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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.

A or 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.

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Core

alpha

The self-referencing bug that keeps affecting asemic horizon is actually two problems. One is the apparent constant need to revisit the space opera (the accumulating backlog of technical paraphernalia) for new readers, which by now has become an accumulation of explainers, each gradually becoming out of date with the current emphasis given to theory. The other problem is our seeming inability to perform an actual reboot — a hard archival of past texts in favor of a new beginning, a new approach to the core themes that, as a bonus, lets go of the dead-ends of the past

Then: these two problems are both editing problems. An audit of the asemic horizon‘s backlog reveals texts that tend to start either with chatty introspection in the style of what you’re current reading; that typically leads to a hook, which leads to a section II that’s clear in purpose. The theoretical import of the texts isn’t usually found until the last 1/5 of the material, and even then, in the kind of excited, near-vatic discourse that makes absolutely no sense unless you’ve committed to the #longform that precedes it.

A minority of texts has the opposite approach: they start dropping bombs that are fully unmotivated by anything of current interest to the reader. Most of these end up being retired not long after — accumulating statements like “a squegg is a square egg” is the opposite of theory — it isn’t la atteinte. A notable counter-example is The Wave, which for most purposes I still stand by.

Unfortunately, a significant degree of logorrhea is intrinsic to my technique. Have you noticed that sometimes words like “accumulating” start accumulating in a kind of a connotation slide? That’s intentional — and integral to what it all means.

anatomy

An exception made for that last comment on the deliberateness of style in theory writing, everything I just said gives the vibe that theory isn’t really under my control. This is a fair assessment. As much as I’m an independent-scholarly, margin note-writing type with overflowing wall-sized bookshelves, theory (and this is clear to anyone who reads the scholarly literature regularly) is not scholarly in style at all. There is no method: the texts pretty much write themselves,

But theory is not a kind of #longform poetry: more than internal rhymes, it has an internal mechanism. The cogs of this mechanism are words; this is why the jargon and the cant of theory keep growing indefinitely fast, but also why texts can never seem to follow a general plan, however vague, that would be intended in advance. The apparently-spontaneous (and yet inescapably determinate) internal rhyming of internal accumulations force my hand: the impressionistic analogy would be that, in the act of writing, the knitwork texture of the text begins to clasp on itself. This is, of course (but not that I knew of this before making my coffee) the impressionistic analogy of the point de capition.

Of course, this is enough of a match to be a dead-end: theory (or daygame, or corporate strategy) thrives on mismatches and productive misunderstandings. The interesting mismatch here is that of passive structural coherence with agency. And no, theory is not alive, but doesn’t this madcap suggestion vibe with the whole phenomenology of work that does itself? The false matches here have to do with constraints: one can no longer make theory crystalline and widely accessible (so I can take it on the road with podcasters, for example) than one can stretch a puppy to the desired format. The passive structural coherence of knitwork is not exactly sturdy, physically, but it can be indefinitely reconstructed (knitting is rather easy); the structural coherence of theory is messy like a living organism.

embryo

One of many reasons to keep Lacan is to understand + imitate + master is his basso continuo technique of sliding disavowal. This disavowal is understated and never presented as a real cut; being a single vatic source of knowledge, Lacan never faces the Kuhnian forces that produce “paradigm shifts” as breaks with a vested status quo — instead, the mirror stage and the Borromean knot are presented as one. I’d like to possess this technique: never really break with corny past writings like The Scenarios of Ecstasy (which tries to be seedy-clickbaity, polemizes against accelerationism, and still manages to move theory forward); rather restate them, possibly making fundamental changes in its core concepts. This dynamic operational doctrine for theory is not without its frictions with the limit-concept (generic structure + general axiology) tone of theory, but ça marche.

Of course, Lacan has a double head start: on the one hand, because people start with the conviction that psychoanalysis makes any kind of sense in the clinical setting (it doesn’t; Lacan is best read as a special rapporteur on alien civilizations); on the other, because he begins (and dies) while claiming continuity with Freud. I can’t do this latter; not with Deleuze, not with Heidegger, not with Lacan. If theory is to be received as an ever-growing, never-to-be-born embryo, it wil be as a pathological case of parthenogenesis. And yet, I can’t be sole parent here — to impossible-to-ignore degrees, theory writes me.

skyscraper

As it stands now theory has very few “building blocks”. Theory defines itself as a reaching gesture towards infinity, the theory of the theory of the… Still, the space opera is a load-bearing structure; the basic difficulty with asemic horizon is that the visibility of this structure is not quite aligned with its load-bearing power.

Ambit is a much more fundamental concept than the whole soteriology (the Hölderlin story); whatever we mumbled about McKenosha or, cringe, about faux-lesbians that cater to the male gaze, should really be retired, taken offline, never referred-to again. Why did ambit emerge so recently? Where was my mind? Tempo is more often referenced, but its theoretical development is spread over three texts, each of which has a whole different context as an opening. Quability has gone through more mutations than we can count (although in this case I think we’ve been able to effect some of that sliding-disavowal abra-cadabra); it remains a binary star with the Situation, which by now has lost much of its Heideggerean baggage. The central role of axiologies has become clearer and clearer with time — perhaps the singular notion that renews my faith in theory again and again and again (even if “larger” and “smaller” axiologies have to be revisited in terms of distinction and discernibility). But I don’t even know how to link to my own past writings anymore. Googling “this concept site:asemic-horizon.com” works.

I set out to write an essay that would look like an extended version of this last paragraph. Did I suspect it could evolve into yet another methodological meditation on theory itself? Sure. Have I lost readers that expected an embryo to be born by now? I happen to know, specifically, that yes. This is good. I haven’t enough followers to have a “core” that will stay through the process of sliding disavowal — therefore, it’s imperative to lose old readers and gain new ones. There’s a song by either Marilyn Manson or NIN (or maybe Slipknot?) that says “everything I give you is a piece of my death”.

That is how the limit-concept of theory works — most importantly, General Axiology — theory wins by erasing me (also you; society; distinction; discernibility — but I’m the one pushing this forward).

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Missing pieces

Tempo was a real coup — by all appearances the greatest act of technical hang gliding I’ve been able to pull off under all these (cognitive, time-budget, loss of single-minded focus and major themes) constraints. Diegesis was an still is an interesting concept; but isn’t it in some kind of tradition from Plato’s cave onto Baudrillard and beyond? Of course, diegesis manages to satisfy quite a few of my secret axiomata: it’s non-essentialistic, takes place in a membrane-like surface (rather than in the cave or in the grand dehors, and appeals directly to a dizzying cloud of technical tools. That these tools are readily recognizable by almost anyone in touch with mass culture is a bonus: theory’s scope of communicability surely needs improvements.

At one point, and not at all in the same vein, the overloaded Daseinwolke that writes asemic horizon came up with a set of notions it liked to shkrelishly call physics. I had actually been working on a note-taking/mind-mapping app (really for personal uses) that arranged information in freeform graphs (as far as “physics” goes, really best identified as 1-simplicial complexes that admit a Hodge theory). This is a typical case of “once unseen, can’t be unseen”: the mysteries of math are such that boundary operators can be identified in graphs with the “incidence matrices” that show up in pipe flow/Kirchoff’s law problems; and, with some more “Hodge star” trickery I won’t pretend to understand, the matrix Laplacian L=ITI corresponds to the Laplacian-as-in-sum-of-second-derivatives seen in potential theory. Then you can, given a graph that connects ideas, impose a graph-statistical “mass” concept and compute an “energy” function as simply as solving Lϕ=m. The bratty appellation of physics comes from the many actual physical problems (Gaussian gravity included) that are stated as Laplacian PDEs. Look, ma, technical stuff.

“Physics” actually worked — I use my own mind-mapping app, it’s really neat-o — but the mess of words that is asemic horizon jargon induced me to believe it a spatial counterpart to tempo — equally distributed, acentered (energy computations effectively destroying any semantics of global-ness in the use of graph statistics for “mass”), breakable in pieces. But it wasn’t. The relevant texts were retired as soon as I realized it — they were somewhat dreary with numerical examples and lacking in verve, anyway — and I’ve been acting like it didn’t happen at all since then. I mean, how many blind alleys is one supposed to meet while developing theory?

But as the anomie-fog of theory since the loss of Jairwave settles in, the wordmeaningcrash in “physics” becomes symptomatic of a lack — an incompleteness to the notion of clicky async tempo. Theory tells us that tempo clicks at an uneven discretized pace; that tempo at different sites also clicks to the beat of their own drums. The Situation is, therefore, identified the polyrhythmic pattern of clicking. Systemic constraints shaped like feedback signals weave their way through this chaotic symphony — death and sex themselves flowing as carried by packets of tempo, mounted on temporalities in such a way to giving way to the illusion of global time.

There’s more to this that has never been said: there must be a correlation between value systems and the sensitivity of this temps-supposé-global (found in your computer clock on the edge of your screen) to specific local temporalities. This is why the drums of war beat so loud, and why the game of “where were you when…” can’t be played with the death of Lisa “Left-eye” Lopez from commercial pop group “TLC”. The simple fact that people in serious low-level disagreement relate their temporalities to this ambient illusion tells us something empirical about axiology. In General Axiology we all know what’s going on

II.

I’ve been haunted lately by the word ambit. Etymologically it has to do with bodily movement, walking around, ambulating. It’s also a cousin word to “ambient”; both reach back to ambio — which does mean “going around”, but with particular tactical purpose: to walk around — to encircle. In current business parlance “ambit” means something similar to “scope”. The latter belong to the gaze (to scopophilia, not to ambulophilia); clearly some nuance is lost. Indeed, the ambit is as much related to marketing metrics as it is to mental partitions of the territory. Yes, yeeees, the incel scope and the Chad ambit, that’s how you do it.

There’s an implicit “spatiality” to tempo — but note the word, it’s not really there; at best it can be computed like we compute energy from mass; there’s also a temporality to the ambit (a matter of tactics before anything else), which is rather less (if at all) implicit. The ambit is real insofar it’s seen (scenarized as, etc.) as an implementation of tempo. The implicit spatiality of tempo is due to its polyphony: two things that click in unison must be the same. The polyphony is empirical evidence that at least two distinct things must exist; but to evince this distinction a strategic plan must be set in place. The fact that we perceive distinct things merely indicates that God or Natural Selection (or some joint-venture thereof) has already traced out the tactics of the ambit. Your pervert’s eyes encircle the world in saccades and circle around on body parts: yes, even scopes emerge from their ambit.

III.

We’ve seen that ambit, is at heart, a tactical notion. Can it ever “belong” to theory? Can we place ambit in our scopes? This problem catches me off guard. It’s likely what all the Lacan stuff had been building up to: theory can handle its scopic issues by conceptualizing them (scenarios, physique du role and so on), but the shortcomings of its ambit are not straightforward at all. If ambit is admitted into the diegesis of theory (in this mess of words you’re reading right now), will asemic-horizon.com’s traffic statistics come into play? If, in my capacity as a theory-maker, I have been a subpar tactician, does this put theory in question?

We’ve also seen that correlations in how the effect of temporality (not tempo, but the illusion that we ambulate in shared time) evince axiologies at degrees higher than our perceived value systems. This, too, has to do with the tactical dimension, and with the encircling motion that erects conceptual frameworks rather than declaring them. This is why theory, distanced as it is from any particular issue, often seems to bear on politics: there’s more than loose threads linking axiologies, diegesis, tempo to the large ambits of politics and ideology. Indeed, it often circles around them by deliberating on ambient conditions — quability conditions for the largest possible ambits.

This having become clear, it does feel that the credibility of theory becomes somewhat contingent on its own tactical success.

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A glossary

 

I wrote this for a friend.

This overview of asemic horizon’s technical terminology (known as “space opera” to earlier readers) follows an order that’s specific (such that it supports a series of contrasts and comparisons) but not special (in that no particular concept or term is anterior to others).

THEORY is the theory of generic structure. This is a recursive definition (the theory of the theory of the theory….) — and also defines GENERICITY as the remainder term in a truncated infinite series. Grosso modo, theory works by appealing to higher and higher orders of genericity: it therefore saves us the pain of working toward particulars. Before the Hölderlin story emerged, the motto of asemic horizon was “notes on structural affairs”. This remains a decent description of the functional role of theory throughout our project.

The SITUATION is the Whole Thing. Up to a certain point in time there were attempts to codify a “metaphysics of the situation”, something that still litters the earlier texts; by now, the word refers to a generic stand-in for metaphysics — a protocol — establishing certain desiderata for metaphysical theories. These desiderata are also not specified in technical terms, but revealed allusively across theory. Meta-level discussion of the Situation is often referred to as the “Heidegger story”; but this name implies fewer and weaker links to Heideggerian thinking proper than “Heidegger theory” would. Instead, this word pattern (the Tarski story, the Hölderlin story, etc) points to something that emerges as a presentation of theory rather than something that flows from theory itself.

The key “Heidegger story” feature of the Situation is INTERFACTICITY. Facticity is a sister word to contingency. My facticity is that about me which is fact (and mere fact); this glossary’s facticity is characterized by its linguistic infrastructure, the technology that supports it, the particular situations in which it emerged. One way of characterizing interfacticity is seeing it as the machinery of interactions between particular facticities, i.e. the infrastructure that supports the apparent merger of all facticities. But each facticity is also pure infrastructure: the interfacticity is the machinery of the world. A less clear (and possibly easier to grasp because of it) way to approach the subject is to start from intersubjectivity (maybe following Buber) and expand into the entire world through a kind of faux panpsychism — while at the same time removing agency and protagonism from everything in touches. There’s also the option of building from Heidegger 1927 directly, but that would seriously derail us into philosophical analyses no less important for theory, nor more critical than the water plumbing amenities that make writing theory possible at all.

If we continue to (somewhat embarassingly) stand by the name “Heidegger story” we might analogize interfacticity to the “Being” of “Being and Time”. Thus we sometimes decorate references to the Situation or situations with timely terms like “ongoing” or even “actual ongoing” (which is to say, taking place in a time structure that has already been actualized and produced). This doesn’t imply that the Situation is equipped with a global timeliness — despite the empirically-supported existence of something that flows at the rate of 1 second per second, simple phenomenological examination tells us that all that we now call infrastructure (electrical currents, currency speculators, geological folding, the wind in your hair) to take place in idiosyncratic TEMPO structures, not flowing but CLICKING. A vague, luminiferous awareness of interfacticity can then be developed by documenting (for the next few seconds in which you look away from this text) the polyrhytmic interplay of clicking tempos.

More generally, interfacticity (and, therefore, the Situation) is fundamentally de-presented. By this we mean: like infrastructure in the classical sense, interfacticity is fundamentally invisible (until something breaks down). In contrast, a SCENARIO is fundamentally presented; in the generic case it is PRODUCED (a technical term: to produce is to make appear) by presentations as disparate as ideologies, narratives, lecherous fantasies, theoretical claims. The infrastructure that supports a scenario is known as DIEGESIS (a term appropriated wholesale from film theory); we’re aware of it because it so often chokes or breaks down, at times even on purpose. Diegesis is necessarily supported by a dizzying array of self-effacing technologies. This machinery produces, as a free bonus, a dialectics of storytelling tool/story being told that might become important as we try to place agency-presentations in or out of the diegesis.

Diegesis also gives us a method and system for appropriating bits and pieces of Lacan (genericized into a theory of reflexive structures equipped with a mirror stage); we can explain more accurately and succintly that interfacticity is de-presented by hanging the Situation on the order of the Real and scenarios on the order of the Symbolic. The major task of social theory then becomes to produce (gentle reminder: to make appear) a genericized Imaginary in the EC-STATIC (that stands beside themselves) scenarios that engage the lecherous desires, intellectual curiosity, political motivation (cue Zizek voice sample: and so on, and so on) that push people, these particulars we try to avoid, into engaging with AXIOLOGIES — and that may push them, in the limit, to engage with GENERAL AXIOLOGY.

Simply put, general axiology is the largest possible axiology. An axiology (classical ones include aesthetics, ethics, economics, etc) is a theory of what is valuable and how to valuably obtain it. Axiological thinking enables us to abstract away human action entirely and operate at the level of governing dynamics. The axiology-centric theory of asemic horizon is therefore said to be APRAXIC. It’s not concerned with particular events taking place in the world, but with the structure (axiological, diegetic, interfacticitous) that enables arbitrary/generic action. Being a full axiology, arriving at general axiology also implies a theory of how to valuably obtain everything valued by general axiology — something we call the get-rich quick scheme.

General axiology is the main story of theory — the praxic program that balances the apraxic character of theory is that general axiology may cease to be mere story and metastasizes over the Situation. There is some significant methodological irony here: theory goes through effort and anxiety to remain decentered, but suddenly acquires a North Star, an asymptotic utopia. It’s furthermore ironic, given the standoff-ish attitude of asemic horizon toward metaphysics, that this centerpiece comes to be coated in a kind of quasi-religious pomp. Indeed at some point a major story was the eschatology — how a limit point of total genericity was to flip over (a “switcharoo”) to total generality; but this should be considered deprecated by now; the core texts have been retired but some references may survive.

Talking about eschatology was fun, but it didn’t jive with our expanded awareness of time. The coming of general axiology was to come in the future, but we were fully unable to gain systematic awareness about clicking in the future. The future does not hang in tempo — it flows at 1 second per second, we’re told, but it’s made of contingency, not event. An interesting collision helps us here: in many languages, from ancient Greek to modern Romance languages, the words for “weather” and “time” are the same. The Greek word is KAIROS; because naval battles were such a core exemplar of contingency for ancient Greeks, it came to signify a kind of time related to opportuneness for action — finally, metaphysicians were caught dichotomizing CHRONOS (the 1 second per second thing) and kairos.

One might observe, finally, that time-chronos is useful in human affairs because it approximates tempo in reasonably regular scenarios: rathen than record particular raindrops orchestrating a downpour, you can measure an aggregate quantity of rain in an aggregate time interval and react accordingly. Search your hearts, you know this to be true: the use of time-chronos in, say, applied science and engineering, has nothing to do with the eventual discovery of an “arrow of time” by abstract physicists. Worse yet, the use of flowing time in practical social affairs is a weird appeal to quantitative science where in reality social convention dictates an ambient tempo (seven days a week, only five of which are good for trading).

This discovery of ambient tempo brings us finally to the initial insight that bought me (the interplay of “I” and “we” over the course of the texts is important; this is me now, a writer) a way out from uselessly trying to discuss particulars — something that’s extremely inefficient given my limited time for this project — and into “structural affairs”: the AMBIENT CONDITIONS OF TRUTH. This is a concept that superficially may seem to appeal to consensus and social construction, but in actuality tries to refer to a standard of authenticity and risk. Usages of “ambient conditions” (such as ambient tempo) have since multiplied, and “ambient conditions of truth” has been given the nickname of TRUTH-RAIN. By analogy, this latter synonym explains its praxic consequences: truth is not an object of epistemology, but an actually ongoing condition to which one might expose oneself (soaking wet in the rain) or take shelter from. This came from Jair Messias Bolsonaro’s campaign slogan, apparently taken from the Christian bible: … and you shall know Truth, and Truth shall save you.

This was the original Bolsonaro crisis: having entered the postmodern condition on November 15th 1889, Brazil wasn’t quite sure what to make of this — the Truth. Not surprisingly, then, Jair’s strongest supporters were Christian evangelicals — people trying to live in a community of Truth — while his hardest detractors were those committed to social-constructionist fads and allergic to the Truth. It should be clear, by the po-mo “Continental-flavored” style of these collected texts, that I’m much more similar to the latter. But they’re wrong: they’ve taken shelter from the ambient conditions of truth when the whole thing is right in front of their eyes: not Christian religion but the abject failure of pink-tide South American leftist governments in doing whatever they thought it was worth doing, and worse yet, the abject failure of their theories of Brazil. Even a year later, when the euphoria has died down and Jair is already imbricated in the usual presidentialist bullshit, it’s still out there, in the air, for anyone who cares to step outside and breathe it.

The historical development of theory flows from this problem. The “Heidegger story” (interfacticity, in more modern terms) developed from the problem of giving sense to these mass nouns (ambient, Brazil, left, right and-so-on-and-so-on); axiologies from the unwillingness to deal with this and that person or event directly, but wanting to speak from truth-rain. Tempo to give leeway to the indefinite complexity of the world, scenarios to think of generic storytelling (not just “narratives” — everything to which diegesis and its dialectics applies). There’s more — the Hölderlin story, which complicates  “salvation”, physique du rôle, sandwich dialectics… But I think this has covered the basics, or at least the basics I could linearize as a narrative.

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We live in a society

I.

69970579_1232113676961523_1837711713051344896_n.png

Easily hidden in plain sight in this one-panel are signs of a moment of transcendence. The comic masterfully portrays the self-important internet “patrician” (or the deluded neckbeard who believes himself to be one). But it only achieves this mastery — this capacity for compression: how many nonwhite pixels does it even have? — by fiddling with the frame. A standard trick in the movies is to slide some nondiegetic music into view, showing it being produced from some visible in-story source. This is meant to have the effect of tickling your brain, very slightly disrupting the strict separation between story and storyteller to make the frame shimmer for a split second. The comic does this in the opposite direction: a non-diegetic effect of dialectical sublation is let escape, like an air bubble, from the confines of the .jpg.

To ruin the joke: the constitutive contradiction of the hero is that he’s superior in every relevant sense, but has no cute girlfriend (which really only epitomizes a more fundamental desire for belonging in plebeian society). In the comic, he gives a minimal exposition of this constitutive contradiction and proceeds to disavow it: oh god, why must I be better than everybody else? Note that he could have disavowed patrician status instead: why can’t I shake off the pretense and fit in? This would be character development, whereas the comic wants to capture a repetitive riff, an ostinato. But the ostinato wears thin: the hero is no longer content with self-congratulation; the party scene stages (enacts, deploys, showcases) the burden of patrician status. An axiological crisis takes hold of the situation: the hero now doubts whether being better is better.

At this point the hero’s basic constitutive conflict has been substituted for a higher-order problem for which the stage must be carefully set up. The constitutive conflict is the primary antinomy between identity and belonging. But (for lack of a better word) the patrician ideology opposes the reality of this primary antinomy; the goal (made overt by the hero’s failure) of the patrician is to “have the cake and eat it too”, to invert the primary antinomy and manage to belong because he’s a patrician. The hero is thwarted by a secondary antinomy: whereas his position is that the denial of patrician values leads to an impoverished (“degenerate”, in the mathematical sense of the word) party scene, the normie position is that the patrician’s attempted denial of the primary antinomy kills the party.

The comic stops a fraction of a second before realization of the second antinomy sinks in. It dares us to finish the thought. What are the outcomes? Either the first antinomy is upheld, leading to disfigurement of patrician identity, which comes to be defined by rejection and non-belonging, or it’s derogated, leading to a transfiguration of belonging (possibly symbolizing the transfiguration of tribal affinities into civil societies).

Re-reading my own text to keep track was giving me a headache, so I went and made a diagram.

diagram

God is a lobster, said once a wise man. He has two claws, one to select materials and a second to press them into strata. The second antinomy is a deconstruction of the first: the first antinomy is set against a metaphorical rock, placed in a real conflictive context and picked apart, both marrow and bone. The third antinomy is a consolidation of the second; it steps down one level of meta and presents again a simple, sensible dyad. A’, B’ are transformed from A, B and appeared in inverted position. B’, the transfiguration of natural affinity into abstract fraternité stands with A (the original patrician, to oversimplify) on the side of the reality of antinomies. But these are not the same; indeed, natural elitism appears at odds with civil society. Likewise, A’, the transfigured patrician, stands with B on the side of the refutation of antinomies. These are also not the same; patricianism modifies itself so it can get a cute girlfriend, but this is a unconvincing corruption of natural seduction — the very same motion that transforms Thag, alpha caveman, into Chad, the hobgoblin of little minds.

II.

The pseudoalgebraic form of the diagram (where B’ logically succeeds B even as it dialectically arises from A) reflects a sharp suspicion that this kind of “sandwich dialectics” — one that denies its own form en route to sublation — is somewhat generalizable. Indeed sandwich dialectics appears in my sources first in a handwritten notebook from many many moons ago; weeks ago already as an analysis of the “patrician”, and now again from rereading Élie Ayache’s “Blank Swan”

Standard economics (something close to “natural axiology” in the sense of “natural transformations” between functors in category theory) sharply distinguishes risk from uncertainty, the former standing for a probabilistic superposition of alternate states of the world, and the latter for the nonprobabilistic ignorance of what the hell can happen. There’s an avid market for risk, not for uncertainty. One of the building blocks of Ayache’s derivation is the denial of this distinction. His whole story relies on a radical critique of probability in favor of meillassouxsian-badovian “contingency”; in light of Meillassoux’s “Après la finitude” and its piercing argument for the necessity of contingency, the concept of “risk” from standard natural axiology falls out of quability.

Is any of this under truth-rain? I don’t know, I can’t quite understand Ayache’s book despite knowing Meillassoux well. But it exemplifies the sandwich dialectics much better than the “patrician” comic does! The primary antinomy of standard natural axiology (where A is uncertainty and B is risk) gives way to a secondary antinomy between Taleb (the denial of black swans corrupts risk analysis) and Ayache (the denial of the risk-uncertainty dyad opposes risk analysis) — and let us remember that both these men are derivative traders. What comes out on the side of the reality of the primary antinomy (where standard natural axiology hasn’t been *metaphysically* challenged) is a corrupted version of risk where talebists see “fat tails” instead of mixture distributions everywhere. What comes out on the side of tertium non datur (contingency, the metaphysical elephant Ayache wants to warn us about) is a higher or larger uncertainty-like concept. But hark! This tertiary antinomy (Taleb versus Ayache, fat tails verus volatility surfing, B’ versus A’) meaningfully relates to the first antinomy twice: the becoming-contingency in A’ reaffirms the reality of the market — this is the gist of Ayache’s philosophy — while the decadent platykurtosis of the black swan reaffirms that the market doesn’t make much sense at all.

We could play with sandwich dialectics by replacing A and B terms for quite some time. But the sandwich-dialectics of risk and uncertainty (which translates without much complication to the in-principle unrelated problems of chrematistics/right axiology and kairos/weather) tells us something that might clarify much of how the get-rich-quick and the explain-Jair stories relate to each other. And it’s actually easier to use sandwich dialectics from the inside out, starting from the terms of the secondary antinomy. In one pole, theory-at-large (B’, which nevertheless includes the get-rich-quick stuff) corrupts the blog’s original mission. In the other, the implicity primary antinomy (A-B, get-rich-quick versus understand-Jair) is false — a real tertium non datur (A’ — theory, general axiology, etc.) asserts itself over eveything else. B’, the first pole of the ensuing tertiary antinomy says that later references to Jair are corrupt and derivative; the A’ says that even the explain-Jair mode is a get-rich-quick story. This finally leads again to a relation of apparent opposition and a relation of apparent corruption.

If we were allowed to cargo-cult these instances — these formulas in the language of sandwich dialecics — we might either identify risk with chrematistics and uncertainty with kairos (the Taleb position) or the other way around (the Ayache position: the only chrematistics is in contingency; kairos is facing the possibility of death knowing that death is a possibility). At this point we could even identify these with A and B and go around again. But we should allow ourselves to reify (or at least pretend to) at some point: Taleb’s point is true but trivial; Ayache’s difficult to determine, but daring and somewhat backed by his success selling derivatives trading software. A typical example of Taleb’s conceptual style is his feud with Pinker over the cringecore 1000-pager “Enlightenment now!” There is so much to say about the facileness and concept-level naïveness of Pinker’s arguments — even more so if, as Taleb apparently has, you actually read his books — but instead we’re treated to a screaming match about error bars in statistics with small samples. Is this what the tertiary antinomy arising from A = uncertainty has to offer? Is the resulting “apparent opposition” real?

At least to the point where we take pity on the reader (an ourselves) and fail to develop this iteration of a primary antinomy, we have to side with whatever calls itself an “Ayache pole”. Of course, either this judgement by character (and maybe I should type “ad hominem” for SEO) works or it doesn’t. This is a primary antinomy. Then, denial of character judgements corrupts our trust in arguments that can’t be fully formalized and checked by computer; but denial of the difference between character and substantive judgements opposes the idea of substance, which is troublesome (it means that we can’t like Woody Allen movies, etc.). A tertiary antinomy arises: either there is an opposition between substantive and character judgements, or there’s none. The position of “real tertium non datur” relates the substance argument (evaluate the man for his movies, not his sexual appetites) to a corruption where substance and character judgements have been fused. The position in favor of the reality of the antinomy produces a disturbing rejection of flights of hermeneutics in favor fused total judgements. You get the point.

III.

 

Listen to the song, it’ s thoroughly good. The following approximates the meaning of the original words, but can’t convey the overall effect.

It’s my friend who has warned me that Science is angry now,
also that Science moves forward, sideward and everywhere else.

I haven’t seen this woman, nor did it interest me;
As an autodidact I live, working on my crops.

What could be that rage that she could not control?
They say she’s a real bitch, we should be careful.

She grabbed three men and shoved them into a tube;
she kicked them into the moon to get her some rocks;

what’s worse, she dropped them into the sea;
and then for forty days she kept them jailed;

What could these men have done to get her so mad?
Many say that without asking they broke into her house.
Many say that without asking they broke into her house.

This is a funny but beautiful Andean retelling (a slightly subversive one, but still) of the myth of Prometheus. It has to be a traditional folk song (even though it’s sung in Spanish and not Runasimi or Aymara) because it denies the essential condition of space exploration — a motto that I even have pasted on my laptop cover: per aspera ad astra. Here men are not bound to hard toil in hopes of incremental success — Science, a real bitch, kicks them out of our planet’s gravity field to teach them a lesson. It’s in this way that the folk singer subverts the myth of Prometheus: there, man is punished for having dared to transcend; here, man transcends because of some prior sin.

But a wider look at space exploration deflates per aspera ad astra as promethean ethos impulse. Man, uppercase, billions of them, daydreamed of space here and there but didn’t want whitey on the moon; this happens because hegemonic powers finds themselves locked into silent war (“cold”, they said) and despairing for technology; it happens because American president John Kennedy signs the order to rehabilitate Nazi rocket scientists. It happens because Nazi rocket scientists originally thrived. Prior sins underwrite the literally super-human achievements of the Sputnik and Apollo 11. A world order of liberal values fails to find capital for such acts of defiance.

This says something about chrematistics. It’s anecdotal (which means — it can’t be shown to be the only way to do this), but it would seem that both in Alfredo Dominguez’s and Werner von Braun’s versions, a kind of right-axiology of transcendence (enacting inspiring feats of the human spirit) happens to be underwritten by the *inversion* of certain left-axiologies that have, too, wide appeal. What is the larger axiology here? What’s the structure of axiologies of cruelty (note well — not acts of cruelty — leave that to the cruel) that enable general axiology (“infinite power, infinite bliss”) and liberation?

There’s some sandwich dialectics to this too. But this post is already running way too long.

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Compression sickness

I. 

The flash-fad for Greg Bateson (already subsiding) made me do it. It wasn’t all bad — going there (feedback loops; cybernetics; systems theory; macroprudentiary regulation!) indeed points to hard consequences of our own complication of time in (chronos/tempo/kairos). But the unplanned rhetorical development led to this wallop of a paragraph in our last essay:

Failure to thrive both clearly and undeniably evidences human nature (you must be this heavy to thrive) and the inhumanity of nature. Humanity (in the timescale where H. Sapiens is a relatively stable entity; that is, as an explicitly and specifically human process) has developed within a feedback loop that has encouraged certain tendencies (toward sociality and social construction) and discouraged other (antisocial) features. In humanity, this feedback loop is no longer in direct and strictu-sensu-Darwinian touch with reality, but is mediated by all sorts of mental models that dramatically accelerate tempo. For example, men and women can experiment with medical treatments in animal models (and increasingly with simulations) and minimize the waste of human lives. This feedback loop has produced the ambient axiologies; but it also has been produced on the ambient axiologies. We like to imagine that this is the surplus over reality that allows us to say “reality kicks ass” and have the theurgy of human culture to kick its ass. But this theurgy is built in tempo and very often “the time is out of joint” and the ongoing conditions drift around and away from ambient axiologies. How can ambient axiologies work, then?

Man, is that a pressure-cooker bomb if something ever is. That paragraph should have been spread over several blogposts, each with various kinds of attractive imagery — psychoanalysis, girls who kiss each other seductively, the racist genius of cinema, infinite wealth, hints at “pick-up” tips, infinite wisdom.

There’s an aspect of the problem that emerges (the parasynchronic feedback loop, the booty-shaking-to-the-funky-music, the hard problem of chronicity) that can be presented quite objectively in terms of ordinary and delay-differential equations. Supply chain managers are usually taught about delay-differential equations in simplified form through the so-called Beer Game:

The goal of the game is to meet customer demand for cases of beer through the distribution side of a multi-stage supply chain with minimal expenditure on back orders and inventory. As we said there are four stages, manufacturer, distributor, supplier, retailer, with a two-week communication gap of orders toward the upstream and a two-week supply chain delay of product towards the downstream. There is a one-point cost for holding excess inventory and a one-point cost for any backlog (old backlog + orders – current inventory). In the board game version, players cannot see anything other than what is communicated to them through pieces of paper with numbers written on them, signifying orders or product. The retailer draws from a deck of cards for what the customer demands, and the manufacturer places an order which, in turn, becomes product in four weeks.

Surfers and skateboards have a physical intuition of the resulting “bullwhip effect”: overcorrecting is doom because signals are always out of turn with the ground conditions of reality. But this is one aspect, and it’s mainly intended to present the unexpected complexity of something as simple as a beer trucking operation, rather than provide solutions. 

Now, we’re not saying we have the SCM silver bullet just yet (but might soon in the future). On the contrary, we speculate that SCM is a wicked problem because delay differential equations are founded on naive chronicity. Like their cousins (PDEs, FDEs, etc) these equations run across a linear interval that mathematicians call simply t and, encouraged by physicists we give the naive name of “time”.

II. 

It would seem that tempo and kairos are either overly complex time concepts or unjustifiable, just-so stories. But there’s nothing either simple or justified about t. Ask Feynman or Susskind or anyone — the problem of making an “arrow of time” appear is profoundly vexatory. Indeed, classical mechanics — which is to say, the ordinary setting of human experience — allows for no such thing (except, of course, as a statistical effect from large ensembles, and still then as mathematical abstraction). Fundamental symmetries of the universe (notably that the rules of reality are invariant to where in this clock-time we are) lead inexorably to conservation of energy, which in turn leads to phase transition groups. Because phase transitions are groups, the operation that leads from “state of the word(now)” to “state of the world(now + some time)” is reversible.

Translation for people afraid of math: in the classical setting — in the chronicity we actually experience in human mesoscale  — there is no past and no future.

And it’s not like physicists are unable to give you some add-ins to that chronicity that yield an arrow of time of some type you might find existentially satisfying or not; it’s that the feedback loop (deep geological time and evolution y compris), funky 11/4 jazz music, beer distribution trucks, diegesis (strictu and latu sensi), pick-up scenarios, etc. are all commonly referred to a deeply unsatisfying ground chronicity in t, the time of Newton, Lagrange and Hamilton). Since you, patient reader, can’t breathe quantum effects into any given situation, that’s what you get.

This is the root of the discomfort around “clock time”: chronicity fails to give any insight into the choppy, multicentered, asynchronous structure apparent to all events that surround you — what, your very metabolism fluctuates in pace, your heart, your eye saccades.

III.

There is reason for elation at the discovery of the “parasynchronic feedback loop” — it’s a neat concept that crowns the tempo/kairos split driving so much of theory so far. But its implications make me dizzy to the point of sickness in my throat. Earlier on some sweet nothing was written (and subsequently deleted; it pointed the way to a version of the Tarski program we have already long discarded) about “concept drift”. That confusedly assumed naïve chronicity, although in naked contradiction also assumed this naïve chronicity to be carried forward by the frame axioms.

That we can’t recover “concept drift” should tell in how much trouble we are: frame axioms run in a discrete sequence that’s implicitly even-spaced. Does the choppy loop emerge from a sufficiently large quability program? (I’m not a point percentage powerful, in sheer brain chops, to handle a formal problem that size). Are frame axioms embedded in the choppy loop? My frightened heart wants to run with this; this would be Deleuze’s advice, although the emergence of synchronicities (the visible effects of the choppy loops) are a bitch to manage.

(To be clear: the choppy loop puts the entire Tarski program in peril. But you have to follow theory where it leads you.)

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Physique du role

Prelim

I think we all need a break from the over-saturated self-referential thing we’re rocking. To this end I want to build out of this music video. (The tradeoff is that you won’t get where we’re going without watching it first.)

I.

The music of Crystal Castles appears to convey at once two polarizing scenarios. In one, we are continually thrown into a near-future that is continually just short of unintelligible; in the other, we’re stuck, filled with a suffocated bubbly energy, out of focus and out of hope. In one possible synthesis, it could be that we fall into a future-medium that is increasingly viscous. We gaze into an transparent world of possibilities while exerting more and more effort to move forward. A music critic might relate this synthesis to the story according to which front-shrieker Alice Glass fell victim to predatory keyboardperson Claudio-Ethan as a teenager still: at the point where the duo finds fame, the future has seemingly arrived but the inertia of past abuse persists through/out the intense present-continuous of stardom. If such allegations are at all true, Crystal Castles is the product of a masochistic denial, a buildup of unsignificated power, never to be released.

This scenario of falling into a future that meets us with higher and higher resistance is conveyed similarly by two diegetic tricks. To be clear: they’re “tricks” because they’re kind of simplistic and derivative, not because they are storytelling tools — these are the story. First, the glitchy synthesizers relate to nintendocore chip-sounds more or less like the “brass” patch in 1980s Casio keyboards relates to R&B saxophones — that is, not as a retro gesture but as an emulation of actual-ongoing conditions. Second, by Alice Glass’s ostensible (i.e. performative) withdrawal from the ongoing situation, particularly onstage — which may as well have been the visible layer of the abusive conditions that (allegedly) powered the entire enterprise. (But then, the video you saw does not feature Alice Glass — that’s her IBM-compatible generic, Edith Frances. People shouldn’t read too much into allegations.)

The five-minutes-into-the-future world being conveyed is thus utterly banal and falling apart at the seams. It reflects an understanding of an indefinitely near-term future seeping into the acrylic-concrete present; a postsingularitarian future of omnipresent intelligence that already exists in the already-banal network of sensors and vector embeddings scattered across folded-over and multiplexed EM energy carriers and leaks less and less surplus-jouissance as it develops. Whereas previous generations announced the end of the past as an end of history that pointed to a hopeful avenir, the indefinite concreteness of the future in Crystal Castles tells us we’ve reached peak history — almost all of it is concentrated in the next ten seconds, more people and more EM energy in more intricate a-centered structures of meaning and value, more than in the sum total of the previous 10,000 years.

Indeed a case can be made that everything changed in the years between 2000 and 2009, and nothing in the decade that followed. Wi-fi, Facebook, dystechnic China, the Euro, smoking bans… This case would imply that like Alice with her bubbly dissociative energy, we have been enjoying our symptom — the symbolic deadlock that tells us she will never leave the abusive relationship, fraying European nations never give up on the single currency, Catalonia’s protests of independence will never be signified as cries of liberation used to be, Brexit will never happen and we will never give power to meaningfully right-wing political parties (for example in the upcoming European elections). These are, of course, all inevitability discourses — the thing of the world does carry on; Alice broke up with the band, after all.

II.

The role played in that video by Edith Frances (the Borromean knot to Alice Glass’s signifying chain, to indulge playful metaphor) has striking similarities to the role of theory. Her own bubbly energy is too out-of-band for the diegesis; she’s continually any-time-now-already getting to the microphone — but there’s nothing to pretend to sing, the song has been constructed out of scrambled audio samples; and still it’s up to her to give it pop musical content. There’s a specific difference between what she’s doing and what a background dancer is in the diegesis (in the story told by the audio composite); Edith is extradiegetic, she’s part of the narrative trickery that makes the product cohere as a pop song. We’re not supposed to notice that that’s not Alice Glass; we’re supposed to notice an effect of something both instrumental and highly specific, with deliberate quality of professional-grade instrumentation, camera lenses, audio cables, everything that says “production values” and enacts an axiology of disappearance. (Plus it has to be a woman, not a man, a girl of a given size and aura… it’s not like Montserrat Caballé could walk into this scenario.)

It is somewhat paradoxical that someone can be a fully generic replacement while having a special quality that is impossible to mistake for a crude imitation. The name of this paradox is physique du role. We need Prince Hamlet to be young and handsome; no matter how legendary the thespian, he cannot play as an old man. The imagery of theater helps us see that this is also not merely “sex appeal” (which would imply an axiology of what’s sexier than what; we’d have to reconcile that with the axiology of disappearance — it’s not easy): “looking the part” is an unstable mixture of believable representation and stagecraft magic (voice projection, comic timing and so on). The ultimate root of the paradox is that actors are storytelling devices. The only novelty in our video is that physique du role is translated to the domain of singing. Gossip was that Edith Frances is a much better singer than Alice; the video is a strong argument in that direction.

Now, physique du role poses particular ethical demands. It’s all too easy to jump to sex appeal and write stories around it — Hollywood did it to Marilyn Monroe and multiple others. The effect of this is to force cynical disavowal: the point of every popular feature film starring Marilyn was the raw object of her body (note well, it was always an object, we don’t get to objectify it), but actress, producers and audience had to pretend this raw object was at most the cherry in the cake, that there was a comedy around it. Now, there’s a standard (vulgar) critique of theories that try to distance themselves from events that says that the ultimate point is always the underlying ideological assumptions; this is a critique of physique du role, it says that the honest alternative to Marilyn is overt erotica where the raw object of the body is de-sublimated into the diegesis.

The more subtle critique of physique du role can be found in Slavoj Zizek, for whom (translating to our terms) the raw object of the body can never be the story because the object of desire can never be identified with a specific raw object. Zizek correctly points to the collapse of seduction once we allow it to bleed into the diegesis; he also successfully correlates it with a deadlock in attempts to understand situations permeated by ideology that are not founded in a critique of ideology. Our starting point was to try and resolve this deadlock, to try and I give an honest account of Jair without thrusting the background ideological confusion into the diegesis. So how is Edith Frances doing it? What’s the technology required to give coherence and wholeness to an accumulation of fragments while withdrawing continually from the spotlight?

Our first answer was — general axiology. But does general axiology have the requisite physique du role?

Interm.

The following  song is much, much better-known; you may be excused from watching this one. This was Crystal Castles’s highest point in the pop music nexus. I saw them earlier with Alice Glass still in the jet black hair; but despite thinking that the physique du role of the song is much better matched by that look, I could find no video from that era that closely matched the chaotic impotent aliveness of the concert I went to. This even has the nihilistic whiskey-swilling routine; the dyed hair is a lesser concern.

This is useful contrast with Edith Frances’s version of the future that resists us. The brokenness in Alice Glass emphasizes the kind of suffocating anxiety about the future that suggests a future is happening after all — that peak history is over there, it hasn’t been reached yet.

III.

This essay starts by making some huge leaps between the concreteness of a pop music video and claims about the pace of history. Genre-savvy readers will have understood them to be claims about the video, not about history — pop music criticism and all that. But that hardly eliminates the fundamental doubt that lingers over any “flight of hermeneutics” — surely the lyrics of the first video say nothing about dystopia and peak history, where does that flow from? The bureaucratic answer is that it flows from me, but the twist that’s both obvious and more subtle is that this whole interpretation (this is a technical term, we’ve used it dozens of times already) arises from this intermediary space we call interfacticity.

[You’ve spent all day experiencing interfacticity, although seeing this requires a detour into the Heidegger story that will make us lose the plot today; one of its modes was intersubjectivity — that space between people in a conversation or even silent proximity that contains most of the information in any given situation. But a music video has no subjectivity, nor does a website. It’s still something rather than nothing; for lack of a technical introduction, you can approximate it by some kind of folk panpsychism.]

The issue with interpretation (and interfacticity) is that it doesn’t lend itself to any kind of quick (epistemological) “razor” test. For this reason, these past few decades have led to some people attaching great value scientific claims that replace hermeneutics. But this poses two very specific and cutting problems. The first is that probability theory is a bitch and scientists very very rarely understand it; they trust their instruments, which sometimes tell them that dead salmon know when humans are sad or angry (a breakout successs for “machine learning”). The second is that scientific discourse of hermeneutical affairs can’t help but build on top of hermeneutics. We’re told that happy music is happy because it activates happy neuronal systems; but this claim requires starting from a concept of happiness to begin with, and given that, what has been added? We’re similarly told that love is a buildup of the chemical “oxytocin”, which is exciting until you realize we’ve merely acquired an interestingly-sounding synonym for “love”.

Which is not to say that interfacticity with the instrumentation of science can’t be interesting and even relevant — the key finding is that the scientific claim is in the interfacticity, in the machinery of interactions between “Dasein borelians“, regions of the Situation, groups and parts, including groups and parts of people. This is more obviously true of hermeneutics.

Now, what we had been trying to achieve with quability theory all this time is to extend the formal logical sense of “interpretation” to cover the wide metaphysics-impregnated constraints on the Situation we call the ambient conditions of truth. We’ve said this of delicious pears already: talk of dystopia that flows from Crystal Castles is dystopia-qua-Crystal Castles, it happens between a continuum of theories about dystopias and acc/decelerating time and a continuum of theories of/by the band. It’s not that Alice Glass’s physique du role is essentially jet black hair or impotent chaos explosion — these things satisfy her (the quability conditions of Alice Glass); some hair works, some hair doesn’t.

What is clear to me is that the motion of withdrawal performed by the first video at the top of this blog is under/statisfies/”is quable”/exposes itself to some of the core quability conditions that govern the possibility of theory. This is how I can only forecast the outcome of European parliament election “qua Edith Frances” — the truth itself is unspeakable.

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The Castle

This is a new introduction to this blog.

I.

In loose fluid text chats I tend to use expressions that are oversimplified on the order of “pears are an axiology”. The underlying point, laboriously conveyed over long stretches of conversation, is that there are theories of which pears are preferable and theories of how best to consume them (green? yellowing?); therefore pears can be substituted by an axiology of pears. This is, of course, eminently silly. Pears are delicious edible things and to extract an axiology out of them sounds like a essentializing (ie Platonic) gesture that tries to obtain the “delicious pear qua delicious-pearness” lurking in an outside world of ideas. This is false! Axiologies are apraxic theories indexed to the thing-of-the-world, axiologies are Heideggerean hammers, flamenco guitars. En la guitarra flamenca hay una conversación entre la guitarra y el guitarrista. And yet isn’t it useful to consider the apraxic guitar for its implied musicality and guitar music qua music?

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.

Therefore: the “axiology of pears” is really the axiology of pears-qua-deliciousness — a deliciousness that has multiple implementations in people’s desires and technical standards. A deliciousness that in general axiology will mean every thing that can be valued in the system that produces pears.

Let me repeat for emphasis: the axiological turn is not a “Platonism of the pear”. The fact that this point was not emphasized until now obscured the role of satisfiability (the logical stereotype of quability) and frame axioms in the theoretical mood of the axiological turn. Theory down this rabbit hole feels pure and formal and void, and it is so in its scarce moments of clarity. But these moments of clarity are not the product of an algebraic pipeline of concepts building up on concepts. Theory down this rabbit hole is not logically deduced from anything. Deduction is the verification of formulas from a given interpretation of its terms; satisfiability, in contrast, is the fabrication of interpretations that verify a given formula. Satisfiability (and by extension quabilities) should not be confused with the fabrication of instances from prototypes! Valuable as sheet music is, it’s not software code that can be used to 3D print another Capullo de Jerez. It’s also not merely descriptive of flamenco, it actually can’t describe it past a certain level of theoretical abstraction. It’s not a simulacrum, nor an ontology — it’s something else.

II.

The style and organization of my writing here is not meant to invite skepticism or passing dismissal, but nevertheless courts a sub-par response to something I believe to be the “ruminative murmurs of a complex theory yet to be heard” (this poetic expression is due to Malcolm Bowie). This willingness to risk an underwhelming reception has many immediate reasons, many of which have to do with the fragile (but also protean) early stage of theory itself, but some also to a kind of integrity that operates through a protocol of decency by self-sabotage. This protocol encompasses (i) a strategy of deliberate counter-signalling (through the insistence on precise technical terms to learn rather than an effective and gradual pedagogy) and (ii) an effect of automatic counter-signalling (through sheer accumulation of obscurity due to terminology, bad writing, disorganized exposition in blog form, etc.) Some of it, admittedly, is peacocking —  Boolean logic or the complex-valued calculus are way too inaccessible to (the vast majority of) conspirators who grok the Heidegger story at an intuitive or intellectual level, while the (relatively less common) engineers doing SATPLAN work have made pfft noises at philosophy for their entire lives. If this isn’t intersectionality I don’t know what is.

Countersignalling is, as we’ve explained in our prior discussion of bikinis and the dance of the seven veils, at the heart of seduction.

Theory as it stands now is comparable to the elegant and uniformly continuous movement of the matador‘s red cape that conceals his sword and fools the bull once. But the bull is still alive, and the matador would be foolish to self-congratulate for too long. The axiological turn is an elegant move that both exposes the matador to the indefinite complexity that had left him initially quavering in fear and staves the danger for a second and third turns. The misunderstood art of the matador is not “bull fighting”; the creature has been significantly weakened in the tercios de caballo y de banderillas. By the time of the tercio de muerte, the bull is slowly dying in a way that makes him a tragic hero, almost deliberate in its still-awesome capacity for violence. The fate of the matador is not to kill the bull (this happens almost out of mercy for the fatally hurt animal) but to meet his own death. Although matadores could carry pistols in principle, in fact they are very often gored and used to die like fireflies before modern medicine. But that’s a failure: tercio de muerte is only transcendent by grace of the gods of contingency. Likewise: the misunderstood goal of theory is not to replace reality or explain something real by layering abstraction after abstraction — these weaken the real thing and leave us with a creature that’s still complex, but cognitively more manageable.

The axiological turn was born out of the awkwardness of the theoretician faced with singular political events. Ultimately such singular events are surface cracks produced by tectonic structural affairs that are inordinately difficult to describe, let alone present as something other than a partisan mistranslation of a complex matter. The axiological turn weakens the turbulent violence of politics, it performs tercios de caballos y banderillas where praxis and agency are respectively plucked, leaving the mere structures of value and valuation. But although the “Heidegger story” (the Situation) does not vanish from reality by doing this, a powerful technical apparatus (larger and smaller axiologies) emerges; what’s more, general axiology appears as a distant possibility in the (asemic) horizon. A parallel “Tarski story” shows up; quability is declared to be comparable to satisfiability modulo theories (eg integer arithmetic), even though its technical implementation is much more perilous. Because we’re lazy and understaffed and because reality matters, the Tarski story is weakened in favor of having at hand the global furniture of the Heidegger story.  It’s still there, that magnificent Miura bull. It tasks us. Only by facing the bull again and again until the point of transcendence the promise of general axiology can be fullfilled.

III.

The selling point of general axiology is not that it might exist; it’s that it might elevate its conspirators to a place of infinite wealth, beauty, wisdom, ecstasy. (The matador perhaps typifies ecstasy the way sugar typifies sweetness. I would show you videos, but tauromaquia is not pretty to look at). But what theory can actually offer is to elevate the conspirators from their fishlike existence to marine biologists and from there on to alien engineers. The major technical obstacle toward general axiology is the need to explicate the Tarski story with poorly-written text and copious analogies. Boolean (SAT) and logical theory (SMT) satisfiability schemes can be deployed. What’s more, they can be mobilized to solve complex logistical problems. Even more: this is achieved by a clever style of defining frame axioms, which are formulas that when interpreted in satisfiable manner carry forward in time the state of the logistical system. Each of these technical concepts (frame axioms, Boolean algebra, satisfiability) can, in principle, be directly applied to problems of quability, but at the cost of severing their ties to the Heidegger story.

At one point the vaunted space opera, which is password-protected and out of bounds for casuals and most conspirators, was documenting an attempt to actually code a simple quability scenario using basic SATPLAN (logistical) techniques; this quability problem should minimize the loss of its Heidegger story in favor of being a proof of concept. As it turns out, formal verification at this level doesn’t really matter, other that achieving a kind of experiential knowledge with what SATPLAN achieves after all. Understanding in some depth the dynamic world that can be specified through frame axioms can be an illuminating spiritual experience; it’s possible to know in your heart that the ensuing excursion into the nature of time — the times of mr. Süsskind, of tempo and of opportunity — are really implementable in the frame axioms of a would-be SATPLAN-qua-quability program. Frame axioms are ultimately the midchlorians of the  General Axiology story; they were revealed to us in the effort to make clearer sense of a crucial aspect of the Heidegger story (truth-rain, ie the ambient conditions of truth) at a time that we worried that specifying a proper metaphysics of the Situation was the key (deferred, possibly indefinitely) concern. As it turns out, if we were to fret about the philosophical underpinnings of theory, we’d have to find it in SATPLAN.

Again: due to understaffing and rapid growth and the growing complexity of theory itself (in a matter of months, ambient conditions axiologies, then made larger and smaller; then di/bissected in left and right halves; then time; then scenarios and diegesis…), both the Heidegger story and the Tarski story are vague and deferred. But as already definitely established by Hubert Dreyfus (who happens to be, alongside Graham Harman, one of our key Heidegger references) computers can’t really cope with being-in-the-world; and, on the other hand, putting some scholarly muscles on the Heidegger story wouldn’t add much to what conspirators should really acquire deep intuition about. The usefulness of the vast majority of words committed to this project so far: seduction. I need readers to suspect there is something interesting going on; I need to keep conspirators interested.

Sexy photos omitted, this is the story so far. Yes, there’s stuff about Jair, and in the archeology of theory the unbearable awkwardness of trying to give the Heidegger story (augmented by some sober local analysis that everyone else is missing by running to and fro like headless chickens) of politics. But theory has grown to the point that an introduction that does not digress into Jair and Brazil can penetrate the immediate mental block people have acquired about this subject. There’s an apparent contradiction in this: Jair was never a countersignalling tactic; we see nothing provocative or insolent about this topic’s role as one of our ongoing central threads. But, if as we suspect Jair is extradiegetical, then maybe a presentation of the basic floorplan of theory does not have him in the diegesis. This is the very same reason you read me vacillating between “I” and “we” sentences — that’s me moving in and out of the picture frame. Is the picture frame characterized by the frame axioms? Cue in that Keanu Reeves GIF.

IV.

I’ve been asked: are these post titles just for mood, or are they somehow related to the text? The header images are just for mood; this includes eventual Lacanian diagrams. The titles make sense once you’ve read the whole thing (which may mean a number of previous posts; I’m trying to link them during the text).

I am now answering questions and sharing googly-eyed late-night insights on Telegram; just search for “asemic horizon”. Load that Zizek voice sample: In a perverse way, the space opera is moving over there.

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The magic leap

I. 

The presentation of a story is made of two components: the elements of presentation and the element of the story itself. Rigorously speaking, this can easily become a recursive formula (the presentation of the presentation…. of the presentation of the story), and experimental storytellers have long been trying variations of this scheme. Still, in the most common cases, the story is most often (structurally) large enough that it constrains the span of the presentation.

In what’s known as the Classical Narrative film, the final presentation of this large-enough story is given the name of diegesis. Film is the interesting case because it brings a quantitative explosion of non (or rather extra)-diegetic storytelling tools; whereas in previous forms out-of-story storytelling elements  were inextricable from the fact of the storyteller (Proust and Kafka swallowed by their work), in Classical Narrative film the storyteller was pulverized.

In other words: diegesis replaces the storyteller in favor of the conditions of storytelling; at the very least, this vibes with our current strategy of replacing truth for ambient condition of truth, banal actions with quability conditions, social praxis and legitimacy with axiologies, seduction itself with scenarios of ecstasy. But there’s an additional component to the scenario of diegesis that interests me: the conditions of storytelling are heavily technical. And you know how giddy we are in the presence of any conceptual breakthrough bearing a technical implementation.

There are rules for for disappearance encompass a fine control of tempo and duration; depth-of-field and focal length dynamics; scene geometry,  rules for bringing sound in and out of diegesis. It would be an impressive achievement of mankind if, like computing, these rules had gradually evolved throughout maybe two to four decades. But it’s weirder than that: almost everything of this disappearance technology comes up, as if whispered by aliens, at once — the era of silly pie-in-the-face shorts of uneven duration suddenly stops with a single  (extremely racist) generations-spannning three-hour epic about the Ku Klux Klan — which interrupts the age of trivial shorts and  introduces in one master brush stroke the entire language of Classical Narrative film. Poet James McAgee said – “To watch [t]his work is like being witness to the beginning of melody, or the first conscious use of the lever or the wheel…and to realize that this is all the work of one man.”

This almost poses a trolley problem — hey, the KKK has caused untold death and harm, but would you rather not have had the miracle of diegesis?

II. 

It’s hard not to spend an entire essay detailing the sheer discontinuity — the magic leap in technical power gifted to the world by the Klan through the artistic genius of D.W. Griffith. It’s also practically unnecessary, since otherwise nonwrongthinking film theorists and critics have had no choice other than lionize it and explain it in their classes. Suitably depersonalized: there has been no conflict between the small-axiology-of-antiracism-contained-within-the-large-axiology-of-common-mores (from now on we might just say “small axiology” and assume a sufficiently large axiology around it) and the small axiology of aesthetics — possibly a number of parallel aesthetics, one of rapture and sublime, another of technical astonishment, etc.

Indeed in some cases this conflict of axiologies is set up in interestingly nonconflicting ways — consider the critical trope that Griffith created diegesis in order to give truth-content to his racist lies. We do not discuss such horrible words as “lies” (it’s either within or without the truth-rain “which shall save you”) but can pivot that trope to focus on the disappearing storyteller. This is the Zizekian picture of ideology: the racism inherent in wanting to tell that story is dissolved in a technology of non-authorship. Therefore a hundred years later a bank heist set in an odd version of the 1930s where blacks have been erased  can be made more exciting by music that is explicitly the historical complaint of slavery. Note the explosion of the frame — in this case it’s diegesis that resignifies an extradiegetic tool; the beast has swallowed its own “frame”.

III. 

Diegesis may have the potential of becoming a hearty, nutritional version of what Scott Adams calls the persuasion filter. From what I’ve been able to gather (for a cartoonist Adams is very wordy and roundaboutly and who says this is someone who reads Derrida on his lunch breaks), the persuasion filter is an outlook on the world that foregrounds the fact that no one really thinks all the time and most people very rarely do so; from that fact, it should follow that reality is best understood if we understand that people don’t understand reality. (The author, of course, flatters his readers as the select few that do…)

We need, of course, to begin by effacing the idea that there’s people and the twin possibilities of rationality and irrationality to arrive at something sufficiently generic and able to flow through the various layers of theory to absorb it. But on its own, diegesis eliminates some of the cowlickier ideas of the persuasion filter: it is the effect of a demiurgic technology that vaporizes the demiurge; it needs no “master persuader” (more on that soon). More subtly, it does away with the dependence on truth-as-nonfalsehood that underlies the idea of “truth as one possible narrative” — diegesis is ultimately the effect of presenting of a scenario, which can be anything from the metaphysical characterization of capital as an alien invader to a 10-second loop of beautiful college-aged girls making out.

But note the effect — the magic of movies is not that a frame exists and influences the content, is that the frame has vanished and what you see is what you get. This is how we’re able to take the scenarios of Blackbeard or our so-oft-mentioned faux-lesbians without worrying for their frame — sure, maybe it’s sexist, in general axiology sexism will have been redefined for something that you want.

Most important of all: it introduces into our vocabulary the question — is this diegetic? 

IV. 

One problem about writing stories about Jair is that it’s very difficult to acquire a theory-of-mind about him. Being lifelong public figures, each previous president of Brazil (possibly excluding goofball Jânio Quadros) have had clear public personas on which they had to campaign — even during the military intervention of the 60s and 70s. But as we’ve said before and will carry on repeating, what is most disconcerting about Bolsonaro is his embrace of the very idea of truth-rain. By the story local media increasingly fails to tell convincingly, Bolsonaro is erratic, moody, changes his tune every time; I have seen him on TV reasoning like a trained philosopher and stuttering like a 20-year old dummy. A reasonable question that the local media has yet to pose would be — is this man on drugs?

There’s an alternate hypothesis — one that appears to have a far greater explanatory power and simultaneously much, much deeper implications for the scenario of Brazilian crisis and for theory as a whole: maybe Jair Bolsonaro is extra-diegetic. Maybe he’s not of the story; maybe he’s part of the dizzying array of lenses and sound effects and camera movements that tell the story of the great Brazilian meltdown.

The sticking point of Scott Adams’s “persuasion filter” theory is the figure of the Master Persuader. In his book, this role is played by Donald Trump, but it may as well have been Osho: through a combination of a heightened intuition about other people’s cognitive biases and incessant, shameless A/B testing (and maybe more, I didn’t finish the book), the Master Persuader captures the frame and proceeds to “urinate on the press corps. from a great altitude“.

But the novelty of this is not that the Master Persuader has destabilized a dominant frame like a critical theorist and brought on the onset of postmodernism — this is a distraction, each time an element of diegesis “breaks the fourth wall”, the self-awareness is reabsorbed into the diegesis. To function, Adams’s Master Persuader would have to be nondiegetic, i.e. almost invisible. And of course, what enables diegesis is a pulverized array of nondiegetic technologies that fully displace the Master.

V. 

What does it mean “to be nondiegetic”? Osho is close to a paradigmatic case. Physically absent most of the time, he’s best understood not by his own movements (despite his brush with la Migra in the 80s) but by the brand-name hysteria. It’s not important whether he was could confabulated into existence or manipulated by his secretaries or men behind the curtain: Osho is but the point of capiton (the crochet “button”) that aligns all the the pulverized technologies that comprise the Osho movement. This is how he remains a notably prolific author long after his body was incinerated in his ashram, his flesh commemorated by a plaque stating that he was/is “OSHO – NEVER BORN. NEVER DIED.”

For American authorities who might wanted him for tax evasion might look at a biological man with persuasion powers who exploits… but oh my god, who even cares. Likewise in the scenario of the faux lesbians, feministologists may argue that the dudes who stare in delight are somehow agents of a social structure that push the girls into this, but none of this matters, not in light of swimming upwards toward larger and larger axiologies: within the context of the party scene there is enough power in the scenario where two girls start making out that the dudes, problematic as they may be, recede into the background — and most importantly they become the extra-diegetic technique by which we recognize this as a scenario of ecstatic desire.

This is a critical point: are you, patient reader, into watching faux-lesbians make out? Diegesis won’t work if we have to assume fetishes and secret desires and other small-axiological features; the extra-diegetic cloud of alien technologies tells you what is sacred and despicable and sexy, thus establishing diegesis-wide axiology. And this is how a scenario is constituted: a bubble of axiological sustained by alien hypnosis.

To recapitulate — in those scenarios desire and sacredness were diegetic. They worked through an array of self-effacing non-diegetic technologies. What is their net effect (in whatever axiology you have at hand while reading this)? If you had the firm conviction that kairos had come for revolution and the realization (meaning: a perception brought back from reality) that you had to be the initiator, would you rather be inside or outside the diegesis?

What do you think happens to the diegesis in general axiology anyway?

Modulo

I.

An axiom, we know well, is a police officer. The vagrancy law that no officer can abet is the identify of indiscernibles. This legal instrument regulates that which can be reasoned about; it demands that the objects of thinking are perceivable in their plurality — more simply, that two indiscernible things must be thought-of as one.

But humans, peckish and thieving, have a way around this. The law establishes identity from indiscernibility, but (in the generic case at least) leaves discernibility as non fingo. We can therefore use the up-to structure to commandeer and puppeteer identity. We can say “noon” up-to the day and never specify a date. We can reason about noons in general; we can, for example, invent longitude by measuring how fast noons are coming as we sail. This is how “applied” anything works.

In mathematics the up-to structure is available for integers in modular arithmetic. It is also available generically through equivalence classes and quotients (sets, groups, what have you). The theory of parity (odd/even structure) is ordinary arithmetic modulo 2; hours are arithmetic modulo 12 or 24: in the mod-12 style, 3 hours and 15 hours past midnight are both “three”. Each of these is an example of equivalence classes. Equivalence is a true upgrade from indiscernibility, one of those rare cases in which metaphysical conceit gets pwned by simple formal maths. Indeed, maybe there is no such thing as indiscernibility — maybe everything is indefinitely distinct, pantha rhei, and identity is a fully bogus idea.

This is immaterial — equivalence, a true gentleman, frees us from identity without undue punishment of its vanquished rival. We get a call-the-manager bell, a rape whistle, a get-out-of-jail-free card called modulo. Whenever in trouble, it’s always possible to scream it, modulo! The indefinite wealth of lived experience — each gust of wind, each passing wink — is safe and tucked away from mean cops.

II.

A good friend of asemic horizon counsels me on occasion to leave politics alone if I expect to make anything out of theory. He’s right — the political take space is way overcrowded and an interest in politics is an unwelcome signal of being chiefly interested in posturing about unactionable scenarios. Of course, asemic horizon emerges from politics originally; it emerges from the theoretical desire (the libido sciendi) of discussing the Brazilian situation modulo surface-level news events that obscure always-ongoing structural affairs. Improbably, this got us somewhere: everything worth discussing was worth something; structural affairs were always quotient affairs with axiologies.

[“Quotient” is very closely related to “modulo”; roughly, the quotient set of integers towards parity, or Z/2, is the set of integers modulo 2, or up-to-parity, or the set of equivalence classes of integers resp. parity; ultimately, the “set of parities”, an adjective having been wonderfully transmuted to a substantive. Political “affairs” are, of course, not sets; but every time “modulo” can be clearly used, so can “quotient”, wonderfully blinking between adjectival (theoretical) and substantive (actual-structural) form.]

This is not actually how theory was first discussed. Objects of discourse were declared not as actual classes, but as models of their quability conditions. Quability was akin to satisfiability in constraint-satisfaction theory. Everything was in the implicit solution to a (possibly unsolvable) system of equations, an inevitable consensus, a mad drift towards infinity. Talk of “quables” (which would be more or less amenable to the quotient form treatment) was sparse at first and died down entirely. There was, ultimately, a sense that this cosmic ambition — speaking only of the large-scale, inevitable conditioning factors, and the conditions on that, if needed – was the only way to build something that might, at some point, produce the vocabulary needed to say the unspeakable.

It can only follow that theory in the asemic horizon sense must be unintelligible. As forceful and overflowing with technicalia, the stuff of theory is in its minor inconsistencies. Theory is a mood. The mood sets the conditions for thinking; conversely, thinking must satisfy the mood.

III.

If I was to drop all pretense of quability theory to give a report on the ongoing situation, I’d have also to drop all of the sequence of quotients afforded by theory: I’d have to report on my city, on my neighborhood, on my street, on the birds and tree maintenance and emerging styles of leisurewear. I would need to become descriptive and colorful and convey an entirely new mood of exotica (not Colombian Magical Realism; maybe Structural Tropicalia) that set the conditions for understanding… something.

But it’s increasingly unclear that Structural Tropicalia holds any interest. All world politics has been suspended in favor of American politics, which sets the tone and the terms of (symbolic and monetary both) exchange. To the extent that politics away from the real world (i.e. America) still takes place, it does so in contravention of structural affairs. It’s reasonable to assume that even the Revolutionary Guard will lose its efficacy, that its gradual coup will lead to rule over empty cities.

The cosmic ambition that agitates quability theory can only grow in answer to this. Theory is waiting: therefore, it thrives in the despondency of the Real. The only real answer to stagnation and diminishing returns is to eat the sun itself. Given that theory is the theory of generic structure, and nothing at all can be meaningfully thought-about except if modulo generic structure, theory is the only means we have to prevent an ongoing symbolic (cultural, cognitive, hydraulic….) collapse.

Nicht dieser Töne

I. 

What stands out the most about Grammarly, the style checker I’ve been using in hopes of writing intelligible text for the other thing, is its steadfast refusal to accept “Theory…” as an indeterminate object of discourse.

I’ve had, in casual conversation, many instances where theory is expected to be always transitive, and generally towards a specific hypothesis (“the theory that Polish jazz reflects a cerebral misunderstanding of its American sources”). On asemic horizon we say — everyone together now — theory is the theory of generic structure. Infinite recursion fixes the grammar (it is now “the theory” of something, namely “the theory of the theory…”). But it leaves much unsaid.

Despite all of its feverish juggling of neologisms (technical terms, each having a specific meaning), theory as practiced in asemic horizon is not an entirely new pursuit. We’re more inspired by Heino Engel’s Tragsysteme than by Adorno or Habermas; but it’s hard to deny their priority and their usefulness in making other people to understand what we mean by “theory”. I’d rather have you read Gilles Grelet, but what is he saying to an audience (even the freakish readership of asemic horizon) that isn’t in love with theory already?

The other thing is an attempt to communicate theory with “normies”. The risk of that venture is not being able to cleanly differentiate what K-Hole means by “acting basic” and “normcore” — roughly, the blend-in mimicry of leaf insects versus the outward movement towards “opportunities for strategic misunderstanding”. If theory is ever going to be valuable to normies, that’ll be because there are none. This is my standard case against incels and other such outcasts: STFU and dress normal. A beautiful paradox: there is no normalcy, just the ongoing awkwardness that makes us grab on the available equipment (and here we very literally mean what Heidegger means by das Zeug). This equipment produces an effect of tactical normalcy, itself an attempt to pro-duce (to bring into the world) the ambient conditions of prosocial connection.

II.

The other thing we have at times claimed theory to be is: a praxis of intelligibility. It’s ultimately this that motivates the other thing — I sprinkle it liberally with notions that I can get paid for this if I play my cards right (and maybe I can, that’s none of your business), but the unlimited freedom afforded by asemic horizon is paid in blood with a descent towards irrelevance. We’ve explored the ways in which this descent ultimately leads to the switcheroo (ultimate genericity translated to ultimate generality at the critical moment) and to General Axiology. 

Of course, the way out is through, but this is a very hard slog, and my repeated attempts to hang theory on some sort of formalism (SATPLAN, graph physics, Girardian logic) have produced more demands towards the formalism — this is like buying a clothesline and having to stand pulling on it until your shirts are dry. Theory only progresses by making little knots and little hooks — the points de capiton (faux lesbians, Crystal Castles, Misha the Bear, McKenosha yadda yadda). These have always had a calculated clickbait effect — I do want more readers; maybe these will have to come from the other thing — but they’re also fun and keep your spine straight as you fall down the great water slide that’s the genericity of genericities. 

III. 

Here’s a provocation: incels have a right to get laid. (I might have to freeze a definition that excludes people who have had sexual experience.)

The argument for this is twofold. First, incels have a right to get laid by whatever they imagine women to be (increasingly this takes a disturbing deantropic trend towards cartoons). Sex with imaginary women can be accomplished single-handedly, and for (physical, even) health reasons it’s often recommended (at least in the absence of real partners). The axiological trouble begins when real people are coerced in some fashion (deepfakes being a relatively nonviolent alternative to the old, worse ways) into pretend-playing to be imaginary women. Only then moral concerns come into play. This also neatly illustrates the difference between ethics and morality; inceldom is, to begin with, an ethical shortcoming. 

Second, incels have the right to get laid by real women — provided they’re able to connect with real women as such. “Consent” applies to a weaker formulation of this problem that we intend to sidestep altogether: forcing (or cajoling, blackmailing, etc) someone into sexual contact fundamentally disconnects you from them. The mystery of inceldom (particularly from the incel’s point of view) is that they can’t get women; but “getting women” means “being with women”. Seduction tricks are parlor tricks; attractiveness helps in seduction because sexuality can’t be unraveled from physical presence, but seduction is literally the subtractive counterpart of pro-duction — it means “to hide”. Typical incel blunders (at least as widely mocked on the internet) have to do with running directly into the attractive (and largely imaginary) thing, too much, too fast. “Negging” teaches them to do otherwise, but these people invariably overcorrect and miss their shot. Incels never really meet real women. 

The best advice for incels is, as above, STFU, dress normal. But this should recapitulate everything we’ve said about normalcy as a phenomenon of misinterpretation. Les non-dupes errent; what anyone wants is impossible; you misread it into them, they misread it into you. That’s how seduction works: you dress normal, then people misunderstand you.  Everyone is wrongly convinced that their ultimate value as humans lies in their agalma, but by virtue of feeling they don’t have much else to offer, incels are way too protective of the inner good person they think they are — and resent that others don’t see it. Thus the great virtue of attractiveness: people who are hot are able to signal their value in all sorts of ambiguous (and low-key) ways, while those who need to produce value-signaling effects that, paradoxically, hamper their ability to be ambiguous and get mismatches.

To be clear: this isn’t relationship advice. 

IV. 

Theory is seductive to the extent people misunderstand it. If I have to put forward a denunciation of, e.g. Austrian economics (which has happened), this loses some people. Of course, “just be more ambiguous” is about as useful as “just be more attractive”. There’s some constraints (the quability conditions of theory) that simply can’t be fucked with; and, of course, on asemic horizon you’re watching it happen live. Watching a nude wo/man taking showers over and over in a loop isn’t that erotic after a while. 

Going for “normies” in the other thing is a different affair. Dressing normal is challenging for a project that’s ultimately (however obscurely) revolutionary. There’s great sincerity in that project: we keep evoking Crystal Castles yadda yadda but theory needs a dozen Jairwaves to really emerge as a valuable pursuit in its own right. Everything that’s held to be valuable is already in/part of an axiological structure. And as much as we need to understand them, this process also has much to give back in terms of a clearer discernment of its structure, its dynamics, its tempo, diegesis, physics, scenarios…

Drawbridges

In the beginning there was Logos. Christian Bibles tend to translate this to the “Word”, or maybe the “Verb”. But Wiktionary tell us λόγος also means “speech, oration, discourse, quote, story, study, ratio, calculation, reason”. It further descends from the verbal phrase λέγω — I say or think. Insofar as logic is (quite literally) that which pertain to logos, it ultimately refers to that which can be said or thought. Our philosophical influences teach that, much like anything else in the Mechanosphere, the Said or the Thought are both operated in two movements — one of selection and one of consolidation. This is how the same word comes to mean both “oration” and “calculation”.

Logic is therefore twofold: a matter of production, and a matter of arrangement. This is so even in the 20th-century Tarskian program. The better logicians since then, such as Jean-Yves Girard, have pressed the issue of formatting. But the chrematistic promise of mathematics is to find invariants that hold for any representation within an equivalence class (e.g. up to isomorphisms or order-preserving transformations). The wages of abstraction are emancipation from the format. For example: 19th-century economists had to speak in bushels of this versus bushels of that, whereas modern mathematical economists can speak in measure spaces — therefore obtaining study, calculation and even oratory without quotes and ratios. In the Tarskian program speech and discourse should also vanish, subsumed under the mightier and mightier program of reason. There’s no reason why this shouldn’t work, but also no reason why it should. The proof is in the pudding; the pudding is in the eye of the beholder; the metaphor is a metaphor for the metaphor.

A philosophy of mathematics only emerges when philosophers fixate on mathematics as an object of philosophical inquiry. On its own, mathematics is fine; a philosopher who interviews a mathematician might come away with some kind of unstable “strategic platonism” or as well-gatekept but frank social construction — but these are philosophical, not mathematical issues. This is in stark distinction with science, which imports (in the precise sense that computer programmers are used to) a black-boxed metaphysics of materialist stabilism.

Whenever science has tried to give a scientific veneer to this imported metaphysics, it has looked childish: the agitating material cause of gravity is christened “the God particle” because, well, it causes stuff to clump together. (It takes a philosopher to imagine a world that is motion first — where differential equations are not solved anymore than “x=x” is in the stabilist’s gut) Mathematics, on the other hand, embarrasses itself only when it forgets the μάθημα — its royal knowledgeness — and tries to prove itself in an underlying true arrangement of symbols (the logic that would underwrite it). A delicious paradox — its deliciousness being that it’s no paradox at all: mathematics, which is “socially constructed”, exists anyway, like the natural course of a river. Meanwhile science might have so far scraped the tip of a rock and our theoparticles maybe special cases of special cases, contrived like epicycles and possibly very unlike the science of eventual receivers of the Voyager Golden Record.

This is why our message to the stars needs always to begin with Bach. It tells eventual interlocutors that we’re aware of the μάθημα, that it has emerged in some form in our midst. But also in the general case — there’s no harder or fraught with possibilities for error and self-delusion alternative to bringing our μάθημα to enemies or strangers of any kind. Take the arena of politics: how long until we stop pretending to have facts and figures and a tentative science of governance? Unless much of the general populace is evil (and actually, even then), there’s a raw (not royal: there is only one mathematics) knowledgeness to their points of view. What is it? Jazz musicians are interested in Chopin, photographers in Rothko, algebraic topologists in algebraic geometry. Surely enough, and exactly like in mathematics, not every raw insight has μάθημα to it — this is the point of true proofs in mathematics, to establish true theorems with true corollaries. Accessing the knowledgeness in situations requires the painful and frustrating act of thinking. But that’s precisely God’s one weird trick to transcendence and maybe even general axiology.

Fooled by convexity xxl

The battle cry of applied mathematics is: all models are wrong, some are useful. This is a barbarously ambiguous creed, and might apply to miniature models (like model trains, which try to reproduce much of the excitement and dynamics of real trains at a fraction of the cost) and instance models (like car models; or better yet, like natural numbers, which are supposed to implement Peano’s axioms, but in practice falter — who the hell looks at 1645003 golf balls and is able to produce 1645004 balls, even in imagination). “Dialectics” is a model in both senses: it’s (i) a crude oversimplification of history that does render some of its large-scale features visible, and (ii) an instance of an underlying logical structure (i.e. an arrangement of terms that yields reliable arguments).

Dialectics-as-model-train is wrong because it can’t account for the immense complexity of reality. But it does render visible the notion that situations contain contradictions. A Candidean quasidarwinism might argue, contrariwise, that actual ongoing situations are resolutions rather than problems — this is a common misreading of Chesterton’s fence. But contradictions are tense and unstable: they require outside energy to sustain. Therefore the model train of dialectics suggests that these have dynamical tendencies that will — in unspecified tempo — necessarily play themselves out to sublation (a kind of nonresolved resolution). This is how McKenosha appeared to many as a tipping point towards Trumpism: the contradictions in liberal politics were producing this horrifying scenario of revolutionary violence, and sublative resolutions couldn’t possibly come from within liberal politics. How did this not happen?

Dialectics-as-car-model is wrong because no actual object in the real world can obey axioms (interestingly enough, in Greek, axiomatikos means “police officer”; axiomatics violently enforces axiologies from the outside). But insofar the real object is approximately a model (i.e. satisfies the axiomatics), legible and reliable forms of argumentation are available for it. Since dialectics satisfies an endothermic internal logic where causality is subordinated to the conditions of stasis, it tells us something about the kinematic properties of dialectical contradictions. Kinematics is the study of motion as abstracted from its causal forces; a simple example is considering whether an object will fall off your table in light of its inherent center of gravity. McKenosha and Jairwave have, perhaps, counterintuitively, striking similarities in their kinematic configurations; they’re not, however, immersed in the similar force fields, and are obviously very different processes when seen as integral objects of analysis rather than kinematic models.

Clearly, different views correspond to different meanings of the word model, rigorously speaking: in one, models are downsampled from reality, while in the other models are upsampled from axiomatics. Or, in other words: in the first, models are built to be adequate to the “other thing”, while in the second, the “other thing” is built to be adequate to them. But theory advances by taking words literally and embracing such semantic collisions. This is how we arrive at a dual (dynamic/kinematic) understanding of dialectics, after all.

To the point: my understanding is that McKenosha failed to promote Trump to a position of inevitability (as the only possible sublative resolution) because the kinematics were all wrong. To begin with, the apparent energy (and one could, but does not need to make use of its insanity) of McKenosha is out of joint. It’s built as the antithesis to protofascism and white supremacy, and probably engineered to propagate an ipso facto that this “thesis” it opposes actually exists. But it clearly doesn’t. It’s a reaction toward something that isn’t there, by all appearances devised to simulate it through indirect effects (much like Blackbeard would produce the effect of extreme violence to scare people into fleeing). Therefore it can appear as large and important, but can’t achieve any concrete political goals — it’s batting at ghosts and holograms. I know people get hurt in these episodes, but people get scared at Disneyland rides too.

A straight case where the kinematics does work is the tension between secularism and biblical religion in American culture and politics, which is there and ultimately derives from unresolved contradictions that might date back to Aquinas and the absorption of Aristotle, Avicenna and Averroes into the heart of Christendom. Of course, slavery in America is a root contradiction of the American system that keeps evolving (through a civil war, deportation to Liberia, Jim Crow, “Crow Jim” in jazz, Rosa Parks and so on and so on). But the configuration it leads to is not one that makes McKenosha a model of politics to come: American descendants of slavery (ADOS — this is a term being used in woke spaces, and it’s pretty good!) are, on average, poorer in most valuable outcomes, but their culture has come to dominate American music. There’s also extreme inequality within the ADOS population, and enough wealth that woke claims that incel shooter Eliot Rodgers has privilege because he’s white collapse immediately if realized.

Yes, the worry that this risible current will continue to expand in power and change the terms of discourse is legitimate. But this does not follow from dialectics in any clear way. The ratchet and “the long march through the institutions” and such other phenomena can be modeled, with some degree of accuracy, in dialectics. But then the contradictions they trace back to are not coextensive with the ones that produce Trumpism and its demise; that is, the axiomatics to which they are adequate are similar but not at all equivalent.

So what was Trumpism anyway? In the framework of dialectics, it was a response to something. A low-hanging candidate is the contradictory logical structure of “neoliberalism” as personified in Obama, a dr. Manhattan kind of figure that presented himself as coming from the left and even enacted some policy towards left concerns — while accelerating the WBush program of global war and acting full-time in the service of Capital. Trump, on the other hand, came, to whatever he has, as a hustler. A billionaire loved by the working class, why not? In Trump we see much more clearly the second sense of model — he appears to have known by instinct that there was something (some axiomatics) he satisfied (whether steaks, casinos or right-populism); therefore he rises to power by capturing the wind, extending his arms like a kite. This is obviously not a fascist. And therefore not someone who can credibly fight something that claims to be an antifa rebellion.

Now, a great unknown is whether McKenosha will continue burning in a Biden presidency. Some commentators seem to think that, because it’s specifically anti-Trump, it should die as the chaotic climate of 2020 dies down too. But riots tend to arise in regions already controlled by the Blue Party; it’s strange to believe that a Blue President would change this. After all, “white supremacy” is a wide, all-encompassing system and mr. Biden too is an old creepy white dude. On the contrary, a cultural climate that continues to coddle McKenosha will strengthen it. The ironic “Mc” prefix will eventually fall off. The black irony of the “ratchet” is that all on the Left eventually find themselves on the Right.

Then, because the kinematics of McKenosha are all wrong, it can only sustain itself by continued energy input (read: money!) from the outside. At this juncture, it’s how it would quickly die: the bail funds dry out and social media agitators go unpaid. McKenosha isn’t real — but it’s in the dynamical preconditions for fascism (as brought to live by fervent anti-fa desire) to arise. We’re talking 2024 here.

Political actors who do wish to systematically oppose the possibility of fascism would do well to study the quability conditions of McKenosha. I have a day job, but enough free time that I can consult. Ring me!

We have never been neoliberals

Standard economics is denounced as a political program in disguise; and one that both implies and requires a greedy individualistic outlook on social life. The former may as well be true, insofar economic policies can be neatly divided between those that assume standard economics and those (mostly in third world shitholes) that reject it. But the latter is wrong.

An Econ 101 class will teach you that the field is divided in two more or less independent disciplines, Macro and Microeconomics. The object of Macro is ultimately the Dasein of social life as bounded by the reach of policy. It speaks in moods and fears. As a theory, it’s pretty much the primus inter pares of systems theory; it encompasses everything from mineralogy to demography as stylized feedback loops that actually explain the world. On the other hand, micro as a theory says nothing about individuals at all; it speaks in choice structures that (in the version taught in undergrad) are reconciled by an Auctioneer (in Lacan-speak, the point de capiton; in Deleuze-speak, the Virtual). Nothing about this rejects inconsistent decision-making or even multiple personalities. If I’m different persons when drunk or sober, manic or depressive — I’m still selling my time and buying consumer goods, albeit at possibly highly unequal rates.

Indeed, read correctly, the technical lemmata of micro-level theory that prove the inconsistency of aggregate demand and choice (in stark contrast to the non fingo attitude of macroeconomics toward these things) also pose hard constraints on the possibility of individuation itself. The political program of neoliberalism is distinguished from nationalistic, class-interest or otherwise collectivistic programs because it claims that the smallest minority is the individual. But this is actually false: if I’m one person at work, one person as a parent, one person when drunk and one person when manic, guess what: boom, Arrow’s impossibility theorem applies. There’s no I there that can vote. May I insist, this follows straightforwardly from how micro theory understands choice (101 textbooks say “agents”, not “people”; and a deep dive will reveal that what is rigorously meant is agencies), and from the axioms in Arrow’s theorem.

This is what grand axiology does (in this case, an axiology built around the concept of choice, which is probably not fully general): it “de-necessitates” it’s supposed causability chains (sovereign individuality, and worse yet, “rational” choice — a word improperly confused with Enlightenment ideals). Now: micro theory at one point in the 1920s was being used to argue that scientific socialist planning was indeed possible if we could only have means to simulate the secret sauce of market economics. This didn’t pan out (as the more reasonable linear programming project of Kantorovich also didn’t back in the USSR); but did neoliberalism? For a couple of glorious years, even Byte magazine explained that on the Internet one has countless personas, but this, too, didn’t last for long. As it turns out, most people seem to value greatly a kind of continuity between their offline “persona” and their online presence; and more generally a continuity between a group-belonging that warrants their values and the truth of their morality.

Of course: neoliberalism was also a power grab. But so was 20th-century unionism. From a tentative (but frail and not fully thought out) higher-axiology vantage point, it would seem that these press the question of how you, the reader, should value yourself more: as consumer or as worker. In each case, the power grab is enabled by the kind of power it gives you. But neoliberalism (and this is counteracted somewhat by other forces allied to the neoliberal movement, such as cultural and religious conservatism) seems to offer the power to shatter the mirror that produces the illusion of a cohesive identity. You don’t go to the market and say “as a philosopher I want these shoes; as a scientist I want this cutler set whose heft feels like a restaurant’s”. Something disorganized in you wants them. This is also, of course, why drugs disseminate in common circles: you no longer have to be a decadent poet to acquire, as such, some opium.

A Freudian would, at this point, conclude that neoliberal consumerism produces a psychological regression to toddlerhood, but this smuggles strange, alienated-adult values into the word “regression”. Consumerism does seem to heighten (here I’m resorting more to my experience, but you’ll validate it with yours) immature tendencies: people fight over parking lot spaces at malls, it’s awful. But this isn’t infantilism per se, many kids are nice and cooperative by default.

In contradistinction unionism (or whatever new movement that wants to give you power as an X-type person — yes, much of this applies to McKenosha) appeals to a kind of double adulthood where not only you’re endowed with a mature adult socialization, but also you’re able to see the union as the doubly adult body that regulates its relative infantile parts by binding them to the collective contract.

But there’s different approaches to infantile regression and nested adult/adult infancy hierarchies both. Politically motivated trolls (frogs and clowns and all that) employ utterly childish aesthetics and behavior to question group-inflicted adulthood-structures. Why does Pepe say “lol Hillary” and sides with Trump, and not the opposite? Well, isn’t it pathetic how she had to stand back to give way to Obama and waited patiently for her turn — fairly given to her by the adult-of-adult bodies (the party) and the adult that regulates them (political interests at large in the equilibrium producing the stable party)? Trump, on the other hand, launches his entire political career babbling like a toddler about Mexican rapists, but ten days later decides (in a sudden moment of insight while eating faux-Mexican food) he loves them. But Trump (to trust most of my American friends, about 3/4 of them) is no toddler — no toddler can be evil.

As for the nested adulthood structure where the group is the adult that regulates its children… isn’t this how the hierarchy (maybe even the lattice/poset) of larger and smaller axiologies works? In general axiology we’re maximally mature and agree on the most important and generic issues of theory and praxis. Of course, the “trick” here is that, while we’re promised “infinite power” in general axiology, there’s no going up in a corporate ladder, no gradual acquisition of power (that both implies and requires power grabs elsewhere). This is why a toddler-like attitude may be required to explore systems of value and valuable means to acquire them: a refusal of adulthood as submission to the higher adulthood of groups, but rather an experimental and naive (even if deadly serious, as children often are in their games of imagination) openness to the Situation.

On a personal note, this is also why I (despite all my conservative adult instincts) remain a revolutionary, and theory remains a revolutionary project.

Elitism

I.

The outstanding problem of civilization is the hoi polloi. As many other matters that interest us, civilization is an axiological affair. It affirms that certain things are valuable (for example, science) and exposes the valuable means (scientific method) of producing valuable things (scientific works). But (again, for example) science is not locum suum: it must be produced somewhere and by something. The alchemy of systems theory is that these are described as the same process and the same thing. But this only dislocates the problem of material causability to the setting (both more abstract and more concrete) where it interacts with the general conditions that make it causable. It is in this setting that the hoi polloi appears as an axiological concern: not everyone who shares in the higher-level axiologies (that produce the quability conditions of science) is able to understand science. The higher-level axiologies are quability conditions on the higher-level chrematistics: no science, no antibiotics. But what links one and the other is obscure, and quability needs to deploy a whole lot of obscurantism (priestly robes, institutions) to keep chrematistics working. All of this is true of art, religion, philosophy, museums.

All of this is also neatly genericizable. Systems theory exposes the quability conditions on quability conditions, generically. For in every example referred or alluded to above, systems theory enables the “switcheroo” between (force of) causability and (constraints on) quability. This does not solve the problem of the hoi polloi at all, but it hints at the radical transform (the image I want to evoke is the Laplace transform, but maybe the best analogy is a change of measure) on actual ongoing affairs that is needed in order for elitism to function. The closest we have to a clear program is: theory is the theory of generic structure. But to become operational, theory must present the technical means for reparameterizing (much like the Laplace transform exchanges time for interest rates) the symbolic deadlocks that prevent us from otherwise speaking of values frankly.

If, following standard conservative theory, politics has to do with the edges that separate friend from foe, the symbolic deadlock has to do with political identification. If, as in standard liberal (details vary) theory, politics has to do with the structure that society consents to structure itself, then political identification is universal. Identification is a judgement with subject and object: I judge mr. Moldbug to be somewhat right of center; some may think otherwise. But our basic tools for surving the contractarian crush — experienced firsthand in every country that sees regular regime changes, from France to Brazil — have all to do with the flattening of identification: thus I will claim to be a revolutionary even if my text often has a reactionary mouthfeel. More simply put: to survive the pending contractarian crush, one must harden an identity that spans at least some of your habitual territory. Thereafter the identity does the speaking for us. Of course, this is where they squeeze you for cash: if you’re an American who made a point of prioritizing the melioration of the “Black condition”, then mr. Ibram has got your tongue. Worse yet, if as a first-worlder you’ve had too much of a conscience for the bitter fruit of colonization, you get a deracinated version of American antiracism. This is the point where Edinburgh renames its David Hume college building after possible-overdose-victim George Floyd.

I have nothing to say about a particular incident like this: you already know how to feel. I know how I feel — but that’s not theory. And I’m a theorist; I deal in theory.

II.

“Woke” is fundamentally a feeling. Good old /r/atheism was naive enough to say as much in their “… and in this moment I’m euphoric” declaration. One could add the qualification that the feeling of woke has to do with being euphoric at social injustice (therefore the apparent manifestation of euphoria as rage), but this seems accidental at best. Surely, manifestations of woke that echo the standard Left scenarios will more easily seep through the institutional fabric on which elitism is deployed, but ratheism is counter-evidence to the identification of woke with its overt claims. Remember, ratheists at one point were suing for the material manifestation of their claim to relevance (by removing religious imagery from public buildings). If they did so through the tortuous circuitry of the courts, it’s not because they didn’t feel justified to go ahead and take religious statues down on their own authority; it’s because no one would have their back — not unconditionally. Currently circulating analogies with the Chinese Cultural Revolution feel a little out of context, but do a lot to illustrate the apparently-uncontrollable nature of woke. To me, the CCR is very alien; I understood very little of e.g. Hua Linshan’s autobiography: the mass psychology it depicts is nothing like I’ve had a direct knowledge of. (I understand McKenosha, on the other hand, viscerally so). I have to guess it’d be actually easier to steer woke toward Beijingcore mass-control politics than it would be to have them accept the strange passions of the Cultural Revolution.

If woke is a feeling, how is it steered at all? This is kind of legible in the news itself, isn’t it? Woke confesses itself with passion. It’s easy to see who’s wholeheartedly in its corner and who apologizes for it in less direct ways. Furthermore: Proud Boys (which always sounded like something out of Achewood) aside, the opponents of current woke causes are never themselves woke. Woke is left-leaning due to the institutional engineering that continually tagets it; but then, as mr. Moldbug and many others have amply documented, everything is targeted by the “Ratchet” — the everpresent complex of forces that stretches the span of politics to the left, only and always. To the extent that woke is even noticeable, it must exceed the natural left-drift of constitutional politics. But woke does not read like a conspiracy, at least not in the generic case: it could be that the Biden campaign has (in a strategy that evades my comprehension, but may well give results) fanned the flames of McKenosha, but this does not explain Edinburgh. Nor does it Brazil, where now football broadcasts are preceded by “Ubuntu Football Club” hagiographies of Black guys who were already widely (and correctly) admired. What political goal is addressed by re-presenting the story of Washington and Assis, telepathic non-twins who were crack strikers in the 1980s, as a story of black men under racial injustice?

Here we must again invoke the switcheroo: on the contrary, little is achieved by getting riled up about the “long march through the institutions” and the drip-feed (Brazilians say: drip by drip, soft water can drill holes through hard stone) of woke cultural presure. A causability structure materially enables woke, but we must become able to focus on the system dynamics that enables its quability conditions. After all: if woke was a virus, the task would be to understand contagion and immune response; if it was an earthquake, to map fractures in tectonic sheets and points of possible shock; if it was an alien invader, to learn what are we — what value we have — in their eyes, and how our planet is in the quability conditions for their larger goals. If these alien invaders were anthropomorphic, we would further have to understand how they impact the structure of our desires and fantasies. We might even have to seduce some of them, see what they’re like in the sack.

III.

Talk of “Cultural Revolution” conflates the euphoric energy of the momentarily empowered wokish youth, and the cynical longer-term goals at the top echelons of the Revolution. In other words, it conflates utter axiologic instability, at one level, with the tectonic, thousand-year thinking of the larger axiology. The “cultural revolution” itself was a sudden and short-lived moment of distension, more similar to Woodstock than anything in our peak-historical moment. Unsurprisingly, whatever “woke” does is profoundly unsurprising and derivative of the ec-static 1960s. Likewise, the fact that this utter lack of imagination has some impact at all with the institutions that woke critiques is commonly associated with the presence of once-rebel boomers in decision-making chairs. Therefore Edinburgh University’s attitudes have probably more to do with lingering nostalgia for the Rolling Stones than any learned appreciation of America woke unrest. In other words: Edinburgh falls prey to woke’s utter lack of imagination because of its own utter lack of imagination. This is fundamentally a failure of elites. McKenosha burns simply because rioters haven’t been hit with the water cannons. Mayors and decision-makers and probably a majority of cops regard the riots with deep (sometimes mixed, sometimes not) feelings of wish fulfillment. I mean, the whole thing sucks — capitalism, electoral democracy, everything sucks. It sucked when I was 20 and it still sucks now — but now I’ve had opportunities to make a dent, and have I?

In a previous generation, the name for this utter lack of imagination was “middlebrow”. It was Rachmaninoff over Hindemith, Ravel’s Bolero over Ravel’s La Valse. Carnap and Elliot and Schoenberg were acutely aware of the heavy baggage of civilization (and its constant potential for horror), but were Cronkite, Ginsberg and Hendrix? Middlebrow was an intermediate step in high culture’s loss of meaning; it made the ritual motions (such as piano virtuosity) of high culture but couldn’t see the once-transcendent nature of high culture. Standing on the shoulders of giants was difficult (slippery: ever heard the story where Heidegger becomes a temporary Nazi?) and dizzying; middlebrow is where high culture sits and starts to slip. Of course, culture is a vortex: in the same few decades separating Whitehead and Barry Manilow, jazz emerges from minstrelsy (low-brow humor) to highly abstract art-form. But have current Black mayors and leaders listened carefully to Cecil Taylor’s “Air”? Do they have the necessary wingspan to meaningfully react to repeat scenarios from their own youth?

From this distance, the problem is no longer whether the Cathedral creates woke insurrectionary theater, or whether it leaves the speaking classes at the mercy of random angry youths. It is: how do we establish a valuable structure and produce the valuable means to maintain it? What is the axiological infrastructure needed so that woke ends up doing (even if indirectly and involuntarily) good? What intermediate questions must be addressed by a theory that spans, in this way, the abstract vectors of civilization?

McKenosha

US politics seems now consumed again a modernistic insurrection. Historical (rather than theoretical) postmodernity is a ruling order of depersonalized and delocalized actors connected by (mostly abstract) business transactions. But the interests of business are, contra Marx, most of the time out of sync with each other; the system of global liberalism does not march in lockstep. This renders it fundamentally vulnerable to external synchronizing factors. Synchronization signifies: “fire together, wire together”.

Consider Q, which is to say, Sokal politics rebooted. Sokalian modernity was epitomized by the purity of science, mishandled by sophistic barbarians; Q-modernity is epitomized by the purity of children, menaced by pedophile networks. This is also the case of McKenosha, where Wakanda is destroyed by white supremacy. Of course, “we have never been modern”; the 16- and 17-year olds abused by Epstein have never been children (yet: exploitation of teens by grown adults was, in the past, held in check by sexual repression; the pill ruins everything). Q is validated by the deracinating process of “globalist” politics that joins the Clintons to British royalty both in Pleasure Island and the WTO. In the very same way, McKenosha is validated by the way the urban warfare cookie crumbles.

But pay attention, what matters each time is not the content of their fantasies and goals, but their resonance to ongoing events. Of course, under the regime of peak history, almost every event is ongoing; the count of finished or future events is exceedingly small. To single out police violence (or the discovery of lolita sex slaves; or whatever else) risks endorsing the very availability-heuristics that blinds and/or favors the resonance of Q or McKenosha. Theory is drowned by the deafening beat of these threads — themselves out of sync with each other, save for the quilting point that synchronizes and signifies them: Trump.

Still, the resonance to their resonance is strange and invites scrutiny. American-style antiracism goes global; if you, in Croatia or Guatemala, didn’t know quite for sure who were your local elites, you can tell by their stilted FIFA-style locution on this matter. This is even stranger in places like Brazil which have their own (close to orthogonal to the US configuration) issues that don’t naturally fit the Nike/BLM mold. McKenosha is synchronized by law enforcement excess, and social engineering agencies throughout the world are synchronized by McKenosha. In two years more, racial exploitation in Brazil will have been fully erased by a poor dublagem of its Hollywood counterpart. How can Zumbi, the slave-owning Black king of the Palmares rebellion, ever compete with Black Panther? Wakanda further erases recent ethnic cleansing in Africa, Tutsis, pygmies. American culture seems to binge-eat on modernity and excrete baudrillardian postmodern simulacra.

On the other hand, Q also seems to be going global. This should be puzzling, since Q is the theory that mr. Trump has been effecting a secret-in-plain-sight agenda to purge elite pedophiles and undo manifold conspiracies that kept people (temporarily embarassed Free People) down. But while McKenosha demands a single-minded vision of white supremacy as structurally integral conspiracy, Q is additive and adhesive; it integrates the “post-rational” thinking of MLM semicults and radical, Alexander Supertramp-type individualists alike, and many more. In Germany, we’re told, Q is all about how the elite lies about Covid. And while McKenosha can, in principle, be refuted with relative simplicity (if the arena for refutations were ever set up), Q is fluid, distributed and barely synchronizing enough to subsist. McKenosha is a single Cartesian proposition; it is feared for its quick Maoist rise; but it’s ultimately brittle. To survive, it will need increasing propping up by social engineering agencies in the US itself, which will have to look to the world for best practices.

I’d like to tell you to hold your breath until it blows over, but under conditions of peak history, it won’t. Nothing ever will. The way out is to the top. Loudness will beat loudness until (in the asemic horizon) nothing is signifiable anymore.

TikTok

I

Why does TikTok come from China?

The opening ceremony for the 1980 Moscow Olympics featured a message from space and almost two hours of dances from the manifold peoples of the Soviet world, from Cossack to Khirghiz. The closing ceremony featured a bear-shaped balloon who flew high and then higher than high. The 1984 Los Angeles Olympics opened with kids singing a Diana Ross song and closed with Lionel Ritchie.

YouTube recordings of the 1980s are also notable for going silent during the minutes allotted for commercials in the rest of the world.

The term “the long tail” was coined to designate something about internet culture that was different from commercial celebrity culture. Cultural power was still a power law, but lower cost of production and access to distribution meant we could see more of the power law. The unspoken implication is that every tail of a power law is also a local power law with less amplitude. The point was to discover and make money out of local celebrity cultures; intensify power law dynamics across the niches.

Of course everything here — Misha the bear versus Billboard #1 hits, peasant dances versus ephebophilic “cheerleading” — has to do with axiologies.

This blogger makes (somewhat muddedly; but it’s in the title too) the point that TikTok eschews the “social” (really, influencer) graph omnipresent (even if sometimes subdued by user interfaces) in the latest technology offerings. Everyone else seems to emphasize that content is “easy to make and share” in TikTok, but how good can its camera handling and funny hats be?

What is (apparently) the case, instead, is that in TikTok it’s easy to share and be seen. It appears to employ some magical ML tech, but that would be a marginal improvement over simple randomizing mechanics that prevent celebrity culture from emerging (or at least from being capitalized).

II

There’s a legitimate case against communism: implementing it requires gross power, and gross power is grossly corrupting. Almost everything practical about communism has been either tragedy or comedy of errors. It’s even possible that Russians stumbled upon (with L. Kantorovich, Nobel prize winner) the possibility of practical and efficient central planning and deliberately ignored it. Effectively, communism is poverty — in the empty fridges of homemakers and in the spirit of its people.

Everything in communism that has to do with chrematistics is broken (in the past), bogus (in the present — cf China) or vague to the point of not being anything at all (in possible futures freely advocated by Twitter bluechecks).

How does it remain so attractive? There is, of course, the mass effect of an entire cultural apparatus — the same that gives you cheerleader porn, R. Kelly and Wonder Woman. But if the right axiology operated by communism is bogus, some (not all) of its left axiology rings true. As a piece of axiological machinery, the market is supposed to operate a chrematistics but also to produce hierarchies of values. And it does; but the flow of prosperity (chrematistics) is not enough to legitimate the value system (left axiology). Legitimacy has to flow from elsewhere.

In celebrity culture, legitimacy flows through a self-reinforcing influencer graph. Bruce Springsteen is all the more powerful because Eric Clapton worships him (or is it the other way around?). But the utility of celebrity culture was strongly linked to its facticity — to the fact that it is something rather than nothing, entertainment TV rather than silence. The challenge of the “long tail” is, in actuality, that technology has turned the tables, and celebrity cultures must (it seems; maybe this is hardcoded in human nature) be actively cultivated through “social graphs”.

But none of this exists in communism. This produces alternate concept-spaces whence Misha and TikTok arises.