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Saturday, 27 April 2013

Millnong project, crossroad of existents and the difference between theatre and performance

Been lecturing about themes in my novel Southern Pacific. Yesterday we went into the discussion between Cook and Meinong (two characters of the novel) concerning the unicorn they find in the island where everything written takes place (as well as everything said and everything thought - but all in different regions of the island). The unicorn is a kind of character, in that sense, they cannot really interact with it because it by, for example, touching it because it responds only to what is written about it. The upshot of the discussion is that one can refer to the unicorn by pointing at it by one is only pointing at the descriptions that the object in the island satisfies. There is nothing apart from the satisfaction of the description. This is where I find a Meinongian approach to meaning deeply unsatisfactory (as much as Markus Gabriel's fields of sense): reference is necessarily tied to descriptions and no referential use can be even conceived. Of course I tried to think of a different type of Meinongianism, in what I called the Millnong project (see previous posts in this blog such as
Millnong-project-and-objects, Abhava-millnong-project-abstraction,
Markus-gabriel-and-modally-open-horizon, Fiction-and-existence-threshold). The idea is this far no much more than wishful thinking for a combination between Meinongism and direct reference. Maybe there is hope for Millnong, but I guess its difficulties are very instructive.

Direct reference provides an interesting (Souriau-like) intuition about existence. Common existence (or surexistence) is related to a place, or to a place - or to a carrefour. To be is something like to be able to meet whatever else exists. The crossroad of existences is really a crossroad of existents. Fiction never provides real meetings but rather partial meetings where we cannot go beyond descriptions. There is no open horizon of life for the characters is we take the point of view of those who bump into them by reading them - and not by being in the place where they hang out (where the other characters of the fiction hang out) - or in an island in southern Pacific. In the post last cited above I wrote: "Consider, for instance, Russell's theory of descriptions. We can say that by writing fiction (and providing descriptions for, say, Sherlock Holmes or Gregor Samsa) we do everything humans can do with bare language to make something (like a person) exist. We don't go further, the characters don't cross a threshold, a further test of force that makes them exist. Fictions, then, are just a matter of descriptions - they hold but not enough. They are false, as Russell would have. This threshold of existence can be also understood in terms of borders between modes of existence, in the plurirealist way. In any case, the threshold seems to provide some measure of independence with respect to the descriptions. Fiction is description-dependent. This is the challenge for our (6 months) old Millnong project. Fiction is a negotiation among humans only (or, rather, humans mostly, as surely there is a fauna in the text and in the brain that has to cooperate). The threshold - a threshold of a test of force - ushers in what holds by a stronger alliance." In other words, fiction is incomplete sponsoring (incomplete instauration).

Incidentally, this is where I see the difference between something like theatre and something like performance (and surely many things lie in between). Performance allows for character to be there in the open, in the open horizon of life where they can bump into all the things that also exist. Something is put in the crossroad of existents. That is, exposed to the elements in a way that theatre doesn't allow. Theatre dwells in fiction: objects, properties and events are typically what satisfy descriptions, there could be a bit of something else, especially because no description is complete and could prevent massive reduplication and nothing satisfies just one description. But the orbit is maximised, the stage is slave to the script. The play presents itself as something that is at least partially indifferent to the crossroad of existents. A character in a play (as in a fiction) is like the unicorn in the island, it is not open. A character in a performance is situated, she is open to the elements - typically in the streets. Performance is a strategy to insert the fictional in the crossroad of existents instead of populating another plan. Make up fiction and leave it out in the open.

I think of Pirandello's Six Characters. They are pure descriptions - or pure ideas. They want to be inserted in the crossroad of existents by finding a stage, an author. They perform, but they perform in theatre. Theatre is like a lab - things are preserved, this is why their characters can seem actual, they are immune, not open to the virtuality of the rest of the world - not common, not contingent, not ready to be affected. They are not designed to survive in the wilderness.

Thursday, 25 April 2013

World Première of a Rhythm-Oriented Ontology

The première of ROO had to be in a Performance Philosophy conference. Guildford, on the 11th this month. Performance is here

Four stages for metaphysics

Started my course on Aristotle's Metaphysics. We're discussing a book each week. Yesterday my reading of book Alpha focused on the four primordial causes postulated by Aristotle as four requisite stages where every metaphysics has to play. These four stages are
1. The sphere of ousia or quiddity (the realm of forms or formal causes),
2. The sphere of hypokeimenon or yle (the realm of the substrata),
3. The sphere of the engine, or the realm of modification (where efficient causes are located) and
4. the realm of ends (and final causes).
A metaphysics cannot be complete without having something to say about these four spheres - not enough to present the constituents of things, it has also to state how things develop into each other, how they fold, how they reduce to each other, how movement takes place in to what aim. These are interesting dimensions to consider different metaphysics; in particular 1 and 2 that don't need to be understood in terms of matter and form, but only in terms of substances and substrata. (Hence, the contrasts between, say, Scotus and the materialists are within sphere 2.) In fact, Aristotle's criticism of his predcessors is pitched in terms of insufficient attention given to at least some of these four stages. Hence, Thales or Anaximenes (also Diogenes and Heraclitus) didn't have much to say about anything but the second sphere while the Pithagoreans had little to say about anything other than sphere 1. Plato, of course, had problems relating sphere 1 and sphere 2: the third man, the proliferation of forms to deal with things, the difficulties with participation (metexis).

It is interesting to consider some modern strands metaphysics in these terms. I thought of metaphysics that would postulate no ousia (becoming metaphysics like Whitehead's and his actual entities) and those postulating no hypokeimenon (Leibniz's monadology). Whitehead keeps the rejection of substrata while rejecting substances. In fact, the four stages are intertwined while separated. Aristotle has the merit of seeing the scene as a plot and a multistage plot at that. None of these stages can be just swept under the carpet of convention - by saying, for example, with the early Carnap, that it is no more than a mode of speech - because the plot is such that no stage is immune to the conventionality of the others. The four stages are much more than an assertion about the nature of causality, it is about the nature of metaphysics. Indeed, this is why causality is often taken to be the touchstone of the whole enterprise.

Friday, 19 April 2013

Topologies, chronologies and lexicologies

Much as there is a danger of loosing the specific dimensions of time by making it spacial (as Bergsonians keep pointing out), I always wonder how far can we stretch analogies that go from time to space. I believe there is a McTaggartian element to space where locations are relative to indexicality and distances play the role of events. I was wondering that the multiplicity of spaces - when we move from an image of geometry filled with physics to an image of a plurality of topologies where multiple spaces intertwine with no space in particular playing the part of the purely formal - could be transfered to time. A multiplicity of temporalities, of chronologies as opposed to a fixed calendar providing the merely formal element for other events in time. The calendar is not fixed once and for all but rather is relative to other chronologies by providing a fixity that is needed for time to have a sense of future - the repeated. The repeated is not something independent of any other process but rather a chronology that sponsors the future. It could be the calendar, connected to repetition in the movements of the stars, but this is no fixed choice. Now for the analogy with space: I think space also needs a dimension of the far (or the far away) and this is provided by some sort of fixed space - like a map - that is built out of repetitions - or rather of regular folds. The geometrical space (which is the map of all maps) is the spatial calendar. There we have a complete isotropy - all places are the same, none is occupied. It is a mere tic-tacking of space. Mere projection of what has been seen of the space. Still, there is nothing special about geometry but rather any space (as any time can be used as a calendar) can be used as a geometry. Of the multiple spaces, one is picked up to provide fixity, to sponsor a measurement. It is only because there is a fixed topology (and a fixed chronology) that we can talk about the far away (and the future). The far away and the future are products of the Dopplerian nature of whatever is in space or in time - they are located in relation to something else equally located. Time passes because there is an underlying rhythm of repetitions - there is space because there is an underlying regularity of distances (the geometrical space). In both cases, fixity is required but not always fully established . In a sense, it is given, but as a task (to use Kant's phrase that makes evident how much process philosophy has a Kantian origin).

In fact, this Dopplerian nature of space and time - and the idea that nothing is fixed but something needs to be made fix - has a lot to do with the Quinean rejection of analyticity. The rejection of the distinctions between calendars and events (or of the distinction between geometry and topologies) is of the same kind as the rejection of the distinction between truths grounded on meaning alone and truths grounded on the world also. In all cases, what is at stake is a fixed measure, a fixed formal structure established once and for all. There isn't a fixed formality in space, in time or in meaning - and there isn't a structure ready to be filled by picking up a conventional geometry (or calendar, or meaning postulate). The distinction between facts and conventions is in any case not given (but maybe given as a task). Feeding back, one could think of language without analyticity as having different lexicologies, different maps of meaning that intertwine while one is taken to be fixed so that language can work (words have provisional, passing meaning). Maybe there is a plurality of Quinean spheres (the sphere image that appear in the end of the Two Dogmas) intersecting with each other. They are like topological spaces and different agents act based on different spheres.

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Nested rhythms and objects

Been in the conference of the Performance Philosophy folks. Talked about rhythms and intensive time, see previous post. Thinking about objects and rhythms. Objects, understood in terms of rhythms (and not only in terms of palpable shapes but also in terms of all sorts of properties in their dispositional dimensions), are affordances. Objects have a rhythm associated to them - they crystalize some of the rhythms of their constituting matter. The reduction of objects to rhythms can be thought in terms similar to that of sequences in Kolmogorov complexity. The question that arises is: are there objects without rhythms? (Objects that cannot be reduced to affordances by some other objetcs?). The question is similar to the one about random object. No recursive procedure can decide whether a sequence is random. Random objects can appear, but they are not treated as objects as such. Surely, because rhythms are nested, we can grasp rhythms in bits of the sequence - objects are what appear as objects to other objects. To be treated as an object is to be treated as a rhythm. One can still wonder whether there are genuine random sequences. But matter can be thought as sequences which rhythms are there to be explored.

Aharon has established a blog for our diverse adventures in Rhythm-Oriented Ontology.