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PRYING INTO, A DEAD JOURNAL – 5




FOOL, n.

Posted in May by Dave on the synchromesh

"A person who pervades the domain of intellectual speculation and diffuses himself through the channels of moral activity. He is omnific, omniform, omnipercipient, omniscience, omnipotent. He it was who invented letters, printing, the railroad, the steamboat, the telegraph, the platitude and the circle of the sciences. He created patriotism and taught the nations war – founded theology, philosophy, law, medicine and Chicago. He established monarchical and republican government. He is from everlasting to everlasting – such as creation's dawn beheld he fooleth now. In the morning of time he sang upon primitive hills, and in the noonday of existence headed the procession of being. His grandmotherly hand was warmly tucked-in the set sun of civilization, and in the twilight he prepares Man's evening meal of milk-and-morality and turns down the covers of the universal grave. And after the rest of us shall have retired for the night of eternal oblivion he will sit up to write a history of human civilization."

Ambrose Bierce


Dry-Mouth Observations & Democratic Salivations

Posted in May by Dave on the synchromesh
Myths play a basic role in human existence, even for people who claim to live life wholly “rationally”. Indeed, the myth for such people is that it is both good and possible to be an unemotional intellect that controls everything.
Peter Hannes
The Piss Test:

The elimination (or prevention) of personal taste (that is, the aesthetic sense) is the ultimate self-destructive act. Such buds never sprout e'en when the ground's been sprinkled all about. As Lao Tse did aptly state, "Take away taste and the boycott disappears into the vacuum of space".

The offending aspect of the pretensions of democracy is not that in the name of what the majority supposedly thinks: we are supposed to be pleased and happy to be ruled by a clique for our good. Far from it, since, in truth, but few of us are ruled at all. It is merely our little foible to pretend we are. We give our rulers to understand they rule us because it pleases them so greatly to think they do: and then there is the consideration that a docile demeanour serves to divert their too too kind attention; probably the most servile-seeming member of a state the most bent upon fulfilling the role of step-grandmother fundamentally is untouched by rule.

The obedient attitude is a very convenient garb for the perverse to wear: and if the mere doing of it does not jar the temper too much, appearing to submit will define the line of least resistance to doing what, under the circumstances is what we please. Thus under the shelter of the servile demeanour there forms a residue of mulish waywardness, especially in those who appear to present their parts to receive the kicks which keep them going between gutter and cesspool: a waywardness which even more than temper succeeds in making them into a kind of clay unmeet to the hand which would govern.

The great unwashed will accept the infliction of the bath which cuts a slice off the space of their limited premises with resignation and reflect that it will indeed have a use as a wardrobe and coal-place. Though they are cast down by such things they are not defeated. Rule slides from them, as water slides from a duck. Rule has effect only on those who are indoctrinated with the Dogma: those who are under the spell of the Word. Even these – these intellectuals – are not placed in bondage by the rulers: theirs is a voluntary bondage – true freedom, according to the Word – and if they act as automata it is that they subscribe to the dogma that it is their duty to be as automata. They submit themselves to the law: because they approve not always indeed of the law, but of the attitude which submits to law.
Dora Marsden

From the militant perspective, we all know what the Right is about: the honest force of control. The so-called Left, the christianic democrats and socialists or "Humanitarian" charitable bodies' cheif weapon is the ego defense mechanism of the first and second order: true simulacra otherwise known as a freudian/moral rationalisation copulating with denial – control with a heart. Anarchy, on the other hand, is only a matter of self-defense against both forms of assault. It is for this reason the anarchist can only thrive betwixt and between, within the interregnal space of public liminality. Such is the social ground of free-play, a ground which all the surveilance cameras in Detroit must, by definition (or rather, its lack), fail to record.

The Organisation:

Are NGO's feudal organizations? The organization part is obvious: a flat-topped (skin-headed?) pyramidal hierarchy overlayed upon swarming bureaucratic tenticles. That they are non-governmental is less obvious. Certainly, they are founded, formed and maintained by a cadre of capitalist lords putting on airs of chivalry. At the same time, they are authorized by the government or church (both by way of registration), accomodating to the standards and laws for non-profit corporations: arms of the profiteers (waving arms and bearing flags) intended to illustrate that corporate interest is also humanitarian – a special case of the trickle-down theory of political economy, formerly called "Bread & Circus" (discovered simultaneously by John D. Rockefellar and Bill & Melinda Gates). In fact they are subcontracted to do the work governments were once called upon to perform, ostensibly for the rest of us misfortunate souls. "Helping Professions" just like the psychiatric slowly killing us with love and 'brain-seizing' neuroleptic.

The difference between the NGO and the outsourced (privatized) corporation providing public "service" lies in the matter of funding. Privatization is funded, albeit indirectly, by taxes (public and private "investments" as well as insurance scams schemes) and direct payment by the users of that service along with the "surplus" labour extracted as a capital return disguised as recuperation of operational costs. That the tax base is only a small part of their profit means that more of that base is available to the government for its own purposes: specifically, providing for layers of bureaucracy staffed by corporate representatives (and their tech-assistants) whose sole purpose is to act as an intermediary or façade between the corporate body and the worker-consumer collective mass (who can only sense a smarmy probing about their back-side).

But the NGO is said to operate outside this loop. They are still (and more directly) supported by taxes, those same extortionate funds they would have had to pay to the government fascia had they not incorporated (the copula-tion between the worm and octopus). Beneath their own extensive layer of bureaucrat-managers, their labour force (those few actually providing services) is largely voluntary, and whose fealty is guaranteed by the righteousness of the cause, a sort of corporate charter or "mission" statement – a high (and mighty) platform. Where regard for the corporate amalgam is withdrawn (an obviously illegal attitude), we are left with the organized revolutionary committee which has gone under the rubric of "Public Safety" (surely an NGO by any name would taste & smell as, well, the same). Is it any wonder anarchists still hide in dark alleys?

They are thus also funded by morality-based tribute, otherwise known as donations, in the same way that popes and bishops and priests have been funded since such 'collection' practices began to be documented in our history books – it costs money to appropriate territory! It is a matter of duty, or ideologically-bound, sacrificial offering demonstrating unwavering fealty to the over-lords. NGO's therefore provide excellent cover for the distribution of arms, drugs and other questionable commodities into people-poor but resource-rich or strategic provinces such as the Congo or Northern Mexico, in effect, dwarfing the contributions of the unsuspecting public bondsmen, much in the same fashion that exon-mobil and state agencies can gain more profits cleaning up an oil spill than selling it up the river, just as it is more profitably humane to collect the corpses after you've already laid waste to the countryside.

"The biblical parable of the Good Samaritan makes its own appeal, and it is a strong and unselfish one. But there is another parable which promises that if one casts his bread on the waters it will be returned a hundred fold ... foreign aid is a matter of self-interest!"
Lester Pearson, The Crisis of Development, 1970


Looney Times:
money is no substitute for heroic lunar activity

Posted in May by Dave on the synchromesh

The poor husbandman perceiveth that
the increase of the moone maketh plants fruitful,
so as in the full moone they are in best strength,
decaying in the wane,
and in the conjunction
do entirely wither and fade.
Randolf ("Wally") Scott.
A review of H.C. Binswanger's Money and Magic: A Critique of the Modern Economy in Light of Goethe's Faust, by Herman Daly, 1996

...The theme of the book is that mainstream economics is alchemy carried on by other more effective means. Perhaps ecological economists should stop using the term "mainstream economics" and substitute "alchemical economics" as a more descriptive name for that which we are trying to reform. This is by no means a mere rhetorical flourish. It is historically and logically well founded. The prince of Orleans, like other royalty, employed court alchemists in the hope that they would produce gold, with which he could pay off his debts. But when the prince attracted Scottish financier John Law to his court, he promptly dismissed his alchemists because the paper money scheme introduced by Law was a more effective way to redeem his debts. The goal of alchemy, to turn worthless material into gold, remained unchanged. The worthless material of paper just proved more receptive to transmutation than lead had been. The transmutation of paper into money remains fundamentally a "chymical wedding" of mercurial, liquid imagination (imagining it to represent unmined gold still in the ground) and fiery, sulfurous impression (the impressive authority of the emperor's signature on the note). But this is getting ahead of the story and into "technical" alchemy.

Binswanger's source and vehicle for developing this idea is Goethe's Faust, which he shows is a thoroughly alchemical play, a critique of alchemy's "Faustian" attempt to overcome transitoriness (to find the liquid gold elixir of life). That attempt to conquer time is carried out in different ways in the modern world by science, art, and the economy. The play offers a dramatic representation and critique of each of the three paths. Science seeks to overcome transitoriness by finding natural laws or eternal norms. It looks for eternal norms of causality, and since cause always precedes effect it is driven in the direction of the past, seeking cause behind cause. Art seeks to overcome transitoriness in focusing on the present moment, disconnected from the past chain of causation, but not yet dominated by the demands and lures of future purposes. The economy seeks to overcome transitoriness by embracing the future and giving the present over to purposeful action demanded by the future. The economy dismisses art, and reduces science to a handmaiden of utilitarian future purposes. The economy seeks to master time by:

...transforming goods into money values that survive the passage of time and by advancing to these money values through the "gateway of the future." Money is by its nature an order for the future) for what one can buy in the future by spending it, or gain in the future, as yield or interest, by investing it. One can therefore virtually say "money is future." But since the economy is geared to money values, the future is lost again because the money value can only be secured through constant additional consumption of the world, for this money must be covered by real goods excavated from the mine of the world. The future is then threatened to the extent that the world is limited, that is, the world mine is exhausted

Goethe does not tell us where the limits lie, and clearly believes that they can be pushed back, precisely through gearing the economy to money value-- to emphasizing timeless abstract exchange value of money and downplaying the more traditional concrete use value of real goods. This is because the latter are necessarily limited by the satisfaction of the use they serve, and subject to loss and decay, while money is both unlimited and permanent. As Binswanger puts it: "By reducing the world to the quintessence of money, the world becomes augmentable. It grows with economic growth!" The word "quintessence," we learned earlier in the book, is itself alchemical, meaning literally the "fifth essence," the deep essence in addition to the four obvious essences of earth, air, fire, and water. The fifth essence is that which is common to the four essences and allows for their transmutation, and was commonly referred to as "the philosopher's stone." Thus money equals the quintessence, equals the philosopher's stone, equals that which transmutes the worthless into the valuable, the perishable into the permanent.

Although Goethe does not tell us where the limit is, he does tell us that mankind is no longer capable of recognizing such a limit, even when he hits it. Like Faust, modern man has become blind to the problem of limits--and therefore easy prey to the economic alchemists who promise indefinite growth by turning base metals into gold, transitoriness into permanence, and swamps into farmland. The last, of course, was Faust's own economic development project, complete with the "involuntary resettlement" of Philemon and Baucis, the traditional, independent, contented old couple who, like many indigenous peoples today, were unfortunately in the way of the alchemists' experiment.

The focus of the book is on the economy as modern alchemy, not on science and art, whose relation to alchemy we only learn about in Part II. Part I, the first half of the book, is dedicated to the economy as alchemy continued by other means. I began with the larger context that indicts science and art for alchemy, as well as economics, in order that our ecologist colleagues should not feel too smug. Binswanger emphasizes economics because in the modern world it totally dominates both art and science.

In reading the book, I was reminded of a statement by C.S. Lewis:

If we compare the chief trumpeter of the new era (Bacon) with Marlowe's Faustus, the similarity is striking. You will read in some critics that Faustus has a thirst for knowledge. In reality he hardly mentions it. It is not the truth he wants from his devils, but gold and guns and girls. "AII things that move between the quiet poles shall be at his command," and "a sound magician is a mighty god." The true object is to extend Man's powers to the performance of all things possible. He rejects magic because it does not work, but his goal is that of the magician.
The Abolition of Man

The modern economist, like the prince of Orleans, rejects alchemy because it does not work, but his goal is that of the alchemist. His goal may (run) just short of being the Creator, since the alchemist is not making something out of nothing. But he does aspire at least to the role of Senior Demiurge, entrusted by the Creator to make something worthless into something valuable, to improve or continue creation in a fundamental and unlimited way. Alchemy is not disciplined by the first and second laws of thermodynamics -- another common feature with modern economics--and the basic reason why neither of them works very well. However, economics seems to work better than alchemy for a while. But as John Law's subsequent experience shows (he barely escaped with his life from people swindled by his paper money schemes), the long run superiority of economics over alchemy remains in question. This is because the goals remain those of the magician, not the scientist. As a consequence Binswanger tells us:

This act of creation by the economy exerts a huge fascination, the fascination of the infinitely augmentable, that is, of eternal progress. The economy thus gains the transcendental character (i.e., surpassing all limits) which man formerly sought in religion. It is not belief in a hereafter, but economic activity in the here and now, that opens up modern man's perspective on eternity.

Faust certainly represents modern man in this regard. He is unable to see limits, to understand that in a finite world pluses cause minuses and deeds are accompanied by misdeeds. He is hell bent to reach for heaven on Earth...



The Rilchiams of Language:

Posted in May by Dave on the synchromesh

Creative Equivocation: "Such is Human Perversity".
"Take the two words “fuming” and “furious.” Make up your mind that you will say both words, but leave it unsettled which you will say first. Now open your mouth and speak. If your thoughts incline ever so little towards “fuming,” you will say “fuming-furious;” if they turn, by even a hair’s breadth, towards “furious,” you will say “furious-fuming;” but if you have the rarest of gifts, a perfectly balanced mind, you will say “frumious.”

Supposing that, when Pistol uttered the well-known words – 'Under which king, Bezonian? Speak or die?' Justice Shallow had felt certain it was either William or Richard, but had not been able to settle which, so that he could not possibly say either name before the other, can it be doubted that, rather than die, he would have gasped out 'Rilchiam'?"
– Lewis Carol, The Hunting of the Snark

We can surmise that subsequently, if the memory of the circumstances under which the name "Rilchiam" had been coined were forgotten while the name still lingered there would undoubtedly have been established in history a puzzle which would have corresponded to the "ethical" puzzles of philosophy, "What is Truth?" "What is Justice?" "What is Chastity?" It would have run "Who was King Rilchiam?" All of which should explain why in refusing to take the conceptual ideas seriously we feel we understand the impatience of a Pilate or Bellman who dismissed these ancient wrangles with a "Let's skip all that."

It should now be clear to the most verbalised intelligence why we should consider it a ridiculous waste of our space and our readers' time to engage in any debate concerning "Morality" in gross, or sub-divisions of "Morality," such as Honesty, Truthfulness, Piety and so on, in particular. We consider them one and all the "Rilchiams" of language, and far from being debated seriously, their forms should be expelled from Speech: except for purposes of gammon and make-believe. However, just as from the generalised form Rilchiam, a vague associated with an individual William or Richard can be made, so from the vague generalisations called "Morality" or "Honesty" special forms of action can be considered to be related. When therefore a correspondent asks in a bewildered way whether or no we believe in "Honesty" and then goes on to ask whether we run up accounts with tradesmen and shirk payment, we get a perfect example of the workings of what Weininger would have called the "henid" mind: the confused mind which works on a basis of loose association. [Weininger's description of the "henid" mind is extremely able and well worth attention. It is diverting to note that he used the term to characterise the intelligence of women and yet at the same time one of the principal points which he endeavoured to make against them was that they were incapable of constructing a generalisation!] However, no matter how achieved it is a mental relief to see the interrogation change from "What is Honesty?" to "Do you steal the goods of your grocer?" Though we capitulate at once to the difficulties of the first, to the second we can answer at once that it is not our privilege. We are not sufficiently well-off to make the experiment workable. But richer people are quite successful in this line, and we hasten to add that we have no scruples against robbing the grocer. We do not "respect" grocers' goods on any sort of principle: in fact we have been pointing out for months that the goods of the grocers of Dublin for instance could with great wisdom have been regarded as the strikers' own. "Snatch in as suave a manner as you can" would be our working basis; that is if you want something, but if necessity drives then "Snatch anyhow." The difference in method is such as that which exists between the methods used by bankers, financiers and the professional classes in general at the present time and that used by an army which commandeers food in war-time. It is a distinction in the amount of fuss, that is all. Do it gently if you can – and like it gentle – but anyhow "Do it." Those who can wait until their "share" is given them, will have a very wry story to tell: the tale of the "industrial problem." The poor who are too modest to "take," complain because more is not "given" them. They make the enormous mistake of thinking that "shares" are allocated on a principle: whereas in reality, each fixes his own share. The injunction in the decalogue is purposely (presumably) left unfinished, in order to allow an individual choice in the matter. "Thou shalt not steal" means nothing. Not merely does it neglect to say "Thou shalt not steal" – rent, profit or interest; it does not even specify "tradesmen's goods" nor even free rides on the London Tube, on the maneuvering of which we think we could give valuable information to penniless and foot-weary pedestrians. It just leaves it conveniently blank for those to fill in whose particular "order" happens to be uppermost at the given moment. For it is obvious that the whole of "life" is based on a system of "stealing": that is a forcible laying hold of required commodities without permission. We "take" the life of bird, beast or vegetable, and cut short their struggles to survive without as much as a "by your leave." It is only where one power or confederation of powers has become supreme that the question of "theft" arises at all. The proper answer to the questions, "Under what circumstances is 'taking' tantamount to thieving?" And "Under what circumstances is 'stealing' 'immoral'?" can be found by asking the analogous questions "When is it a 'crime' to breathe?" or "When is breathing immoral?" The answer being of course, "When someone has you securely by the throat" – "When you can't manage it, that is."

Dora Marsden
"Shortly after the final game ended, as some demoralized Canucks fans began departing the downtown core, thousands of mostly youth stayed to celebrate the loss...

We were being blown forward by black smoke. It bellowed through the frenzy. A car here-and-there smashed and burning. Parking garages bellowing the stuff. We all took it in deep breaths and let out cheers.

By the dozenth store to be looted, an open market had established itself. Trade and gifts where given and made. Piles of merchandise were left on the sidewalk for whomever. Gifts were presented to any who wanted some, many having more than they could carry..."
comments on the June riot in Vancouver

see also: Rioting & Looting as a Modern form of Potlatch, by Neal Keating



Plainspeak, again

Posted in May by Dave on the synchromesh

The “national literary language of a people with a highly developed art of prose . . . is in fact an organised microcosm that reflects the macrocosm . . . of national heteroglossia. . . . The unity of a literary language is not a unity of a single, closed language system, but is rather a highly specific unity of several ‘languages’ that have established contact and mutual recognition with each other”. “Concrete socio-ideological language consciousness . . . as it becomes active in literature . . . discovers itself already surrounded by heteroglossia and not at all a single, unitary language, inviolable and indisputable”, and thus finds itself “facing the necessity of having to choose a language. With each literary-verbal performance, consciousness must actively orient itself amidst heteroglossia, it must move in and occupy a position for itself within it, it chooses, in other words, a ‘language’”.

Only “off the maps of socio-ideological becoming, could a man fail to sense this activity of selecting a language and rest assured in the inviolability of his own language”. Even such a man, however, “deals not in fact with a single language, but with languages – except that the place occupied by each of these languages is fixed and indisputable”: “it is as if these languages were in different chambers. They do not collide with each other in his consciousness”, there is no attempt to “look at one of these languages through the eyes of another language”. All such languages are “not dialogically coordinated in the linguistic consciousness” of such an individual who passes from one to another unthinkingly: each such language is “indisputably in its own place”. With the “critical interanimation of languages”, however, with the recognition of “various different languages”, internally variegated languages” and the fact that the “ideological systems and approaches to the world . . . indissolubly connected with these languages . . . [contradict] each other and in no way could live in peace and quiet with one another”, these notions are left behind. All “these languages and worlds sooner or later emerged from a state of peaceful and moribund equilibrium and revealed the speech diversity in each”.

The historical “development of the novel is a function of the deepening of dialogic essence, its increased scope and greater precision”. “Dialogue moves into the deepest molecular and . . . subatomic levels” of prose fiction. Of course, Bakhtin writes, “even the poetic word is social, but poetic forms reflect lengthier social processes, i.e., those tendencies in social life requiring centuries to unfold”. By contrast, the “novelistic word . . . registers with extreme subtlety the tiniest shifts and oscillations of the social atmosphere”. In short, when “heteroglossia enters the novel it becomes subject to an artistic reworking”. The "social and historical voices populating language, all its words and all its forms, which provide language with its particular concrete conceptualisations, are organised in the novel into a structured stylistic system that expresses the differentiated socio-ideological position of the author amid the heteroglossia of his epoch”

– Richard L. W. Clarke on Bakhtin (www.rlwclarke.net)

– see Plain Speak


A Metaphysics of the Swarming of the Impalpable Phantasm

Posted in May by Dave on the synchromesh

We should be alert to the surface effects in which the Epicurians take such pleasure: emissions proceeding from deep within bodies and rising like the wisps of a fog – interior phantoms that are quickly reabsorbed into other depths by the sense of smell, by the mouth, by the appetites, extremely thin membranes that detach themselves from the surfaces of objects and proceed to impose colors and contours deep within our eyes (floating epiderm, visual idols); phantasms of fear or desire (cloud gods, the adorable face of the beloved, "miserable hope transported by the wind"). It is all this swarming of the impalpable that must be integrated into our thought: we must articulate a phi­losophy of the phantasm construed not through the intermediary of perception of the image, as being of the order of an originary given but, rather, left to come to light among the surfaces to which it is related, in the reversal that causes every interior to pass to the outside and every exterior to the inside, in the temporal oscillation that al­ways makes it precede and follow itself – in short, in what Deleuze would perhaps not allow us to call its "incorporeal materiality."

It is useless, in any case, to seek a more substantial truth behind the phantasm, a truth to which it points as a rather confused sign (thus, the futility of "symptomatologizing"); it is also useless to contain it within stable figures and to construct solid cores of convergence where we might include, on the basis of their identical properties, all its angles, flashes, membranes, and vapors (no possibility of "phenomenalization"). Phantasms must be allowed to function at the limit of bodies; against bodies, because they stick to bodies and protrude from them, but also because they touch them, cut them, break them into sections, regionalize them, and multiply their surfaces; and equally, outside of bodies, because they function between bodies according to laws of proximity, torsion, and variable distance – laws of which they remain ignorant. Phantasms do not extend organisms into the imaginary; they topologize the materiality of the body. They should consequently be freed from the restrictions we impose upon them, freed from the dilemmas of truth and falsehood and of being and nonbeing (the essential difference between simulacrum and copy carried to its logical conclusion); they must be allowed to conduct their dance, to act out their mime, as "extrabeings."

Moreover, this series of liberated simulacrum is activated, or mimes itself, on two privileged sites: that of psychoanalysis, which should eventually be understood as a metaphysical practice since it concerns itself with phantasms; and that of the theater, which is mul­tiplied, polyscenic, simultaneous, broken into separate scenes that re­fer to each other, and where we encounter, without any trace of representation (copying or imitating), the dance of masks, the cries of bodies, and the gesturing of hands and fingers. And throughout each of these two recent and divergent series (the attempt to "reconcile" these series, to reduce them to either perspective, to produce a ridicu­lous "psychodrama," has been extremely naive), Freud and Artaud exclude each other and give rise to a mutual resonance. The philoso­phy of representation – of the original, the first time, resemblance, imitation, faithfulness – is dissolving; and the arrow of the simu­lacrum released by the Epicureans is headed in our direction. It gives birth rebirth – to a "phantasmaphysics."

– Michel Foucault, Theatrum Philosophicum


When other orators utter orders, is it Heteroglossia OR Polyphoria?
Or, Sailing by Freudian Sloop is Still Free Association:

Posted in May by Dave on the synchromesh

THE ARGUMENT: Utterly, in lieu of an existing thematic social organisation (the well-fit (euphoric, meaning 'good form') juxtaposition of novel (dialogic) utterances and pantomime (dramatic performances) of a cultural mythos, a narrative pantomime of one's ethos some call "theatre", others "culture" and others yet "delusion"), the novel (or themes and theses) uttered (or performed as drama) reveals a contemporaneous alternative cosmos (from Greek kosmos: 'order', 'universe', 'ornament' < Fr. 'objet') whose enduring livability is yet to be determined, but is discarded before the experiment or comparative analysis can proceed, "acting as if" one verse were a unified reality split into fact and disposable fiction, the really real and the fantastic. All argument is a fight for the superiority of one's own goods (or gods – see "spook", "phantasm") or the equivalent subsumption (appropriation) of those of others, of the others themselves. But this one mostly concerns their stylistic form over their practical, hands-on content, thus the split between science and philosophy (or physics and metaphysics) overlaps factitious documentary and fictitious narrative, cutting off the history wherein factic and fictic were once alternative expressions (exgesia) of an oral cavity on a single face regarding the same ingestive content (ingesta). In such a struggle, all possibility (potential) steps to the background until a fist (or vomitus) flies, in the end trading off possibility for a secure moral sense at no rate of interest in the sociological (also known as democratic) construction of a novel religious order:

These “heterogeneous stylistic unities, upon entering the novel, combine to form a structured artistic system, and are subordinated to the higher stylistic unity of the work as a whole”. The novel’s “stylistic uniqueness . . . consists precisely in the combination of these subordinated, yet still relatively autonomous, unities (even at times comprised of different languages) into the higher unity of the work as a whole”. The “style of a novel is to be found in the combination of its styles”. The “language of a novel is the system of its ‘languages’”. The “linguistic and stylistic profile of a given element (lexical, semantic, syntactic) is shaped by that subordinated unity to which it is most immediately proximate”, the unities in turn ‘figuring’ “into the style of the whole”, supporting the “accent of the whole” and participating “in the process whereby the unified meaning of the whole is structured and revealed”.

From this point of view, the novel may be defined as a “diversity of social speech types (sometimes even diversity of languages) and a diversity of individual voices, artistically organised”. The internal stratification of any single national language into social dialects, characteristic group behaviour, professional jargons, generic languages, languages of generations and age groups, tendentious languages, languages of the authorities, of various circles and of passing fashions, languages that serve the sociopolitical purposes of the day, even of the hour . . . this internal stratification present in every language at any given moment of its historical existence is the indispensable prerequisite of the novel as a genre. The novel orchestrates all its themes, the totality of the world of objects and ideas depicted and expressed in it, by means of the social diversity of speech types [raznorecie] and by the differing individual voices that flourish under such conditions. Authorial speech, the speeches of narrators, inserted genres, the speech of characters are merely those fundamental compositional unities with whose help heteroglossia [raznorecie] can enter the novel; each of them permits a multiplicity of social voices and a wide variety of their links and interrelationships (always more or less dialogised).

The “basic distinguishing feature of the stylistics of the novel” consists in these “distinctive links and interrelationships between utterances and languages, this movement of the theme through different languages and speech types, its dispersion into the rivulets and droplets of social heteroglossia, its dialogisation"

– Richard L. W. Clarke, Mikhail Bakhtin's "Discourse in the Novel"
In literature, the twin titan Nereids' (Themisto and Thetis) identifying stance is the pouring of mead at the first feast prior to any performative recitation or any other social custom – the focal recapitulation and overlap – where form and content are inseparable and diversity of provision abundant. Poetry is to public distribution as prose, at least the 'form' which elicits the comment "Enough jargon! Speak English!" (always and necessarily impossible to accomodate), is to the hegemony (hedge-money) of private property, and fact and fiction lose all their former gravitude, either going their separate ways (a shut book is a closed case or slammed door) or losing their respective density (or distinction) altogether. So much for truthful media, religious institutions and representational art.


A Potlatch faq

Posted in May by Dave on the Synchromesh

... For the most part, however, potlatch is a circuitous creation, gifting and movement, and in this is probably the surface area or "lineament of exogamy", a major "topographical contour" (a curved plane, a nose, a defining noise) which reveals something about its subsurface. If mothers and sisters form a transposable, modulating core of the community spirally wobbling its way through space, it's largely the intermittent boys orbiting on the fringes who do the meandering into new matrixes when the romantic spirit intervenes (a patriarchal potlatch is a contradiction in terms, whomever is handing out the presents). But this is just an heroic form or backdrop through which all the real beings flow, inbetwixt and outbetween. It's a different sort of stage theory, well into the theatrical sense of complimentarity, otherwise known as a dance floor or solar system.

[...]

Obviously, how can a young man be a patriarch who is surrounded by nurturing womenfolk? Perhaps the first little over-indulged and possessed Nero, circumscribed from any exploration, en-vying with her womb (or umbilical apron-string), kills mom and sets the community aflame, unless his brothers (or sons) put an end to him. It's a sticky wicket, since if we are to put any stock in legends, this fratricide protecting the community is thought likely, how the boys discovered the will-to-power, inaugurating the iron age and its patriarchal domination literally through kidnapping and metaphoric cooptation (the theft of symbols – the new objectified woman became the mere container to sprout the man's seed, otherwise, slave and provisional arm-candy). With the sense of the complex, "Oedipus", Freud may have had it backward in every respect. It's not always the case that the war against tyrants ends in a perpetual battle of sexes, but sometimes it seems so.

see A Potlatch faq


Wiio's Laws of Communication when heard as transaction
or the transmission of information just like brainfood:

Posted in May by Dave on the synchromesh

1 Communication usually fails, except by accident.
1.1 If communication can fail, it will
1.2 If communication cannot fail, it still most usually fails
1.3 If communication seems to succeed in the intended way, there's a misunderstanding
1.4 If you are content with your message, communication certainly fails
2 If a message can be interpreted in several ways, it will be interpreted in a manner that maximizes the damage
3 There is always someone who knows better than you what you meant with your message
4 The more we communicate, the worse communication succeeds
4.1 The more we communicate, the faster misunderstandings propagate
5 In mass communication, the important thing is not how things are but how they seem to be
6 The importance of a news item is inversely proportional to the square of the distance
7 The more important the situation is, the more probably you forget an essential thing that you remembered a moment ago
Korpela's First Corollary: If nobody barks at you, your message did not get through
Korpela's Second Corollary: Search for information fails, except by accident

Jukka "Yucca" Korpela


When Communication is Mutual Antagonism or,
The Only Neutral Metaphor is a Dead Metaphor!

Posted in May by Dave on the synchromesh
It is intriguing how many of the dispositions usually attributed to human nature are intrinsic conditions of symbolic discourse, and have in that regard some claims to universality without the necessity of biology. This seems especially evident in the sociology of the linguistic "shifters": "I" and "you,"...The person using the pronoun "I" thereby constitutes space, time and objects (reference) from his or her point of view – egotism, or even the will to power. One's interlocutor does the same, an alternative assertion of world-making authority – competition.

The same alternation (can also be) recognized as the reversibility of "I" and "you," – reciprocity or altruism. The mutuality of personhood is implied by this interchange of subject positions – sociability. Symbolic discourse contains within itself the elementary principles of human social interaction.
Marshal Sahlins

"Many of the things we do in arguing are partially structured by the concept of war. Though there is no physical battle, there is a verbal battle, and the structure of an argument – attack, defense, counter-attack, etc.– reflects this. It is in this sense that the ARGUMENT IS WAR metaphor is one that we live by in this culture; its structures the actions we perform in arguing. Try to imagine a culture where arguments are not viewed in terms of war, where no one wins or loses, where there is no sense of attacking or defending, gaining or losing ground. Imagine a culture where an argument is viewed as a dance, the participants are seen as performers, and the goal is to perform in a balanced and aesthetically pleasing way. In such a culture, people would view arguments differently, experience them differently, carry them out differently, and talk about them differently. But we would probably not view them as arguing at all: they would simply be doing something different. It would seem strange even to call what they were doing "arguing." In perhaps the most neutral way of describing this difference between their culture and ours would be to say that we have a discourse form structured in terms of battle and they have one structured in terms of dance. This is an example of what it means for a metaphorical concept, namely, ARGUMENT IS WAR, to structure (at least in part) what we do and how we understand what we are doing when we argue. The essence of metaphor is understanding and experiencing one kind of thing in terms of another.. It is not that arguments are a subspecies of war. Arguments and wars are different kinds of things – verbal discourse and armed conflict – and the actions performed are different kinds of actions. But ARGUMENT is partially structured, understood, performed, and talked about in terms of WAR. The concept is metaphorically structured, the activity is metaphorically structured, and, consequently, the language is metaphorically structured."

Lakoff & Johnson, The Metaphors We Live By


The zone of inoperativity: a space for play and experimentation

Posted in May by Dave on the synchromesh

One could engage wholeheartedly in the semantical battle between violence and non-violence, using rational and historical facts to create an argument for “either side”, and never discover that their efforts are being swept along in a cyclone of empty language. Tempting as it may be to describe the ways in which the arena of violence is divided along the lines of power, this observation does nothing to dissolve the toxic affect of a generalized discourse grounded in such an ambiguous entity. When a conceptual specter such as violence, or its supposed antithesis, is given the illusion of life—through both language and practice—it is then capable of absorbing all hints of spirit from the lips of those who utter its name upon sight of an escalating situation.

– Liam Sionnach
“It is no light undertaking to separate what is original from what is artificial in the nature of man. And to know correctly a state which no longer exists, which never existed, which possibly never will exist, and about which it is nevertheless necessary to have precise notions in order to judge our present state correctly.”
– Rousseau

Intuition, imagination, speculation and conjecture are inevitably the most useful tools in an area which has been subject to systematic social amnesia.

...The exact degree of empirical evidence required to substantiate intuitive insights and subsequent hermeneutic processes remains subject to debate. (Robert) Graves asserts that “I [do not] trust my historical intuition any further than it can be factually checked” (Graves 1986, p.488). D.H. Lawrence reverses this emphasis by according corrobative data a merely secondary position in comparison with intuitive insight: “I am not a proper archaeologist nor an anthroplogist nor an ethnologist. I am no ‘scholar’ of any sort. But I am very grateful to scholars for their sound work. I have found hints, suggestions for what I say... in all kinds of scholarly books... Even then I only remember hints – and I proceed by intuition” (Lawrence 1975, pp.11-12). Fredy Perlman takes this process further and denounces empirical evidence as the antithesis of intuition: “The seer of now pours his vision on sheets of paper, on banks of arid craters where armored bullies stand guard and demand the password, Positive Evidence. No vision can pass their gates. The only song that passes is a song gone as dry and cadaverous as the fossils in the sands” (Perlman 1983A, p.2). Graves grounds modifications in poetic myth in changing historical conditions. Lawrence subordinates fact to poetic intuition. Perlman abandons the discourse of history even while taking it as his subject. The present text takes a synthesis of these perspectives as its departure point. It rejects history and linear historical consciousness, and seeks in myth – myth restored to its primal iconographic form – and cyclical mythic consciousness, techniques for effectuating total liberation.

In a series of provocative essays, John Zerzan has called for the abolition of representation, suggesting that “Only a politics that undoes language and time and is thus visionary to the point of voluptuousness has any meaning”. At the basis of this conclusion lies the insight that “the origin of all symbolizing is alienation” (Zerzan 1988, pp.35, 49), but his formulations lead to stark inexpressivity and barren silence. Viewed from the perspective of myth, however, Zerzan’s intuitions are revivified. Iconographically restored myths, incorporated as lived experience, abolish time because they are timeless, derived from the achronous condition of Dreamtime. And myths are embodied, not in referential language (in which words are taken as referring to some external reality), but iconic language (a term which denotes the notion of mythic language being its own reality, rather than merely symbolizing some external reality).

Zerzan complains that art, like all systems of symbolic representation (including language) “is always about ‘something hidden’. But does it help us connect with that hidden something? I think it moves us away from it” (Zerzan 1988, p.54). Symbols “stand for” a reality which can be apprehended only through their mediation, which inevitably produces alienation. But mythic thought does not function in this way. It operates in a metaphorical, not a literal, manner. And metaphors function, not by pointing to a reality which they symbolize and thus render inaccessible, but through a play of resemblances and differences. Mythic consciousness results from a “desire to apprehend in a total fashion the two aspects of reality... [the] continuous and discontinuous; from [a] refusal to choose between the two; and from... [an] effort to see them as complementary perspectives giving on to the same truth”. Rather than signifying a concealed reality, it perceives analogies through modes of associational thought: “it is this logic of oppositions and correlations, exclusions and inclusions, compatibilities and incompatibilities, which explains the laws of association, not the reverse” (Lévi-Strauss 1963, pp.98-9, 90). The resulting semiotic lattice, based on the principle of bricolage, remains entirely ludic. Mythic consciousness thus avoids the alienation inherent in all symbolization, yet retains the possibility of linguistic expressivity. It abolishes language, and yet facilitates unestranged intersubjective communication.

“At the edge of history, history itself can no longer help us, and only myth remains equal to reality. What we know is less than what we see, and so the politics of miracle must be unacceptable to our knowledge to be worthy of our being” (Thompson 1971, p.163). When history can no longer act as the final arbiter, myth must.
– John Moore


Road-kill or Supper: A Hot Topic?

Posted in May by Dave on the synchromesh
the initiation experience imparts the realization that, given universal holistic interrelatedness, all sexual acts are incestuous and all forms of consumption are cannibalistic.
– John Moore, op cit

Raw or cooked, why is cannibalism of the already dead considered morally repugnant (rating just above scavenging upon car-wreck meat and other roadside carnage) while the murder, maiming and deprivation of the living (whatever the species, but particularly your own) merely good business or economic sense?

It's often been suggested that the human is at base an opportunistic predatory animal, and to look around, we see that this in fact describes the workings of capitalism quite accurately, what with its armed forest rangers and the like protecting power-plays of corporate interest ("the greater good" my ass!) or one-sided economic "transactions" (actually, "extractions") just to put bread on the table. Ask them why? "It's just a job!" If you are a poacher or berry-picker on "community property", best not even ask!

Reactionaries against thuggery of all sorts have historically looked at what we're eating rather than how we come to do it, and many conclude meat itself is the problem. Perhaps this is why oppositional defiance is considered a mental illness whereas pure-and-simple defiance is merely a crime, being that it is more diabolical than dialectical. Whatever the case, vegetarians do not like to hear that they are enslaving other species in their gardens just to eat the children produced and turn the less palatable elders into the soil without even the pretense of a funeral ceremony: "they're only plants, after alll!" Egg, fruit and nut growers seem to escape this criticism, trying to keep their "charge" living, but not so productively as to crush the earth and all the other inhabitants with their accelerating weight, their growth rate. It is said a mother oyster has three billion babies in her lifetime just to keep the seagulls happy. If the other critters weren't well fed, the oyster itself would perish.

When I was a child learning to fish, I objected to what I considered a cruelty in the 'hooking' enterprise, and it was explained to me that "fish have no central nervous system so can't feel pain". John Moore used the same logic to justify eating lettuce babies. Corporate suits & generals have always looked on others as would a Greek god: as "mere people", ie., disposable. No need to bring up the ku klux klan. Over the years I've come to see that I was not alone in thinking rutabagas and fish have feelings too, and developed a theory to explain this squeamishness over killing and maiming fellow creatures (a "sentimentality" often mistakenly attributed to females and children), that the human was neither predatory carnivore nor herbivore, but like the coyote, vulture or dung beetle, a scavenger helping to keep the landscape fresh and fragrant. I've never had an existential problem arise from eating the unborn (helping to resolve the deadly conflict between fertility and fecundity) or stuff that's already dead. Our pig-like teeth and stomachs agree with me on this point. And now I seem to recall a word from grade-school science: "omnivore".

Apparently, when a wolf eats healthy mice in the spring, she is participating in the chance-driven eco-systematics operating all around us, where even the good (as far as a mouse goes) die young. Eating's always an accident from one perspective, good fortune from the other. No need to get all arrogant or self-righteous about it; fortuity is not something under our control. In fact, even for the most favourably conditioned or well-practiced and intentioned, favourable conditions are still necessary for a successful hunt or gathering of any sort. And we still say "Good luck" when sending others out into the world.

Grover Krantz once suggested that the original hand-axe was a multi-stage, multi-purpose tool useful for pantomime as well as a kitchen aid. When coming upon a carcass being consumed by other scavengers like jackals, the little Southern Ape-man (our ancestor by virtue of dramatics and technological disposition) might have held the pointed rocks up to his mouth mimicking the threatening body-language of a large canine-equipped predator, and then used them to cut off bite-sized bits from the vacated corpse. The only risk would be if the primary consumer was not swayed by the "virtual" antics because of her own bigger teeth. A Saber-tooth cat comes to mind. The first sentence spoken might just have been "Run away!! Run away!!"

Speaking of accidental death, it is rarely calculated the actual biomass of the live, creepy-crawly variety that sheep, cattle and elephants consume in their grazing, wiping out whole families of bugs too large to survive even the first stomach, should they miss being crushed by the last molars. It is only the very smallest whose metabolism is hardly distinguishable from their reproduction, the microbes, who actually want to be eaten so they can have a nice warm abode adequate to feed all their children and grandchildren. In fact, prohibiting them from residence would result in death-by-starvation for ruminating beasts, no matter how much pure leafy matter they ate. You could say microbes mediate their metabolism without the merest speculation toward causing alienation. Sometimes the indirect or mediative is the safest sort of action.

I was astonished to find out I had similar sorts of creatures navigating my intestinal tracts, only harmful when evicted. Is there a hidden implication for those who would charge rent for tract housing in the cities, particularly since each and every squat is at best an occupation? I was also astonished to discover it was only the actual predatory animals who had the compassion to kill the sick and injured, as well as the gluttonous and arrogant critters incapable of sharing, with a quick bite or blow, all to help limit the suffering in the world. Authentic predators and prey have one nothing on the other in the departments of kindness and warrior spirit.

The logic is impeccable, yet we are not to follow it:

if we consider an apple tree a living organism, and if economic pertains to 'how we make a living', then the mode of production for an apple-grower is represented by an early-term abortion induced by the orchardist – a potential tree cut off before the prime of its life, so to speak. This may just be how a seagull approaches a cluster of oyster eggs should we restrict all meaning to functionality.

Such a metaphoric extension as apple abortion, despite its biological accuracy comparing perceived patterns, would be considered eccentric, to say the least – evidence for institutionalisation by means of thought disorder. Yet the safer alternatives raise existential problems concerning death and equally disturbing ontological problems concerning our own species. If one considers that the apple, a burgeoning tree that might be, merely undergoes a metamorphosis (with our help in the eating) jumping across not only the presumed unbreakable species boundary but that impenetrable border between class or kingdom, becoming the other (us, that is) no less easily than we merge with traffic on the freeway, we are labeled harmless spiritualist, but definately sailing on the "wrong" route. But really, who suffers in the transformation, the transcendance of class distinctions, this re-incarnation (see carne: 'meat')?

But no! How much easier to consider life (and death) a particularly nasty interruption like sleep apnea, or to embrace brutish behaviour with a vengeance, or merely hire or delegate others to do one's dirty work (as well as dirty thinking about what that work should be) than the rather more enjoyable "inmixing of otherness"?

Of course, the "kind" thing to do after depriving the little seed of its supper is to share with it your own evicted intestinal residents. Such is how Johnny Appleseed discovered agriculture.

– see The anti-politics of food


The Tragedy of the Common

Posted in May by Dave on the synchromesh

Of course, among the first ocean-going navigators were those to become known as the Aborigines of australia, and who, finding a surreal paradise full of absolutely new flavours, merged their own newness into the landscape. It took the English 40,000 years to find this island the size of a continent and less than two hundred to devastate it with their enclosure laws, said to protect us all from the tragedy of being common.


History, Theatre and the Reality-police

Posted in May by Dave on the synchromesh
"it's not necessary to be greedy, inhuman, unscrupulous, alternately pushy, cringing, bullying as the occasion warrants, but always and everywhere a pathologically self-persuaded liar to be remembered by history ... but it helps."
M. Heavisides

"Reality is more theatrical than the theatre. It is why naturalism looks so unreal and comedy so much truer than tragedy, which sentimentalises violence, misery and death and poeticises rotting corpses by calling them noble. The artistic rendering of the physical pain of those who are beaten down with rifle butts and iron bars contains the possibility that profit can be squeezed from it. Tragedy makes the unthinkable appear to have some meaning. It becomes transfigured, without the horror being removed, and so justice is denied to the victims. Comedy does not tell such pernicious lies."
Peter Barnes

This is not to say the unthinkably horrible is not, like foul weather, a daily occurence, at least somewhere. But where is the entertainment value of a live goat tossed down a poisoned well beyond a threat of commiseration? If not to come to the poor creature's aid, if not to walk out of the room in disgust, we should be inspired to burn down the theatre and its uni-formed consiglieri, conciergi, condotieri: all ushers and ticket-takers with pinstripes running down their pants just like an armed forest ranger!

And does it necessarily follow that when we have an idea on the nature of nature, and proceed to test it against 'reality', that as the result is so very often a big explosion, the world is therefore the result of an explosion?

There is a "bewildering variety of alternate social visions that subsist within an oppressive social order and cannot ever be perfectly stifled.... [the "logic of revolution" allows it, whereas in practice,] revolutions that are led tend to shuffle rather than alter the social order."
M. Heavisides


This bitter earth...

Posted in May by Dave on the synchromesh

Well, what fruit it bears
Oooh, This bitter earth.
And if my life is like the dust
oooh, that hides the glow of a rose
What good am I
Heaven only knows.

Lord, this bitter earth
Yes, can be so cold
Today you're young
Too soon, you're old.

But while a voice within me cries
I'm sure someone may answer my call
And this bitter earth
Ooooh, may not oh be so bitter after all.
This bitter earth
Lord, This bitter earth
What good is love
Mmmm that no one shares.

And if my life is like the dust
Oooh that hides the glow of a rose
What good am I
Heaven only knows.

– Dinah Washington, 1960
(by Clyde Otis)

On the other hand (aka: "however...")

Posted in May by Dave on the synchromesh

Consider, however, that which is at the same time the least known and the most certain fact about this mythical subject which is the sensible phase of the living being: this fathomless thing capable of experiencing something between birth and death, capable of covering the whole spectrum of pain and pleasure in a word, what in French we call the sujet de la jouissance. When I came here this evening I saw on the little neon sign the motto "Enjoy Coca-Cola." It reminded me that in English, I think, there is no term to designate precisely this enormous weight of meaning which is in the French word jouissance — or in the Latin fruor. In the dictionary I looked up jouir and found "to possess, to use" but it is not that at all. If the living being is something at all thinkable, it will be above all as subject of jouissance; but this psychological law that we call the pleasure principle (and which is only the principle of displeasure) is very soon to create a barrier to all jouissance. If I am enjoying myself a little too much, I begin to feel pain and I moderate my pleasures. The organism seems made to avoid too much jouissance. Probably we would all be as quiet as oysters if it were not for this curious organization which forces us to disrupt the barrier of pleasure or perhaps only makes us dream of forcing and disrupting this barrier. All that is elaborated by the subjective construction on the scale of the signifier in its relation to the Other and which has its root in language is only there to permit the full spectrum of desire to allow us to approach, to test, this sort of forbidden jouissance which is the only valuable meaning that is offered to our life.

– Jacques Lacan, Of Structure as the Inmixing of an Otherness
Prerequisite to any Subject Whatever

Clinamen: the mere fat or skinny of alienated or capitalised bodies

Posted in May by Dave on the synchromesh

Mutual receptivity goes more with the gravity metaphor than the small going hellbent for the large (the sellout maneuver), like the unfathomable idea that prey "offer" themselves as a gift to the predator. It is true they are gifts, but not by their own design. Most prey are also warriors who will struggle to the end, spitting and snearing, to maintain autonomous motion or some trace of personal integrity. Many simply out-run or out-maneuver their attacker.

Gravity is a property of neither, but 'exists' (emerges) between moving bodies, accelerating its manifestation by a factor of four til they come together in a collision, unless there is an appropriately placed swerve. (Caution, there may be sparks.) Surrender is itself a chosen swerve along the easier path, but self-weaning and cold turkeys have been known to successfully dislodge old orbits. When you rid something disgusting, it is not considered a sacrifice, no matter how "good" it feels in short bursts. Most of our own disgusting habits are not even considered. The maintainance of any autonomy of either body requires the establishment of mutual orbit in relative equilibrium where, by reducing the stress of struggle, the accumulation cycle can end. Eccentricity is a tacking maneuver minimising the continued adjustment of fuel guzzling thrusters.

Because of eccentricity combined with the mutual movement producing something akin to electrical discharge, a transgressive swerve is not out of the question at any time, particularly if another moving mass of sufficient density passes by. Polyamorous or omnigravitudinal tolerance replaces the eccentric circle or schizophrenic hourglass with a spirograph of multiple figure eights, increasing equilibrium's stability despite the superficial appearance of chaos. But now, with contented integration, we are talking more about sex and love and social relations than the mere fat or skinny of alienated or capitalised bodies.

see six side views of fat frankfürters and form,
The Lean Kind, Dora Marsden


Not to be repetitive, but...

Posted by Mary on Dave in the synchromesh

An epiphenomenon is that which is superinduced upon a phenomenon.

Pataphysics, whose etymological spelling should be έπι (μετà τà φυσικά) and actual orthography ‘pataphysics, preceded by an apostrophe so as to avoid a simple pun, [in French, e.g., "patte à physique"] is the science of that which is superinduced upon metaphysics, whether within or beyond the latter’s limitations, extending as far beyond metaphysics as the latter extends beyond physics. Ex: an epiphenomenon being often accidental, pataphysics will be, above all, the science of the particular, despite the common opinion that the only science is that of general. Pataphysics will examine the laws governing exceptions, and will explain the universe supplementary to this one; or, less ambitiously, will describe a universe which can be—and perhaps should be—envisaged in the place of the traditional one, since the laws that are supposed to have been discovered in the traditional universe are also correlations of exceptions, albeit more frequent ones, but in any case accidental data which, reduced to the status of unexceptional exceptions, possess no longer even the virtue of originality.

DEFINITION. Pataphysics is the science of imaginary solutions, which symbolically attributes the properties of objects, described by their virtuality, to their lineaments.

Contemporary science is founded upon the principle of induction: most people have seen a certain phenomenon precede or follow some other phenomenon most often, and conclude therefrom that it will ever be thus. Apart from other considerations, this is true only in the majority of cases, depends upon the point of view, and is codified only for convenience—if that! Instead of formulating the law of the fall of a body toward a center, how far more apposite would be the law of the ascension of a vacuum toward a periphery, a vacuum being considered a unit of non-density, a hypothesis far less arbitrary than the choice of a concrete unit of positive density such as water?

For even this body is a postulate and an average man’s point of view, and in order that its qualities, if not its nature, should remain fairly constant, it would be necessary to postulate that the height of human beings should remain more or less constant and mutually equivalent. Universal assent is already a quite miraculous and incomprehensible prejudice. Why should anyone claim that the shape of a watch is round—a manifestly false proposition—since it appears in profile as a narrow rectangular construction, elliptic on three sides; and why the devil should one only have noticed its shape at the moment of looking at the time? —Perhaps under the pretext of utility. But a child who draws a watch as a circle will also draw a house as a square, as a façade, without any justification, of course; because, except perhaps in the country, he will rarely see an isolated building, and even in a street the façades have the appearance of very oblique trapezoids.

We must, in fact, inevitably admit that the common herd (including small children and women) is too dimwitted to comprehend elliptic equations, and that its members are at one in a so-called universal assent because they are capable of perceiving only those curves having a single focal point, since it is easier to coincide with one point rather than with two. These people communicate and achieve equilib­rium by the outer edge of their bellies, tangentially. But even the common herd has learned that the real universe is composed of ellipses, and tradesmen keep their wine in barrels rather than cylinders.

So that we may not abandon, through digression, our usual example of water, let us reflect, in this connection, upon the irreverence of the common herd whose instinct sums up the adepts of the science of pataphysics in the following phrase:

– Alfred Jary, "Exploits (navigations) & Opinions of Dr. Faustroll"
a dérive through Paris by canoe.

1 comment: Letter to Dr. Faustroll

Telopathic letter to Dr. Faustroll from a position of
some density on the matter of the "dim-witted"

Sir.

Each of the four elements in likeness with earth, fire, air and water corresponds to a single sense, the fifth sense being a combination of two of the four elements described. The sixth sense is a combination of all of them, ascending outward as vital pneuma rising from the heart and capable of transcending speed itself across the omnigalactic aether whose tumultuous ripples display no surface tension (there being no surface on which to attend, despite its other oceanic attributes).

The effectiveness of the six senses depends largely on a compound (a synaesthesioid) which likes, is like or liked by the object of its sensation: "affinity" but not "representation". Yes, light follows the principles of gravity, but without any necessity of obedience because, in principle, it may be the other aether itself which, as our mutual friend, Edgar Poe once sugested, does the actual moving, and in every direction conceivable in plenary undulations. In such a case, antagonism is im-poseable between any points of observation (such as the eyes-wide cross-eyed gaze) but movement amongst them is likely (whether one is moving or moved through, the result is the same) at once and finally implying no time but local time. Meine uhr ist wach!

However, is it not illadvised to compare the drawings by children with those of adults who have accumulated such experience of matters that they became dimwitted? I refer you to the digital portrait of a squarish clock-belfry (the green portion of the image) by four year-old Mary and entitled simply "mine wach" (which 'wach' we know to be German for "awake"):


unless, of course, you mean to say that none of us are gods nor should expect to be any time soon. And as to the tidal influence from the earth upon the orbiting moon, in one or another incarnation, Ambrose Bierce has shown quite clearly that flight is the art and science of falling to the ground, and missing. As you say, there is more to a Clinaman than an inert idea like occidental inertia. It may just be that the less you know by actual measurement, the more the world makes sense, hence the equality of all absurdities.

Peace be upon thee,
Hunayn ibn Ishaq

Aether Heresy nor Science

Posted in May by Dave on the synchromesh

Ever since Isaac Newton, many physicists considered the ether to be a static or stagnant phenomenon, something which existed throughout the cosmos, but primarily as a non-moving and immobilized background medium. A static ether or "Absolute Space" was a necessity for Newton, in large measure to reconcile his mathematical laws of motion with his theology. Newton's laws of motion - which can be distilled down to the consideration that "nothing moves unless something else makes it move" - eliminates entirely any spontaneous or dynamical qualities to Nature or the ether. By contrast, the ether of Galileo Galilei, who died on the same year Newton was born (1642), was a dynamic phenomenon, a cosmic prime-mover which put the heavens into motion, a natural force which was responsible for solving the large mystery of where all the motion in the universe ultimately came from. Church theology prior to Galileo and Copernicus portrayed the Earth as stationary in the cosmos, apart from the "perfect" and dynamic heavens, which were put into motion by God. Earth was the home of Satan and sin, and was considered immobilized in the heavens, by contrast to the heavenly planets, Sun and stars, which were pure and daily moved across the skies. The Copernican-Galilean heresy, for the Church, was that it breathed life into places where previously Church authority had declared things dead. The new scientific revolution which came with and stimulated the Renaissance also made "God" irrelevant, insofar as the cosmic ether or prime mover was concerned. The cosmos was animated by Natural Law, and not by deity. The theologically-preoccupied Newton was unsettled by such ideas, and sought to restore the patriarchal god to his proper role as cosmic clock-maker, who set the universe into motion; his celebrated laws of motion factually worked to undermine and block the progress of scientific and social revolution implied within the writings of heretics such as Bruno, Copernicus and Galileo. Newton appeared motivated to "heal the schism" between Science and the Church, which had developed since Galileo, by ridding the universe of any notion of cosmic prime mover. The ether was henceforth declared dead, static and immobile, and God was rescued from the unemployment lines, his role as the source of all universal motion preserved.(8) This viewpoint is not apparent from his mathematics, but is a part of the underlying philosophy which led to Newton's equations being considered "Laws".

Basically, if one assumes space is empty and there is no prime mover, or that an ether exists but is totally static and immobilized in its behavior, then one must assert some additional principle or metaphysical mechanism for all the observable motion in the universe, whether it be a metaphysical god, or a metaphysical creation-event such as the "Big Bang", or a mathematical-metaphysical abstraction, such as Einstein's relativity. If the ether exists, and is not static, then Nature simplifies things tremendously, but leaves human metaphysical belief systems even more isolated from reality.

– DeMeo, Reconciling Miller's Ether-Drift with Reich's Dynamic Orgone


Property & Time

Posted in May by Dave on the synchromesh

There is a monstrous toad whose mouth is flush with the Ocean's surface and whose function is to devour the sunken disk, the way the moon eats the clouds. It genuflects daily in its circular communion; at this moment steam rises from its nostrils, and the great flame arises which is the souls of certain people. This is what Plato called the apportionment by lots of souls outside the pole. And its genuflection, because of the structure of its limbs, is also a squatting. The duration of its deglutitory jubilation is therefore without dimension; and since it digests to the rhythm of a vigorous punctuality, its intestines remain unconscious of the transitory star which, in any case, is indigestible. It burrows a passage in the subterranean diversity of the earth and emerges from the opposite pole, where it purges itself of the excrements with which it has soiled itself. It is from this detritus that the devil Plural is born.
Dr. Faustroll – by Alfred Jary, 1898

The biggest criticism of the criticism of primitivism is in its (the critics, that is) unwavering belief in the presumptuous assumption of the uni-linearity of "time" as an 'empirical' essence of euclidean space when they tell us one can neither travel backwards (whilst chewing gum or not), nor meddle with the hands of clocks. "Not never, no how!" But everyday, we witness folks abandoning the new and improved for the old and reliable. What can this possibly have to do with the invariant immortality of imaginary lines? Every anthropologist knows that it will be the practical archaeologists (those with dirty fingernails) who will survive the coming whatever. The dead compose an invincible army when roused by social critics to face the arrogant teetering on their quavering tightropes over any uncertain precipice (see headlong: 'a very dangerous state'). It's as if they think one can never let go of unwanted baggage, like, what then would have been the point in its prior accumulation? Would we not become simpletons of reduced stature? Oh, those poor vertiginous people and their fragile complexities, ever forbidden to mobiliate in their higher planes of order, that is, without a delegated pilot!

– see The Measure of Time by Henri Poincaré


IN CASE YOU MISSED IT BEFORE...

Posted in May by Dave on the synchromesh

the conventional assumption that language divides neatly into a bunch of individual entities that we call "languages" is an ethnocentric one--that as self-evident as it seems to us today, it's just one of the "truths" belonging to Modern Western culture, and not something that would occur to people in other times and places...

As regards the conception of individual languages in earlier times in the Western tradition, I have the following quotation from Illich and Sanders to the effect that in Europe at an earlier time languages were not thought of as distinct, or well-defined, systems. (It also attempts to give an idea of how they were viewed at that time).

"Up until the time of the earliest vernacular grammars--in other words, up until the late fifteenth century--lingua or tongue or habla was less like one drawer in a bureau than one color in a spectrum. The comprehensibility of speech was comparable to the intensity of a color." [Illich, Ivan, and Barry Sanders. 1988. ABC: The alphabetization of the popular mind. San Francisco: North Point Press.(pp. 62-3)
Another quotation that supports this point is the following one, taken from the preface to Samuel Johnson's (18th century) dictionary of the English language. I should point out that this dictionary has been credited--probably more than any other single work--with accomplishing the standardization of the English language. Johnson's point is that, before he designed it, there was no coherent system within what was called "English".
"When I took the first survey of my undertaking, I found our speech copious without order, and energetick without rules: wherever I turned my view, there was perplexity to be disentangled, and confusion to be regulated; choice was to be made out of boundless variety, without any established principle of selection..." [Samuel Johnson, Preface to the Dictionary.]
Trudgill, in another of the quotations, points out that the modern Western view may also differ from views elsewhere in the contemporary world.
"Le Page's terms focused and diffuse require some discussion. Le Page and Tabouret-Keller have pointed out (1985) that speech communities, and therefore language varieties, vary from the relatively focused to the relatively diffuse. The better-known European languages tend to be of the focused type: the language is felt to be clearly distinct from other languages; its 'boundaries' are clearly delineated; and members of the speech community show a high level of agreement as to what does and does not constitute 'the language'. In other parts of the world, however, this may not be so at all, and we may have instead a relatively diffuse situation: speakers may have no very clear idea about what language they are speaking; and what does and does not constitute the language will be perceived as an issue of no great importance." [Trudgill, Peter. 1986. Dialects in contact. Oxford: Basil Blackwell. (pp. 85-86)]
Peter Mühlhäusler, in the following quotation, even questions the applicability of the notion of the "language" in most cultures.
"One is led to conclude that the notion of 'a language' is one whose applicability to the Pacific region, and in fact to most situations outside those found within modern European type nation-states, is extremely limited." [Mühlhäusler, Peter. 1996. Linguistic ecology: Language change and linguistic imperialism in the Pacific region. London and New York: Routledge. (p. 7)]

– see The Linguistic Construction of Reality (pdf)


Sexes and Genders

Posted in May by Dave on the synchromesh

Observation: People (and many other species) used to come in two sexes, male and female, or so I understood. Now it seems that these two are genders in many, most, or even all cases.

The question is: When are they genders and when sexes? The answer seems to keep changing: at least my idea of what the preferred usage is has passed through several stages over time. If I attempt to review my own successive understandings, I come up with something like the following:

1. At the beginning, as far as I knew, they were called sexes. When I first became aware of the use of gender in this sense, the explanation I heard was that it was begun by Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and that she did it to avoid the word sex because it made her uncomfortable (1). Anyway, I haven’t heard any more about her role in this, so maybe this explanation had no basis in fact.

2. Subsequently this use of gender seemed to grow, and at some point I got the understanding that it was being actively promoted by advocates of the idea that the differences in human male and female behavior are in large part due to socialization. The explanation I got was that to emphasize their point, they advocated using sex for the biological distinction and gender for the culturally-assigned roles and to behavioral differences between those males and females socialized into them.

3. From some later point, it seemed that some kind of discomfort had become attached to the word sex so that people felt easier avoiding the word entirely and just saying gender for all (at least human) instances of the male-female distinction. At any rate, one now regularly hears talk of the gender even in the earliest stages of pregnancy.

4. But maybe some distinction is still being promoted here. Might this, for example, be intended to make some point about the extent of influence from the external environment on the intra-uterine development of the fetus? Or is it simply that gender just gathered a momentum that has carried it beyond its goal?

5. What then is to be the fate of the pariah word, sex? It does seem to have re-emerged as the way to refer to the act of sexual intercourse so that people who copulate are now said to have sex. (Does the expression have sex fill some previous semantic gap? That explanation hardly sounds convincing since English-speakers had previously seemed to experience little difficulty in finding ways to refer to the act.)

6. But should the replacement of sex by gender in reference to male and female be regarded as now complete? There are still some loose ends as far as my understanding is concerned. First, I don’t know the rule for other species. Is the distinction between bulls and cows one of gender, or are they still sexes as of now? Is the answer the same for peafowl? Bees? Black widow spiders? Papaya trees?

7. And there’s the word sexist? One would expect it have been replaced by genderist. In fact, one might expect that someone who was sexist would be someone who likes having sex. (But that condition appears to be so common that one might have felt that it was its absence that was more in need of a name).

Any clarification would be welcome.

Note
1. Ginsburg would have been exploiting the facts (1) that the noun classes of certain languages, such as the Indo-European, have traditionally been called genders (from the Latin root genus meaning kind), and (2) that the individual two or three classes have traditionally been named after the sexes (or absence of sexual status in the case of neuter). Thus the word gender has become associated in people’s minds with sexual distinctions.
George Grace

– see Gaia is a tough Bitch! by Lynn Margulis

Exponential Growths or Ingrown Exponents
Winding Down the Clockwork?

Posted in May by Dave on the synchromesh
To Vico, a normative legal text is utterly meaningless without living speech to clarify it. "Such manuals foster a habit of abiding by general maxims whereas in real life nothing is more useless"(Mooney:Pri.of Lang.p.209). It was better in his view to use the heroic Roman method of a minimum of laws where equity came with the skill of an eloquent lawyer.

Poetic wisdom was the synthesis of wisdom and eloquence, of res and verba. Poetry was not merely a product of the mind, but actually the logic of the mind's development...Society would fall apart when the philosophers forgot how to communicate and the rhetoricians became merely clever.
– Erik Growen, Vico's sensus communis


 

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