We have never been asemic 2: chroma

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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