10 February 2014

Subject loses control, turns cannibal

The modern age, starting with Descartes, cast human being as subjectivity. Human beings were posited by Descartes' "cogito ergo sum" as the sub-ject of all that is and, in particular, of everything that moves, changes. The modern mathematized sciences, starting with physics, were and are out to predict and control all kinds of movement, both natural and social. All beings were cast as ob-jects 'thrown over against' the subject as the fundamentum inconcussum, the unshakeable foundation.

The subject has long since lost its under-lying status and its grip on the world's movements, but still suffers from the delusion that, at least in principle, it could keep everything under control. Its mind is still fixated on effectivity and on the effective, efficient control of movement, especially of the inexorable life-movement of mortals toward death..

Already in the mid-nineteenth century, Marx thinks through the movement of specifically capitalist society, uncovering that in the capitalist economy the subject becomes the object of the movement of reified value, demoted to player in the gainful game, each of whom strives for income, under the fascination of the fetishism of the game's universally desirable goal (cf. Capital and Technology: Marx and Heidegger Chap. 7).
Max Weber investigates sociologically the rise of the nation state as the sovereign subject over a territory and its subjects. These subjected subjects become increasingly entangled in the ever-burgeoning bureaucratic web of regulations and in legal fights over mere words in documents through which the state attempts to rule its subjects more or less fairly and manage the affairs of society. The _logoi_ of the law and litigation become ever more complex and intransparent in the attempt to come to terms with and so regulate how people live their lives with one another. The legislative and the litigious _logos_ both fall short in world-understanding.

This impotency of the _logos_ in a social context is just one aspect of its limitations, which cannot be seen sociologically, but only by entering the realm of simple philosophical questions, i.e. the question concerning the locus of truth. Since Plato and Aristotle, and through to today's analytic philosophy, truth is located unquestioningly in the proposition, the statement, the apophantic _logos_, which can be either true or false, i.e. adequate or inadequate to what it is trying to say. The truth of the world, however, is its disclosure, which is seen, understood, intuited by existing in it. Situations can be interpreted appositely without their being put into words. Hence the distinction between the apophantic As and the hermeneutic As (cf. Sein und Zeit).

The shortfall of the logos in saying the world compared to looking at and sensing it interpretively is akin to the disjunction between the discrete and the continuous in mathematics, a disjunction not seamlessly papered over even to the present day (cf. e.g. the perplexing, unresolved Continuum Hypothesis). The _logoi_ are discrete and countable, like the natural and the rational numbers, whereas the world of movement and change is continuous and real, outstripping discrete, logical rationality, and thus irrational in the double sense of exceeding the power of the logos to gather and say, and exceeding also the power of rational, countable numbers to gather the irrational reals, that can be defined mathematically only as the unattainable limit of a rational, countable sequence that remains forever withheld from actual presence. The irrationality of the real numbers corresponds to the 'irrational' unsayability of an attunement with the world that can be resonated with and understood nevertheless (cf. 'Digital Being, the Real Continuum, the Rational and the Irrational').

In the context of politics and society, this implies that an ethics which relies solely on the rational logos necessarily will fall short, because it misses the atmosphere of an ethos that is sensed socially in the attunement with a situation. Above all, it is how people estimate and esteem each other in the manifold transactions of their daily lives that determines the resonating, 'musical' atmosphere of a given society's ethos.

Nevertheless, the democratic subject-citizens clamour to be cared for more and more by the 'advanced' social-welfare state, thus relegating responsibility for their own lives to the democratic state's power plays, in particular, between left and right. In this relegation, the ethical atmosphere becomes especially strifeful and wordy, supplanting an ethos of everyday worldsharing. The democratic We is more or less successful in setting the world up so that it is cared for by caring institutions that rule it. Since democratic politics is driven by mass egoism of the 'people' wanting more and more, and democratic political representatives as politicians necessarily strive for election and re-election, promises to care-for become inflationary, and this is regarded as social progress. Not only does the democratic subject's dependency on the (now: social welfare) state grow, but sovereign debt balloons to the detriment of yet unborn generations (cf. my Social Ontology).

Heidegger's retrieval of the implicitly productive, efficient nature of the key concepts of metaphysical thinking, starting with Plato and Aristotle, has opened deep insights into the tunnel vision of Western thinking through to today's modern science. Science and technology today become the agents through which the world is kept moving and controlled according to criteria of effectivity. In this constellation of how the world opens up to the mind, the subject becomes ultimately mere functionary in the functioning, efficient set-up. The set-up and the gainful game intermesh in an endless striving to enhance productivity and efficiency, thus minimizing costs for the sake of gain. And this inexorable drive is celebrated as enabling more and more people to enjoy the fruits of modern technology, all the way through to, and including especially, increasing longevity.

The modern mathematized sciences result from a wedding between the _logos_ and the _arithmos_ (number), both of which are countably discrete. In the Cartesian cast of the being of beings, the mathematical _arithmos_ is prescribed as the mode of access to the world, whose movement, however, is continuous. The marriage of _logos_ and _arithmos_ is consummated in discrete, countable digitization. The logos becomes 'nothing other than' a number, i.e. a digital bit-string. Moreover, as Turing discovered, such digital _logoi_ can copulate with each other, thus producing step by step, i.e. algorithmically, further bit-strings that in turn have cybernetic effects in the world (cf. 'Turing's cyberworld of timelessly copulating bit-strings'). Human understanding of a given situation can now be translated from words into the bit-strings of an algorithm that can be outsourced to a computer (i.e. a universal Turing machine) which then processes data (further bit-strings) to produce digital results that serve in some fashion to control the world's movement (cf. The Digital Cast of Being).

The outsourcing of the algorithmic arithmologos into computing systems of all kinds for the sake of the enormous productive convenience of users, however, turns on the human subjects, who thus become increasingly entangled in that digitized web of Turing machines emerging today ever more conspicuously as the cyberworld (cf. Digital Whoness: Identity, Privacy and Freedom in the Cyberworld). Henceforth, the subjects' cybernetic servants confront the subjects more and more as their dictatorial masters, demanding conformity with their algorithms and conditions of operation.

The end-game in the scientific mathematization of the world, along with a narrowing of the mind's horizons, is its culmination in neuroscience. Arrived at this apex, the subject cannibalizes itself. Human being is well underway toward obliterating its mind as exposure to the three-dimensional time-clearing. The subject no longer thinks and perceives, but rather its brain does, so that cogito ergo sum becomes meaningless. 'I am' = 'I think' or 'I perceive' comes to mean 'the brain's neurons inside my skull are processing, computing informational sense data'.  What you sense, feel and think is then 'nothing other than' the neuronal activity of some specific region of your brain. Who I am, who you are becomes a queer illusion unmasked by neuroscience. Ditto for human freedom. Through the brain's being conceived, or rather cast, as some kind of complicated computer based on neuronal firing, there is no longer any barrier to intermeshing the brain (i.e. the cogitating subject) with the cyberworld. As a first approximation, the subject is cast as some kind of as yet imperfectly understood, boggling, universal Turing machine. What doesn't fit with this scientific model is discarded as ineffective.

Mind blind going forward = unfreedom.

1 comment:

  1. A wonderfully clear presentation of the trap that we are busy sticking our heads into. Human history is becoming a fairy tale, and we are becoming one another's imaginary friends.