'Nothing is true...'

This is the place to talk about everything Burroughs.

Moderator: RealityStudio

a.sauer
Posts: 8
Joined: Mon May 05, 2008 2:50 am

'Nothing is true...'

Post by a.sauer » Thu Oct 09, 2008 1:08 am

Can anyone please tell me in which book by WSB he quotes "Nothing is true, everything is permitted"? Many thanks.

User avatar
SlobodanBurgher
Posts: 151
Joined: Tue May 30, 2006 5:47 am
Location: London UK

Re: 'Nothing is true...'

Post by SlobodanBurgher » Thu Oct 09, 2008 6:00 am

I don't know. Wasn't that an old Dada thing anyway? Oh I forgot. Did a quick Google search which shows tons of stuff, including this http://www.disinfo.com/archive/pages/ar ... d1562/pg1/ - hope this helps, somehow. If you already used Google, ignore me.

a.sauer
Posts: 8
Joined: Mon May 05, 2008 2:50 am

Re: 'Nothing is true...'

Post by a.sauer » Thu Oct 09, 2008 6:02 am

Thanks for your help. I ended up finding it, I know he's quoted it in a few works, but I found it in Cities of the Red Night. I'm not sure about it being a Dada thing. Thanks again.

Paul Sempschi
Posts: 445
Joined: Sat Dec 24, 2005 6:41 pm

Re: 'Nothing is true...'

Post by Paul Sempschi » Thu Oct 09, 2008 12:22 pm

Well Bill attributes the quote "nothing's true, everything's permitted" to Hassan i Sabbah and I think its first mentioned at the beginning of "Nova Express", though he did do an indepth study of what this phrase meant in "Cities of the Red Night".

User avatar
johnny
Posts: 2308
Joined: Tue Sep 27, 2005 5:32 pm

Re: 'Nothing is true...'

Post by johnny » Thu Oct 09, 2008 12:58 pm

also see geiger's book on brion gysin by that title.

terminal_fool
Posts: 49
Joined: Fri Jan 25, 2008 2:38 pm

Re: 'Nothing is true...'

Post by terminal_fool » Thu Oct 09, 2008 2:39 pm

Paul Sempschi wrote:Well Bill attributes the quote "nothing's true, everything's permitted" to Hassan i Sabbah and I think its first mentioned at the beginning of "Nova Express", though he did do an indepth study of what this phrase meant in "Cities of the Red Night".
Yeah, I was gonna say he said he picked it up from something ol Hassan wrote.

The phrase could be seen as a variant of other famous declarations.

Frederick Nietzsche said something like "God Is Dead, our science has killed him".

Fyodor Dostoevsky said "If God is dead, there is no meaning in the world".

And Walter Kaufmann actually uses the exact same phrase.."Nothing is true-
everything is permitted" in his introduction to A Nietzsche Reader which
was published in 1977.....

"The corollary to 'nothing is true' is 'everything is permitted', and in describing this
state of things Nietzsche becomes the 'prophet of great wars' and herald of
convulsions and disasters: his prognostications of decline, of a collapse of
morale through a consciousness of purposelessness, also belong here."

I've always wondered why Burroughs seldomly mentions Nietzsche, who he had
more in common than others, both psychologically and philosophically. If my
memory is correct, he does mention him in the book of letters at least once
but never in any way analytically.

User avatar
johnny
Posts: 2308
Joined: Tue Sep 27, 2005 5:32 pm

Re: 'Nothing is true...'

Post by johnny » Thu Oct 09, 2008 4:19 pm

and crowley's do what thou wilt etc borrowed from rabelais.

Paul Sempschi
Posts: 445
Joined: Sat Dec 24, 2005 6:41 pm

Re: 'Nothing is true...'

Post by Paul Sempschi » Thu Oct 09, 2008 11:24 pm

where did Rabelais say "do what thou wilt"?

User avatar
johnny
Posts: 2308
Joined: Tue Sep 27, 2005 5:32 pm

Re: 'Nothing is true...'

Post by johnny » Fri Oct 10, 2008 9:46 am

i believe it was burroughs who noted that crowley had plagiarized rabelais. i did a quick search, and didn't find perhaps, exactly what he was referring to, but this is pretty close:
“In their rules there was only one clause: Do what you will.”

edward_de_vere
Posts: 608
Joined: Mon Sep 11, 2006 6:16 pm

Re: 'Nothing is true...'

Post by edward_de_vere » Fri Oct 10, 2008 10:48 am

I've always wondered why Burroughs seldomly mentions Nietzsche, who he had
more in common than others, both psychologically and philosophically. If my
memory is correct, he does mention him in the book of letters at least once
but never in any way analytically.


I've heard no mention of Burroughs studying Nietzsche in detail, but when he was younger, he was very impressed by Spengler's "Decline of the West" (a fascinating study of history, I may add). Spengler in turn cited Nietzsche as one of his principal influences.

terminal_fool
Posts: 49
Joined: Fri Jan 25, 2008 2:38 pm

Re: 'Nothing is true...'

Post by terminal_fool » Fri Oct 10, 2008 2:53 pm

I've heard no mention of Burroughs studying Nietzsche in detail, but when he was younger, he was very impressed by Spengler's "Decline of the West" (a fascinating study of history, I may add). Spengler in turn cited Nietzsche as one of his principal influences.
i just went back and searched the book of letters for a footnote but no dice.
must've gotten it confused with another author. i thought he and Ginsberg
had brought him up discussing the God is Dead declaration.

Paul Sempschi
Posts: 445
Joined: Sat Dec 24, 2005 6:41 pm

Re: 'Nothing is true...' Nietzsche

Post by Paul Sempschi » Sat Oct 11, 2008 4:03 am

edward_de_vere wrote:I've always wondered why Burroughs seldomly mentions Nietzsche, who he had
more in common than others, both psychologically and philosophically. If my
memory is correct, he does mention him in the book of letters at least once
but never in any way analytically.
Honestly, I dont see the connection. Though I guess it depends on your reading of Nietz., I always saw him as a proto-fascist, definitely in the tradition of Social Darwinism which values strength over pity and wanted the world to be run as such. Survival being the main ethic (which I guess, would be the connection, though I doubt Bill would have been on board with the necessities of arranged marriages or the overt tones of pro-slavery laden in the Gay Science and Twilight of the Idols).

Many people see Nietz. as an Existentialist who promoted Nihilism but I dont think that's accurate. Nietz. predicted Nihilism and said that it would lead to the destruction of all philosophical idelogical foundations. Nietz. wanted their to be a foundation but felt that the foundation shouldnt rest on "decadence" (the hatred or devaluing of the 'material' world inherent in the very belief of a 'spiritual' or other-worldly thing: Morality, God, Platonic forms, etc.), a path he saw coalscening from Socrates and culiminating into the much hated Jesus Christ.

While we're on the subject, I believe there's a connection between Bill and Wittgenstein, though I havent gotten around to him yet to know the connection. Though in the BBC documentary, Bill cites Wittgenstein for the inspiration of the "in a prerecorded Universe, the only thing that isnt prerecorded is the recordings themselves". Any thoughts?

User avatar
RealityStudio
Site Admin
Posts: 1765
Joined: Mon Sep 12, 2005 1:40 pm
Location: New York
Contact:

Re: 'Nothing is true...'

Post by RealityStudio » Sat Oct 11, 2008 7:48 am

Neither Nietzsche nor Wittgenstein are mentioned in the index to the letters.

Nietzsche is mentioned once in Burroughs Live on p 538. Burroughs says, "Nietzsche said: Men need play and danger, civilization gives them work and safety." The same quote appears in Place of Dead Roads, p 237.

This is Michael Stevens' entry on Wittgenstein in Road to Interzone:
Wittgenstein, Ludwig. Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1974. Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889-1951) German philosopher.

"Have you read Wittgenstein? He says that no preposition can contain itself as data. In other words, the only thing that's not prerecorded is prerecordings themselves." LOKA 2, p. 166.

This is the only mention of German philosopher, Wittgenstein in all of Burroughs published work. "The only thing that's not prerecorded are the prerecordings themselves" is a Burroughs statement that has appeared several times throughout his career, and he is using Wittgenstein to back him up on this. The quote he refers to is probably one of three included in Wittgenstein's masterpiece Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus: "3.13 A Proposition includes all that the projection includes, but not what is projected./ Therefore, though what is projected is not itself included, its possibility is./ A proposition, therefore, does not actually contain its sense, but does contain the possibility of expressing it./ (‘The content of a proposition' means the content of a proposition that has sense.')" "3.332 No proposition can make a statement about itself, because a propositional sign cannot be contained in itself" "3.333 The reason why a function cannot be its own argument is that the sign for a function already contains the prototype of its argument, and it cannot contain itself..." Not only do these three statements from Wittgenstein's piece support Burroughs' theory, but are very similar to the basis of Korzybski's general semantics that a word is not what it represents, illustrated in the scenario that Burroughs was fond of describing of Korzybski banging on a table saying, "whatever this is, it is not a table."

LOKA = Fields, Rick (ed.) Loka 2: A Journal From Naropa Institute. NY: Anchor, 1976.
I would imagine that Burroughs read a fair amount of philosophy early on, during the same post-Harvard period when he was reading Korzybski and the like. Somehow I don't see him being very interested in philosophy afterward. It's not actionable enough for him. I imagine him preferring something like Reich because he could go out and build an orgone box.
Storm the Reality Studio!

User avatar
johnny
Posts: 2308
Joined: Tue Sep 27, 2005 5:32 pm

Re: 'Nothing is true...'

Post by johnny » Sat Oct 11, 2008 10:36 am

one could say that afterward he became a philosopher himself.

terminal_fool
Posts: 49
Joined: Fri Jan 25, 2008 2:38 pm

Re: 'Nothing is true...'

Post by terminal_fool » Sat Oct 11, 2008 2:20 pm

Honestly, I dont see the connection. Though I guess it depends on your reading of Nietz., I always saw him as a proto-fascist, definitely in the tradition of Social Darwinism which values strength over pity and wanted the world to be run as such. Survival being the main ethic (which I guess, would be the connection, though I doubt Bill would have been on board with the necessities of arranged marriages or the overt tones of pro-slavery laden in the Gay Science and Twilight of the Idols).
That's the thing about N. he contradicted himself alot. At times he's against
socialism which is the same as fascism, whereas in others he structures a
pyramid-like system of how society should function:the intelligent at the top,
the strong in the middle, and the weak and dumb at the bottom.

Many people see Nietz. as an Existentialist who promoted Nihilism but I dont think that's accurate. Nietz. predicted Nihilism and said that it would lead to the destruction of all philosophical idelogical foundations. Nietz. wanted their to be a foundation but felt that the foundation shouldnt rest on "decadence" (the hatred or devaluing of the 'material' world inherent in the very belief of a 'spiritual' or other-worldly thing: Morality, God, Platonic forms, etc.), a path he saw coalscening from Socrates and culiminating into the much hated Jesus Christ.
I'm having a difficult time understanding the bold part of your statment.

Do you mean that he said that the foundation should be: the hatred
or devaluing of the 'material' world inherent in the very belief of a 'spiritual' or
other-worldly thing? I ask because Nietzsche hated those 'philosophers of death'
those who worried more about the afterworld. He was against those who
idealized the hatred of this world, namely Christians.

Post Reply