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Monday, 25 February 2013

Signals without modulations are blind

Wikipedia has: "modulation is the process of varying one or more properties of a high-frequency periodic waveform, called the carrier signal, with a modulating signal which typically contains information to be transmitted."

I was rehearsing the other day, in my attempts to lecture on non-human epistemology, the idea that the Kantian friction and requisite collaboration between receptivity and spontaneity (or the many variations thereafter, like Sellars' conception of the given being insufficient for an empirical report or McDowell's thesis that empirical data without concepts are at most exculpations and intuitions without concepts are mute) could be generalized beyond the usual domain of the relation between experience and concepts. In fact, one needs a pattern of importance - or a matrix of differences and indifferences - in order to be capable to come up with an empirical report - or an empirical judgement. Reliability as such requires a pattern of importance. Mammals are important for ticks, turbulence around the clock is unimportant for the time counting machine. Importance is what is acquired when we acquire concepts. That shades of color don't matter for the color vocabulary, that most curves are unimportant to draw distinctions between letters of an alphabet, that size is irrelevant for a geometrical figure etc. Some differences are important, others are to be taken as non-salient. In a more general format, signals without a pattern of importance are lost in a white blindness. Too many differences possible and not enough indifference. An antenna without modulation just captures too much - and, therefore, too little. It fails to capture the differences that make difference. It fails to capture information. Just like mere receptivity without a pattern of importance guiding it - receptivity has to be guided, guided by a problem, a quest, a spontaneous interrogation to pose. McDowell's positions would have that there is an amount of (past) activity required for passivity, acquired spontaneity makes receptivity capable of capturing information.

Capture can be seen in terms of rhythms. It is the body (the folds) of a capturing device that tunes in a rhythm. My eyes don't capture the rhythm of the planets, or the rhythm of the molecules - an all-capturing device is an intelligible intellect in the sense of the third Critique. There is no rhythm to be captured there. Hegel was right when he criticized Kant's idea that intuitions without concepts could be not blind for another intellect - that they are blind only for us. Hegel's point is that of a Subjectalist or that of a Metaphysician of Subjectivity in Meillassoux's terms and indeed akin to that of a process philosopher like Deleuze who would take that there is nothing to be captured without modulation. In other worlds, without correlation as an activity, there is no receptivity of an absolute as a passivity. Antennas are spontaneous: they seek signals, and they end up finding them. Antennas receive because they look out for signals, they look out for what concerns them. Importance, in that sense, because it connects receptivity with embodiment (in a matrix of differences and indifferences) could be the ultimate home for correlations - it makes the scheme of no absolute without spontaneity inevitable and correlation itself absolute. The persuasive line in favor of that is that there is no possible grasping of any rhythm without a pattern of importance.

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