I try to do this on Telegram before and even got about 30-40 users, but the ergonomics was all wrong: it was a broadcasting channel with comments, and the app becomes really confusing when you have too many groups anyway. Ima invite people to hang out on Discord here: https://discord.gg/s9jdFygr — since I never have time to write anymore, that´s at least a way to keep preaching the Good News.
Have news of Bolsonaro´s latest would-be authoritarian twitchings come to the international press yet? In my reluctant capacity as a reporter from the trenches, I have to be clear about this: that´s not an Erdogan or Duda on the rise, that´s a case of political Tourette´s. There are proximal causes in the Revolutionary Guard´s increasing zeal in their recently-acquired role as Grand Inquisitor (it is truly weird to have Supreme Court justices conducting investigations and ordering arrests of small-fry YouTubers), of course; there´s also the more general issue of the fundamental untenability of presidential democracy, which has to be skilfully dodged by systems of bribing (chrema) and of legitimizing such bribing (chroma). But Jair has never been about skill, he´s always been about truth-rain. The contingent fact that he´s something of a crook (and a small-fry one, at that) does little to undermine his radical metaphysical novelty, although it did lead almost everyone who fashions themselves bem pensante (I´m not proud to admit this includes us) to ditch him as damaged goods.
Still, there is something in this flareup that rehabilitates him. Had him managed a full conversion to overt fascism in the Italian tradition (reactionary and yet set in motion by the Futurists), there might be more — as long as it made allowance for that in his heart which still pines to be a conduit for the systemic sources of quability. As it is, the sheer impulsivity of his ¨political Tourette´s¨, the space it opens for his enemies to manipulate him, the senseless agitation it produces in his fervorous followers, all of this opens up space again for the light in his heart to shine through. NB it´s not only self-destructive, it´s destructive simpliciter, makes everyone worse off as it both ignores and ignites a full-on economic meltdown. Does the mobydickness of this destruction (¨from hell´s heart I spit my last breath¨ etc) somehow redeem this? Yeah. But by planting a spike in the heels of Macunaíma, it may be making things worse, as it induces some kind of a nosebleed without ever making the higher chroma argument (let alone the higher axiological engineering) for something else.
We´re fucked. The way out is through, the way out is General Axiology. But theory (while radically necessary to break this rut) is not sufficient. Theory is neither sexy nor metaphysically potent enough to truly connect the Messiah to the systemic sources of quability.
… don’t open your eyes, you won’t like what you see…
I’m writing this on my phone. Texts in asemic horizon are usually barely even reread before publishing — at best to harmonize the distribution of masses, on pain of breaking the sequence of arguments at that. Worse yet: this note is moved at least in part by a spirit of gloating — and yet the object of our gloating is a sprawling and sophomoric mess. Still: “The scenarios of ecstasy” presents a handful of insights that are still integral to theory, and like many other cringelike old texts it seems to know (we lack an epistemographology that gives sense to this) more than I give it credit for.
1. The obvious reason for disinterring that old ugly rant is the parallelism of effects between Blackbeard (as construed there: a constellation of violent attitudes in equi/valence with infinite violence) and the instant fall of Kaffiristan — overrun immediately, before it even happens — to politically organized religious extremism. Now: everyone has takes either on the Kaffiristan story, the Taliban or both; at face value, mine appears to be based on a crappy second-rate Baudrillardian approach to the economy of signs or whatever you like. But Blackbeard is not the point of “The scenarios…”; it merely opens up the door to a concept cascade that include a detour on the mathematics of interest rates and some gasping for air on the nature of time itself. The Taliban-Blackbeard parallelism is not by itself bound to lead to a parallel concept cascade — do you think these people even get turned on by girl-on-girl action — but it can open the door to further chroma shifts. Just don’t get fixated on geopolitics; postulate a scenario that accommodates this ecstasy. Try, try again; see how thin you can make the membrane of meaning that interfaces both world and theory.
2. A recurring theme in asemic horizon is the contrast between seduction (meaning: concealment) and production (meaning: rendering apparent). In earlier essays I motivate this distinction with corny lascivious themes like the bikini which shows the Interesting while concealing the Essential. To the extent that a Taleban/Blackbeard parallelism can be derived — it flows from an absence rather than an appearance.
3. A rather shocking (if buried from the lede) consequence of the theory of ecstatic scenarios is that victimization by Blackbeard-class villainy is akin to yielding to seduction — and, what’s more, a kind of surrendering agency to an overpowering virtuality (rather than being overpowered sensu stricto). But this notion was openly advocated by Joe Robinette Biden himself. Surely enough, in his version there’s apathy and an “unwillingness to fight”, whereas in asemic horizon there’s subsumption: Blackbeard’s signature Baudrillardian approach renders the victim void — it dissolves the virtuality of resistance.
4. “Ec/stasy” literally means “standing besides oneself”. If it has overtones of “delight”, it’s because pleasures are only really experienced when we realize we’re really experiencing them. Here parallels to human sexuality are somewhat illustrative, but also limiting: yes, there’s some kind of generic Zizekian-Reznorian point to be made that people can derive perverse enjoyment from their subjugation, but ecstasy points to a much more generic structure of participation in a scenario of inevitability. And isn’t this the key word (the keyword, the password, even) of this whole fiasco? Isn’t there something fundamentally reassuring about being yanked out of one’s own tangled ethical position — in the original post, suspending the quest for sexual opportunities in favor of leering at two women who are making out (for their exact gaze — this is the whole concept of Situation, omnia est machina).
5. We are going way too fast here — each sentence cutting hard 90 degrees corners while almost spilling its contents. (There’s a hydraulics to the concerns of the chrema and we’re not doing well right now!) But this text is mainly meant to — at least partially — rehabilitate an old, long essay that’s not close to our top 10, but shouldn’t be marred by its allusions to bro scopic fantasy. What, to understand the fall of Kaffiristan, we do need to understand why lecherous men are attracted to young hot women making out and not inviting them…
Alan Watts taught that money is a mere unit of measure, and that a society can no longer go meaningfully broke than it can go out of inches and grams. This undersells the usefulness of money; more importantly, it fails to account for the general issue of human material progress. Watts is no common fool; this is exactly the common mistake of mistaking money for capital on which many social theories — c.f. the so-called “Austrian school of economics” — are founded on. But money relates to capital as the natural numbers relate to the reals: infinite streams of money have a finite value as capital. There’s a fundamental leap in cardinality there.
Shouldn’t we, as axiologists, be interrogating — indeed, wringing its neck for answer — the sentence fragment that says “…has…value”? Usually yes; but there is something about Capital (namely the Laplace transform) that enforces its own axiomatics — axioms, remember, are police officers. Contrast mere analogs like “cultural capital” or “erotic capital”; these are, presumably, monetizable — take the femme fatale of spycraft lore. But the analogy slips; these capital-analogs derive value not from circulation and fungibility, but from alignment with the proverbial gaze of the Other. Erotic capital then circulates through opportunistic seduction, but only through some relational transformation of the capital-analog itself — eroticism is relational, not everyone’s into leggy thin blondes or what’s your type; meanwhile, capital is capital is capital.
Consider something sequenced that has to end promptly. Is it better to know when it’s the very last time so to invest it with sending-off rituals, or is it better to just realize in retrospect when what was lost has long shed any significance? Everything, of course, has to end, and most ending things just give way to something else withing the sequence operation. No one regrets having been weaned from breastfeeding — indeed those who regret not having been breastfed at all must be in a small minority — yet the nursing is all-encompassing for the baby and powerful for the mother, too. Is it better to plan a last feeding, or just to find the kid no longer latches on and he’s fine?
This, of course, has to do with the fact that breastfeeding is a liminal experience, a sweet echo of pregnancy. But it’s also the consolidation/stratification phase of motherhood: in pregancy, mother is not just mother, she’s Universe; past nursing (and maybe weaning is the actual cause of the Mirror Stage), she’s someone else. This is also where psychoanalytical imprecatures may imply particular ethical implications for the Father — a role to play in the Oedipal drama.
In this drama, the father as embodiment of the uppercase-Other (undifferentiated society, at the limit) preserves a space for the mother to remain as a kind of completion of the still-developing infant. This doesn’t mean that fathers must necessarily be stern rather than mushy and spoiling, but that they need to remain the same person while mother, throughout the years, means less and less.
In more generic terms we can try to profit from elsewhere in theory: pregnancy, nursing and motherhood-at-large are all liminal periods, but they’re of three kinds entirely. Pregnancy is ontogenetic, it is radical Becoming from nothing to something near-divine. It’s also a straightforward example of the first articulation (active selection of materials, beginning at the race for the egg itself); this is why nursing, as second articulation, complements it so neatly. But motherhood is something else; childrearing has clear elements of the double articulation (active selection as parents set limits, stratification as kids’ personalities settle), but mother and parent are very different roles (thus the Oedipal drama). Weaning is the point where mother loses her nonparental bond to the child. It’s a huge leap in abstraction.
Propaganda for General Axiology invariably claims: infinite wisdom, infinite wealth. But there’s more than one kind of infinity at play. Real numbers are, after all, a kind of completion of the “number line” until no holes are left. Money can also be read as a completion of capital, but in a different way. Capital assets (a nuclear reactor, the reproduction rights for the film Point Break, cryptocurrency) can be rather stiff — indivisible, illiquid and often even nonfungible. Each of these is liquifiable to some consistent concenpt of valuation and even to some operational extent. But “Marxists” and “neoliberals” get this story exactly backwards: their thinking always assumes silently that because something can be liquified, it can easily congeal again. This is false: the accretion of capital is counter-entropic — between a pile of cash equivalent to the value of Point Break and the actual film there’s… something elspatternpatterne.
Note, then, that “infinite wealth” can never be “infinite money”. Again, try to keep up, infinite money has finite value; infinite value has another cardinality entirely, it consists of a completion of capital by all the other things that make anything of any value at all. And, at any rate, “infinite wealth” clearly falls short of the actual goal of General Axiology. What, money is simply something we nurse off; a primal connection to society from which one is eventually weaned. But note that to wean is not to starve.
The question this discussion attracts is then: is it better to step outside aware that we’re leaving something behind at a specific moment in the sequence? Or is it better to stumble or run through carelessly?
For theory to be perceived as having any practical value at all — and here we should reference all the hesitation and specification thrust at notions of praxis and practicality throughout this project, but it would derail us… — it needs to acquire a quality of presence (a physique du rôle [1, 2]) that is future oriented.
In full hindsight, this was basically the quality in Jairwave that made it early fertile grounds for theory. Perhaps vindicating the in-principle-odious “reactionary” tag, Jair harshed our buzz by refusing the future orientation that was so directly implied by the rich tapestry woven by both Brazil’s and his own longstanding contradictions. There was something in there — which in later texts we began simply designating by “revolution¨ in plain mockery of the paranoid notion that nonlocal kulturkampf correlations can be established. For cringe or for lo-fi, theory can’t afford not to be concerned with “cartography and landsurveying, even of lands yet to come”.
Formally, a sequence defined on some universe (this word is carefuly chosen to be informal) is a map — a pairing — of a natural number with an element of this world. Natural numbers are the natural model of succession; sequences use them to encode a semantics of transitive dependency (e.g. in school curricula: number sense -> arithmetic -> algebra), but not in a way that allows for dependencies to be expressive. Indeed, sequences (as seen in the practical realm of things that matter) are typically useful when they present solutions to a subtler and possibly informalizable dependency problem. Therefore if I need to get to Junction B at the opposite end of this city, I have to synthesize a path out of some number of possibilities — an availability functional of road turns or multimodal transport segments. Of course: the unexpected is to be expected when crossing a large metro area — it’s only by traversing it that I sequentiate a path from A to B.
There are a few versions of this problem that are explicitly amenable to technical solutions. At times, when “the universe” to be sequentiated is regular and stable enough, the larger subtler problem can be encoded as a graph or simplicial complex etc. and mathematical constructions such as the “topological sort” (a bad misnomer, but one that stuck) and the min/max “spanning tree” are able to solve for sequences and, in some limited sense, directly sequentiate. It’s no flight of fancy to say that both these algorithms exhibit Artificial Intelligence.
But this claim (that topo-sort and Minimum Spanning Tree exhibit intelligent behavior) should serve to deflate some of the standard 2006 hype about AI — namely, that it will unlock unbounded business value and leapfrog the civilization that built it. Given adequately formed input, MST can chop circular dependencies in some well-defined way — and what’s more, topo-sort can make sequential plans. Unfortunately, only problems from well-formatted universes can be represented in well-formed input. The reason why topo-sort doesn’t feel like magic from the distant future is that inputting dependency graphs is still a slog; it feels like we’re doing the sequentiating.
Future-oriented ideas feel exciting because they appear to come from a kind of virtuoso manipulation of present resources — much like the runs-within-runs of a fast guitar player like Yngwie appear to come from an unbelievable manipulation of an instrument that, in most hands, sounds nothing like that. Take “accelerationism”, now out-of-fashion but still spicy to the palate; it poses uppercase Capital as the precise site of sequentiation. What kills the mood is that this future is highly contingent and much of the price of capital is due to haggling over the implicit costs of the contingency. This is where accelerationists begin to tread water; to appeal to some retro “cladistic” universal-darwinism that can’t ever account for horizontal gene transfer or outright wasp-and-orchid time-delayed mimetics or whatever other anomalies that keep being thrown at us.
Yet: if not capital, what produces the future? asemic horizon has an unusual approach to time (tempo: discrete, distributed, asynchronic/synchromic). Unlike naive (chronic) time, tempo is no mere clothesline hanging from yesterday to tomorrow; because it’s intimately related to ambit and chromaticity, tempo has a sequentiating quality; it “makes” its own clicks in a way, and we’ve let ourselves be lazy enough with language that we tend to subjectify it, say “tempo clicks”.
Reread this last sentence, tirelessly sequentiating almost unrelated grammar; try it out loud, listen to its breath. Theory has to reveal itself in language because that’s the only means in which one can attempt to orchestrate temporalities at various scales. And yet — the desideratum of future-orientedness for theory does not identify it with the future itself. Grelet says “theory is waiting” because the means of making theory are not the same as the means of making the future — they’re almost the opposite.
Accordingly, “tempo clicks with something that approaches agency”, or even something more subdued lile “tempo is the distributed-subjective site of sequentiation” are chromic, not chremic statements. Capital is all muscle, but it’s too dumb to produce futures.
Tempo is probably not a great candidate for the “site of sequentiation”; true, in its fully distributed form, it produces a thousand thousand thousand parallel sequences in continual friction and coordination effort. But there’s something thatr rings true in how originally we segmented kairos, weather, uncertainty and chopped it off the top of tempo. At this level, discussion becomes a roundabout repetition of ancient themes like “contingent futures”; the specific chromaticity of theory is obscured by the blinding light that mostly blocks us from looking into the future. Yes, we all want something chremic, we want cash money and infinite bliss, but moving too fast into kairos leaves behind the critical “nosebleed”, the chromic shock that enables us to think, to really think.
Something else is needed. What?
Since everything is systemically-constrained to positions within the system, everything is diachronically preceded and synchronically surounded by conditions. Stronger theories of metaphysical causality might even go the extra step and identify the thing with its causal determinants. I have nothing to argue for or against this view; I don’t need it, other than to distance theory from it — but neither do I need it to be false.
Instead, I want to focus on the grammar that constrains the dual diachronic/synchronic light on conditions. On the synchronic side, conditions exist, in a flat plane with that which they condition. On the diachronic view, conditions are slight generalizations of what is in any particular click of tempo. This is a grammar that sustains a near-unbearable, splitting-headache-inducing ambivalence. The generic form that satisfies this grammar is quability.
Quability is never really a claim about the world — a metaphysical claim. Rather, it stands for the quability conditions on quability itself. If this ghost of a ghost of a ghost appears to be irrelevant, it’s because it is. We’re always interested in the quability conditions of something else — the most important case being the quability conditions of theory. But let me momentarily quote from an earlier essay:
Music theory is the only way in which the ability to understand flamenco guitar music can be decoupled from the indefinitely specific experience of gitano jerezano life. But note how music theory refrains from demoting the qua to an in facultatem — literally any music theorist will tell you there are indefinitely many theories of the valuable ways to arrange musical sound. This is how the civilizational achievements of guitarra flamenca can be conveyed as quability conditions. Despite his payo (non-gypsy) condition, Capullo de Jerez proves himself by fire (and not by theory) quable to gitano flamenco. It’s not that Capullo can be proven adequate to flamenco, it’s that the numinous formula of the duende (the diabolus in musica that at critical moment takes over an artist’s soul in Andalucía) is verified true by him.
This is also why theory can (apparently) only be expressed by means of clairvoyance. Theory is set up in a way that it can never be made adequate to truth-value criteria from anywhere else. Instead, the world itself needs to be verified by theory. But wait, this is not a solipsistic “chroma idealism” that claims the world to be populated from theory. Instead, it’s the limit case of the standard tactic of theory-building which is: replace concrete events by their quability conditions so we can report on Deleuzean eggs — on [cross-]potentialities and machinic phylae.
Yet this discomfort with the pretense that theory verifies world shows that even theory is brittle at its ends, frazzling and splitting. Theory escapes axiological domain, yes, and this is why we must work the whole time on the quability conditions of theory. These come to the limit case when q-theory does end up verifying something of the q-world: General Axiology.
Of course, most of the fun is in the liminal space between the drudgery in which language chases after fact like a dog attacking its tail — in which we might get caught discussing who’s been a meanie in the recent Israeli-Palestinian splozzat, and the ultimate wisdom of ultimate wealth that’s General Axiology. For starters, we should talk about violence: whether it’s still the same from Nebuchadnezzar to Shimon Naveh — and what is in the quability theory of new forms of violence (and note how the division-by-zero limit case of nuclear holocaust has passed us by and we keep throwing firecrackers at each other).
At each moment the point is not to effect change in whatever we’re discussing, but to move toward general axiology. But knowing just how to not effect change can be such a source of power.
Bluntly put — if, however, doing some violence to the appogiaturas and rubatos that give theory the effect of fiddling with the frame — the domain of the axiological is the domain of what matters.
In contrast, the domain of the epistemic is what is true. From an epistemological point of view, what matters is an annoyance, a source of minor but painful paradoxes, trolley problems and all such stuff. Then: already in Hume we’re warned of an is-ought distinction, which is to say, of a basic inability of epistemics to conquer axiological matter.
asemic horizon is working in the exact opposite direction. Whenever we did focus on epistemics at all — which we don’t often: truth-rain both suffices and points to the complex metaphysical problems of quability and ambient conditions — we’d highlight epistemorphisms — those specific operators that match something real, something that matters, to something true-valued.
Someone asks: “do you love me?” Here “love” is something that, very literally, doesn’t fit inside a single person — a supernova, an erupting volcano, a thousand collapsing anthills. But the question-format asks for a truthlike answer (which can’t be technically defined in the absence of a true theory of “true”) and the best that can be done under these conditions is to resort to epistemorphic shortcuts. “Yes, I do” is not a statement of fact, it’s a statement of love. Depending on context it can even be a precursor to sex, something that gets a direct physiological value — not true, not false, not neither, not both.
Of course, the grand conceit of theory is that physiology too is something that matters. Not physiology as an object of discourse and higher education, but as the base material for great achievement. This is our Kehre: yes, even bare-life-as-such is an axiological affair.
asemic horizon does not reach as far as trivializing truth. It says that epistemics is a red herring, a dead end; but it also pays recurrent and insistent respect to mathematics, which ultimately translates (through the etymology rabbit hole) to true knowledge. There’s a beautiful paradox here: the objects of mathematical training are formal and rigorous theories (plural), but these are communicated heuristically, analogically, through gestures and improvised diagrams. The best math-learning experience one can have is a small-ish graduate-level classroom: at the critical point, some Dasein-like feature of the situation overpowers the basic conceit and overall concern with rigor: intuition clicks in the shared mindspace. Mathematics — and this is crystal clear to someone who has had advanced classes — is, then, a sort of mystery tradition; profoundly disconcerting is the fact that this mystical thread has continued to produce true-knowledgeness.
But: the rhetorical implication of this gnostic mystery cult view of mathematics is that there is no true-knowledgeness to be found outside mathematics. Maths would be an embarassing exception to the “axiological turn” if all this gnosticism didn’t mean that mathematics matters – true knowledgeness matters. To the best efforts of our research so far, everything flows from axiologies — everything counts in large amounts.
Now, this discussion both inverts and generalizes some epistemorphic concerns raised towards the end of the original Physique du Role. To recap: after running through a meandering thread of concept-creation in a vacuum of external justification, the original essay ends up characterizing itself as a “flight of hermeneutics”, and proceeds to critique the critiques made by scientific discourse towards hermeneutics by showing science in general being contingent and hermeneutic. But this is a race to the bottom: asemic horizon‘s greatest appeal is its verve and brashness and vatic atittude, as best revealed by its inconsequent approach to proliferating technicall concepts and making just-so stories about topics that interest us.
In other words: what the original Physique du Rôle is too shy to admit is that theory works through clairvoyance. Now, if you have been up to pop-neuroscience, you may be aware of the emerging consensus that the mind works primarily by prediction. This appears to be so close to the Popper doctrine, but it diverges wildly in that Popper seems married to a kind of conjectural nominalism, while the current neuro doctrine is that we predict first — even our bare sensations are not sensations. Anyone who has distractedly driven a car home without even noticing the time knows this to be true: we’re just doing, just being. The just-being of theory is clairvoyance. And we can show that clairvoyance actually works by pointing out that you’re reading this (and hopefully many others). This means, of course — theory matters.
I have a tendency to insert revolutionary colors in texts that are so concept-dense they appear to appeal to no one in particular. Clickbait? Sure. The ultimate value of our project may be hugely uncertain (probably somewhere between a Curtis Yarvin spin on the Timecube, and an Osho spin on the Moravec transfer), but even by lowest estimates, asemic horizon is criminally under-read. The revolutionary clickbait works; sexuality-based clickbait works even better, but it’s harder to give these people the pay-off they want.
At any rate: our key finding about revolution is that, quote deLilo, it is “crouched and undecidable”. Those who are sincerely engaged in revolutionary work often labor under the impression they have a clear picture past Year Zero. But this is definitionally impossible. Actual revolution both presupposes and implies a rapid change in ambient chromaticity. See: we don’t find revolution to be indecidable because of a future-contingents roadblock (that all we see into the future is modal). No, nena, no: in a world carried forward in clicky tempo, what’s really in a fog of undiscernibility is the present.
Which is to say — revolution is in the waiting. So is theory.
A typical example of what makes theory unformalizable is the horizontal relation between epistemorphization and the diegesis.
It’s neither the case that both the truth and the untruth can be rendered apparent; nor that rendition-to-the-apparent (literally: e-vidence) reveals truth. In the rigorous language of Rudolf Willie’s “Formal Concept Analysis”, this structure of horizontal relation is termed “orthogonality”. In this way (and at least for this special problem of truth/experience — an important one) the unformalizeability of theory can be formalized.
Ça veut dire: any formalization of theory is forced to “break ties” at horizontal/orthogonal relations. This matches the subjective experience of mathematical training, where one learns to produce proofs by tie-breaking between equally valid derivation subtrees. It also neatly characterizes just what’s the “petty bourgeois” step we refuse to do.
The epistemorphization of theory is about as unavoidable, useful and in-the-limit misleading as the anthropomorphization of technology.
The anthropomorphic quality of technology depends on technical and market factors. Maybe the mouse pointer is only inadvertently phallic, but voice assistants (Siri, Cortana, etc) are all made to simulate the requisite physique du role.
This is also true of the epistemorphic quality of theory. It often sounds like French philosophy because it has French philosophy in its carburetor. But it can strategically come in shapes, flavors and colors. Indeed, the radical and mundane import of chroma is that it suggests, by showing that theory consists of conjuring chromaticities, that it must have consequences in the domain of the chrema as well. In other words: chroma fiddles with the frame of theory; it renders intelligible elements that are not directly in the picture at any given moment.
asemic horizon says “theory” simpliciter, unqualified, intransitive, a secas to emphasize it is not, nor does it aim to be, a theory of a specific something. In order to diffract into arbitrary chromaticities, it needs to be blank. If incentivized to place theory in an art-world kind of market for attention, I might just incorporate this: blank theory, in consonance with Blank Banshee and Élie Ayache’s Blank Swan.
But that’s not the world I’m living in, is it? I’m instead continually pressed by my persona (and the cognition cluster it circles around) towards the technical. In this aspect my rhetorical flourish has written many checks that theory-as-we-have-her-now can’t fund. We did make some effort towards two entirely different stories, the one based in SATPLAN (since satisfiability-modulo promised to be a fine model for quability, that most elusive of birds) and the one realized as PDEs-in-graphs but ultimately founded in the algebraic-combinatorial construction of space. There’s still nothing to properly link either of these to the core content of theory, let alone to its high points (tempo, physique du rôle, diegesis…). If pressed to produce any cogent account of theory in the universe of intellectual pursuits that animates the people who are able to grok theory in place, I’d have to confess and defend it as informal theory. The wording is unfortunately mainly because the informal meaning of “informal” has to do with letting your guard down; but even taken seriously, it points to a gap, a hole: if it doesn’t want to be an informal theory of something, it has to clarify the role of its in-formalism.
The disciplines of rigorous informal analysis take the name of engineering. Software engineering, because focused on dancing around the glitch, is a particularly illustrative example: while methods of formal verification exist, most software is informal because it grows out of pressing desiderata. Rigor in engineering flows down, and if something (say: PID controllers) runs out of rigor in its mathematical derivation, well, then it runs out of rigor. If it seems odd to consider engineering as a peer to theory, it’s because the desidrata of theory seem to grow from within theory. At any rate, we need tempo, quability, ambit…
The emergence of chroma(ticity)/chrema(tistics) as generalized pairs of axiological articulation had to do with a kind of sobriety crisis around the apparent (within my budgets of time and energy, at least) un-formalizeability of theory. Chroma only came to to the foreground when we had to take stock of whatever we had as formal tools (some remain good, like the opposition/corruption diagram and the finite-circular style of argument around the concept of distinction). That silly business around half-axiologies looked good in its austere wittgeinsteinian style: but meant nothing. To repeat: chroma was revealed to us because we dared to rest in informality — which is still a weak spot, mind you; but one that may be with us for a long time.
What chroma enlightens (colors, irradiates, filters through) is that we’re stuck in informal theory because the greater goal is concept theory. And since there’s an important leap of abstraction between conceptual theory (which is always a high-abstraction theory of some X) and concept theory itself, this is likely to be the second-best signifier for theory in the lack of a shared semantic environment that allows for the proper “fixpoint” diction of theory = f(theory).
Now, what’s incredible about chroma is that it provides an ambit for the glitch. This, at least to me, is remarkable: these three ideas were not conceived for each other, Almost all of the matter of theory fits, clicks together, self-organized and self-systemizes (enough that we can leave behind old bits that don’t fit, let them starve and rot). In this way — meaning, if we conceive theory as the theory of the matter of theory — the chroma/chrema distinction collapses. The ultimate chrema of theory is to make it click. The penultimate ethical, strategic, technical, sexual, etc. move is to steer clear of this collapse.
This is how one avoids getting lost in the woods, and rather strategized to gain little pieces of new ground here and there: chroma realism. (This is also what Jair was epsilon-close to for quite a while. Jair was never leader material or a Great Man of any kind, but he almost became a conduit for truth-rain, a peculiarly sweet form of chromaticity).
[NB: please be mindful of the I/we voices; they’re distinct.]
Everyone knows that attention has become the scarce object of note. It’s less often-remarked that up until a few minutes ago we lived in a world where capital was logically identified with the object of scarcity (that is, money), even if theoretically distinct (maybe following Kalecki’s dictum that workers spend what they earn, while capitalists earn what they spend). Something is off-kilter now — this isn’t a flight of theory, this is what most discourse has been about since the early augurs of Eternal September.
A further (even if rather minor) symptom of the attention-seeking character of our epoch is that to forget something now means to strip it of value. There is nothing natural about this; just a few hours ago, things were most valuable when forgotten: it used be the case that vor was broken and things were at their existential peak when they became unnoticeable. (Whenever something still has this character, we relegate it to the below-ground of infrastructure together with electricity and running water, both things that are only noticed when they stop working). In yet another time and place, the wisdom of ultimate value was meant to be forgotten, “like a raft one holds on to cross the river”.
Admittedly, English is not well-suited for the finest nuances of this discussion. Lacking imperative forms, the chasm between “oublie la théorie / olvida la teoria” and “oubliez la théorie! / ¡olvida la teoría!” goes unnoticed. It’s almost like English came with implicit exclamation marks around certain constructions. Even in the presence of explicit punctuation: doesn’t this text, under the weight of its title, seem to be working up to a polemical statement to the tune of “forget theory! it has no value!”? The chasm-paving has the effect of pulling everything to the gravity well of clickbait.
This “tweet” is about ethics:
This is about morality:
To generalize: @SloaneSays is concerned (here, anyway) with issues of chromaticity. A feud is one thing through the chroma of escalation; another, entirely, through the chroma of elevation. Willet is concerned with the chrematistics of it all — and if there’s no great wealth to be found in forgiveness, at least how not to go broke with it. Yet how common is the Tupac-Biggie thing where there should instead have been an album colab/joint tour? Willet wants us to do bean-counting on our acts of forgiveness. He sees it as a means to a higher end. This is a very pragmatic attitude, but it doesn’t come with much practical depth — short, of course, of Jinping-colored social credit scoring.
“asemic horizon” wants to continue to explore theory towards an… asemic… horizon. There’s chroma and chrema coordinates to this. But general chrematistics doesn’t happen except as supported by generic chrematistics. Does this mean anything? Not yet, and it never will if we try at all times to keep track of local chrema scores. A shift in chroma always presupposes a shift in thinking, and the first internal revolution to be fought is to forget morality.
Oublier la théorie is, of course, a prerequisite for going after theory in some grander sense. Theory kids have typically always been cerebral; but if one is going to continually self-induce “nosebleeds” (shifts in thinking that lead to shifts in chroma), one needs to get loose from the groove of holding the world in one’s brain-hands. Readers who have sifted through “asemic horizon” with generous priors must have sensed that its patent-pending vatic style is not superfluous — the louder sell would be to start citing facts and literature in Scott Alexander fashion, but that wouldn’t make your nose bleed.
Yes, in the asemic horizon we forget theory.