Myself as the one who exists Eternally"
    "To exist" synonymizes with "to be". "Is" and "exists" have the same signified: a bit careless.

    It took me a day but I came up with this: "I, the Eternal, extend forever in space and time."  How does that sound?

    I don't know if I have the background to talk about anything but the most elementary theology.  But sure, there's worse things to talk about, and since the chance to practice writing in E-Prime motivates me, the topic does not matter.  What passage confirms your faith in Deity?




  • Mopac
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    --> @mookestink
    I don't think corrupting works that were written making use of the is of identity into something that doesn't in order to satisfy a relativistic fetish is necessary or desirable. Not only that, but I find it incredibly offensive.


    I will gladly discuss God with you in e-prime as an experiment. Maybe in a form of question and answer?

    How would you even start such a conversation?

    I will start talking in e-prime when you first engage me.
  • mookestink
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    Hold on.   Do you have an opinion on "A=A", the definition of a tautology?  Does that represent "I Am That I Am" accurately?  Or do they have totally different signifieds?  I ask this because you said, in another thread, that "God is Truth", and nothing screams capital-T Truth more loudly than A=A.
  • Mopac
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    --> @mookestink
    E-prime literally removes the equal sign from language.

    The word "is" happens to be the English equivilent of the equal sign.

    Not sure I understand your question though.

  • mookestink
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    I asked whether the two different signifiers (“I Am That I Am” and “A=A”) have the same meaning (signified) or not.  Does “I Am That I Am” have some other, possibly poetic, meaning?
  • Mopac
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    God is God.

    The Truth is The Truth.

    The way the name is understood in theology is actually very similar to that tao te ching verse you quoted earlier which is sometimes translated as "The name that can be named is not the eternal name"

    The eternal name being, not a name that is grasped or understood by intellect.


    The Ultimate Reality? It is what it is.

    Keep in mind that this is God speaking, so ot needs to be interpreted with that context.

    The Ultimate Reality apon being asked for a name responds "I Am That I Am"

    Even with the words that I am using, it is impossible totally communicate the essence of God, because we are describing that which is fundamentally uncreated through the medium of creation. There is no other way, as we are created beings.


    The name means God is The Supreme Being. Eternal and All Pervasive Existence 







  • mookestink
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    Would you assent to the proposition that God represents a personification of Logic?  I can see how that could help pass on the tradition of thinking logically, for those who understand its esoteric meaning.
  • Mopac
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    I do not believe that God represents a personification of logic. God represents The Truth, which I believe has greater authority and reality than logic. I of course do believe it is evident that without The Truth, logic loses its meaning.
    I do however believe that love of The Truth inclines one to appreciate logic. Logic should never be taken as an idol in place of or before The Truth.

  • mookestink
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    I am reminded of the Word, Logos.  John stated that identity with Logos makes Jesus divine, Reason incarnate.  It would seem that this ascribes more to God than a sky-daddy, and more to his avatar than the best friend of Christians.  Narrow the gate.
  • Mopac
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    Would you say that...

    "All things were made by him(reason); and without him was not any thing made that was made."?
  • mookestink
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    I would agree.  Reason, the principle of Reality, understands all things that are true; anything not true cannot take part in Reality.  The rule, that fundamentally all created things are comprehensible through Reasonable thought because such formed them, colours everything everywhere.
  • Mopac
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    You say that reason understands truth, that it comprehends truth. To comprehend truth does not imply the creation of truth.


    I do not believe it is sound to claim that all of creation cane from reason. I do not believe that all existence comes soley from thought.