Sequence

1.

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”.

2.

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.

3.

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.

4.

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?

Qua

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.

Physique du rôle – Enterprise edition

I. Clarifications

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.

II. Clairvoyance

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.

III. Revolution

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.

Bites (1)

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.

Bites (0)

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.

Chroma realism

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.]

Forget theory.

I.

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.

II.

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.

III.

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.

We have never been asemic 3: harder

I have less time today, but want to leave a couple of notes anyway.

“Asemic writing” refers to a genre of writing. English is overly flat here; On grammatology offers the syn-chromic term écriture which serves us much better. Asemic writing blazes past the boundaries of what Grammatology terms “logocentrism”. It does so not for moral reasons — not because they’ve found Grammatology to be persuasive, let alone epochal — but with ethical purpose. There’s something true about the idea of logocentrism, particularly if qualified (as Derrida himself repeatedly does) as an essentially moral concept, almost everywhere devoid of ethical implications. Asemic writing is itself the ethical project, and needs no prior moralization to stand. This is meant very literally: whether volumes of asemic writing find economic and physical standing on my bookshelves is quite independent from whether Grammatology has any standing. Indeed, the word asemic may be the singular chromic stand it takes: no, it’s not in opposition to anything “semic”, it’s… that which you see in the works of Tim Gaze and Rosaire Appel.

Muddled as it is (with a quality that seems to begar the attention of a world-class literary editor to really shine), On Grammatology still manages to sound prescient, if only because it appears to develop its polemic of the écriture while still unaware of both asemic writing and computer code. Each of these escapes the circle of “logocentrism” by purely chrematistical means; if any new chromaticity comes out of computer languages, this happens at a higher level of abstraction. That this higher level of abstraction is identifiable with a “higher axiology” in some consistent higher/lower or larger/smaller gradation of axiologies is one of the chromaticity shifts I hope to eventually induce through these writings.

Then: theory may as well be a “praxis of intelligibility”, but asemic writing and computer code are both leaps into the unintelligible. You’re not supposed to understand computer code at first glance; an experienced software developer will be able to identify major structural features (and this with the help of automatic multicolor annotation and 2D indentation conventions), but if it was at all possible to “reason about a program in your head”, as demanded by the Dijkstra doctrine, you wouldn’t need the chrema of computers (even if you did use them as conveniency devices). I claim — and this is admittedly a vatic proclamation rather than a theorem — that theory similarly needs to work at the frontier of intelligibility but remain outside of the reach of casual-glance understanding. There are no shortcuts; every time I’ve tried to use clickbaity polemical matter as models, I’ve made strategic mistakes in the longer-run scheme of things.

This short text may as well be our n-th “gente introduction to asemic horizon”: hi, this is theory, and ideally it should make you perplex enough that your nose bleeds. I’m acutely aware of our failures in this respect. But as GPT-2 once said, after munging my écritures, we have no choice but to become stronger stronger stronger and do all the other things.

I hope I’ve managed at least to induce a mild headache here.

We have never been asemic 2: chroma

The question that’s prior to all philosophy is the distinction between ethics and morality. The corresponding technical issue for theory is the distinction between chromaticity and chrematistics.

The word “chromaticity” is meant to evoke, on the one level, the “chromatic aberration” view of anomaly previously put forward. Photographic lenses and sensors exhibit chromatic aberrations when they produce color shifts and component breakdowns that are absent in the naïve view of scenes. But it’s also a small step toward a discussion of freedom: notwithstanding the (moral) techniques and theories of painting, an artist is still faced with mixing his colors, teasing out a palette from the tubes of oil paint available to him. It’s also, of course, gloriously alliterative with “chrematistics”.

Maybe more importantly, this new term lets us break the false symmetry of “left and right half-axiologies”, in retrospect a fundamental betrayal of the ethical concerns that animate asemic horizon.

Chrematistics, as so often discussed before, is an ancient Greek work referring to the art of acquiring great wealth. In the generic theory setting of asemic horizon, its meaning has been unfolded, spread out: chrematistics points to the theory of achievement, particularly insofar achieving certain things (great wealth, yes, but also seducing women, intellectual insight, action in the face of extreme uncertainty) relates to the edifice of singular-only Theory.

We should unpack th is a little. The implicit formal correspondence in this text’s first paragraph is not really [ethics : chromaticity :: morality : chrematistics], but its adjoint [ethics : morality :: chromaticity chrematistics]. I claim, out of wide-eyed speculative theory-making, that an adjunction actually exists; that the first correspondence can be obtained from the first. Good bad news: the necessary “adjunction theorem” cannot be proven systematically, but only shown to resonate in the whirlwind of concerns that animates actual life, the actual domain of chrematistics. After all, if we’re unable of unwilling to pin “ethics” down like a butterfly, how would we account for chromaticity (in some intuitive analogy, the lens that produces anomalies) in its genericmost sense?

Being it that the quadruple object of ethics-morality-chromaticity-chrematistics is so distant from our cognitive and moral reach, we need — most of the time — to be content with projections — like the shadows 3D objects project on 2D surfaces. One such projection — but not even the sole projection that touches these terms — relates freedom to causality. The proper moral (eliminativist) view has long been converging towards a mechanistic view of the universe that, despite its proper philosophical merits and its chrema worth, raises vexing ethical questions regarding novelty, creativity, intentionality, unpredictability. And this isn’t just a chroma issue: the notion that the planet is spherical has little chrema value to the proverbial 16th century seafaring enterprise — given that it still has no notion of longitude.

Longitude (generically, the missing and unknown wealth of worthy knowledge) goes a long way to show just how enmeshed chroma/chrema issues can be. The chrema view of this affair (from a higher axiology; it’s all too easy to 21th-century quarterback if this can’t be kept in mind) is that knowledge of the mechanistic gearwork of the universe dissolves this problem; that ontology is autonomous from epistemology, that the limits of our cognitive reach are not the limits of a morally correct understanding of the universe. But then this is a morality empty of chrematistic value. Only the chroma (exchanging space with time, resetting the clock every noon so the drift in chronology tells you something about the drift in longitude space) unlocks chrema in this scenario.

This suggests that there’s a road to General Axiology, it needs to proceed from the glitch to anomaly to chromaticity. Something is lost from the vague eschatological narrative of a descent into genericity that will flip, at the critical moment, into full generality, but something is also saved: the increasing irrelevance of increasing genericity — the core anomaly of the road to General Axiology — now explodes in possible colors as we look seriously into theory itself. True impasses are always resolved by true glitches.

We have never been asemic

The basic question in philosophy is the distinction between ethics and morality.

As kids, we all pick up from the environment what is done and what is not; this encompasses not only issues of morality and ethics, but also etiquette, grammar and aesthetic notions. Sometimes, a distilled “moral code” is explicitly pressed upon us, but only as a failsafe: no one — not even people who believe in trolley problems as an instrument of inquiry — really believes the morality within the cognitive reach of a child is really sufficient to take stock of the world, as subtle, contradictory and indefinitely rich in details as it presents itself.

But now we are adults; this means we have, in principle, a wealth of philosophical traditions, well within our adult cognitive reach, that shed light on the basic distinction between ethics and morality. We get lost along the way (and I don’t mean “because we don’t study philosophy”; practical life makes us develop naïve or ad-hoc philosophies of this and that). We get either drunk on epistemology — the theory of knowledge, or rather the theory of theories-of-knowledge that can become knowledge-of-knowledge — or ontology — the theory of reality.

The Good News of General Axiology is that these problems, in their innumerable specific real variations, ultimately flow from the distinction between ethics and morality. The Better News of General Axiology is that theory of a more genericized kind touches all sorts of specific real problems — what to do about incels, how to think about politics, how to make sense of this and that incoming disaster.

The Bad News is that we have, at best, a series of literary resonances evoking an overall effect that General Axiology is more than mere ansatz. From the beginning we’ve made up various kinds of technical concepts aiming at the basic distinction (e.g. left and half axiologies, tempo and kairos, etc.). But we’ve also blurred things quite a bit. This blurring reflects the fact that much of the ongoing anomaly is due to chromatic aberrations that produce bleeding-over effects. This was the core of Jairwave: Bolsonaro is a purely moral political affair, but it produces ethical ghost-trails.

Maybe the basic distinction can never be mastered, only obliquely approached. Every interesting real situation will present itself in blurred, paradoxical form, and the task at hand will be to tease out a chromaticity that maximizes the evidence of anomalies. If asemic horizon believes itself to be interesting, it will also need to be shaken and probed for its own latent anomalies, most pressingly the fact that it presents itself in the form that it does — a blog, largely concerned about itself, persisting only on pain of making up words.

Let this, at least, be a razor test: never trust any system of thought that identifies ethics with morality. Novelty, causality, knowledge, freedom, death and symbolic calculus are all mutually and simultaneously determined in such a way that conflating ethics with morality is either lazy thinking or purposeful, sustained error.

Above all: never trust a man who will call himself an “ethicist”.

Condition

(scherzo)

Have you ever noticed that laughter and fear are basically the same? (Up to, or modulo something that has the discursive structure of an ambit, at least.)

This idea came to me as a counterintuitive reversal of what’s implied in the actual dynamics of these processes; but as it turns out (you can research this yourself, the referencespace is huge) the physiology bears what earlier on was a radical hypothesis — a false concept on whose marrow to suck. So this raises a follow-up question: if the physiology of laughter and fear is roughly comparable, what’s the quotient here? To spell out unusual terminology: in the phrase “laughter and fear are the same modulo X”, what’s X?

The beautiful theory of algebraic topology, quickly shaping into one humanity’s great achievements, is concerned with the classification of spacelike objects (here I’m glossing over with great violence the meaning of “topology”) up to X. What’s ultimately desired is to classify objects up to homotopy. Homotopy equivalence between two objects means that a continuously-varying family of intermediate objects can be found: in the following picture, we can imagine a continuous thickening of shape A that ultimately leads to shape B.

(Image source: Google Image search, but concretely this)

The better-known illustration is that, up to homotopy, a donut and a coffee mug are the same. Mathematicians love their counterintuitive truths, but from a broader theoretical standpoint this undersells the radical ambition of this program: to upheave naïve metaphysics of identity (implied, for example, by the analytical geometry according to which A and B are rigorously distinct) while establishing a process view of identification: A and B are “like” each other because they can be deformed into each other. In broader terms: there’s a path that A can undertake to become B, and symmetrically a path that B can undertake to become A. This is an ethical program.

(motu propio)

The following is a slightly less violent restatement of homotopy — still meant for broader theoretical and philosophical usage; you can’t learn math by reading. (1) A set is a collection or family or otherwise box of nonduplicate items, often called “points” for coolness. (2) A function f: U->V between sets U and V is a pairing that associates points u1, u2,… of U to one point f(u1), f(u2),… of V each. (3) A space is a collection of points with a vicinity structure. The vicinity structure tells you when two points u, v are close together: it’s a collection of closeness-concepts. (4) A function is continuous if whenever u, v are close, then f(u), f(v) are close. (5) The cartesian product U x V is the set of all pairs of elements of U and V; particularly, the cartesian product U x [0,1] is a set that stacks many copies of U, as many times as there are real numbers between 0 and 1. (6) A homotopy from U to V is a continuous function from U x [0,1] to V. Note that this function is both continuous in U (you can’t tear apart points that were close together) and in [0,1] (there can’t be leaps between adjacent versions of U, even if each is untorn). (7) U and V are the same up to homotopy if a homotopy can be obtained: if a path that obeys the axioms (which in the limit are undistinguishable from moral laws) of topological continuity can be found.

We had just declared that homotopy equivalence was an ethical program. This was something of a rhetorical overreach; it’s sometimes necessary to pause on key turning points so we can appreciate the madness in them. The better formula is: homotopy is a model for an ethical program. Humans act, in the general case, following a mashed-up conflation of is-nesses and ought-nesses. The radical distinction between is-nesses and ought-nesses, which has really been long established by men like Hume, is a minimorum prerequisite for being able to speak in-and-about axiologies at all, let alone General Axiology. If this distinction doesn’t “stick” in how people act, it’s because our ought-nesses are parameterized by is-nesses.

An if-then-else routine (or its homotopy equivalent) tells us what to do if we find a person lying face down on a sidewalk: is this a man or a woman? does he look homeless? does she look middle-class, similar-enough-to-me? Uriel Alexis’s “reality rules!” speaks to this fundamental is-ness: have you noticed that middle-class women are more attractive than poor panhandling ones? Did we help the former because of their looks, because of tribal belonging, or because our is-ness model of the world tells us we can’t help panhandlers anyway? Uriel’s Razor says these reasons are all the same.

Neoreactionaries go further and tell us there’s one specific vicinity structure that makes the human population-space topological. This is how axiomatics and morality are indistinguishable: they’re both concerned with rigor that will preserve true knowledge (mathema). But indistinguishability doesn’t quite entail “the same”. Remember, a homotopy is continuous not only “space-wise” (arbitrarily close points mapping to arbitrarily close points), but “path-wise” (in [0,1]; an uninterrupted transition going forward smoothly). There’s no homotopy path between the if-then-else that leads one to ignore the homeless-looking dude and the one that leads one to dismiss him as someone who can’t be helped. There’s morality here, not ethics.

(damnatio)

It’s somewhat distressing to google for the “difference between morality and ethics” and discover how widespread is the misunderstanding that there’s none. This is an incredible obstacle to the diffusion of axiological thinking. It does a lot to explain the emergence of professional ethicists who, profiting from the decline in religious spirituality, portend to speak from a place of lived-in wisdom (in the jargon, from truth-rain), through contemplation and towards action — three quick desiderata, a.e. non-exhaustive, that come up when imagining a newspaper column about ethics. The distinction between morality and ethics, much like the is-ought rift by Hume, has long been established by Spinoza and convincingly revived in the 20th century by Deleuze. But you needn’t be aware of these philosophical doctrines to have an under-the-skin feel for the distinction: a priest is someone who trains in morality but, when asked for advice, speaks in ethics.

It would be similarly distressing to learn that the distinction between laughter and fear had been forgotten. In all likelihood, there’s a deeper sense in which these are in equivalence — a homotopy-like path spanning a continuum of unintelligible human emotion. But there’s an obvious nonmoral view in which laughter and fear have positive and negative valences, respectively. The equivalence is obtained modulo some physiological generalities. Does this mean you should never scare someone for a laugh? People do this, it’s often fun for the victim too. Yet there’s a basic ethical choice to be made — in this frivolous example, one that’s not really that complicated — a path to traverse, in concrete action, through a pseudohomotopy class. The grand program of ethics — if it’s at all something that can even be squeezed like olive oil from the raw stuff of existential choice — is to classify all such scare-laugh-fright-fun situations.

All of this takes place in a fairly low-level axiology, mind you. As GPT-2 once said after ingesting a few of my writings:

At present we have no choice but to become stronger and do all of this in order to make the promise of General Axiology true: infinite wealth, infinite bliss, and unlimited freedom from our thought and actions – infinite power. We must also realise how to get stronger, stronger, stronger. As such, we can also gain the experience of developing new ways of living – and learn more when our efforts go ahead.

This also means we have to get the very basics right.