Here's a shot I took of the bar one afternoon. The sunglasses and the liquor bottle I recognize, but what's the white fuzzy?
When was the last time you saw a circular saw and a rake together?
Second, there is an ontological point being made here. Following on Harman’s point that all objects are withdrawn from one another such that every object “distorts” and “caricatures” other objects, it follows that every theoretical articulation– itself a machine or object –caricatures beings. As Harman argues in Guerrilla Metaphysics, the best we can do is allude to objects. This needs to be reflected in the style of theory. Theory must perpetually change its style, it’s mode of articulation, to underline the point that no theory– as is the case with all thought, discourse, perception, and relations between objects –ever manages to represent being. Shifts in styles and vocabulary mark the withdrawn nature of objects or machines and perpetually remind us that machines are “operationally closed and selectively open” to other objects.
the ultimate catalog of an animal’s what-it-does-es. The teleome is something along the lines of the set of all the capabilities our brains and bodies were selected to carry out. It is our set of powers, or the set of things we can do, or our function list.
Imagine that you find some mysterious device under your bed. What’s your next thought? It’s to wonder what the device does. Could it be a hand vacuum, a kid toy? …a bomb? Notice that your first thought does not concern how the device works. It’s premature to get to the “how it works” without having figured out the “what it does”. Obviously!In much of the biological and brain sciences, however, there appears to be something of an inversion to this. In many scientific circles questions about “what it does” are deemed intrinsically unscientific or meaningless, and explanations in that domain are necessarily “just so” stories rather than science. Only questions concerning the biological mechanisms — i.e., concerning “how it works” — are truly kosher. And this attitude is reflected in funding priorities: ”how” funding dominates the “what it’s for” funding by a mile.
We need a “teleome,” the ultimate catalog of an animal’s what-it-does-es. The teleome is something along the lines of the set of all the capabilities our brains and bodies were selected to carry out. It is our set of powers, or the set of things we can do, or our function list.
Clouds were regarded as so subjective, fleeting and resistant to classification that they were a byword for the failure of empirical classification, until Luke Howard in 1802 proposed the foundation for our present system of cloud classification (in competition, although he did not know it, with others in Europe, and on the heels of Hooke and later meterological language proposals including one by Lamarck the same year.
...because they imply that species are mutable... [No]...because he implied racist ideas about humans...[Nope!]...because he thought the age of the earth was large...[Get outa' here!]...because his account of humans being animals contradicted the Bible...[No,no, no! and furthermore] it was Christians who rejected the literal interpretation of the Bible, long before Darwin...
No, the reason why Darwin was controversial is very, very simple. Darwin argued that complex designs could arise without a mind to guide it. In short, his controversial idea was natural selection (and sexual selection, but even that preceded Darwin). Almost from the day it was published, critics attacked the implication that the living world was not all that special, and that it lacked a Plan or Meaning. Theologians, moralists and even scientists objected to this, and while even most of the Catholic Church accepted common descent and modification of species, it was natural selection they hated.All the supposed “controversies” of Darwinism (or that phantom, “neo-Darwinism”) are post hoc attacks based on the prior objection to the lack of a guiding hand in biology.
In terms of the pluralist metaphysics I have been proposing and exploring, we each live our lives in various Realms of Being. Each society affords its members various Realms of Being, various ways of acting in the world, whether alone or through interacting with others. Unity of Being is the capacity to move fluidly among these realms...In this sense Unity of Being is NOT that all Realms are one and the same, but rather that we can move among them and ourselves remain one and the same.
“I enjoy hitting,” Pat told me as we pulled into the lot of the ProForce training facility in an industrial park on Batavia’s flat, barren outskirts. “Especially when you stop someone short on third or fourth down and you look up and the crowd’s going nuts and you’re like: ‘I did that. Me. You’re welcome.’ That’s cool. People always ask me, ‘Do you change when you get on the field?’ Before a game starts, I have my routine, I listen to my music and I walk out and look up at the crowd and I . . . I’m getting goose bumps right now talking about it. It’s crazy. My body is filled with emotions I can’t even describe. I come out of my body, and I’m like, ‘I’m going to kill somebody.’ I become this lunatic. And even when I start to come back down after the first few plays, I’m still a different person. You know, a savage. But when I first come out, it’s like a drug, I’m literally trembling, almost crying. I have so much emotion.”
Driving his gray pickup back home in Geneva [Illinois] during a break a few weeks after the close of minicamp, Pat popped in a CD. He wanted to me hear the motivational music he listens to before games or personal workout sessions like the one we were driving to that July morning at the ProForce training facility in Batavia, the adjacent town. He still had another couple of weeks off before the start of padded, preseason camp at the end of July. But on the verge of his first and perhaps only crack at the N.F.L., he had no intention of relaxing. He reached over and ramped up the volume, his pickup trembling now as soaring chords and tribal chants swirled above the same slow, propulsive backbeat.“O.K., don’t laugh,” he said. “But when I’m listening to this, I imagine myself running through a primeval forest somewhere with just a loincloth on and a huge hunting knife in my mouth. I’m really looking to kill something.”
I published this in The Valve six years ago, one of several pieces on identity issues. It comes to mind now as I contemplate doing a book on five animated features, one of which is Disney's Fantasia. In a longish post arguing that Fantasia is a masterpiece I also argued that it is an expression of a transnational culture emerging in the 20th century. But what does that mean, a a transnational culture, as opposed ot a national culture? For there is a line of argument and analysis suggesting that the idea of a national culture is a fiction. If and to the extent that that is so, might transnational be the normal state of many cultural formations? Those are the kinds of ideas in play here.
Could this, I wonder, be what’s driving the new atheists, outrage that their science is no longer being taken on faith, that they are being asked by the public to explain themselves?
Cost-benefit analyses, long overdue, should answer tough questions like whether it’s actually worth saving some neighborhoods in flood zones. Communities like Breezy Point should be given knowledge, power and choice about their options, then the responsibility to live by that choice.This means embracing a policy of compassion and honest talk. It’s no good merely to try to go back to the way things were, because they are not.This sort of conversation is a third rail of American politics, so it’s no wonder all presidents promise to rebuild and stick taxpayers with the tab. That billions of dollars may end up being spent to protect businesses in Lower Manhattan while old, working-class communities on the waterfronts of Queens, Brooklyn and Staten Island most likely won’t get the same protection flies in the face of ideas about social justice, and about New York City, with its open-armed self-image as a capital of diversity.But the decisions ahead come down to nature and numbers, to density, economics and geology. Our relationship to the water can’t stay the same, and at the same time the city is not worth saving if it sacrifices its principles and humanity.So the real test post-Sandy will be negotiating between the two.
Abstract: The human sciences encompass a wide variety of disciplines: literary studies, musicology, art history, anthropology (cultural and physical), psychology (perceptual, cognitive, evolutionary, Freudian, etc.), sociology, political science, economics, history, cultural geography, and so forth. In this paper I process to organize courses and curricula aso as to include: 1) material from three different methodological styles (interpretive, behavioral or social scientific, and structural/constructive: linguistics, cognitive science), 2) historical and structural/functional approaches, and 3) materials from diverse cultures. The overall scheme is exemplified by two versions of a course on Signs and Symbols, one organized around a Shakespeare play and the other organized around traditional disciplines.
Preachers, the good ones, do the same thing. For that matter, classical musicians playing from the score, they can flow too. Flow is about performance is about flow.Freestyling is to rap as improvisation is to jazz. Rather than reciting a pre-written rhyme, or reading off pages of sheet music, the artist stands up onstage and channels the Muse directly, no filter: whatever comes up, comes out. ... Freestyle and improv demand a particular kind of genius. Watch enough YouTube videos of jam sessions at the Blue Note or rap battles at ScribbleJam, and you begin to recognize the sight of a performer lost in the creative process: the droopy eyes, the nodding head, the trance-like sway. They’ve left planet earth and entered a flow state.
When an artist was freestyling, rather than rapping conventionally, there was a marked activation of the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) and a deactivation of the lateral prefrontal cortex (LPFC).
As coauthor Allen Braun, head of the NIH’s language section, explains, “A simple way to looking at it is that the medial portions of the prefrontal cortex”—those parts that lit up on the fMRI—“are involved in motivation, organization, and drive towards a behavior.” In other words, freestyling depends heavily on those functions.
These laws sound like embroidered samplers you might find hanging in a witch’s kitchen. “If you’ve given in once, you have to give in forever.” That’s from Mr. Pullman’s “Hansel and Gretel.” Or, “Nothing tastes as good as what you eat by yourself,” from “The Cat and the Mouse Set Up House.” To a child, the Grimm rules are no more surprising than the rules of everyday life. That’s part of their enchantment. In fact, they call into question, as Lewis Carroll did, what often passes for conventional wisdom. “Beggars can’t be choosers.” But who says? Would a choosy beggar belong to our world or the Grimms’?The tales — and most of the rules within them — are completely discontinuous. Enchanted princes clearly can’t do anything, for instance, or they wouldn’t be flounders. We’re not allowed to wonder whether the mouse that set up house is the one that later moves in with a talking sausage. Nor do the laws lead to the moral of the story. Most of the tales lack anything so simple. Read them through, and you realize that there are any number of kings — kings everywhere! — but very few lessons to instill in a child.
Hundreds of thousands of Europeans belonged to secret societies in the 18th century, Önnerfors explained to Megyesi; in Sweden alone, there were more than a hundred orders. Though they were clandestine, they were often remarkably inclusive. Many welcomed noblemen and merchants alike—a rare egalitarian practice in an era of strict social hierarchies. That made the orders dangerous to the state. They also frequently didn’t care about their adherents’ Christian denomination, making these orders—especially the biggest of them, Freemasonry—an implicit threat to the authority of the Catholic Church. In 1738 Pope Clement XII forbade all Catholics from joining a Masonic lodge. Others implied that the male-only groups might be hotbeds of sodomy. Not long after, rumors started that members of these orders actually worshipped the devil.These societies were the incubators of democracy, modern science, and ecumenical religion. They elected their own leaders and drew up constitutions to govern their operations. It wasn’t an accident that Voltaire, George Washington, and Ben Franklin were all active members. And just like today’s networked radicals, much of their power was wrapped up in their ability to stay anonymous and keep their communications secret.
Note, November 2010: With The Underbelly Project still reverberating on the web I thought I'd reprint an old post I wrote on space in graffiti. I published it in 2007 in The Valve. Note that while the Underbelly Project included both graffiti and street art, this article is specifically about graffiti. I may also pertain to some street art, but certainly not all. The post points out that major advances in Western art have involved reconceptualizing pictorial space. In this post I argue that graffiti provides the basis for another such reconceptualization and thus holds out the opportunity for fundamental aesthetic innovation. What I didn't say is that graffiti is the only form of abstract / non-representational art that that has gotten popular acceptance around the globe.
Note, November 2012: What I didn't say, either in the post below, or in the prefatory note above, is what I hope graffiti can and will do. This has to do with graffiti's commitment to, well I don't quite know what to call it, the name-based space that's at heart of graffiti. But whatever it is, it seems to be able to accept and absorb any form of imagery. The cartoon-based characters that showed up, mostly as embellishments, in the New York subways in the 70s and 80s persist, of course. But they've also become elaborated, both toward pictorial realism, but also toward other forms of imagery. In some cases the characters and other imagery have pushed the names aside so that graffiti has morphed into something else.
So, while "traditional" piecing (including wild style) tends to dominate graffiti, just about any sort of imagery has become absorbed into the culture – some of which can be seen on the ever-changing walls of the Green Villain, just around the corner and down the block from me. And that imagery includes comic book imagery and strange machines, futuristic machines, and just plain weird stuff. So, could graffiti absorb and articulate scientific imagery, from the micro world of quarks and biomolecules through the macro world of planets, star systems, galaxies and, well, the whole universe? What would a graffiti-based Powers of Ten be like?
Awesome is what. Freakin' awesome. That is could graffiti become the art form for articulating the invisible worlds of post 19th-century science? That's something the must happen. Disney took a run at it in the Rite of Spring episode of Fantasia and, in a different way, in the intermission interlude; it's there on the pages of countless comic books and in science fiction films. But it's not really there in art galleries. Graffiti could put it there.
The Self in the Group
Conflict (Wm. Powers)
Abstract: Ontological cognition is about the cognitive apparatus we use to organize the world into different kinds of things according to their powers and capacities: animal, vegetable, mineral; living, non-living; human, non-human; etc. As such it differs from the philosophical discipline of ontology, which is about the world itself, not our thoughts about the world. As ontological cognition snakes through many disciplines these reflections run from Wittgenstein through literature and the Great Chain of Being to computation and knowledge representation (KR).
If a molecule is too big, you give it to the chemists. The chemists, for them, if the molecule is too big or the system gets too big, you give it to the biologists. And if it gets too big for them, they give it to the psychologists, and finally it ends up in the hands of the literary critic, and so on.
And it's kind of interesting to see what happened to engineering. So like when I got to MIT, it was 1950s, this was an engineering school. There was a very good math department, physics department, but they were service departments. They were teaching the engineers tricks they could use. The electrical engineering department, you learned how to build a circuit. Well if you went to MIT in the 1960s, or now, it's completely different. No matter what engineering field you're in, you learn the same basic science and mathematics. And then maybe you learn a little bit about how to apply it. But that's a very different approach.
Some of you have been complaining about your comments not being posted. My comment policy is simple: if your comments are rude, sarcastic, snarky, accusational, or insulting they don’t get posted. It has nothing to do with not tolerating disagreement. If you poke around the blog you’ll find plenty of disagreements, often very heated. It has everything to do with incivility.