[NetBehaviour] Confusion Entanglement, philosophy, poetics

Max Herman maxnmherman at hotmail.com
Mon Apr 27 19:48:36 CEST 2020

Hi Alan,

I like this image -- though it is surprisingly frustrating to look at, as if I'm losing my sight, visual tinnitus? -- and the ideas in the text.

This past week I've been reading Hofstadter's Godel, Escher, Bach, chapter 4, titled "Consistency, Completeness, and Geometry" and it has also been confusing.  He discusses Godel's incompleteness theorem, Bach's unfinished "The Art of The Fugue" and his "Little Harmonic Labyrinth," layers of stability in visual perception, and explicit vs. implicit meaning, also including an old-time print of a labyrinth.  A lot of content for one chapter!

I also noticed that the book's subtitle, "The Eternal Golden Braid," is also E-G-B.  In chapter 4, he writes of Bach's use of B-A-C-H in the third theme of The Art of the The Fugue (H being A I assume, G+1).  Such a shifting of orders is part of set theory, which sometimes interprets the set [A, B, C] as different from the set [C, B, A], just as the set [2, 1] is seen by some number theory as different from [1, 1, 1]

My reading of the Hofstadter was prompted by a wish to read some of the many books cited in Calvino's Six Memos.  I read and re-read Six Memos often, because it is the basis of my annual project (third this year) called Solstizio Calvino.  It is a recurring project based on a few simple elements: the Six Memos, the summer solstice (solstizio d'estate), brain scans, and the images in the Special Collection of the Hennepin County library (which includes some great Piranesi prints as well as astronomical and geographic maps, some of which date to the 17th century).  I started the Solstizio in 2018 in part to reflect on the idea of what the unwritten sixth memo, of which we know only the title "Consistency," and that it was to have discussed Melville's short story "Bartleby the Scrivener," might have been about had Calvino not died before finishing it.

In my quest to find clues about what "Consistency" (from the same root sistere, to stand, put, or place, as solstice) might have been about, I was surprised this month to see the title of GEB's chapter 4.  So many close resemblances, along with the multiple mentions by Calvino of GEB in the Six Memos, convinced me there is something there.

I contacted Dr. Hofstadter with this hypothesis, and he replied yesterday, stating that he had never heard of it, nor has he read the Six Memos though he is aware of the book.

This to me does indeed resemble a strand in the Eternal Golden Braid, a message from Calvino meant for Hofstadter, but meant to be transmitted not by Calvino himself, but by way of Hofstadter's compatriots and fellow citizens, by we Bartlebys of the USA.

Calvino left us a puzzle to work on, like most teachers do.  They do not solve it for us, whether kung-an or equation.  The working out of it is, indeed, the point.  Each puzzle solved leads to another, and another, the metamorphoses of all that exists, indeed an E-G-B.

It remains to be seen whether this letter from Calvino will ever reach its destination, or rather go to the dead letter office at which the Bartleby of Melville, the great interpreter of US impossibility and blindness, worked to his irretrievable shaping.

If anyone has any comments or questions for Dr. Hofstadter, or colleagues who know him, I would be happy to relay your messages to him.

Very very best regards,



From: NetBehaviour <netbehaviour-bounces at lists.netbehaviour.org> on behalf of Alan Sondheim via NetBehaviour <netbehaviour at lists.netbehaviour.org>
Sent: Monday, April 27, 2020 5:30 AM
To: NetBehaviour for networked distributed creativity <netbehaviour at lists.netbehaviour.org>
Cc: Alan Sondheim <sondheim at gmail.com>
Subject: [NetBehaviour] Confusion Entanglement, philosophy, poetics

Confusion Entanglement, philosophy, poetics


"I'll throw this out there," Carlton said,
"and see what, if anything, emerges."

1. Confusion entanglement: etymological impulse, poetics rooted in

Why this return to (linguistic, word) roots by so many of us, myself

What grounding does this give us, rooted as it is, in fairly recent
history; no one returns to an originary language.

Language splays, hourglass, for example Johnson's Dictionary at the

Looking for example at Assyrian cuneiform: so many languages
constitute the writing, from Sumerian through Mitannian, Assyrian
itself: polyglot. Even the Tanach has its polyglot moments.

A poetics of metaphoricity is produced, rooted for the rootless.
But the rootless wanders off, distanced from sound and the
presumptive specificity of signs.

Our psyche, if such, our minds wander here, among, as if length of
time past results in a cultural depth that perhaps translates into
broken philosophy? Think of Heidegger's roots reflected in the
shattered mirrors of Torah coverings, mantles. Without language, no
facticity; what's left is the muteness of the real. So then

So then within language, truth and its problematic develops, almost
as an illness.

A plague of truth functions, debate in ancient India, logics, the
613 commandments of the Torah.

Truths lay, lie, in the realm of language, always there.

Mathematics, mathesis, something else again, and the same.

Logic breaks loose, reflects a world of structures, not the chairs
and tables of platonism.

The hardness of structures that uncannily relates to what the
visible world tells us through its signs reproduced and reduced to
the bare minimum.

The worlding of structures, categories, however called and culled.

It's the culling that tends towards problems, politics, religions,
as one climbs up Weisskopf's quantum scales.

We're back in the world of roots, meristemation.

The disconnection here is radical; mathematical structures
reference abstractions rooted in abstractions, sets to categories,
in the future somewhere along the line perhaps, the outliers of
fundamental physics.

This is far afield. Mathematical manifolds and physical realities,
so there!

The lifeworld is loosened, disconnected to the extent that logic
becomes internalized, truth values are interwoven with linguistic
categories, everyone knows that, but it's a mess in space and time
and a mess on any other conceivable level.

The etymological impulse is rooted in this, unraveling a mess that
is fundamentally unravelable, that continues everywhere within the
fractures of history, geography, what's left of consciousness.

2. hall of mirrors

A hall of mirrors reflects nothing but itself; sooner or later,
quantum effects dominates. Place an observer within, and everything
collapses. Place a light source within, and everything collapses.

The fault lies with us, not with the stars. The stars have no
language. Are we sure of that?

It's in these twists that philosophy lies, as in a bed, as in the
impossibility to tell truths or untruths. Philosophy is always

I write myself into corners; I do not right myself out of them.

In other words: a mess. Nonetheless there is something 'to be said'
for the resonance of truth in sound. See for example, Guy Beck,
Sonic Theology: Hinduism and Sacred Sound or Andre Padoux: Vac: The
Concept of the Word in Selected Hindu Tantras. Resonant with
Buddhism as well of course. But these are truths of the numinous;
what does one do with facticity: smoke/fire or the jar on the hill?
And in what language?

For example, an etymological impulse that places a- as negative or
negation in Sanskrit (already I get this false). And of course it's
common place to say that negation exists only in language, that
it's performative in this sense.

Is this true? Somewhere von Foerster writes about learning and
perhaps culture all the way down, amoeba learning to avoid, and
passing this knowledge on. What is the language here? Is there any?

I think through all of this as it seems that music as anything
listened to from any sources mirrors the world in an uncanny way:
how is this? For one thing, sound is always modified by the spaces
it ...sounds... ; space resonates, the world is mirrored thus. And
one may listen for repetition for example, for structure, for
source, for the absence of source. The motley phenomenology of the
world. And ...

3. confusion entanglement: etymological impulse, poetics rooted in

Why this return to (linguistic, word of mouth) roots by so many of
us, myself included?

"The assertion of 'one language' appears to assuage the case of
ambivalence for the Mimamsa school and brings us back to Ellul's
general distinction between the realm of Reality which is visual
and the realm of Truth which is nonvisual and only mediated by
language or the Word: 'Anything concerned with the ultimate
destination of a human being belongs to the domain of Truth....
The word must always remain a door opening to the Wholly Other
[and] an indicator of ultimate answers.'" (Beck, p. 60.)

Forgetting the theology of "ultimate," "Reality," "Truth,' what's
striking is that truth is mediated, I would say _originated,_ in
and by language.

("The sound resonated through the canyon, just as light itself,
scintillated and reflected from a myriad of surfaces, rough and
smooth, at all angles and colorations. Travis went deeper, into an
inconceivable world of sound and light, the scutterings of
creatures everywhere around him. Briefly disoriented, he continued
on. Everyone experiences everything from different angles, he
thought. There was no end to it, just as there was no end to his

Of course, thinking of language as a physical phenomenon,
vibrations within or without a physical or space-time medium, then
there's the question of reading. But I prefer to leave it at that,
going back to the question of the etymological impulse in poetry
and elsewhere today; I'll leave it at that as well.


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