27 December 2017

Electrifying messages

McLuhan's "electric age" raises the question as to how the medium of electricity affects the message. The electric age was a long time coming, starting, perhaps, with Mary Shelley's Frankenstein at the beginning of the 19th century, once the electrons started to flow as electric current, instead of just being stored up statically as a positive electric charge (i.e. lacking electrons with negative charge) in ἤλεκτρον (amber) by rubbing the amber that could be discharged with a mighty spark, about which the Greeks already knew, not to mention Zeus' lightning bolts. Then in the early-to-mid-19th century came Faraday's experimenting and Maxwell's field equations for electromagnetism that enabled the reciprocating dance between the flow of electrons and magnetic force-field to be mathematized in four neat equations. Along with that, on the technological side, the invention of the telegraph (literally: far-writing) for sending Morse-coded electron messages along wires to write in far-off places revolutionized communications. Here the speed of the medium had a huge effect on messaging; the world grew smaller through having electrons assuming the wings of Hermes. Even the swiftest horses could not compete.

Excitation of the electrons took off with the incandescent lamp, with electrons emitting pure bearers of light-energy (photons) on becoming mightily excited in a wire enclosed in glass along with an inert gas. Then, instead of sending little electron messages along wire, there came the invention of the radio, which wirelessly and concentrically sent out (trans-mitted) messages as electromagnetic signals that could be deciphered at the other end by a radio receiver. For such messaging, Claude Shannon later developed the necessary mathematics for technologically managing signal-loss through electromagnetic noise.
Radio transmission accelerated and contracted the world still further, tying a mass public into its messages in a way that exceeded the massifying of society already accomplished by newspapers, which themselves emerged as a powerful medium in the early 19th century. 

The electromagnetic medium has engendered a yet more massified, fake togetherness. Today, anonymous 'people' have long since become the ubiquitous, constantly addressed 'subject' of the mass-media age, whose massified opinions matter solely in anonymous, massified form, as in 'People think this...', or 'They do that...' or the ubiquitous fake 'we' of democracy, as in 'What are we to do about ...?' The ongoing discussion of fake news enabled by cyberworld platforms leaves entirely out of account the fakeness of the 'we' in 'our' democratic societies, which the media's talking heads are loath to even mention for fear of offending their mass audiences. Do I hear the word 'sycophancy'?

To come now to music: in the first half of the 20th century, along with inventors from the U.S. radio and electronics industry, Les Paul experimented with electrifying the guitar, succeeding finally in making the first solid body electric guitar in the 1940s. Magnetized pick-ups positioned beneath the guitar's strings picked up their vibrational motion, thus inducing an electric current that was passed from the guitar along a wire to the amplifier. Boom! Electric music was born, exciting electrons for the sake of the musical human ear. This culminated in the 1950s in rock music, a prancing & dancing with electrons in which the electronic phenomena themselves became musical. It was not merely a case of amplifying volume, but of sui generis electro-acoustic phenomena attuning our shared psyche. Such sounds include the feedback, overdrive, distortion, flanging, phasing, fuzzing and wah-wah-ing of the electric guitar that has been rapidly mastered by outstanding guitarists within just a few decades. The energy of electrons was harnessed for powerful acoustic experience in stadium concerts and also recorded on wax, shellac, vinyl and finally digitized in CD and mp3 recordings. The code signalling how the electrons were to dance could be reproduced easily million-fold in these latter media.  

Electrons came to be bearers of musical messages setting the times' moods into vibration, thus attuning us to the world in a way different from lute, cello, flute and harpsichord. If the stately classical music of courtly times had given way in Europe to the more dynamic movements of horses after the French Revolution (cf. e.g. Beethoven), in the 20th century the electronic media came to dominate the musical messaging, just as communication in general became electronically massified. The electronic medium itself gives us the message of electrification, culminating in today's digitization of the world in which not only our age's mind is quickly adapting to algorithmic entrapment, but also to which our age's psyche has rapidly become more and more musically attuned.

Further reading: Thinking of Music, The Digital Cast of Being, Rafael Capurro's 'Angeletics Notes'.

11 November 2017

Flohbär/Floe-bear

 The future of algorithmic translation?

Flohbär
sucht
Baude leer.

Floe-bear
looking for
bawdy lair.

Original:
Flaubert
à la recherche du
Baudelaire.

09 November 2017

erledigt

risikoscheu
sicherheitsbesessen
freiheitsunfähig

abgerichtete hunde
ängstigen sich

verlangen mutlos
nach menschengerechter
bedürfnisbefriedigung

23 July 2017

Focus / Fokus

The focus is the burning-point,
where the phenomena catch fire
in the mind's eye,
bursting into clear light.
The focus is where the mind is at home.



For a long time the mind has not been home.
It no longer catches fire at the sight of the phenomena.
It has lost its focus.

 ***


Der Fokus ist der Brennpunkt,
wo die Phänomene
im geistigen Auge entbrennen
und ins klare Licht hervorbrechen.
Der Fokus, wo der Geist zu Hause ist.


Seit langem ist der Geist nicht mehr daheim.
Er entbrennt nicht mehr im Anblick der Phänomene.
Er hat seinen Fokus verloren.



14 July 2017

Zoran Đinđić - Das Kapital

Bei der Suche nach der 1981er Doktorarbeit Marx´ kritische Gesellschaftstheorie und das Problem der Begründung von Zoran Đinđić (als serbischer Premierminister 2003 in Belgrad ermordet) bin ich auf den folgenden Blogeintrag von Volkbert (Mike) Roth gestoßen: 8. - 12. April Djindic / Lebenskunst. Mike von der Uni. Konstanz hat mich 1976 als Gastdozent in General Philosophy an der Uni. Sydney in die Marxsche Kapital-Lektüre eingeführt. Im erwähnten Haus in der Konstanzer Alpenstr. 4 mit Ivo Glaser habe ich auch im Deutschen Herbst 1977 gewohnt. Zoran habe ich später auch ein paar Mal getroffen, als er von Frankfurt auf Besuch nach Konstanz kam.

Das Sydney-Konstanz Projekt mit dem Fokus auf Marx und Hegel (vor allem seiner Rechtsphilosophie) nahm seinen Anfang in dieser Zeit. Daraus ist meine Diss. 1984  entstanden, die bis heute für die Welt brachliegt. Darin ein Rekonstruktionsversuch des "Rohbaus" des Kapital Bde. I-III. sowie ein Versuch, über die Wesensanalyse kapitalistischen Wirtschaftens hinaus in den sog. "Überbau" weiter dialektisch hineinzudenken. Wie im Vorwort dieser Dissertation dargelegt war Marx' ursprünglicher Plan einer kritischen Theorie der kapitalistischen Gesellschaftsform viel, viel umfassender als das, was er selber durchführte bzw. durchführen konnte. Das Wort "-form" verweist unweigerlich auf die platonische Idee und Platons sog. 'Theorie der Formen', d.h. der Ideen. Die Ideen sind aber die 'Anblicke', die Seiendes von sich als Seiendes der Psyche apriori zeigen. Somit sind wir vom Anfang an im Kapital in der ontologischen Differenz drin, was freilich von 'materialistischen' Marxisten vehement geleugnet werden muß. Das Als nennt nichts anderes als die
ontologische Differenz selbst, wie sie in der aristotelischen Metaphysik formuliert wurde: eine Untersuchung von _to on haei on_, d.h. vom Seienden als Seiendem, d.h. von Seiendem, sofern es schlicht seiend und weiter nichts ist. Freilich gibt es mannigfache Seinsweisen. Nicht nur für Hegel und Heidegger war die Wiederentdeckung des Aristoteles entscheidend für ihr Denken, sondern auch — teils über Hegel, teils auch von sich aus — für Marx. Die berüchtigte und alles entscheidende Wertformanalyse im 1. Kapitel von Kapital Bd. I wäre ohne den entscheidenden Einfluß von Aristoteles Eth. Nic. Buch V über die Gerechtigkeit nicht denkbar. Die Wertform ist diejenige Idee, d.h. derjenige Anblick des Seienden als solchen, der es als wertvoll erscheinen läßt.

Das Kapital bietet also die allererste Ontologie kapitalistischen Wirtschaftens, die freilich eine Sozialontologie ist. Die Form (Idee) der Vergesellschaftung durch die Wertschätzung steht in Frage! Marx' Hauptwerk bzw. Hauptentwurf ist aber bis heute kaum als solche gelesen worden, sondern wurde sehr schnell — besonders durch Engels' popularisierende 'Hilfe' — als Historischer Materialismus positiviert, wo der Marxismus bis heute trotz Prager Frühlings und Neuer Linke steckengeblieben ist. Taube Ohren und blinde Augen, d.h. eine geteilte, verschlossene, vorurteilsgeladene Psyche, die sich mit ihrer kritischen, antikapitalistischen Haltung beruhigt, statt sich einem abgründigen Fragen auszusetzen, in dem erst wir Menschen Freiheit erfahren können.


Soweit es um die Gesundwerdung eines kranken Körpers geht, kannst du medizinische Hilfe durch einen Arzt aufsuchen, der dich als Patienten behandeln wird. Soweit es aber um die Gesundwerdung einer blinden Psyche geht, gibt es niemanden, der dich als Patienten behandeln könnte. Du mußt dich selber, d.h. wie du dich und damit auch die Welt verstehst, in Frage stellen und so den Boden unter den eigenen Füßen wegziehen, während du ein anderes Selbst- und Weltverständnis aus dem Abgrund gewinnst und so wieder zum Stehen kommst! Auch wenn ein weiser, hilfreicher Lehrer dir eventuell eine Richtung zeigen kann, ist dein Sehenlernen deine eigene nicht nur anstrengende, sondern auch Mut erfordernde Arbeit.

Vertiefende Lektüre: Critique of competitive freedom and the bourgeois-democratic state, Kapital und Technik und Social Ontology.


06 July 2017

Was Pythagoras an anti-Semite?

Breaking news:

Archaeologists flying buzzard-drones over the desert in the environs of Alexandria in Egypt have discovered new Greek papyri which, they claim, are the first to be securely identified as stemming directly from Pythagoras himself (6th century BCE) or his school. The spectacular find has a disturbing feature, however. It brings the numeral 7 into connection with a saying common in Kroton at the time used to curse the Jews, to the effect of telling them to go to Hades seven times. Leading figures from the New York intellectual scene are out of countenance about these new revelations about Pythagoras' anti-Semitic views.

Columbia University has set up a committee to investigate the implications of Pythagoras' thinking being anti-Semitically infected. Some professors are already calling for Pythagoras' teachings to be banned. A close re-examination of Pythagoras' theorem itself is already underway. This famous theorem about the squares of the sides of a right-angled triangle may itself have anti-Semitic connotations. The Professor of Pure Mathematics at Göttingen University has pointed out that a right-angled isosceles triangle is already one half of the six-pointed Israelite star, and that halving was attributed to femininity rather than the stalwart, indivisibly phallic one.

The consequences of this anti-Semitism hidden in Pythagoras' theorem are immeasurable, not to say, mind-boggling, since the theorem is an elementary building block not only for all geometry. Trigonometry, differential calculus, n-dimensional linear vector spaces, topology, Riemann manifolds are just a few of the innumerable areas of today's mathematics that rely on Pythagoras' theorem. Without these branches of mathematics, in turn, there would be no Newtonian laws of motion, no Maxwellian laws of electro-magnetism, no Einsteinian relativity theory, no Heisenbergian quantum mechanics. In short, the scientific foundations of the West would collapse.

Nevertheless, there are vociferous cries from many quarters demanding that the West make a clean break with Pythagorean thinking, thus disinfecting the anti-Semitism contaminating the roots of Western thought. One political scientist has proposed that Pythagoras' theorem be treated as a literary form rather than as mathematics. Some passengers have already started refusing to board aircraft and trains, and numerous instances of abandoned cars with notes of moral disgust stuck on their windscreens have been reported. Subscribers are cancelling contracts with their internet service providers. Despite these alarming nascent disruptions to our technological way of life, ethicists are calling for the moral high ground to be reclaimed, no matter what the cost. The West, they assert, cannot afford to be associated with Pythagoras, who has now turned out to have been unmasked as a proto-Nazi.

From the other side, many reputable scientists are calling for calm, pointing out that the wondrous efficiency and efficacy of modern techno-science are great achievements whose neutrality is evidenced by the fact that even most Jews living today have embraced technology. They warn against throwing the baby out with the bath water.

Note: This blog post must be read as a continuation of my recent cycle of posts, starting with Russell & Heidegger.

02 July 2017

Learning to see the ontological difference

Following Heidegger's observations on hydrogen bombs (cf. Russell & Heidegger ), I've been banging on about the as-yet unseen danger of the destruction of human being itself (not merely, positivistically, the human species) through the sealing-off and denial of the ontological difference (OD) (cf. Positivism & freedom's extinction).

Here's a phenomenological seeing-exercise (not merely an argument) to show why it is crucial, for understanding our own human being itself (Dasein), to learn to see (cf.
Mathesis) the difference between beings and being. It occurred to me in bed reading Heidegger's lectures held in summer semester 1926 on Fundamental Concepts of Ancient Philosophy (Gesamtausgabe Bd. 22), in particular, Heidegger's lucid and quite brilliant interpretation of Plato's middle-period dialogue Theaitaetos which first entertains, investigates and finally rejects the thesis that perception is knowledge (_aisthaesis epistaemae estin_).

Sounds like a pleasant, but irrelevant scholarly pastime, and probably really is irrelevant for stopping nuclear missiles being launched. So why mention it? Because it allows those who take the trouble of learning to see, to understand why robots (devices equipped with electronic instruments steered by AI algorithms) do not and cannot and will never be able to perceive like we human beings do 'by nature'.

At a certain stage in the dialogue (180-184), perception is characterized as a causal interaction that takes place between the perceiver and perceived thing, say, by vision. The
perceived thing acts on (_poiein_) the perceiving organ, say, the eyes, which suffer this action (_paschein_). Heidegger comments, "Perception is discussed in the same way as the being perceived (something moving). The intentional structure of perception is flattened out to an existing effective connection by the thing perceived, to something effected by a coming-together." (Die Wahrnehmung wird in derselbsen Weise diskutiert wie das wahgenommene Seiende (Bewegtes). Die intentionale Struktur der Wahrnehmung wird nivelliert auf einen vorhandenen Wirkungszusammenhang des Wahrgenommenen, ein Gewirktes eines Zusammentreffens. GA22:120)

This is the way modern science explains vision: the thing perceived acts causally on the organs of vision, the eyes, which receive the photon-signals, that are then passed on neurally to the brain for further processing, so that, finally, the brain ostensibly sees what it sees. Note that this is an entirely positivist scientific explanation of vision in which the distinction between being and beings plays no role whatsoever. The science of optics goes back a long way, into the Middle Ages, with numerous philosophers working on theories of optics that pay no regard to the ontological difference. Today, every single modern science is totally clueless and about this difference first discovered by Socrates, Plato and Aristotle. The OD is occluded for modern scientific thinking and for analytic philosophy.

The
modern scientific, causal explanation of vision is also the basis on which engineers are today trying to emulate human visual perception by means of photo-sensors (fitted to a robot of some kind, such as an autonomous car) and artificial perceptron neural networks running learning algorithms to figure out from the data-input what is being 'perceived' by the sensors, distinguishing one thing from another through algorithmic pattern-recognition.

So what's wrong with that way of proceeding, you ask, employing your common sense? Isn't it effective? Haven't a couple of companies already got autonomous cars on the road? Don't worry about these irrelevant metaphysical niceties, let's get these things effectively working. We need a pragmatic attitude!

What's wrong is that this effectual working is not perception at all. Why? As Heidegger says, because of the intentional structure of perception. What's that supposed to mean? An intention is a straining- or directing-oneself-toward, in this case: perception is always a perceiving of something, is always directed toward something. This discovery was key for Husserl's phenomenological breakthrough.

It's not the eyes, however, that are intentionally directed toward, but the perceiver him- or herself employing the eyes to see something. "Not the eyes, but what uses them as organs of vision, is what first organizes them into organs. We do not see because we have eyes, but because we see, we have eyes." (Nicht die Augen, sondern das sie als Sehorgane Gebrauchende, was sie erst zu Organen organisiert. Wir sehen nicht, weil wir Augen haben, sondern weil wir sehen, haben wir Augen. GA22:121) Positivist science has it the wrong way round. For Plato it is the _psychae_ (soul) that sees, using the visual organs, the eyes; it is  not the eyes themselves that see. As is well-known, and as modern science insists, robots do not have souls, so that it is easy for it to claim that robots themselves see. The
concept corresponding to 'soul' for modern science and its ancillary analytic philosophy is 'consciousness', a phenomenon around which they are still merely tapping in the dark

But that's not all: The intentional structure of perception as a perceiving of something is also categorial. The _psychae_ must always already understand in advance (i.e. see with the mind) the category of something (_ti_) to see anything at all. It does not perceive through the senses just bits and pieces of perception such as the colour, sound, size of a "ringing bell" (klingelnde Glocke GA22:122) that are somehow stuck together, but always already a whole Gestalt, i.e. something, _ti_. Look at the index finger on your left hand. You see your finger as something, don't you? Husserl calls this "kategoriale Anschauung" (categorial intuition, literally
categorial looking-at), and 'something' is not the only category. Not Husserl, but Aristotle was the first to explicitly see the categories as ways in which the being of beings shows itself phenomenally and is accordingly addressed: _legein ti kata tinos_, 'saying something as something'. But Plato also makes the breakthrough to categorial looking-at by the psyche in Theaitaetos. Perceiving the bell AS big and brown and ringing requires also the category of 'and'. The eyes cannot see the categories of 'something' or 'and' or 'bigger than' or 'sameness' or 'difference' and so on, but only the _psychae_, which always already (a priori) understands these categories of the being of beings. This is psychic or, if you prefer, mental vision, of which a robot is not and never will be capable. 

Plato calls what the _psychae_ sees the _eidae_, i.e. the 'looks' that beings present of themselves for the _psychae_ to look at and understand mentally. Traditionally, _eidos_ is translated as 'idea' or 'form'; hence we human beings are all necessarily 'idealists'; hence Plato's famous 'theory of forms'. But _eidos_, as well as _idea_, derives from the Greek verb _idein_ 'to see', which makes 'look' or 'sight' a better translation. Such 'looks' are not 'transcendent', beyond the physical, meta-physical, but rather a priori, enabling the understanding of beings as beings in the first place. Hence they are pre-physical. In an originary sense, in-form-ation is nothing other than the psyche's ability to understand the 'messages' of the 'forms', i.e. the 'looks', that beings present of themselves to the looker. 

The _psychae_ also does not see only the 'looks' presented to the senses in the present, but also what happened yesterday or what it expects next year. "I cannot hear what is past, but I can understand, for instance, what is expected as futural, etc." (Ich kann Vergangenes nicht hören, aber ich kann z.B. Erwartetes als Zukünftiges verstehen usw. GA22:271) The psyche does not have to depend on a present sensuous presentation of beings, but ranges freely, faster than the speed of light, through all three temporal dimensions, and (this is my additive) is basically nothing other than the relation to this open 3D-temporal clearing in which all beings present and absent themselves, revealing and also concealing what and who they are to the psyche's mental understanding of their 'looks' (_eidae_).


An important corollary to this phenomenological exercise, leading to the insight that the psyche understands the elementary categories a priori, with such understanding enabling perception in the first place, is the following:

We can talk with each other about these elementary categories such as 'something', 'other', 'in relation to', etc. and well understand them when someone addresses them in a dialogue. Hence we must all a priori share this 3D-temporal psyche in which these well-understood categories always already reside. Each of us individually partakes of this shared psyche, which is an ontological precondition for our understanding each other at all. This shared psyche is beyond any scientific causal explanation because it is not physical, but rather pre-physically temporal.

This overcomes the intractable problem of intersubjectivity in subjectivist metaphysics, which proceeds from an individual consciousness located somewhere inside and then is stuck with the problem of how to conceive that the encapsulated individual consciousnesses inside can get outside and share anything at all with each other.


Modern philosophy is not willing to learn from exercises in phenomenological seeing
such as the above for seeing the ontological difference, dismissing them either out of hand with some -ism label or other, or treating them merely as interesting episodes in the history of ideas. We don't know what we've missed or are missing through the suppression of the OD, and there is cunning strategic method to this madness of closing off the OD to sight. Nevertheless it's like regarding Pythagoras' theorem as merely of historical interest, as if it had been true in ancient Greece, but today its proof did not hold up to scrutiny. Fortunately for mathematics, Pythagoras' elementary theorem is recognized as an indispensable part of the foundations of modern mathematics, without which there would have been no differential calculus, no n-dimensional linear vector spaces, no topology nor much else of mathematics as we know it today. And without the mathematics, there would also be no modern technology at all.

Moreover, all of the modern sciences, without exception, cannot and will not understand this talk of 'looks', a priori categories and a shared 3D-tempral psyche, because they are all positivist, having flattened out the OD into nothing. So they proceed blindly, hell-bent on making robots for effective control and steering of all kinds of movement in the world, conceiving even human being itself AS 'in principle' physically constructible. This effective AS is modern science's, and also analytic philosophy's, seemingly immutable hermeneutic cast. But nothing's forever in the openness of historical time.

In view of this state of affairs, as someone close to me suggests, nuclear Armageddon could well be the least of our concerns. Instead, taking on the challenge to learn to think should have priority.