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The Issue of Is: A Commentary on the Case Against the Verb “To Be”

  • 28 Oct 2022
  • 12:00 PM
  • Zoom


Registration is closed

The second installment of our IGS lecture series will feature IGS President Lance Strate. Please join us on Friday, October 28th at 12 Noon EDT for a talk on

The Issue of Is:

A Commentary on

The Case Against the Verb “To Be”


We may quibble over whether Shakespeare was referencing the verb itself when he began the Hamlet soliloquy with the famous phrase, “To be or not to be? That is the question…” But questions and criticisms regarding that common little word “is” have a long history, and not just within general semantics. Alfred Korzybski specifically identified the “is” of identity as problematic, and to a lesser extent the “is” of predication, while others associated with general semantics have proposed eliminating the verb “to be” entirely from the English language. This lecture will review the concerns that have been raised regarding the copula within general semantics, as well as alternative perspectives derived from linguistics and media ecology.

Lance Strate serves as the current president of the Institute of General Semantics, having previously served as president of the New York Society for General Semantics, the Media Ecology Association, and the New York State Communication Association. He holds the position of Professor of Communication and Media Studies at Fordham University. Dr. Strate has authored ten books, including On the Binding Biases of Time (2011); Amazing Ourselves to Death: Neil Postman’s Brave New World Revisited (2014); Media Ecology: An Approach to Understanding the Human Condition (2017); and the forthcoming volume, Concerning Communication: Epic Quests and Lyric Excursions Within the Human Lifeworld. He has co-edited seven anthologies, including The Legacy of McLuhan (2005); Korzybski And… (2012); and Taking Up McLuhan’s Cause: Perspectives of Media and Formal Causality (2017). He recently received the J. Talbot Winchell Award for Service from the Institute of General Semantics, and has previously received the Media Ecology Association’s Walter J. Ong Award for Career Achievement in Scholarship and their Marshall McLuhan Award for Outstanding Book, the New York State Communication Association’s John F. Wilson Fellow Award for scholarship and leadership and their Neil Postman Mentor Award, the Eastern Communication Association’s Distinguished Research Fellow Award, and the Global Listening Centre’s Outstanding Research Award.

The lecture will be held via Zoom. This event is free and open to the public, but registration is required. Registrants will receive the Zoom link in advance of the lecture.

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