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!