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Showing posts from April 29, 2012

the shock in shock: 3

The turn from one understanding electricity to another, from the classical and medieval emphasis on numbness and cold to the modern emphasis on suddenness and fire marks the moment of shock in the history of shock.             Marshall McLuhan, in an article he wrote with an engineer, Barrington Nevitt, in 1973, introduced an interesting term of art from rhetoric into the philosophy of technology: “Today, metamorphosis by chiasmus – the reversal-of-process caused by increasing its speed, scope or size – is visible everywhere for everyone to see. The chiasmus of speedup is slowdown. Perhaps first noted by the ancient Chinese sages in I Ching or The Book of Changes, the history of chiastic patterns is traced through classical Greek and Hebrew literature by Nils W. Lund in Chiasmus in the New Testament. Computer programmers have also learned that “information overload leads to pattern recognition” as breakdown becomes breakthrough.” The passage ends, in typical McLuhan fashion, with

the politics of self pity

Interesting to observe the anger of the right, as they sense that Sarkozy has led them to defeat. Part of me thinks that the cries of anguish are such that they should arouse my compassion, and part of my thinks they are hilariously funny. The best expression of Sarkozyism in decline was penned by Didier Barbelivien, Sarko's singer friend, in Le Monde yesterday. There are, as it were, two sides to the Sarko mindset: smug entitlement and self-pity. It was the self-pity note that D.B. played. The media elites did the great man in! He gave so much to France! He gave France later retirement! He gave France a glorious battle with the unnameable Khadafi! He gave France as much unemployment as it could stand! etc. Never let it be said that dignity has ever stood in Sarko's way, or those of his friends. Let this be inscribed on his political tombstone: "A l'aube, il ne sera distancé de son principal adversaire que d'un point et demi. Alors, dès le lend

shock 2 - excursus on analytic philosophy and history

shock 2     So far, I have followed a favorite method of mine: what you might call Bertrand Russell’s accidental contribution to historical science. Russell was as an ardent devotee of the cult of substitution. From the point of view of ideologiekritik, substitution is where philosophy in the 20th century absorbed the wisdom of the bourgeois political economists of the late  19th century - substitution taking over the function that was once held, by the classical economists, by a more naive form of competition and utility.  By invoking the substitution of goods, economists were able to incorporate the price system and technology without going back to the old classical economist's labor theory. And by invoking substitution, Russell could logicize mathematics without worrying about any nasty semantic residues.  What could be substituted could be equated: what couldn’t posed philosophical and logical questions that will shape our formal solutions (for instance, the introduction of typ

Industrial experience: zero hour, 1

What school of philosophy worthy of its name has not warred against the present? The present, the now, has been demystified and shown up in a hundred different ways. It is the vanishing point, the scapegoat, the zero of metaphysics.   It sticks in the throat the way zero, too, once stuck in the throat. And zero, too, is a hallmark of modernity. The ancients did not have zero. The Babylonians had a placeholder that allowed them to represent zero, but it was only a placeholder. It was analogous to the decimal point, which is not itself a number. Zero was a gift from the East – George Ifrah, in his book on numbers, dates the birth of zero to 458 in the Lokavibhaga. From there   it traveled to China and Southeast Asia, and to Central Asia. In Baghdad, Al Khwarizmi (780-850), who founded algebra – or at least picked up the stray pieces of mathematical knowledge and put them in a book - used Hindu numbers. According to Michel Soutif, “Leonardo Fibonacci of Pisa wrote a treatise of arit