Archive for June, 2013

The Vibrating Ring

June 20, 2013

[Wow… I actually had no idea this was a sex toy when I wrote this — no pun intended.] We said before that, that if a concept is thinkable then it MUST EXIST, this seems to be the basis of theoretical development — I mean, not to be hindered by the setback of something not existing. We’re not talking about the notion that something exists in the imagination, nor giving some kind of inspirational message about creativity, but rather, the notion that we can fall back to the concept to find our way around this obstacle. If we have a model of how something may work, in the mind, then the fact our original examples don’t apply shouldn’t obstruct our progress. Thus, we talked about the engine of philosophy as based on both success and failure, as we oscillate between the analysis of our world and theoretical development.

But consider a transformation of this statement: if a concept is thinkable then some life lived in pursuit of it must exist, or, it must be possible to live one’s life around it. This seems weaker than the above, but also more interesting — it doesn’t speak of the existence of the concept but the existence of the path of pursuit. Well, not even that, but the existence of something that may hold our attention for extended periods of time.

I don’t think this is as trivial as saying that what is thinkable is thinkable — but nor does it say that what is thinkable leads us off in a particular direction. It says that that which is thinkable may hold our attention, will provide some hope.

*

Let’s approach this from another direction. A “ring” is a collective noun I’ve come up with for “concepts” — “a ring of concepts”, like a “gaggle of geese”. I like this word, not only because it is related to the word “corollary”, which has a root that is related to “ring” but also because it suggests a non-progressve process. A ring is “vibrational” if the movement that characterizes it is not progressive (even if it may appear to be) but rather, well, characterized by a kind of random motion. That’s the idea, that’s our effort here — to characterize this movement as dependent on the random play of concepts.

There is a kind of duality to thinking. Well, thinking is always ascetic. We characterized the “engine of thinking” earlier, this is actually a descriptive characterization (as well as a moral one). Ie, certainly, the life of a thinker is characterized by the ability to overcome failure, because that’s all there is. A rather pessimistic assessment of thinking indeed. … this is the sort of stuff that I get into fights over — just to give an impression of how central this seems to one’s behavior, how insufferable those who don’t realize it can be. Not physical fights, but not because I’m a pacifist or anything, only because I’m not all that tough — I definitely wish I were, sometimes. I’m not sure if we can even form a theory around this suggestively pessimistic declration. The engine of philosophy absolute depends on failure, even if it never fails, even if it always recovers. The progress of thinking is a series of escape routes. Let me justify this claim by pointing out that thinking must necessarily sustain itself. It’s not about one big idea as we once thought, it’s not about a solution. And this sustaining, which must maintain its identity, is a series of thinly veiled failures.

The other half of this duality is negativity, this is the recognition of what we are NOT thinking about. This is sort of an analogue to description. And negativity may have its leads as well, I mean, when we spoke of “the uncanny”, which is “not exotic, and not familiar”, it definitely brings with it some picture to mind. This negativity is different from the “failure” we spoke of above, that failure is a kind of non-correspondence, or it is related to the process of recovery and abstraction. Negativity seems the more constructive, maybe, it tries to deal with metaphors to bring forth some image of the world.

*

The suggestion here is that what really matters is the foward progress of thinking, the spark of new concepts, or the narrow “vibrational” field that keeps us going foward. An insight, in other words, is not so much some new vision of the world but rather someting that is EQUIVALENT (cf, ring) without being identical. Or, something that is different from what we are thinking about but which we can’t say no too. … TBC

Virtuality (Possible Red Herring)

June 16, 2013

I have an incompleted draft here. It seems kind of weird, pretentious, whatever to quote inaccessible drafts that I’ve tucked away somewhere, but, nonethless — the entry was titled “Sympathy for the Theorist”. It seems to me another case where the introduction, typically “moral”, and the body suddenly seem to be more closely linked than they appeared at first. But I am still not sure if this is a red herring. It starts off:

I think that philosophy is basically a process of “abstraction”. The basic circuit is, we have an idea, and it turns out that that idea is wrong, at least with regards to the way that it lines up with the real world, but yet it can live on — simply because as long as we can think it it cannot be completely wrong. So philosoophy is the attempt to work with these abstracted concepts that remain after an intuition fails. For example, what we call “automaticism” feels like what remains after some concept of “the subconscious” becomes inadequate. We realize that automaticism can take place without any specific reference to the physiological, though it still requires some notion of a MACHINE and of MEMORY — and various other concepts.

So we speak here of the failure and the rebirth of “ideas” or of “theories” into philosophy. Philosophy only deals with concepts that have experienced such a rebirth. In fact, if we are to follow our notion earlier of “objective” thinking, where thinking is the rearranging of “objects” which appear real to us, then we are not merely talking about the death and rebirth of ideas and theories of but of realities.

… well, let’s actually pause briefly to consider this link I above make, between reality and the thinking of reality. Can we really equate the two? We resist this link because we tend to think of philosophy as “unnatural”, we distinguish between the conscious and the unconscious, between declared and secret intention, so that we (somewhat idiosyncratically) call “objectivism” would be the unconscious, ultimate way we arrange the world, differentiated from merely our impression of the world, our way to describe the world. But this opposition, on the one hand, seems to be a dead end in that it already assumes the form of ultimate reality. And if it isn’t — then why would we assume that the habitually constructed of “objectivism” were substantially different from the thoughtfully constructedness of thinking?

It goes onto say:

“Sympathy for the theorist” — this is a feeling I get, like a real soft-heartedness, at the attitude of the theorist towards the world. Since he is definitely, you know, working backwards, trying to come up with examples that match his network of concepts — while at the same time of course trying to flesh out and develop this pool of concepts — trying to find situations to match something that he might have experienced in flesh and blood at one point but then there only as an error.

So what’s interesting here is that the theorist is characterized by both (1) a kind of struggle, and a kind of awareness, an attempt to avoid failure, and (2) a memory which he always falls back on — and perhaps this is overly sentimental — the memory of the “flesh and blood” of the past, erroneous world. This “nostalgic” moment is unexpected here, it seems out of place, since we seem to be merely talking about a process of “purification” or a pragmatic moment of theoretical development. Yet this purified, abstracted, conceptual remnant, whatever, is now associated with the “flesh and blood” of a past memory or past experience. As with the above consideration, this is another case where we seem to move beyond some method of philosophy and towards some notion of “survival”.

The second part of the essay is quite interesting because it deals an instance of such a process, but, as always, the coincidences seem to pile up. The idea is the movement from:

The Subconscious –> Automaticism –> Exoticism / Home

The subconscious is what we originally start off with, we perceive it as “real”. But we then realize that what we really need is some more generalized notion “automaticism”, which is the philosophical leap we spoke of above. And, furthermore, asking about automaticism leads us to the concept of home, exoticism, and the uncanny, the unhomely home. “Automaticism is the uncanny” I said — thereby displacing a procedural account of the world with a more fragmented, even phenomenal account. Everywhere that the uncanny occurs we can talk about automaticism.

The uncanny has some very real referents, I mean, in the world, in my opinion. It is the continuation of the home:

… they are not really foreigners even though they are lost — cf, the weird sense in which Conrad nonetheless “makes his home” in the jungle. The story in that novel about the Dane Fresleven seems really relevant: he is the captain of the steamboat who Marlow suceeds; he manages to kill himself by going onshore and violently beating the elder of the village over a matter of two black chickens. The son of the elder was said to have “taken a tentative jab with a spear” after just sort of standing there completely completely apalled. So for me this is a scene where Fresleven has, you know, has had enough and has started to treat the jungle as his home, or rather his home away from home. Not because the jungle has somehow “corrupted” him but rather because this sort of behavior is what he “falls back” to, a sort of inevitable logic.

So at this point I seem to circle back to the world and propose a scene that is basically about the continuation of the home, the continued “life after death” that we spoke of above. The jungle “corrupts” someone only when they have, you know, allowed it into their heart, the jungle “corrupts” only when one insists on not being corrupted, of remaining who one is. But in any case it is not a matter of someone, you know, becoming one with the woods or anything — that would be “exoticism”, that would be for someone still in search of a home. “Blessed are those who remain at home”, so the expression goes.

But this is actually an impasse, since we are back to the question of what survives: what is the essence of the home? This seems the same as asking what the essence of the subconscious is, since the home is basically, here, merely a reduction, a purifying, of who we had been before. What I want to propose instead is that the shift from life to afterlife is more radical — and this is “virtuality”. This is the “possible red herring” , the uncertain conclusion, that I spoke of.

Before we move on, to sum it all up, in this draft I had written, I bring up two ways in which a transformation or a “passing on occurs”: first, passing on, the circuit of passing on, is seen as a philosophical model. But this was conceived in the original essay as a process of developing ideas, a method, as the engine of philosophy perpetually turns towards abstraction / purifcation and then back again towards the world. The despearation of the theorist involves his attempt to “work backwards” to find instances in history that match his theory, not so much out of sheer perversity as the awareness of inevitable failure when working descroptively with the world. The second moment involves, well, (1) a conceptual passage, from the subconsiousness towards the home, which is an instance of the philosophical engine at work, and (2) a consideration of the jungle as the uncanny home, which is itself a passage from some earlier notion of work. So… the whole thing is rather jumbled and there is may not a lot of use in attempting to untangle all the connections that really reach across the declared relational structures.

x x x

But let’s talk about virtuality. The question is, what allows this passage to take place, the passage from the real towards the abstract? Is there any way to move away from the essentialist tendencies? In fact, the home that we come to occupy may have been radically transformed, virtualized, present only as a promise. The uncanny home would then not be the actual, essental occupation of the home but rather the promise of the home. Well, to be more precise, this promise is merely, here, the concept — so that there is no difference between the philosophical and the … “objectivist”, the intellectual and the objectivist.

That is, I propose here that the uncanny is not the sudden rediscovery of a home-like configuration but rather dependant on the very ability to “abstract”. But this process of abstraction is …TBC

10 Questions about Mnemonic Automaticism

June 13, 2013

That last essay on Science Fiction didn’t quite go where I wanted it to or expected it to: it seemed to suggest that insanity is at once a state best described by science fiction, and that characterizes science fiction itself. We are caught between a model of insanity as a form of rigor (and we associate rigor with evasiveness) and as that which is referenced by this rigor, I mean, so that science fiction is also an effective model for this rigor. So it proposes a kind of liminal state of thinking, a moment when the thought and the thinking are indistinguishable, and a moment when the thinker is INTERESTING, in the Conradian sense:

“I remembered the old doctor,–‘It would be interesting for science to watch the mental changes of individuals, on the spot.’ I felt I was becoming scientifically interesting.”

Indeed, we are indeed always wondering wether “we are interesting” to ourselves, I mean, which means, whether we need to sort of step in someone else’s shoes, or make an imaginative excursion in order to get to the important things in history.
But, on the other hand — I mean, with respect to where that last essay ended up suggesting — there is the far more definite issue of the nature of automaticism. However these concepts may pan out, it seems to me the most interesting one is automaticism (or insanity) itself — something that begs to be modeled. And the whole discussion on science fiction originally came after an unsuccessful attempt to model automaticism psychologically and realizing that it wouldn’t work, that we needed to take a step back and realize that this concept may be more preliminary than we thought, that automaticism — which we believe is real — is something that is neither conscious nor unconscious, cultural nor psychological, phenomenal nor mnemonic, but rather seems to blur the line between all these terms.

I had the thought today that automaticism was really related to the old question of *free will*. Aren’t we ALWAYS “automatic” in some respect? The CPU never stops humming. We don’t have free will because — well, free will requires some notion of authenticity, and I think that we can just agree that that is the moment when automaticism in fact comes most into play. But, barring this simplistic dismissal, automaticism, like will, is something that is always there, subtle, undetectable, but fundamental, something that seems to direct us somewhere. We can never “reflect” or step beyond automaticism because in seeking truth we are engaged in a circuit too.
The basic model I have in mind here is *mnemonic* automaticism rather than one that is based on desire. It is an automaticism of memory, which seems to bring up some notion of even a *program* or something, as if our behaviors can be encoded with some neurological machine language. But it is not quite that; I conceive it as the automaticism of memory traces that hijack earlier, and perhaps non-mnemonic, automations. That is, let’s just assume that everything we do is automatic. The emphasis isn’t so much here that we can’t choose — let’s just dismiss that as a moot question. It’s rather this notion — as Faulkner says — “I can’t stop thinking!” There are layers and layers of automation in our mind, but the one that we are interested in is the automation of memory or of external memory, of the mark. Marks aren’t machine language but they are more fundamental than meaning. The processing of meaning may indeed be automatic — eveything is automatic — but — and this is the wishful hypothesis — there may be a layer of automaticism that involves the abstract porcessing of marks before the automaticism of meaning. But — keeping in mind our notes about science fiction and abstraction — this isn’t a literal psychological layer. It is perhaps a kind of *prehistoric* processing — without suggesting that we are beyond that stage, in modernity.

So, without further ado, I want to address 10 questions regarding mnemonic automaticism that I have written here in my notebook — I’m not sure how many are still relevant after this discussion, I mean, I am not going to try to edit or organize these questions beforehand, but we shall see:

(1) Is sustaining automaticism?
Sustaining is what I use to describe “staying the course” in technical circuits, or “algorithms”. This is actually related to the more general question or complaint that we don’t really address *pragmatism*, I mean, how pragmatic circuits tend to be, and how they are organized by logic. We haven’t mentioned the word logic, or reality, and it seems as though we would like everything to occur in some vacuum.

Actually, I think that we can for the most part maintain this view, and dismiss pragmatism as operating on too tame a world. Pragmatic circuits are like roller coasters — what they teach you in school is like a roller coaster. Technical circuits are tricks.

(2) Does language imply that automaticism is a prior?
Language is certainly an interesting form of automaticms, deeply integrated into our thinking, I mean, as mentally mouthed words even. But although we speak of “layers” of automaticism we are wary of taking this literally. There is no langauge before meaning, and yet we want to say that the use of language is automatic, and that meaning is an after-the-fact selection, even.

I mean, let’s consider the usual understanding of grammar and rhetoric, or maybe truth and lie. Truth, sense-making, meaningful statements, whatever, is viewed as the original construction of language; in contrast, rhetoric, lie, senselessness, is viewed as a *disruption* of this originality, so that, however you want to valorize these terms, order is seen as somehow more fundamental than disorder. This is basically what I called my “liberal individualism” error — that I had merely inverted the valorization without inverting the fundamental dependency.

Which is not, on the other hand, to say that language can be a priori, that there is an automaticism of sounds or of marks before meaning… before the automaticism of pragmatic tricks, or technical tricks. There is a grandmother theory of language, I think, which goes, that langauge could only evolve when families became extended, so that there was a grandmother always to take care of the kids. (And so this, surprisingly enough, suggests an evolutionary *benefit* to menopause.) So language was transmitted from mother or grandmother to infant, through long periods of repetitition. It is at this infant stage that the an automaticism of marks was developed, or actually, trained, and integrated into other automatic circuits.

(3) Does “random play” suggest otherwise?

That is, we tend to view these automaticism of the mark as a kind of unpredictable “play” on top of the general circuits of meaning — the technical circuits of meaning. Let’s talk breifly about Faulkner. He writes some very touching novels, I think, especially his later stuff, and this is something we have trouble letting go of, sometimes. But overall, there is a sense of darkness to his novels which we tend to treat exotically, as if the South were “really like that” or something. Faulkner seems to come from another time — I mean, one of his most well known works is “The Sound and the Fury”, which is told through the mouth of a retarded boy. There is no real sympathy or pity going on here, but the overall sense is that we were stepping back in time, so it seemed.

In other words, we want to subsume his writings under some sort of thematics. I feel this to be, at the same time, a most preliminary, fruitful, but also erroneous understanding. I mean, it is incomparably better than the later “biographical”, “political” understanding written on by liberal airheads. What is in fact going on, I believe, is not so much a thematics as a *darkness*, a “fumbling”, an automatic struggle that takes place with language *prior* to meaning — and this is possible.

(4) How does the negativity in automaticism come to influence the entire construct?

(5) How can a macroscopic circuit be constructed independent of a microscopic one, if sustaining is indeed not automaticims?

(6) Is thinking therefore, by (5) heterogenous?

(7) If thinkign is automatic, does it “form around the mark” or come to be “structured by the mark”?

(8) What is the relationship between autoamticism and the symbol?

(9) What is the relation of automaticism with nothingness / the zero?

TBC….

The Science Fiction of Insanity

June 12, 2013

I posted on Facebook the other day that “The best writer of science fiction is … Kant, of course ;-).” It’s sort of meant to be pretentious and everything, but it makes some sense. The way that Kant thinks is quite interesting, I mean, just from our cartoony recollection of him from many years ago. What you felt about the man was that he refused to be backed into a corner, in the same way that science fiction was a thinking of the possible, and thus unfalsifiable — and so it has some proclaimed relation to truth. Yet unlike traditional science fiction, there was a certain measure of honesty about him, a certain faith about him despite the fact that he was also a clever man, an evasive man even — faith in the sense that he believed he was really onto something, there was a measure of honesty about him, even though, on the other hand, it seems as though everything he wrote was preliminary. Introduction to the Foundations of the Metaphysics of Morals or something like that, I forget — that one title basically contains 4 words that mean “foundation”: the foundation of the foundation of the foundation of foundation. (No pun intended, I mean, with respect to Asimov’s Foundation, which we talked about last time.)

But I’m not being dismissive here — I mean, can cleverness really opposed to honesty, as in the notion of “objectivity”? Rigor involves a kind of honesty, which is a kind of self-conflict. To defend oneself means to construct something defensible, which means to first of all subject it to one’s own scrutiny. The evaluation from others, the debate or something, is not at all that interesting, as we know. So honesty is not a static principle but rather a self-conflict — and not even in the sense of doubt or self-questioning — it means to be self-evasive, if that makes sense. (… of course we are talking about a seriousness here too, we aren’t talking about the evasiveness of rappers or anything, or of being a tough guy … we’re talking about the evasiveness of honesty and faith, if you will.)

This is not actually where I originally wanted to go, with the title, I mean — though it almost feels like it’s where I’d rather go. I mean, right now, we’re suggesting that thinking, which is best characterized as “science fiction”, involves a kind of insanity, a split personality maybe. It involves a persistence, though not towards any particular principle. But I originally wanted to talk about how “science fiction” and a sort of rigor-evasiveness (the two are inseparable) is how we should think about the mind, especially this concept of automaticism that is so central to both insanity and to, well, human thinking in general.

Automaticism is not the subconscious or the unconscious, since both these concepts are too well known, well, by this point in time, they’ve sort of become generic and aren’t “evasive” enough. Or rather, if we are to understand what the unconsciousness really is, we should perhaps return to Freud’s original writings, where it was an element meant to serve a certain purpose. The big realization today was that I had unwittingly conflated automaticism with the pop-cultural notion of the subconscious. Is automaticism — does it even have a well-defined psychological existence? Is it an aspect of how we organize things? Or does it blur the distinction between the conscious and the subconscious?

Because automaticism can refer to many things, I mean, those that are obviously intellectual and those that aren’t categorized as such. Insanity is automaticism, but so is dogmatism, perseverence, character, and so on. Last time we attributed the negative lesson in Boy of Winander as a consequence of automaticism. Are all these things linked? Can we talk about some general sense of automaticism?

Well, not too general, I mean. The circle or the circuit is a very old model in philosophy — that human experience is essentially circular, ie, in the sense that we find what we seek. As such, truth is perpetually out of our grasp, simply because we lose it when we seek it. When I hear “Don’t get any big ideas”, I always hear it as being sung by Radiohead. Big ideas are sort of like big circles. When we try to think too macroscopically, such as about ideology or prejudice, as examples of macroscopic circles, we get caught up in, well, something that is provocative but can’t be properly developed or defended, like Asimov’s big idea of psychohistory. So it seems to me that, on the other hand, we should be looking at small circuits.

Circuits and automaticism are certainly linked for me, yet they are both abstract — but not abstract in the macroscopic sense, not concepts with which we can view the world and establish some school of thinking, but in the sense that they are ill defined, evasive, and seem to blur the boundaries between the categories that comprise the established model of the mind. Circuits is related to “fumbling”, which, in the microscopic sense, seems to mean more than the fumbling from a source to a destination. I mean, that it not the linear stream of progression but rather the desynchronized elements of an experience. There is a time when we can no longer tell the difference between our own thinking of fumbling and fumbling itself, even if the two seem to continue to exist independently… TBC

Science Fiction and Temporal Experience

June 11, 2013

Consider: doesn’t learning, stimulus response, and other “circuit”-based models of the mind involve some notion of success and failure? But success and failure — doesn’t that assume an already internalized standard? Well, I don’t want to be too precise here, I think we can sense the problems with this setup, this model of learning — roughly, how can we know success or failure without some prior standard? Isn’t there some circularity involved?

So I think the usual way out of this is to assume some a priori difference between pain and pleasure. But I’m not sure how this can be applied to more complex forms of response, especially that of thinking, when pain and pleasure aren’t as obvious as, for example, playing with fire.

It occured to me, as I was sketching out this entry, that a lot of what we are about to talk about sounds like science fiction. I mean, I remember, when I was reading Asimov’s “Foundation”, what a remarkable disciple psychohistory would be. I mean, in that book, if you haven’t read it, Asimov imagined a discipline of scientifically modeling the course of civilizations. The first foundation book played well to my tastes. Let me disclose that I am currently playing a demo for a digital board game by a small developer called Cryptic Comet — one that was, in my opinion, just asking to be made. It’s called “Solium Infernum” — Latin for “throne of hell” — and you basically role play as a minor prince of hell who is trying to become the top dog in hell. The whole thing takes place on a hex grid and somewhat resembles a classical board game like Risk or something. But there are also a web of other complex rues — the character statistics might give you an idea of what sort of situations this board game is trying to evoke: Might, Prophecy, Wickedness, Charisma, Deception. So it plays heavily on the demonic tropes that we are used to. “Foundation” was sort of like that, it was a story, basically, of a minor prince — well, not demonic, but on the side of good, lawful good rather than lawful evil — who uses psychohistory — which is basically, knowledge of the rules of the game — to overcome significant obstacles towards conquest.

However, I think that “Foundation” has its shortcomings. I think it succeeds to the extent that it is able to give some sense of definite rules to the game, but then — assuming you are imaginative enough — you might just want to go ahead and try out Solium Infernum. Solium Infernum is onto something here — it is not really “competitive” I suppose, but the real purpose, like a lot of these board games, eg, Dungeons and Dragons, is simply to have a meaningful adventure. One would be fine with losing gloriously — one would actually prefer it. Like the best roguelike it tasks the player with the constuction of a narrative of decisionmaking. My most interesting roguelike experience — involving the game Brogue — involved a methodical unweaving of my best-laid plans, recounted here, if interested: http://brogue.createforumhosting.com/a-story-about-my-monkey-t526.html

But: returning to our discussion… this notion of psychohistory is remarkable at first but then one gets the impression of how poorly thought out it is, which is not to say that the book isn’t evocative and thrilling. I mean, that psychohistory becomes a kind of deus ex machina, which means that it is a device for furthering the development of events external to it. It is a kind of gear by which demonic tropes come into play throughout the book, and these tropes, which we understand, we then respond emotionally to.

But I imagine now a different kind of science fiction which would proceed “inwards”, I mean, in the sense that it would … as I imagine I will be doing here … lay out, abstractly, the necessary preconditions. Isn’t Kant sort of like science fiction? I don’t think that there is anything brave about some imagination of a future world. Instead, I feel it has potential as … the kind of attempt to satisfy these complex conditions but without having direct access to the mechanical details.

What I mean is, that Asimov invents or coins this notion of psychohistory, which is something that is extrodinarily evocative, but then he goes on to simply use this as a kind of deus ex machina, instead of developing it “internally” — so that, on closer inspection, there are a lot of holes in this idea. How, for example, does it deal with unpredictability, with emotions, and so forth? That would be the stories that I would be interested in, I mean, stories that imagine how psychohistory would sort of defend itself under these speculative critiques, which is not to say, oddly enough, that it should be developed progressively and formally. So I think this to be the potential of science fiction: the conception of some possibility that cannot be directly percieved, but the thinkning and the defense of this possibility. This void is what we will be calling the “automatic” below.

So, as we said in the introduction, the question of the development of our mind, or of these “circuits” of experience is basically the central question here. I want to say that it is automatic, which sounds like a cop out but really just refocuses the question: ie, it’s more a matter of asking what sort of structures of experience result, rather than how they come to be formed.

The poem BoW gives a very interesting account of this problem, I believe, in the thinking of the *circuit* that we are enmeshed in when responding to “failure”. I want to emphasize that we are still in a circuit, and that we will always be concerned with circuits, ie, rather than with the peices of construction or “disruption” — that is, not so much that we are always in a system, but that we will only be considering systems, that systems are what are important. This is sort of like psychohistory: what are systems, what are these temporal circuits of experience? And yet we claim to study them. All we care to say is that the formation of such processes is “automatic” — it involves the mind — which is much like saying that we don’t much want to deal with the technical details of neurons firing and the such — we don’t know the details but it is *conceivable*. So this is kind of our “science fiction” moment.

And likewise with failure: failure is not a disruption, it is not a kind of disassembling, but I is the immediate movement to another circuit, and really a more interesting circuit. I mean, looking at Boy of Winander even summirarily, we understand how “literary” it is, since it is about some kind of encounter with the void or something, it is about a moment of intense personalism. It is a thinking of how we may learn from “nature”, if you will, but this form of learning — or rather, the tuning of our temporal circuits — differs radically from the leaning that takes place in the beginning, where the boy calls out to and receives responses from the owls across the lake. Can we make, then, the distinction between a technical learning involving a technical feedback and a learning that one undergoes without, apparently, feedback, without the pleasure principle, or something?

In the poem itself, the line of interest involves this sense of “stabilization”:

Then, sometimes, in that silence, while he hung
listening, a gentle shock of mild surprise
Has carried far into his heart the voice
Of mountain-torrents; or the visible scene
Would enter unawares into his mind
With all its solemn imagery, its rocks,
Its woods, and that uncertain heaven received
Into the bosom of the steady lake.

So what’s interesting here is that the natural scene does pose as a kind of negativity, yet it is also someting that is organized by some logic. When we view the natural scene, in that moment of silence, it is no longer simply the absence of the voice of the owls. Nor, on the other hand, is it a strictly phenomenal or unmediated moment. But rather, though we don’t know what, something has been found, so that a “circuit” continues to occur. We manage to take something out of that scene and learn something from it.

Of course, this is, in a sense, “an error”. There is no profound “truth” being learned here — we do “find” something but by the very fact that we were able to find it means that it cannot possibly be “true”. But nonetheless it seems that the circuit is an expression of something, or, perhaps, it is something that seems to organize our world.

… I want to think about this from a mnemonic perspective, and, I want to reintroduce this notion of “fumbling” which I think we talked about earlier. Fumbling is an essential part of all temporal circuits, it is that moment when we await something, or when we function automatically. But earlier we conceived of this process linearly, I mean, fumbling as a working, automatically but from memory, towards a solution, and then the amazed arrival at that solution. Here, fumbling must be thought of as, not so much a moment of disruption, but as a —-

TBC

 

Rhetoric of Temporality (yet again)

June 4, 2013

Let’s take yet another stab at that infamous Paul De Man essay.

What is “metaphysical” disruption… what is a, you know, a real disruption? That is the question we can turn back to here — this question feels “safe”, it feels like something that will withstand the test of time, etc..

A disruption is not phenomenal, well, I mean, that it cannot be perceived, it is not aesthetic. That much we can be sure of, and yet beyond that we run into trouble, or — as I think I’ve discovered myself doing — we unwittingly return to aesthetic models. For example, for too long, we’ve relied on this notion of a human encounter, but we should have known better.

So having recognized the error of the encounter I asked myself what other possibilities there were. (1) Perhaps the real disruption is shrouded in darkness? Isn’t it true that we can only sense the aftermath of the encounter, when we are once again blissfully content? (2) Does it involve an encounter with something lower than the human, or maybe with the very peices that we use to organize our life?

So in this context let’s talk about allegory and irony. Now, to begin with, I think it’s importance to recognize this concept of intentionality, which seems notoriously difficult to define, even though we understand it to be “not representation”. But we did hypothesize that intentionality, in this “disruptive” sense, was an infinite, recurring process, which means that we can’t really say it is the shift from one form to another. Intentionality might be one of those things — and this definitely runs counter to our, you know, inquisitive spirit — leave alone, or let the mechanical sphinx deal with. Maybe my past error was basically the attempt to define intentionality.

So add to this the question of a kind of temporal displacement. What is allegory? Well, it is something that is somehow temporally reversed, and — what’s more — is understood as temporally rearranged. (This may seem odd if we believe our perceptions have to “wait” until the situation is understood holistically.) Allegory, then, is an understanding that is, on the one hand, blasted out of the conventional flow of understanding — itself a process of rearranging — via this mysterious notion of intentionality, but then reincorporated into understanding at a later moment, a moment that doesn’t “forget” the ealier moment. It seems to me that intentionality really cannot be understood without this later moment of “return” — leaving open, and probably moot, the question of progressive or retrogressive causation. 

 

The Mechanical Sphinx

June 1, 2013

“Mechanical Sphinx” — Consider… we have, you know, a penchant for metaphorical grandeur, but I think that the mnemonic benefit justifies this … (also, of course, those who pretend to be rhetorically logical are at best naive and at worst insufferable) … consider a robot capable of dismissing all the acheivements of history as merely *painstaking* rather than insightful or epochal. Then, passed through such a mechanical sphinx, or whatever, all of history would be reduced to what would appear to be a radical idealism — something like a dinner chat with a friend. It would sit on our shoulder, and whenever we have our doubts, it would chirp back a ready argument, and then we could proceed with our casual conversation. And so, if this machine were to be constructed, we would it would seem have no more need for introductions, and we could always jump directly to the heart of the matter.

I actually copypastaed that from a draft I have. But the mechanical sphinx is a cool device, it in addition, I have the feeling, allows us a way beyond our impasse. History sort of happening before we realize it, doesn’t it? No — more: history is not the task of explaining events, but there is the question of what happened. Therefore, events may never really have any real “presence” in history. An event has no definite form nor even neurological form. This is what was nice about our understanding of thinking as “detective work” in the last essay, it gave a non-neurological model of thinking. The mechanical sphinx may help us in this respect too, as a constant reminder that we never experience the event holistically, there is never a “feeling” or a phenomenon.

But rather, let’s speak of metaphysical events. This is not “epochal”, ie, not something like “the Enlightenment” or something. Metaphysics I want to define as that feeling that something is wrong. It is the site of a turmoil, brought about when things or objects begin to take on an intentional character. Intentionality itself is a complex process that isn’t neurological either. But there is, I believe, a set of constraints that must be met before the arising of intentionality. This definition is circular since intentionality isn’t anything that can be abstractly defined but is itself simply a kind of disturbance. The moment when, for example, we speak of the way in which, say, the jungle looks back at us with a “vengeful aspect” , as Conrad does — doesn’t really make sense but we can sesne there the activity of a kind of metaphysical disruption.

Now in my mind I have a picture of metaphysics as involving “another world”. For example, the usual course of thiniking, detective work indeed involves the jumbling and rearranging of events, much like a mystery novel. A new peice of evidence introduced will certainly have the effect of radically altering our perception of the events. This is how I think a lot of popular media works and has its effect. Metaphysics involves a jumbling too — and it may even perhpas involve the same sort of insights, elation, failure — indeed, we have experienced that haven’t we? And I furthermore believe it a futile task to attempt to precisely define the thin line between “ordinary” fantasy and metaphysical jumbling — in particular since the process is recurrent and infinite, I mean, that one quickly turns into the other. We do, indeed, seem to know how to tell the difference, we have certain visions, criteria, etc. in our minds — I mean, didn’t I say that there were a set of “constraints” that separated one from the other? But that feels like a temptation to me, something that we might have to, you know, pass on to that mechanical sphinx — I mean, to at least give us an adequate answer as to why the distinction between fantasy and metaphysics is infinite.

Because I feel it to be so — I can’t prove it, and if I tried too, I feel like I would fall into a trap. But again, maybe mere adequacy is enough — and we can defer that to the sphinx. But suppose then, the world is in ruins, somehow, a disaster has struck, and there comes to be consequentially, a new age of metaphysical flourishing, itself, of course, a vaguely defined notion.

TBC: The Cannibal’s Restraint [Heart of Darkness]