[NetBehaviour] Do we still engage? a longer response
Johannes.Birringer at brunel.ac.uk
Wed Jun 26 22:27:48 CEST 2013
F. Scott Taylor wanted to respond to Alan's initial posting and
has sent this (below) to the list to share.
DO WE STILL ENGAGE?
Currently, many conversations are often directly and indirectly about the politics or polemics of disengagement. Simply put, while supposedly “connecting” via telecommunications media, we are “disconnecting” face-to-face relations and, in many cases to avoid introspection. As we do so, we are tending to eroticize and sexualize detachment. We are substituting “ecstasy” for “intimacy” through behavioral psycho-tropics, whether those are generated by internet “addiction” or through the blood-brain barrier. This sort of disengagement and detachment is the base nature of digital dissociation. We are having a political-economic love affair -- sans Freud, sans erotic zones, sans sensibility, academic and philosophically -- with the digital. We are experimenting with oxymoronic experiences involving ‘empowering disempowerment.’
A perfect example of techno-cultural ‘empowering-disempowerment’ can be discovered in the current cyber-war regarding cyber-terrorism and hackivism. One c.t. or h. recently used the Department of Homeland Securities’ computers to leverage and launch a cyber-attack against the Department of Homeland Securities. Talk about a malicious kind of poetic justice. While private and public connections have been breached and broken, the anonymous, autonomous individual can act as a nation state from within and from without, or globally, and therefore begin to define a perverse, transmogrified version of what comprised traditional private and public communications. This means, say, that the advance of private self-interested agendas regarding aspects of government funding has been radically compromised; i.e., a defense department can augur more public funding by launching its own cyber-attack against itself and then request greater finance in order to develop more Intel to overcome similar threats. And so on. This is a radically new form of psycho-social political-economic self-enfranchisement. It represents the digital stealth openly available for any one or any group to pursue. It represents the digital cloaking which allows the individual and the group to disappear. Talk about transparency.
McLuhan used to emphasize that there are complete connections and there are complete disconnections. For example, while quantum Physics involves the bizarre realities of universal connection, classical Physics is all about local disconnection and interaction whether in terms of thermodynamics or the electromagnetic spectrum. The analog context is the context of transformational connection as such transitions through changing values and variables, while the digital is the dissociational opposite; it is discontinuous and decontextualizing.
Recently I gave a keynote address at a major international conference in Singapore (Digital Arts Weeks). My address was called, “Artscience and Verbal Articulation in Hyper-Visual Techno-Culture.” The content represented an attempt to inform interested parties how the bleeding edge discoveries in neurology regarding the relationship of vision to verbal expression can be used to define and describe the aesthetics of contemporary visual artists who are working with language percepts and concepts. Upon conclusion of my presentation, I was immediately assailed by a professional heckler, I say “professional” because over the course of the conference he treated other presenters to the same poison. However, when my critic bragged about his chauvinistic attachment to the idea of quantum digitality [“Quantum Physics is digital. Biochemical neurology is digital.” Et cetera.], he seemed unaware that quantum digitality requires the “as if” [analogical] mindset that the quantum is a totalitarian state of universal dissociation or break-down, when the quantum field is exactly the opposite. It is the “spooky” physics of quantum entanglement and action at a distance. It is the universal connectivity that allows us to focus finite being at the same time as allowing expansion conceptually if not always perceptually into infinity. It might be said to provide the very state we term for “being.”
[Part of the presentation included the following, which is directly pertinent to my conversation here and below:
Language phenomenology is generated through a holistic, organic, analog process, but is expressed through referential and inferential digital means.
In Western Civilization since the classical Greeks there has been a so-called “War between the Ancients and the Moderns.”
The Ancients have been considered to be orators employing rhetorical terms of expression involving poetic analogies, metaphors, similes and metonymies.
The Moderns are associated with visual, written or printed texts which eschew poetic tropes and devote arguments to literal, concrete, factual narratives. For example, Plato -- a Modern -- wanted to exile the poets from the city. Then Aristotle -- more Modern than Plato -- debunked Plato’s poetic idealism and began to classify scientific forms of thinking based upon visual categorization and classification.
The luminaries of the 18th-century Enlightenment represent Moderns, while those of the 19th-century Romantic Rebellion embraced the attempt to return to Ancient multimodal, oral and poetic traditions.
Since the Romantics there has been a consistent movement toward more and more digital forms of expression. Unfortunately, the more digital the expression, the more analog perception and conception is compromised.
Today Art-Scientists find themselves in the position of attempting to reconcile digital, hyper-visual forms of communication with the basic analog necessity of being -- and this while basic human analogical cognition is being severely distorted.]
Back to the chase: I have always admired Freeman Dyson and not least because of his accessible lectures, “Infinite in All Directions,” as presented in 1985. And I have been enthralled by theoretical physicist Anthony Lisi’s E8 -- or the 248-dimensional symmetrical object created through super computation, which may actually suggest E9, E10, E11 and so on forever and ever. It is my profound physical and spiritual connection to the idea of such extravagant dimensional expanse which releases me from the alienation and anxiety associated with awe regarding “all-real reality.” That conjecture or idea also leads me to think that many people are techno-culturally engaged with the enchantment and disenchantment involving disengagement and detachment because of their anxious necessity to “let go” or “zone-out.” But such a self-destructive ‘catharsis’ requires, of course, a final voyage into the cryonic deep freeze of absolute zero. In other words, to the abstract notion of a cyberspatial-like place in the metaverse where there is no connective energy at all.
In addition, I would also like to speak about another of McLuhan’s less known engines for insight: “Rim Spin.” McLuhan used to say that a faster moving medium erodes a slower moving one. Today he might apply that to a comprehensive understanding of the world wide web(s) as enveloping and shrinking the globe “instantly” and, hence, eroding away worldly issue. Rim Spin. In order to survive such instantaneous abrasion, the world must become like a hard pearl in a hollow shell.
There is the idea that the human element can “regulate” or “modify” or “adapt” its figures and grounds to withstand the negative effects of telecommunications. But in order to do so the powers that be must turn off the super-computers if it is to “regulate” or “control” the political-economic marketplace not to mention more loving cultural commerce. But they aren’t willing to do so. So there is no regulation and no control and the plunder no longer takes place after the city has been ravished but before and during the rape. The world is being eaten alive by self-mutilation, voodoo economics and zoned-out zombie cannibalism.
Do we still engage with Sartre?
Although Marshall McLuhan is often referred to as the patron saint of cyberspace, McLuhan was physically and spiritually devoted to the analog and the analogical, and so was constitutionally unable to conscientiously adhere to cyberspace. In fact, his meditations on the nature of time and space, particularly the latter, were involved in an attempt to define and describe what we call “cyberspace” and how it is actually non-temporal and non-spatial, despite all the metaphors applied. So Jean-Paul Sartre represents a much worthier state of being to be designated as an atheistic anti-saint for the cyberspatial. Cyberspace supposedly give its users an illimitable field of choice, but what it actually provides is “bad faith.” By “bad faith” I am suggesting the usual definition of the substitution of real values for false values under the dictatorial force of a society without any sort of realistic social contract.
However, Sartre was simply, as was McLuhan, a man of his time, and he simply furnished a philosophy which could be understood because it was descriptive of the general “sentimental education” of the time. While the denizens of techno-culture, despite supposed civil rights and liberties, were allowed fewer and fewer realistic choices, it was appealing to think that they still had any choices at all, and, hence, Sartre.
How Flaubert, a century earlier, would have loved to have satirized Sartre. Flaubert’s character “Hussonet” in The Sentimental Education (1869) is a journalist, a dramatist, and a clown, who ends up controlling all the theaters and all the press. Flaubert makes it explicitly clear that “Hussonet” has read so much, and has been so distracted by his reading that he has lost his common sense. He becomes more and more “disintegrated” just as the character “Rigambart,” “The Citizen,” after his boozy, revolutionary chauvinism, becomes a ghost of a man. So much for the enlightenment -- which might be called “the entitlement” -- and the project of cultural authority and progress. [I have referred to Wikipedia regarding “Hussonet” and “Rigambart.”]
During Sartre’s investure as an estranged “Hussonet” and “Rigambart” prevailed over the growing estrangement the general population was feeling. This extended to the limits of verbal expression, or, in other words, self-expression and social expression. Sartre’s novel, Nausea (1938), is an ironic masterpiece because it describes the visceral sensations of a man, a historian, who has been verbally eviscerated by his conviction that material objects are encroaching more and more on the limits of his subjectivity. The environmental dissociation he feels regarding this material onslaught causes him to feel nauseous in the hollow of his “self.” The novel appears to be a treatise on how even verbal mastery is unable to define and describe the human condition.
Similarly, Samuel Beckett’s language games involved, for example, “The Unnamable,” and at almost the same time as Wittgenstein stated his edict regarding what can and what cannot be said. Beckett’s point is that we can no longer go down the same road again and again, a little further each time, although, of course, always one step forward and two steps back. In other words, where enunciation and denunciation are concerned, verbal explication, analog and/or digital, has become “absurd” or useless, analogically and/or logically (mathematically). Wittgenstein was pointing this out for the sake of philosophers and scientists, and Beckett to humanity in general.
The 19th-century notions of anomie and alienation, as espoused by Emile Durkheim -- who defined “anomie” as the lack of social norms or “normlessness” and, hence, the breakdown of social bonds between an individual and his or her community -- is much more prescient and telling then anything we have from Sartre. Where, in fact, would Baudrillard be without Dirkheim? Is it not the breaking of the bonds within and without, between and among people which gives rise to a social culture based in mimesis, in imitation, in a simulacrum of what once was an ideological and ontologically bound social sense of identity, entity and livelihood? This represents the beginning of a “post-symbolic” culture, where the symbol stands for nothing but itself. The word becomes its own brand. Without the “post-symbolic,” without the “iconic,” there is no personal or public commerce.
You might read the essays of Eugene Gendlin who writes very well about the dissolve of such bounds and how the breakdown ends in fracturing psycho-physiological attention and focus, as well as anything which still resembled a social contract after the enlightenment, the positivists, the mechanical materialists and the various industrial revolutionaries, whether chemical, electrical or otherwise. Of how the dissolve involves the planned obsolescence of language and the ability to listen or hear what can be spoken even despite what cannot (by inference). So we can still admire Sartre for attempting to give the whole human debacle a philosophical footing, however much his wane withering ends in a kind of nauseating pseudo-religion pointing out “bad faith” (social and cultural distortions) despite his best efforts or our finest interests.
Do we still read Derrida?
Who ever read Derrida? I attempted to read him any number of times. In short, I would prefer reading Finnegan’s Wake annually to any half-hour attempt to untangle the metaphoric and ametaphoric knots (big emphasis on the silent “k” – which I am tempted to say is an allusion to Kafka’s “K” – both “Josef K” of The Trial and “K” of The Castle) of his denunciations, renunciations, lubrications and desert rasp. I even bought Cultural Studies Cole’s Notes on Derrida, but they did me no good.
Nevertheless, let me deride him. Derrida really doesn’t know anything much about his chief topic and formulation: “analogical forms of thinking” or the idea that all meaning is metaphoric. For example, despite that stance, he suggests that it is an occupational nonsense to attempt to apply any “interpretation” or “meaning” to a literary text with any sort of factual relevance. He doesn’t seem to perceive that the very most profound intention of any poet worth his potato is to generate the greatest ambiguity possible in an attempt to mine, divine and refine the quantity and quality of cognitive thought and being as that thought and being is directly engaged in a literal, factual context, the context from which springs the analog and analogical. This ought to have been made clear to him by William Empson in Empson’s masterpiece, Seven Types of Ambiguity (1930). That is, the more ambiguity, the more meaning. We should not be involved in disambigulating, but in reambigulating as a pan-cultural project. When we read, for instance, the complex grammar, syntax, signs and signatures of 19th-century writers -- writers like Carlyle and Macaulay – we don’t seem to realize that this isn’t another style of language, altogether, but a cognitive style of neurological complexity signaling greater engagement in the world of nature and the world of humanity.
Instead, we are brought up on the assumption that Hemingway represents the ne plus ultra of the American literary tradition. His semantic and syntactic simplicity, whereby he strips away all sensory investment in environmental reality, is closer to the literal, factual ideal fobbed off on literary mastery. No, Hemingway isn’t Ciceronian, or an aural rhetorician versed in the irrational and the social organ it informs. Hemingway is Senecan. Literal, lineal, factual, concrete, flat, scientifically ascetic, and, working headfast and headlong into full out digitality.
It has always interested and amused me that Hemingway was supposedly influenced directly and indirectly by Gertrude Stein. Although Gertrude Stein would appear to be doing something more radically exact, or nominal, than Hemingway, she is not stripping down language towards conceptual and perceptual minimalism, but in order to expose the deep cognitive faculties which inform language skill and competence in the first place. For example, she is best known for saying “Rose is a rose is a rose is a rose.” This is generally thought to simply state that ‘things are what they are’ as a matter of fact. This is mistaken. Stein, although not a Gestalt therapist, was perfectly aware that any analogy, any metaphor, requires the interaction of two figures and two grounds in order to make up a meaningful gestalt. Stein is drawing attention to the fact that ‘things are not what they are’ but are always in a state of transition. It is a transitional phrase. Malcolm Brinnin wrote a book about Stein, The Third Rose: Gertrude Stein and Her World (1959). If I remember correctly, he said something to the like that her audience followed Stein to the degree that they understood “Rose is a rose . . .” but that they left her at the third rose. However Brinnin, himself, does not travel on towards comprehending the fourth rose. Simplistically, Stein’s work here is metonymical, that is it represents the cognitive process underlying all analogical perception and conception. Stein’s nominalization attempts to go beyond the reificational aspect of language to the neurological template and its processes. It is more in the tradition of Shakespeare’s “A rose by any other name . . . .” Hemingway’s parody of Stein’s statement is an indication that he didn’t begin to comprehend Stein’s deeper reference to the living mechanics of language phenomenology.
Then, of course, there is the opposite idea to Derrida’s that there is no meaning in the metaphoric, as proffered by the likes of Donald Davidson. But both take their cause and case too far. Any particular analogy or metaphor is false, but the set of all analogies or metaphors is true or more-or-less true.
Weeding the false from the true is the divine practice of all interpreters. And as for such interpreters, we have had rhetoricians and grammarians. The rhetoricians are classical, while the grammarians are more likely to be Church Fathers. The exegesis or interpretation of a sacred document proceeded in this way according to their professional wisdom: there are four levels of interpretation: the literal, the moral, the allegorical and the anagogical. These move from the lowest to the highest sense of interpretive comprehension.
It goes like this:
1. The Literal: A boy, a real boy, kicks away a dog, a real dog;
2. The Moral: The boy is a good boy because he kicked away a bad dog which attempted to bite him;
3. The Allegorical: The boy is like Christ, who obeyed his father and always maintained balanced thoughts, while the dog is like Lucifer, and the instant Lucifer (and any who thought like him) thought unbalanced thoughts, he (and they) were exiled from Paradise; Paradise is the living sacred state of balance;
4. The Anagogical: Because of the War in Heaven, God, the Father, has to create the metaverse as a process to rebalance all unbalanced thought.
Avoiding the mystical -- or the attempt to transcend the base dimensions and learn to move into the more subtle and spiritual -- we tend to forget that this is a relatively new universe, merely fourteen billion light-years old, and so all the time past is but the first instant relative to all the time which is to come; we tend to forget that balance is life, and that the current conditions in the universe are such that there is less life than there is potentially; so, for the first half of the universe conditions improve so that there is more and more physical life, and in the second half the conditions improve so that there is more and more spiritual life. We do not need to speak of “entropy” or “heat death,” for the end of the creation is paradisiacal; it does not represent the singularity or symmetry breaking associated with the big bang, but the generation of an ocean of singularities. We know to move in such godly accord because the heart chakra channels the “now” in the general direction of the arrow of time. Time is a guide through space and is not to be thought of as essential to the workings of the universal, but as an illusion which disappears the further creation travels into and out of it. Or so we might say, adulterating and embroidering on the interpretive process adopted by the Church Fathers.
Another traditional concept, similarly adapted, relates to the so-called “analogical imagination.” This term of expression was provided by David Tracy in order to discuss how the Catholic (more analog) is more involved with metaphoric comprehensions or comparisons, for example of one reality as related to another, while the Protestant (more digital) is more likely to only see the disconnection in any metaphoric address. Tracy suggests that the Catholic is more pluralistic (multi-culturally social), while the Protestant is more privative (more secularly isolated, alienated and individualistic). He also suggests that the dialectical provides an appropriate “correction” to bring the metaphoric more into alignment with contemporary philosophy.
A metaphor attempts to generate all the information available through contrast and comparison. It is a form of symmetry and a form of symmetry-breaking. The symmetry-breaking occurs in a sort of chain reaction when we move into the digitality of verbal articulation. But verbal articulation as metaphoric orientation is both Catholic and Protestant, not one or the other.
Now, let us look for a moment at a portion of the full expanse of a so-called “analogical imagination” as formulated somewhat in terms of the traditional “Chain of Being.”
The “analogical imagination” represents the synergistic amalgamation of:
the seven colours of the visible spectrum;
the seven keys of the diatonic scale in music;
the seven (or eight) families of the periodic table;
the fact that when each element, when isolated, crystalizes into one of seven different crystal branches;
the fact that seven chromosome pairs are necessary before there is any kind of living being;
the fact that the DNA is a crystal structure and, in the human being, either branches to the left or the right, or into left or right-handed physicality;
the fact that there is a discussion of whether or not there is any difference between the left and right-handed crystal branching because these are mirror-images of one-another (as well as consideration of the fact that such mirroring involves all symmetrical formulations in physics, as well as all mimetic enterprises among human learning and knowing behaviors);
the idea that there are seven simple catastrophes in Thom’s Catastrophy Theory (which is a mathematical description of the transitions between one dimension and another; i.e., the first catastrophe is like this: a ball is thrown into the air; the ball reaches a “singularity” where it is neither rising or falling; then the ball falls; this is the first catastrophe);
the idea that there are seven types of ambiguity in William Empson’s Seven Types of Ambiguity (his argument being that the greater the ambiguity, the greater the meaning);
the idea that there are seven archetypal narrative or plot-lines in all of literature, as argued by Northrop Frye (for example, those of us who marry re-enact the essential plot found in Romeo and Juliet because we all have in-laws);
and so on forward or backward into the nonsenses of, say, Seven Wise Virgins and Seven Foolish Ones, or the wisdom to see unique reality continually rising out of infinitely transforming patterns.
Anyway, Derrida was also hopeless to understand anything whatsoever about telecommunications media and what happens to general metaphoric cognition and interpretation in a telecommunicational environment. He didn’t understand, for example, that the early cathode-ray tube televisual form was not visual but audile-tactile, because it puts to sleep visual forms of sensibility (Beta brain-waves are replaced by Alpha brain-waves) and necessitated the need for gestalt interpretations involving touch and the kinesthetic. He didn’t understand that the drive for televisual dissociation habituated the “viewer” toward an appetite for digital forms of “visual” comprehension, which, actually, ironically, require the “viewer” to dissociate his or her visual sensibility from synesthetic sensory integration regarding all the greater forms of attention, introspection and comprehension.
Why has nobody said as much about Derrida? If I was being sophomoric, I would say that Derrida’s own pronouncements are self-destructive, because they suggest that it is hopeless to read anything by Derrida in order to secure that attention, introspection and comprehension which has been or may have been lost to the digital.
Does Heidegger speak to us?
Now I “like” “respect” and “admire” Heidegger despite the fact that this would seem to endear me to his Fascism or attempt to rationalize the epistemological and ontological Fascism of his time and survival. I learned a lot from Heidegger when I was – relatively speaking – an uncouth boy. I wrote a junior academic paper in a course on Shakespeare which I called “Suspended Animation: Momentary Thoughts Held on Hamlet.” In it I attempted to turn the famously ambivalent Dane into a Heideggerian scholar, ha ha. I suggested that the indecisive Hamlet, like the unethical Heidegger, was somewhat like the classical Ixion.
The mythic Ixion murdered his father-in-law and subsequently, eventually – it’s complicated -- made love to a phantom of Hera, a mother-figure. In Freudian terms, then, he was a sort of once-removed Oedipal figure and Zeus’s cockhold. Anyway, Zeus punished Ixion by binding him to a fiery wheel which revolved without cease throughout all eternity. This wheel is loosely connected with myths involving The Wheel of Fortune. The Wheel of Fortune stops for no one because fortune is essentially without any intrinsic meaning – it is “fortuitous.” You can win a lottery one day and lose your life the next. This is in contrast to Shiva’s wheel, which represents the meaningful destruction and reconstruction or absorption and exapansion of the universe from moment to moment.
So I tend to think of Heidegger’s Being and Time (1927) as intellectual notice that the human psycho-physiological makeup, phenomenologically and hermeneutically, is about living as if outside of time and space [in cyberspace], and what that portends for being and/or non-being. For example, to question the sense of being concretely – which might actually mean abstractly, because there is really very little concrete, actuality to Heidegger’s discourse, and so, as if concrete but outside of space and time, ha ha. (I hope I am not being too exquisite here, after, for example, the exquisite or rotating corpse.)
Since Hamlet acts in time and space (bad dreams), despite the nutshell and because of it, he avoids the severely neurotic and psychotic effects and affects of ambivalence and the holy punishment vested out on Ixion. His soul is finally released into his right mind and his birthright out of time and out of space (out of bad dreams). He “lets be.” Hamlet’s last words regarding the crisis of thought and action, as well as other portents of importance for human guidance, is “Let be.”
The name “Laertes” means “the mythological father of Odysseus” or, simply, “the mythological father.” The Name of the Father. The Name of the Rose. As the truth arises, Hamlet is dispatched by Laertes, with the poisoned sword [poisoned truth] of the mythological father, for having murdered Laertes’ father, Polonious. Hamlet’s death may be thought of as an ironic return to the Holy Land of the Holy Father outside of time and space. So while the play is termed tragic, its message is much more comic than can often be readily admitted.
My point here is that Heidegger is worth reading and re-reading despite the fact that he ends up prey for Derrida as well as those who would criticize him. And, more to the point, that he should be read and re-read in terms of so-called “cyberspace.” He speaks to us from a sort of “cyberspace.” While one might say that Heidegger is worth the weight of his ambiguities, one might say the opposite of Derrida.
Husserl destroyed the posits of positivism, i.e., the idea that every rationally justifiable assertion can be scientifically proved (can be digitalized), as well as the humanistic religious system founded upon it (digital secular scientific atheism). For that he deserves the Purple Cross, the Victoria Cross, a Nobel Prize, an Academy Award, and all other similar crosses to bear. Unfortunately, Positivism has now resurrected and acts as the supreme god in the machine. It goes by the name “Digital.” We need to re-engage with Husserl in order to see, to remember, how his and other’s phenomenology – as vague as it is, as touchy-feely, et cetera – is a much more optimistic and favorable why to proceed into that dark night, digital and other.
Hegel still critical to our thinking?
Hegel’s dialectic: thesis, antithesis (the digital) and synthesis (the analog synergetic, or higher tertium quiddity), still resonates with the basic way to mount a physical, materialistic logic into the metaphysical and spiritual faith necessary to overcome anomie, alienation and terminal dissociational identity. Faith? Well I think of “faith” this way: we make belief in ourselves and we make belief in the nature of the world around us in order to take “leaps of faith.” Faith is a verb. It is constant transformation and, yes, evolutionary speaking, constantly transfigural. I use this approach every day and I teach it on a nearly daily basis in my personal coaching. In short, let us keep the dialectic while we avoid dialectical materialism. But I don’t want to get into that. Or Marx. Or Nietzsche. Too seductive by far.
Do we think we've absorbed Badiou? Is Badiou important?
I know of Badiou. I have read his wiki profile. I have thought of his truth as a kind of wiki-leaks apologia and rationale, when such leaks are actually extremely problematic. I am not convinced. His is a kind of idealism, although I am no expert. And I am not an idealist, a romantic or a dreamer, although I know that without idealism, without romance and without dreams, being human would be intolerable. (I pretend to be idealistic, et cetera, so watch out.) So I read Badiou in this context or I misread his wiki profile. I subscribe to this notion: any specific analogy is false, but the set of all analogies is true, or at least true for the time being, ha ha. Such is altruism, eh? Something for everyone, a comedy tonight.
Also, as for the political as a truth process, I fear the moment the idea of the political is applied to the all-real reality of “truth” in a metaverse of transformational physical and metaphysical laws, both the political and the “truth” become suspect. It is like a confusion of terms. It is like a mixed metaphor. For Badiou, an event is political the moment it is collective. Good on that. But the moment it is collective its politics become suspect, i.e., groups often tend to make better decisions that individuals, but often individuals make better ethical and moral decisions than groups, the messianic and the charismatic masquerades as such an individual.
I have always loved the way that the Chinese supposedly used to traditionally choose their leaders. A group of Chinese elders would observe a group of younger people at play. The child or individual who was bullied and battered out of the group would be taken aside and placed in a group of similar individuals. Then the entire selection process would repeat, and so on and so on. The individual so excised, so abstracted, is often if not always eager to return to the group and to group acceptance, and so is inspired to develop political, strategic managerial approaches in order to do so.
Are not artists and intellectuals, as well as many scientists and hactivists, self-chosen for leadership in a similar way?
In addition, however, there is the problem of basic human revenge. However, there is no point in discussing this line of political and psychological thought further because Canetti has described and defined it masterfully in Crowds and Power (1963).
I first learned about Shestov when I was studying Berdyaev, whom I adore, and thought little of Shestov at the time or, really, since, although I am crazy about Russian literature and Russian psycho-physiology – particularly the social psycho-physiology of Vygotsky and his pupil Luria. Shestov, of course, writes almost non-stop about paradox and paradoxism (contrarian politics in and out of literature). Now, I have come to think of the “Truth” in this way: the greater the contradiction, the deeper the truth. And so, I am very partial to perception involving contradiction, paradox and irony, and most especially in terms of the ability of human beings to mediate human nature and the human condition. For example, Christ is the great mediator between Heaven and Earth, between Life and Death, and between Good and Evil, and so he is rather like a Zen Master. A Zen Master doesn’t attempt to solve a paradox but looks for a deeper paradox which contains the lesser, and each time he or she finds one, he or she rises to greater personal and environmental mastery. Such is mediation.
I also think of mediation as key to worldly matters as these pertain to civil political matters. The ambassador or diplomat who is able to maintain armed-neutrality and balances of power is able to mediate crisis and conflict toward a more productive and potential end. The goal of all such mediation should be – to my way of thinking – towards increasing the potential for sustained survival in the most holistic of ways. It is as the priests of the Mayan Popol Vul “keeping the future safe.” So Shestov’s enumeration of paradoxes ought to interest me, but I find it wearying and wearing to have to listen to such lectures – like Zizek’s today – when the principle and principals of mastery or of psycho-physiological health and well-being are better found in mediation. The contemporary problem is that we are being mediated by our telecommunications and this mediation destroys all human attempts at control or regulation, not to mention “naturalistic” communicational transformation.
Is philosophy dead or dying?
No more so than ever. Philosophy is interminable, ha ha. Yes, it raises more problems than it solves. And that, my friend, is what it is supposed to do. However many philosophers today would appear to be so anxious that they are tending to wet their pants. I apologize for such a base comment because, of course, philosophy is also indeterminable and I sympathize with philosophers, ha ha, especially in terms of their eliminations. They know not what they do, ha ha.
Is thinking philosophically still important?
Really, given that all human sensibility is a pastiche, a mélange, a melee, an M-theory marmalade of illusion and delusion, is there any other way to think than philosophically? Oh, I know, I know, philosophical forms of thought are supposed to be especially clean and clear. They make a practice of going a long way around rather than going the shorter distance.
I have marveled along with those who have studied the Attic classics, and their observation that when we have the first examples of early historical thought, that thought is already so all-inclusive, so fully formed, and so replete with the most contemporary of our issues.
It’s like this: I have always loved those little fables of Aesop, Fontaine and Gay, as well as those of Beatrice Potter and so on, because despite their metaphoric grasp and because of it they supply such focused contexts or models for philosophical (ethical, moral, logistic, et cetera) discourse or thought experiments. Isn’t a philosopher simply someone who attempts to behave as one ought to behave when one thinks? Or at least part of the fable? Aren’t philosopher’s moralists after the notion of “critical objectivity” and “correct thinking?” I’m afraid so. Isn’t our ambition to understand any particular philosopher, our attempt to sit up straight, pay attention, and mind our own business by becoming more adroit at minding theirs? Don’t we feel we have failed some sort of moral obligation if we don’t “get” a particular thinker, as if anybody can ever “get” anybody else? Isn’t that the moral here in the chicken coop of epistemology and ontology and phenomenology, et al: don’t count your chickens before they hatch? And then watch out for the mocking birds.
Anyway, one can read, grind and boil down, for example, the grueling narcissistic, northern, western, Eurocentric philosophical advance of, say, Rousseau, into ethical, moral and logistic fables regarding the possible and actual catastrophes that could come or do come from their application. Is there anything worse, for example, than the naturally estranged education of Emile (the nature of education, the nature of man, the ‘denaturalizing’ of the social contract, ‘denaturalizing’ as a paedegogic principle, et cetera) plus or minus the work house factory model of nineteenth-century moral and educational practices, as then furthered into the excruciating specialist Ford Assembly line of the twentieth-century paedegogy of the oppressed, et cetera, et al?
I tend to laugh wickedly after the like of Voltaire, who is not only attacking the lack of merciful thought processes in the catholic sensibility, but is also setting up the kangaroo court of enlightenment philosophers for similar derision. – “So funny,” Miss Swan of Madtv might say and then mug a buck-tooth smile, because by doing so he becomes the chief pecker of the French indigenous pecking order. -- Oh yes, Voltaire, was wicked in such a way and that was his chief virtue. Thank god he declared the Jesuits bastards, and hence all attempts to generate any curriculum worthy of intelligent thought appallingly censorial. He thought that education was universally necessary for Men – and Men Alone -- so that they could dispense with all religious stuff and nonsense. That was his philosophical sense of the moral obligation of his time.
In this context, the context of educating the correct deportment of thought, logical or otherwise, I am fond of recalling Gertrude Stein, who, when asked what writers and thinkers had influenced her, said, “If you can influence yourself it is enough.”
So philosophy, for me, isn’t really about adopting this or that philosophical tone, however sentimentally sage and Asiatic-ally august, it is about allowing yourself to think widely, circumspectually in transdisciplinary ways in the first place. Philosophers, in general, are simply all those who call us to arms, that is, to attention, focus and introspection. William James, one of my mentors and tormentors, said that to leave anything out is the beginning of the end. I agree with him. So I guess I am a pragmatist and a fantast at the same time. Being digital, or, Digital Me. With an analogical moral.
As things are, perhaps one of the greatest of pedagogues was Lewis Carroll, our dear Reverend Dodge. One cannot learn to learn without first going through the looking glass, now, then and always further into super symmetries everywhere. It is in symmetry and symmetry breaking we find the ethics, the morals, and the logic of the analog and the analogical as well as the digital. Such are far from digital notions which furnish a computational vacuum up to us only in order to permit synthetic creatio ex nihilio or a universal print out, that is not a universal printout in terms of the universe, but a universal printout in the terms of the digital technician.
Does anyone read Plotinus?
Plotinus, the neo-platonic Plotinus. One of my favorite quotations has always been from Aristotle. When he was asked about his opinion of Plato he said, possibly laconically, “I prefer Truth to Plato.” Plotinus is therefore perhaps a mystery, because he was full-well knowing of the many criticisms of Plato of his time, and yet he was ready to plunge Platonic thought into the mystical or into terminal indeterminate metaphysics in order to save it. Consider Plato baptized by Plotinus.
I define a mystic as one who continually attempts to learn how to learn as a direct consequence of greater meditative and mediative circumspection and incision. In this there is great favour. The radical favor of starting over and over again, each time at a greater depth of experience, and in this, similar, I think to the destruction and recreation of the universe from moment to moment. This is the growing binding effect of gamma-brainwave inclusivity.
I think of the deepest of deep sea creatures, those bio-luminous beings in the benthos, some of whom comprise together the largest multi-celled living bodies known to humanity. I think what is their knowing? What is their social contract? That is for me a sense of the greatest mystic, such a flotilla, and not most or not least because it is physical and constrained and under the duress and flow of great pressure.
The other day a whale so rare it was thought to be extinct -- the North Pacific right whale -- was spotted. The last was seen in 1951. I think that if one was spotted there are others, and if there are others, where are they, what locale have they discovered in order to eat, live and love? Their secret, as well they might keep it, might reveal the most profound of holy sanctuaries or states of grace. -- I think very highly of whales. -- And that is the mystical. I live in hope it will never never be revealed that the North Pacific right whale might live on.
The theory of it all, knowing everything, is greatly over-estimated, but, once again, as William James said, “Complicate your life as much as you would like. It’s bound to simplify.”
Does St Augustine speak to us?
St Augustine never spoke to me. I don’t believe in an Elect. For me the great arch and anarch is the creation itself -- I believe in embedded hierarchies. Embedded hierarchies are democratic, not Greek, wherein the idea of democracy was formulated during a time when there were two slaves to every freeman in Athens. Embedded hierarchies are egalitarian in both analogical cultures and digital cultures. I believe everything, thus, together, turns everything into living gold. Ahmen. By philosophers may I be stoned.
St Augustine. That old sinner. Or so he thought. No doubt, he never would have been so didactically, dictatorially self-righteous if he hadn’t been so selfish in the first place. (Compare Richard Dawkins and his “selfish gene” to St Augustine and you will get the drift of my puritan, ha ha, contempt.)
No, not St Augustine, but I still love St Aquinas for his definition of “qualia.” And “claritas:” St Thomas Aquinas has said: “ad pulchritudinem tria requiruntur,” and these three requirements of beauty are integrity, right proportion or harmony, and claritas (brightness, vividness).”
Some still question his definition of “qualia.” It is thought to indicate a materialistic basis to his thought. Not so. St Aquinas, like many, thought of the material and the spiritual as a continuum, wherein and whereby the spiritual never leaves the material, and the material never leaves the spiritual. However, there is more power or energy in the spiritual, although it can be thought of as “potential energy,” and at each higher level or dimension of the spiritual the material is transformed. Neglect regarding the comprehension of such transformation results in merely the base material. However, comprehension of such transformation leads to greater and greater intentionality toward both causation and casuistry or so-called Church Law, ha ha.
Is Descartes necessary?
Cartesian thought is triumphant today. Never more devicive and divisive. It is found latent in the Boolean arithmetics of electrical engineering and in the binary fundamentalism or absolutism. All hail the king, the king is dead, long live the king.
However – and here’s the rub – Descartes doubted. Today, too, there has never been greater, more neo-anarchistic, more neo-nihilistic doubt. Seeding doubt is the essence of televised politics intent upon furthering national and private interests, it is the essence of multi-national corporations and servers intent upon furthering their interests at the expense of the world. Doubt has never been more entertaining. Doubt has never been more problematic. Everyone can become a pundit by way of doubt, everyone can become a fool by way of doubt, who doubts it? Where oh where is “reasonable doubt?” Let us look to Descartes once more to see where our reasoning went astray.
It is also necessary for us to examine Descartes medically and forensically to discover all his pathologies. Descartes brain is more interesting than Einstein’s brain. Einstein told us to simplify things as much as possible but not to simply things further. No doubt every one of his breakdowns were caused when he attempted to simplify too much. We become too complex when we attempt to simplify things for the sake of complexity. Certainly, every one of our breakdowns are similarly composed. Cyber-warfare is more malignant than the Atomic Bomb.
More so than Einstein, Descartes was a product of the modern development of digital, binary forms of thinking, and we need to examine his thought in order to see how it may have corrupted his otherwise considerable genius.
Descartes, Kant, Newton, Leibniz, infinitesimal calculus, the aesthetics or metaphysics of experiential truth, mystical thermodynamics and ineluctable modal metaphysics. All good, all bad. But there are three great laws to the universal: The Positive, The Negative and The Neutral. Let us find a way to neutral in order to manifest our manifold.
All of these thinkers were still analogical thinkers in the religious sense. They all thought within the conspectus of religious doctrines and debates. And that is what needs to be remembered. They wanted to know “God” better through reading the Book of Nature. But the Book of Nature was being overwritten by the printing press. Martin Luther was sitting on his toilet, Voltaire began to laugh and Artaud was getting ready to be born.
Do you remember Eric Fromm’s Anatomy of Human Destructivism (1973)? Doubt is to human thought what destructivity is to greater human nature. It is the pessimistism (we don’t know enough; we have to know more . . .) which leads to analytical vivisection and dissection or science; it leads to the counter-intuitional; it leads to the digital dissociational spirit of digital fundamentalism and absolutism. God is dead, long live the binary, all hail the binary.
Now don’t for a nano-second believe that I am attacking the digital per se, oh no. The digital is as necessary as the analog. I am attacking the current bad faith in the digital alone, and the current belief that the analog is a doubtful recourse for so-called progress or so-called evolution.
I “like” “respect” and “admire” scientists. I appreciate them. I love some of them (Lee Smolin, for example.) I wish I was more scientific. Sigh. But I demand “artscience” or the marriage of the analog with the digital, now and forever. The marriage of opposites, the marriage of Heaven and Hell, and the creation of ever fond nuptial bonding which allows for greater health and freedom.
Last year at this exact time, I was in South Africa on a nearly month long safari. I didn’t experience Africa in the way of my Australian friends, but more from the First African’s point of view. The First Africans don’t believe you can solve a problem; a problem is just something you have to endure as part of the necessity of living being.
And the First Africans don’t believe in progress; there is no such thing as progress. Evolution takes place despite progress not because of it. There is no way to measure whether progress is a good or bad thing. It is only so good or bad in terms of whether it permits survival.
The First Africans don’t doubt the wisdom or relative truth of their epistemological, ontological and philosophic beliefs, not that they would bother naming them after dead languages. Suffice it to say, the First Africans are analogical cosmologists who think and act without “dualism.” They live as if at the beginning of the world and at the end of the world at the same time. That is the essence of their experience. That is Africa.
Of course I sound pompous and patriarchal and elitist and patronizing and all that, but believe you me, I needed the First Africans much more than they needed me or my northern, western, euro-centricity, not to mention my egalitarian North American Canadian sense of mongrel multiculturalism. So please recognize that such bold, bald, bland enunciations are implicit acknowledgments of my experiential ignorance in the face of both the comic and the tragic.
Anyway, to continue, I learned these ideas not only from those who had worked with the First Africans for many years, but also from the First Africans themselves. The First Africans said that everything was shared, nobody can own anybody, nobody can own nature, and nobody can own the truth. Laws or lexicons (lex: law) are about sharing. Sharing is a first philosophical principle. In this they are like the American Supreme Court that recently judged that nature cannot be patented. The American Supreme Court would do better to become more like the First Africans.
Despite the sometimes morbid pain of their current political-economic agony and the omnipresent effects of colonization, the First Africans do not doubt that anything or everything is meaningful, their affirmation is just the opposite: it is impossible for anything or everything to be inconsequential. That was/is/will be – to use the Disney cliché – The Circle of Life. Their pain is the throbbing which expresses itself in their rhythmical beat. Their rhythmical beat is their healing. Their healing is the cymatics, the physics of resonation, the non-linear physical generation of their movement into and beyond time and space. Such movement is as an umbilical connective, a blood line between the physical, the metaphysical and the transcendental or spiritual potentialities. You don’t believe me? Well I was told that the First Africans feel that the moment they start to dance, they move into or onto the spiritual plane of immediate existence. There you are. There they go. So goes it.
So the digital neo-existential, without time, something without any essentially connected energy. It is a breaking of bonds, as in breaking the atom to release a bomb, the explosion of what was and ought to have remained potential energy. In the digital, there is only the fashionable, irreal nature of contemporary human destructiveness. Doubt. Virtual doubt. Virtual reality, similarly and oppositely, is the implosion we are able to enter and supposedly experience, experiment with, and examine. It makes a travesty of bonded energy, of the atomic bonds, of atomic bombs. It is merely the pretense of potential. No wonder virtual or false particles were first associated with black holes. Methinks I see the shade of a Golem on the Holodeck! Methinks I see the pretense of Hamlet on the Holodeck, of being without being, of the tragedy rather than the comedy of Hamlet!
[Note: the personal name “Hamlet” is found in Northern European derivatives for words for “fool.” His name is further associated with notions of “The Transcendental Fool” or Christ-like traits. The play is partially about fooling around, playing the fool, being fooled, and how one can avoid pratfalls. It is about being fooled by surveillance and counter-surveillance. It is about, given that Shakespeare was Catholic, counter-revolution or counter-reformational action. Remember Hamlet, playing the fool, holds Yorick’s, the fool’s skull. And so on.]
Now don’t for a nano-second believe that I think the internet and the wars involving the dominance of computational singularity and control of the electromagnetic spectrum are nugatory or empty of signification. No, I am old fashioned in that I believe that for each action there is an equal and opposite action. The good old Newtonic laws of thermodynamics can still be applied with some sort of contextual, causal comprehension at least at the healthy end of the scale allowed to the living. No, I am at war with those who would refuse to see the negative effects and affects of their individual and collective cyberspatial behaviorism. I am at war with those who invent and market escalation.
This is the end
Well it is late and the room is a sink hole of sweat and heat. I am tired after attempting to answer questions regarding doubts: yours, mine, theirs, ours and those to come.
Suffice it to say, however, that lately I have heard nothing but complaint about the political-economic imperatives regarding the advance of the digital re: snooping, voyeuring, and sous-surveilling, et cetera. Last Saturday, our weekend newspaper printed a two-page editorial spread on the good, the bad and the ugly regarding digital communications. And I am tired, not only of vituperating against digital fundamentalism and absolutism -- especially to those who have been digitally-conditioned throughout their entire cognitive sensibility -- but of listening to suppositions regarding the power of the immediate past, the present and the coming singularity (singularities). What we need to spend our time thinking about is not where the digital is powerful or empowering, but WHERE THE DIGITAL IS POWERLESS and disengaging, and that is, simply, where there is still the analog and the analogical, i.e., the mystical locale where the North Pacific right whale can still exist.
For all its parallel computing, for all its memory, for all its crunching, for all its mathematical algorithms, the computational cannot predict multidimensional synthesis involving symmetry and symmetry-breaking, the synthesis, symmetry and symmetry-breaking principal and principle to human beings and, universally, to BEING HERE NOW.
The secret of life is that there is no death. But that simple truth remains gnostic because we live in a working universe and the universe simply wouldn’t get any universal work done if everybody simply popped off everybody else. Kapish?
How do I know? I know because I have chosen not to disengage. [Ah, Sartre has his revenge here, eh? So be it. Let be.]
In conclusion, the science of my analogical thinking is focused on discovering or rediscovering the correct and corrective nature of “magical thinking” so that I, and others, might open to the greater cosmological mysteries once more.
The main intellectual critique of the" analogical imagination" has been that it represents a form of extended "magical thinking." The anthropologists say as much, as well as ethnographers among others more dismissive. I am not attacking the counter-intuitional mode of scientific discovery, which, of course, avoids any overt form of "magical thinking," whether normal or pathological. I am saying, as Dyson said recently, that when we throw out the analog for the sake of proud digital statistical analysis, we are throwing the baby out with the proverbial.
Meaning is WHAT WE KNOW (our experience genetically, epigenetically and immediately) as it transforms into WHAT WE CAN KNOW and WHAT WE WILL KNOW.
How we know what we know we will never know.
Why? -- and is this is both tragic and comic -- because WHAT WAS KNOWN, WHAT IS KNOWN, WHAT CAN BE KNOWN, WHAT CANNOT BE KNOWN, WHAT WILL BE KNOWN are all constantly in a metaphysical superpomp and superflux streaming, foaming beyond the bounds of the Boson into greater and greater transformational universality.
Now how f-bomb high-falutin’ is that?
The Importance of Being Earnest: the thing I most want to express here is that IT IS NOW MORE IMPORTANT THAN EVER TO LOOK BACK AT THE HISTORY OF OUR RISE AND FALL from the “magical thinking” of the analog into the empiricist digital. We can do so by examining how each important philosopher is more analogical or less so, is more digital or less so. The rise and current fall of Western Civilization marks a movement into the more digital or modern, but by back-tracking we can come home, or that, at least, is the object of my affection.
Thank you for your kind indulgence.
F. Scott Taylor (2013)
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