12.15.2014

Electricity & Writing

¨Socrates: But if these things are only to be known through names, how can we suppose that the givers of names had knowledge, or were legislators before there were names at all, and therefore before they could have known them?
Cratylus: I believe, Socrates, the true account of the matter to be, that a power more than human gave things their first names, and that the names which were thus given are necessarily their true names.¨ — Plato, Cratylus
19. Names for the pre-literate Greek were an auditory divination, a myth-event, not entirely stable in meaning, received by men from gods. Names today are visual pictures: spelled, defined and administered to children by the state through mandatory schooling.  
32. To point out the parallels between science and the state, as both operate upon the principles of legibility, standardization and systematization, is to perhaps only propose another grand human narrative, one more general and meta than the last, and thereby seemingly more true. In the search for the one true story of man, of first causes and prime movers, one continues an old train of thought endemic to the West.
 
43. Still, it is proper to ask how the technology of the written word changed the language people spoke. Prior to the appearance of writing, was the language man spoke less rigorously logical, more emotional and impassioned, more religious?
46. Fred Nietzsche criticized his Birth of Tragedy saying it should have sung. Plato argued the poets were immoral and needed to be removed from his ideal city-state. Teddy Carpenter abandoned his anthropological project, equating the study of non-western, pre-literate peoples with a kind of criminal act. Perhaps the tragedy of philosophy is that it tries and fails to sing and to make poetry. Philosophy must finally reject the poetic or, in the acceptance that it can never sing, must itself go silent.  
55. They say now that poetry is one particular electrical action in the brain among many. They have observed it and measured it. The brain is like computer hardware, they say, and poetry one of many softwares. There have always been computers, for man has always been a computer.
58. Man conceives himself through his technology. The technology of the written word allowed for the standardization of names and the creation of narratives of causes and effects: the complexities of argument and logic. The technology was useful: it broadened the state and met his goals of enhanced security, property ownership, and law. It grew his material wealth, provided him with pleasures and expanded his empire.
61. Plato´s Socrates speaks of his daimōn, a rationality that guides him. Notably it is inaccessible to both gods and other men. By answering its call and accepting its guidance, he is separated from gods and men and made an individual. Philosophy would progress to internalize this force of rationality within man, to make it a feature unique to man. Later, to the systematic economists, rationality would become a core assumption about men in their arithmetic of global economic life.
75. The technology of writing began as an amanuensis and was slowly grafted onto man. Its logic and reasonableness became a part of his speech. The spoken word became secondary to the written. The eye achieved dominance over the ear. Man learned to speak in text.
79. What is called consciousness is the embodiment of the technology of writing. Consciousness does not appear to man as poetry or song. Consciousness appears as a voice, a voice of reason, an interior logic: a written voice.
80. Without the technology of writing there could be no subject, no individual.

81. ¨Schizophrenia may be a necessary consequence of literacy.¨ - Marshall McLuhan, The Gutenberg Galaxy: The Making of Typographic Man, 1962

85. The problems of other minds, whether the world is illusion or true, are the problems of literate men. The text was essential in the development of these ¨problems.¨

87. The historians tell of the Dark Ages, the centuries after the Roman empire had collapsed and men lived in small villages and feared the forest. These villagers were illiterate and state-less. Europe was sparsely populated and little was known of life beyond the village. Men were often without clothing and walked around shamelessly naked. Curiously, these men of the Dark Age were nameless. Was it coincidence that in the absence of the state men also lost their names? With this breakdown in legibility even in regard to himself, was it possible for a man to conceive himself as an individual?
99. The computer is the electrification of the technology of writing: the joining of his mastery of electricity to the older technology of writing. He sees the world through this enhanced electrical writing. He observes electricity in his own body and brain and believes he is not very different than the electricity and logic of the computer. He aspires to merge with it: to become reason, logic and legibility electrified and all knowing.
100. In the moving picture Lucy (2014) dolphins are depicted as using 20% of their brain capacity, compared to humans at 10% (brain capacity appears to be a measure of electrical activity relative to cerebral size). At 20% of its brain capacity, the film implies, a dolphin is physically endowed with functional sonar, which a human must manufacture technology to replicate. During the course of the film the protagonist Lucy expands her use of brain capacity and gains control over the laws of the world as detailed by science (gravity, fusion, etc.). Curiously, as she expands the use of her brain and becomes more reasonable, she loses her sex drive, empathy for other humans, any recognition of historical moral codes and ethics, and respect for private property. Eventually Lucy departs her body and merges with a computer. Finally, at 100% of brain capacity, she transforms herself from a computer into an electrical wave that can inhabit all living and non-living things, past and present. Man as computer hardware has made his final evolution into a supreme, immortal, all knowing and unbounded electrical rationality. The utopian dream is complete, the final step of his evolution from single celled organism.

11.24.2014

The World To Come

1. The Muslim looks back to the past. Historical memory tells him of the time of the caliphate, the greatest moment of his religion and culture, when his empire was most expansive. For him the great moment of the earth has already happened and it is what he seeks to restore: a return to the future.
 
2. The Western man (secular) looks to an imagined future, to a perfection of democracy and technologically guided economy, in which everyone will have all the latest gadgets and live together in peace with little work, long lives, and never any pain. For him, the earth´s perfect moment is still to come and he need only teach other men to imagine it with him.
3. The Muslim, however, is without a belief in the perfection of life on earth. Perfection is only possible after death. This allows him to live with cruelty and slaughter and pain and loss. War and death are simply features of the earthly life. They put into starker relief the perfection and beauty of the world to come after death.
6. Secular Western man cringes at the cruelties and slaughters. All the world’s pain challenges his idea of the progress of his utopian democracy of consumption and happiness on earth. He has no answer for this challenge to progress. It does not seem possible to him. Without an afterlife, Western man is reduced to nothing if his worldview of progress is to fail.
8. Western man must imprison and declare war upon those who practice cruelty and slaughter. To protect his progress of peace and democracy and the values of consumption, he must practice in a more extreme and comprehensive way the brutality of his enemies. He must slaughter more thoroughly than his enemies. He must expand his surveillance, he must torture better, he must terrorize more efficiently so that the peace may last and consumption and democracy can take root.
11. Verily, the Muslim´s restoration of a once-existent caliphate is a more realistic and achievable objective than the globalizing of the entire earth under a secular democracy and consumption-based economy (never before realized historically). While both are totalitarian projects, the former is considerably more modest in scale. 
12. After Western man has had his idea of worldly progress destroyed, he will return to the idea of the afterlife and perfection and utopia in death. It will be too hard to live without belief in the midst of slaughter. He will need to become religious again. He will believe again and as fervently as the Muslim. He will relearn the longing for death and the life to come.

11.08.2014

Scythes and Computers

24. New technology confirms and extends an idea of the world. The scythe allowed man to cut grass while comfortably standing so that more grass could be cut, more land could be brought under his control as a farmer. The subsequent innovations of the threshing machine, the mechanical reaper, the bailer and the combine harvester further demonstrated to man that there can be no alternative idea of the earth. Each new technology gives renewed confirmation to the rightness of agriculture.
 
28. The computer extends man´s infatuation with the television screen, allowing him to enter it and live inside it. No longer an observer, man becomes a participant. He now lives and plays among the flickering shadows on the cave wall.
29. The shadows are without smell or sound or touch. It is a worldview that privileges the visual. It begins in literacy and Plato´s forms and extends through Gutenberg´s mass production of text. The seated reader and observer has access to a truth beyond time. That he can now play in the computerized shadows becomes the truth of the world.
41. Progress: the periodic appearance of more efficient technologies that demonstrates the rightness of an idea. What he calls progress is the certainty of his worldview. With enough progress there can be no other ideas about the world.
77. The hawks that soar above the city, the tall old growth trees along the calles, that is all that interests me about Botogá.

11.01.2014

Beyond The City

"We don't know who discovered water, but we're certain it wasn't a fish."
— John Culkin, quoted in They Became What They Beheld

"In the beginning was the Word, a spoken word, not the visual one of literate man, but a word which, when spoken, imposed form. This is true, as well, of the Eskimo, but with one significant difference: the Eskimo poet doesn't impose form, so much as reveal it. He transfigures and clarifies, and thus, sanctifies. As he speaks, form emerges, temporarily but clearly, ´on the threshold of my tongue.´ When he ceases to speak, form merges once more with unbounded reality." — Edmund Carpenter, Eskimo Realities

200. The great weakness of this age is that a man can speak of ¨picking¨ a religion; that he chooses to believe.

201. Mythology chooses men, not the other way around. Men are born into myth as they are born into a world. Myth lives on in the lives of men in how they comport themselves in the world. As men act, myth acts through them. It cannot be spoken of as something believed.
211. In a world torn apart by naming the gods are reduced and relegated, but so in equal measure are men.
 
227. Science is not the opposite of myth. As anything else it is nourished by its own mythical bed.

240. The great task awaiting men who have left the cities is to restore a world broken  apart through naming and categories: to see again as an illiterate child; to forget the accountant´s and scientist´s names for things; to see the world whole, where animals and humans, forests and rivers, gods and earth and sky dwell together.
246. If there is any such thing as freedom, it is that which a State cannot make an accounting of.
247. What appears to a citizen as irrefutable and unremarkable is likely what is most necessary to the sustenance of the city and the State.

10.10.2014

Voices Inside

1. Consciousness appears as the hesitation to act. Man pauses. His conscience has begun to speak.
 
4. Where once conscience was the provenance of parental instruction and the values of the small community, today´s voices of conscience are more often institutional: school, media, the State. These institutions provide conscience with its vocabulary, encouraging an allegiance to vast economic and social systems; to make of him a citizen, a hard-working and productive member of a society.
 
5. Conscience imposes upon man through language, critiquing and transforming his instincts from inside. It is through the arguments and coercions of conscience that a man´s instincts are slowly eroded and socialized, brought into line with the collective. Conscience is the corrective to instinct, it circumscribes its limits.
 
9. The privileging of the word and logic has resulted in a devaluation of instinct, for instinct is without voice or argument. Instinct cannot defend or justify itself. It cannot reason or rationalize. It can neither be explained nor ignored. Instinct can only be acted upon, or painfully suppressed by conscience.
 
17. Rationalization, as the uneasy reconciliation between conscience and instinct, is the most exquisite of human self-deceptions.
 
20. Action directed by instinct is play. Action directed by conscience is work. While work is that which a man is compelled by others to do, play is done entirely for himself, to the satisfaction of his instincts. Play is childish, amateurish, always joyful, neither hopeful or hopeless, often bungling and unproductive, and frequently the consequence of an obsession.
 
29. The genius of the outlaw, the great artist and the saint is that he acts unconsciously, unconstrained by conscience. There is nothing conscientious or workman-like about him. Whether praised as a great man or condemned as a fool, he is only his instincts at play.

10.03.2014

Philosophy and the City

¨And love became the world's origin and the world's ruler, yet littered is its path with flowers and blood, flowers and blood.¨ Victoria, Knut Hamsun (1898)
 
20. Before the advent of farming--and the trade and roads and cities and conquest that grew from it--men could not have spoken with any certainty of the many faceless others beyond the lands of their families and small communities. As trade and technology and government brought larger groups of men together anonymously, it became fashionable to speak of society, of culture and civilization, and later economy and nature, vast and mysterious concepts that men defined in each their own way and only sometimes were in agreement upon.
 
23. The family farm is but the first step to the city.
 
24. The city teaches man to think in abstraction, to consider his multitude of anonymous neighbors, to speak generally. The city teaches man to think of ideas de-personalized, nameless and faceless. The city provides him with a new vocabularly: of crowds, of groups, anonymous forces both economic and social, of causes and effects at what he calls the  ¨macro level,¨ of mathematical equations that must only be adjusted to achieve some better, more just equilibrium for his fellow man. Man´s new vocabulary brings into being new, previously unaccounted for phenomena. The city beckons man to apply his Reason to it. The city appears to man as imminently rational and transformable.
25. What can be named can be mastered, for naming is itself a mastery. New names encourage man to attempt a wholescale transformation of the city.
30. As the city is extended, the dwelling places of mystery are uprooted and abolished. The undomesticated earth, the dwelling place of animals and gods and sky, is pushed further to the earth´s edges. Having never been beyond the frontier philosophy can only speak of what it can transform in men and by way of men, of the great urban forces that direct them. Philosophy can only speak in the language of  the city. For the history of philosophy is a history of city life.
33. Descartes was only possible because of the city. Without a city to break apart the world into forces and phenomena, to make a man an individual, to make him anonymous, to separate him from other men while living next door to them, listening to them move about the apartments above and below him as he lays in bed; to make a man withdraw into himself, a disconnected individual subject to forces beyond him, but still comprehendable by his Reason: this is what Descartes learned from the city and constructed a metaphysics upon.
36. The Cartesian Error is always most attractive to the city dweller. The city is Reason made manifest, where man can dwell alone among his concepts.
47. The city is the dis-unity of man and woman. Where once there was family, love and flowers, there is loneliness, economic activity, and blood.
55. The city-born philosophy is never more than a repository for the anxieties of urban life, the city-born philosopher no more than a glorified urban planner. Verily, Plato´s Republic, the first acknowledged great work of philosophy, is above all a template for urban planning and social organization.
67. But if philosophy should not aspire to urban planning it should neither aspire to a kind of gardening, or cultivation of the living. Rather philosophy should be remade as subsistence hunting. It should no longer be grain and dairy fed, but sustained entirely on the wild protein it has hunted from the untamed forests.
70. If philosophy ended its preoccupation with the re-ordering of the world it might begin an other, more proper task. But for this proper task to present itself philosophy must break entirely with the city, to see how or even if it can survive where farms and cities were never possible. It shall be taken to that place to die, or to find itself transformed. But who are those men capable of taking philosophy there?
 
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