Friday, January 29, 2016

interview with a toddler

Cogitations on Beuys'Rhine Water Polluted (1981)


Joseph Beuys' famous Rhine Water Polluted (1981) could be taken as a paradigm in the ongoing discussion of what is and is not, art.

I'd like to present a brief questionnaire in order to bring forth notions of taste, economy, biography, authority, consensus, to our reception of art:

1. Do you consider Rhine Water Polluted art? If not, why not?

2. Could Rhine Water Polluted be called "beautiful"?

3. Does it matter if you knew the actual bottle contains?
a- Beuys' own piss,
b- Gau Jal, 
c- lead-tainted water, 
d- flat Kellerbier?

4. Is it viscerally liking -or disliking- the piece what prompts your aesthetic judgment?

5. If you initially dislike the piece, could it grow on you? Say, in the event you know more about Beuys' weird life, work, etc.?

6. Would you change your mind if you knew that the artwork commands a high price?

7. Do you find Rhine Water Polluted humorous, trite, dramatic?

8. Would it make a difference if (instead of a ready-made) the piece (bottle and cap in this case) was made-from-scratch by the artist?

9. If people come to a consensus about Rhine Water Polluted being definitely art, would it make it art?

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

the irresistible appeal of jazz

where else do you find, (after hundreds of hours of practice building a vocabulary),

1- randomly-chosen, patiently developed (internalized) phrases, 
2- operating within local constraints, such as changing chord sequences and musical form,
3- being played [in the now], 
4- as a music discourse that supervenes the player(s)?

Friday, January 22, 2016

some thoughts on parmenides, time and the bounded-universe-paradox


I made a point in my last Honors 11am class:

For the Pythagoreans: time is the devil

absence of time in mathematics (for artistic minds)

then Parmenides, advises (in Pythagorean):
"what is is" "what is not is not." 
he adds an important point:
χ ρ ε ώ δέ σε πάντα ήμέν Άληΰείης εϋκυκλέος ατρεμές ήδέ βροτών δόξας, ταϊς οϋκ 'ένι πίστις πυύέαϋαι ητορ αληύής is necessary that you will learn both the unmoving heart of well-circled truth and the false notions of mortals, in which there is no true faith. 

what's that?

truth has guises. do not confuse the spokes for the wheel.

see the wheel as a sort of topological manifold:

I propose the apophatic via negativa of Hindu philosophy. The challenge is to try to formulate such concept mathematically (topology?)

Posit your universe U, just don't represent it.* (If you do, you fall back in the limited/universe paradox).

Let's imagine Parmenides in 4 dimensions: time now doesn't flow, just IS.

so, the is not an event in space/time.

events {ë} are ordered by "earlier than" or "later than," but no event is singled out as "present," except by convention.  think about it, what makes {ë} simultaneous across the universe? cannot be an intrinsic property of {ë} because you presuppose an observer, i.e., a consciousness.

The aim of physics (not that of math) is to be inherent to phenomena.

Why is this important?

because causation is a form of event-generation, i.e., it's event-dependant. 

Come back to Parmenides: we live in a time-cage. 

there's no escape.  

dS/dt ≥ 0 **

yeap: time is irreversible.


* If we posit the universe as U, there will be always [U]º, meaning there is possible to have something outside it. ** Boltzman's formula for 2nd law of thermodynamics has the last word.

Friday, January 15, 2016

sublime abuse

Rosenkranz Our Product

I open artlog and find this blurb from curator Maureen Sullivan, covering the 2015 Venice Biennale:
Supernatural forces and serenity combine in several projects including the Switzerland, Korean, and USA pavilions as well as offsite projects. In Switzerland’s pavilion, Pamela Rosenkranz’s Our Product creates a sublime and radiant environment using the elements of color, light, sound, smell – and stated but undetected components such as hormones and bacteria. Green light and paint create a glowing environment in the first rooms that lead to a pink bubbling pool of water (the average color of northern European skin), hues the artist says were inspired by Venetian painting and the light in Venice; synchronized pumps generated by a real time algorithm create the subtle sound of a beating heart or running water; and according to the artist, we should be noting the smell of fresh baby skin (undetected by me, perhaps more conceptual or more likely drowned out by the musky sweat of the many doing the run around to see 180 projects.) 
Sullivan presents "supernatural forces" as a thing along with "serenity," a disposition.

She describes Pamela Rosenkranz's environment as a "sublime and radiant environment."

Isn't "sublime" good enough?

On a different note: is Sullivan on salvinorin?

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

contrane I? coltrane II? coltrane III?

coltrane's original handwritten music sheet for a love supreme

down beat magazine publishes an interesting 1962 article addressing the controversy of whether coltrane and dolphy are playing "anti-jazz," 
"I heard a good rhythm section ... go to waste behind the nihilistic exercises of the two horns. ... Coltrane and Dolphy seem intent on deliberately destroying [swing]. ... They seem bent on pursuing an anarchistic course in their music that can but be termed anti-jazz."-- John Tynan, Down Beat, November 23, 1961.
the article entertains the received consensus of three coltranes:

coltrane I 
coltrane II
coltrane III

only the first coltrane was really accepted by the mainstream swing/straight-ahead critical establishment.

"destroying swing?" tynan definitely missed the boat for posterity.

is physics permanently ((incomplete((?

aLfRedO tRifF

you've heard about the theory of everything. 

which brings me to this question: is there an end to the development of physical theories to explain the universe?

in other words, is physics ((permanently(( incomplete?

 I'd say yes.

we have different theories to explain different aspects of physical phenomena: newtonian mechanics explains macro phenomena in general; einstein (general) relativity represents a definite refinement to newton's classical mechanics. quantum mechanics better explains subatomic particles. then, various string theories reconcile einstein's theories with quantum mechanics, etc.

let's suppose in some future we had T, the set of all theories (T1, T2, ...Ti, ...) to explain physical all phenomena.

T would become the mother of all theories, that is to say, there would be nothing new to explain. nothing deeper or different.
and yet, how would we know that? it is a platitude that theories explain phenomena, but T makes an extraordinary claim not made by previous theories: it contains and explains all theories.

and yet, if T explains all preceding theories (and consequently all phenomena) it would not be explaining theories or phenomena --as much as explaining itself!

T cannot present itself as the bound of all theories unless we dispose of Tk, making that provision. Moreover Tk would need to, sort of pull the rug from underneath it by claiming a condition of possibility that now it denies any further possible theory.*

someone may counter that Tk is just a meta theory on T & not on phenomena, but that ignores the Duhem/Quine thesis, i.e., T can not be tested in isolation (nor would Tk).

so, physics must remain ((permanently(( incomplete.

____________________ __________
* I am referring to Popper's falsifiability principle.

Friday, January 8, 2016

are there infinitely more primes numbers than composites numbers?

this is a cool question, presented in my 11am honors class by A & B (physics & computer science majors).

are you an idealist or intuitionist in mathematics?* the idealist relies on aprioristic deduction results, the realist goes empirical, she counts ("she" is a computer algorithm). so, i took a realist short cut and then made my best inference. something very interesting happens to primes --between 106 and 108, which allows for siding in favor of composite numbers' greater infinite-density.

yes, my hunch is that Q> P.

*the intuitionist claims that p is true means that there is a proof of p.  from the idealist (platonist) perspective, whether or not we have a proof, we know that p must be either true or false: mathematical reality guarantees that it has one of these two truth-values. the intuitionist dithers.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Monday, September 21, 2015

viva da freaks!

Let's excuse BF's lack of historical acumen at not mentioning provenance. 

My problem is that BF takes for granted that these "monsters" did not exist. Really?

Take a look at this (some amongst these "freaks" belong in a prominent list! (via the human marvels)*

Josephine Clofullia (the so-called "bearded lady of Geneva")
It boils down to a distorted representation of the past, or better, an blidspot for our present. It happens by design, i.e., our "present" antiseptic idea of "normality."

The Swiss manuscript presents a rational treatment of the issue,

Switzerland, 1557
The title reads "Chronicle of Omens and Portents from the beginning of the world up to these our present times," (Switzerland, 1557). The Chronicon is dramatic & naive in its quasi-scientific approach. We are looking at early anthropology! The shift in perception of how to understand these human types changes from 16th century "portents" to 19th century "freaks" (i.e, we find them as curiosities in the circuses of Europe and America). Today's political correctness works in a perverse way: nowadays we don't call these people "freaks" (in fact, we don't have a word for them). And yet, we think that 16th century illustrators were, as Buzzfeed calls them, "fucked up".   
*Thanks to J. Tithonus Pednaud's The Human Marvels, a formidable research/site!

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

havana biennial, art or politics? thursday july 2, 7:30pm at MCD wolfson campus

The panel explores issues of artistic freedom & the global market in the context of CUBA/US détente, the Twelfth Havana Biennial and the affair Tania Bruguera. 

Panelists: Ariana Hernández-Reguant (anthropologist, writer, activist), Gean Moreno, (artist, curator, editor).

Moderator: Alfredo Triff (critic, professor, MDC Wolfson Campus).

300 NE 2nd Ave. #7128, first floor, building 7
7:30pm:free admission, parking in garage/building 7

Sunday, May 24, 2015

circularity is vicious (unless it is virtuous)


logician graham priest takes leibniz's principle of sufficient reason in "infinite parts" p. 33 of his beyond the limits of thought. 
The fundamental principle of reasoning is that there is nothing without a reason; or to explain the matter more distinctly that there is no truth for which reason does not subsist.
and here is priest's answer to dispatch PSR, i.e., Leibniz's Principle of Sufficient Reason):
By the PSR we can apply the operator to this to produce a reason for σ. Assuming that nothing can be a reason for itself, this reason cannot be a member of σ  (Transcendence). But the cause of σ  is exactly one of the things generated by applying the operator into the prescribed fashion. Hence it is in σ  (Closure) and hence we have a contradiction at the limit of the iterable. 
priest thinks he dispatches what he calls "weaker" version of PSR by appealing to quantum mechanics's transitions, as "completely spontaneous." but i don't see why leibniz would have a problem with stochastic events.
Leibniz's PSR states is that no state of affairs (facts) can hold which is not completely accounted for and made fully explicable by reference to something else, i.e., random events explained by quantum mechanics.

let's take priest's idea of "iterable".

1- indeed any reason generated within PSR is iterable. priest suggests:

...  the reason of σ  is exactly one of the things generated by applying the operator... 

alas! σ (as operator) has to be inside PSR to be! (if it was outside it would not be an σ-perator).

now leibniz bites the bullet: invoking any σ inside PSR is guilty of circularity?


in a perverse way, priest is prevented from employing PSR to debunk PSR.

2- further, leibniz wouldn't mind circularity as long as it's virtuous!

(which is precisely the secret of the baroque)

stairs @ palazzo barberini, by franciscus borromini

by leibniz's own admission, any operator inside PSR is, itself, implicitly "operated."

PSR is a super-operator.

can supervinience be retrofitted?  aber natürlich!  

Thursday, May 14, 2015

does zombie art rule the art world?

aLfRedO tRiFf

in this article for vulture, entitled Zombies on the Walls: Why Does So Much New Abstraction Look the Same? übercritic jerry saltz seems absorbed with the idea of "form."*
Now something’s gone terribly awry with that artistic morphology. An inversion has occurred. In today’s greatly expanded art world and art market, artists making diluted art have the upper hand.
what saltz means by "inversion" is that instead of driving new movements (as their counterparts did in the early Twentieth Century), artists now simply seek how to fit within a "global style catalog" --courtesy of the art market. the received notion inherent to postmodernism is that all has already been tried (but all this is blasé).

why this averment?    
A large swath of the art being made today is being driven by the market, and specifically by not very sophisticated speculator-collectors who prey on their wealthy friends and their friends’ wealthy friends, getting them to buy the same look-­alike art.
i'm surprised by saltz' sluggish tempo: contemporary art is precisely the business of "not very sophisticated speculators-collectors." who is naive enough to refrain from investing in trendy artworks just because the prototypes seem cacophonous?

saltz is discussing (not the exception, but) the rule.
The artists themselves are only part of the problem here. Many of them are acting in good faith, making what they want to make and then selling it. But at least some of them are complicit, catering to a new breed of hungry, high-yield risk-averse buyers, eager to be part of a rapidly widening niche industry.
c'mon jerry, artists want recognition & buyers normally buy actual trends. they are both concomitant elements in a market field, but not the cause.  
Galleries everywhere are awash in these brand-name reductivist canvases, all more or less handsome, harmless, supposedly metacritical, and just “new” or “dangerous”-looking enough not to violate anyone’s sense of what “new” or “dangerous” really is, all of it impersonal, mimicking a set of pre-approved influences.
let's come back to "pre-approved influences," which i call arthoodication. 

the rubells' arthoodication of oscar murillo, for example, is not a mere whim of über-collectors. there is a whole apparatus at work here: critics, exhibition spaces, magazines, curators etc. it takes time and effort to arthoodicate art. and not all arthoodication works the same way,

let's follow the logic. according to saltz, "galleries everywhere are awashed in brand-name reductivist canvases." but zombie formalism is just one drop in the bucket. with contemporary art one could use wittgenstein's idea of Familienähnlichkeit.

suddenly, contemporary art is plagued with "gender variants" of different pseudo families. suddenly, the unbeseeming prospect that zombie art may rule the art world becomes reality.

* a point i don't want to pursue here is saltz's use of form, which he takes for granted. the easy way out is to use form as a crutch. what is the "content" of these paintings above? too easy to just assume that content here is, well, "abstraction." that won't do because the old form/content begs the question on the very thing saltz would like to define. someone could retort that the paintings have to look similar since they belong in the same form-field. saltz is left with a mere assumption of abstraction (as form) which he uses to demote this (zombiesque) form as derivative. does it make sense?

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

redefining conceptual parameters

1- food isn't about nutrition 
2- talk isn't about info  
3- charity isn't about helping 
4- art isn't about beauty 
5- medicine isn't about health 
6- consulting isn't about advice 
7- school isn't about learning 
8- research isn't about discovery 
9- politics isn't about policy

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

depression, mass murder and the absurd

 how innocuous he looks (but it's only an appearance)

psychiatrist anne skomorowsky from columbia university writing for slate magazine. 
Was Andreas Lubitz depressed? We don’t know; a torn-up doctor’s note and bottles of pills don’t tell us much. Most people who commit suicide suffer from a mental illness, most commonly depression. But calling his actions suicidal is misleading. Lubitz did not die quietly at home. He maliciously engineered a spectacular plane crash and killed 150 people. Suicidal thoughts can be a hallmark of depression, but mass murder is another beast entirely. 
skomorowski separates mass murder and depression at the expense of sparing lubitz from depression. though smoking is not sufficient for lung cancer, smokers keep dying from lung cancer. my point: a depressive person can become a mass murderer if he happens to be andreas lubitz. 

"depression"? here is a provisional definition:
Depression is a mood disorder that causes a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest. Also called major depression, major depressive disorder or clinical depression, it affects how you feel, think and behave and can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems. You may have trouble doing normal day-to-day activities, and depression may make you feel as if life isn't worth living.
the definition seems to mix the symptom with the cause. so, if X is "persistently sad" is X then --necessarily-- depressed? what if a person is depressed without showing sadness? (mental states and behavioral dispositions are often asynchronous).

to complicate matters, take a look at the broad spectrum of possible causes for depression: 
1. Abuse, past physical, sexual, or emotional abuse can cause depression later in life.
2. Certain medications.
3. Conflict. Depression in someone who has the biological vulnerability to develop depression may result from personal conflicts or disputes with family members or friends.
4. Death or a loss. Sadness or grief from the death or loss of a loved one.
5. Genetics. A family history of depression may increase the risk.
6. Major events. Even good events such as starting a new job, graduating, or getting married can lead to depression. So can moving, losing a job or income, getting divorced, or retiring.
7. Personal problems. Such as social isolation due to other mental illnesses or being cast out of a family or social group can lead to depression.
8. Serious illnesses. Sometimes depression co-exists with a major illness or is a reaction to the illness.
9. Substance abuse. Nearly 30% of people with substance abuse problems also have major or clinical depression.
major events! (it makes you wonder why psychology is a soft science).

lubitz checks at least #2, #3, #4, #6, #7, making him an optimal candidate.

(update: lubitz exhibited suicidal tendencies)

the elephant in the room is lubitz's responsibility. if depression is severe and  becomes a serious illness, could not one entertain that lubitz actually may not have intended to kill those 150 people on the plane?

a proven serious illness can constitute a minimizing factor in human responsibility. however, the analysis becomes irrelevant from the angle of justice:150 lives demand a reparation margin that lubitz will never pay back.

it is at this point that we come face-to-face with the absurd.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

can "anti-art" be (a form of) art?

i read an interview on magazine of germanologist frederick beiser. he makes an interesting point for those pursuing aesthetics as a topic of research.

i really like this:
The aporias of the present is that there really is no aesthetic criticism anymore, and that there are really no standards about art. Anything goes, and anything is good or excellent “in its own kind”.
not so much this:
We got here because some aestheticians and philosophers took the avant-garde too seriously, and held that even snow shovels, urinals and soup cans can be works of art. I think that the avant-garde was making all kinds of interesting and valid points; but one it was not making is that these kinds of things are works of art.
much less this:
[...] They were not intended to be works of art but, for all kinds of complicated philosophical social and political reasons, works of anti-art.
there is a lot being said in these two lines above, but i need more info to understand where beiser is coming from. he definitely looks like a good read.  

Friday, March 13, 2015

is tania bruguera cuba's weiwei?

aLfRedO tRifF

more perturbing news concerning performance artist tania brugera:
On Wednesday, March 11, artist Tania Bruguera revealed the existence of a secret media campaign against her orchestrated by Cuba's Culture Ministry with the aid of the regime's intelligence services. The purpose of this campaign, say the artist and her supporters, is to build an “institutional case" against her and brand her a “counterrevolutionary." A criminal charge akin to treason in the U.S., conviction for this crime in Cuba carries a minimum sentence of three years in jail.
is tania freaking out?

she should. she knows how the cuban repressive machine works. at some point a bruguera dossier will appear so as to present her as an "agent" of a foreign power (the US being de rigueur).

the basic document would look like this, only more byzantine. 

the process against bruguera develops within the typical notes of cuba's twisted jurisprudence. in yo tambiénexijo, (bruguera's facebook page) we learn that the cuban ministry of interior has edited a defamatory video of bruguera and handed it (!) to the ministry of culture for internal consumption. 
The video has been presented on separate occasions at the Ministry of Culture, the University of Arts of Cuba, the country's premiere art school, and the Wifredo Lam Center, the headquarters of the Havana Biennial (see Why Is the Havana Biennial Afraid of Tania Bruguera and Is She the Cuban Ai Weiwei?). Chaired by Ruben del Valle, president of the Havana Biennial organizing committee, and Fernando Rojas, Cuba's vice minister of culture, the meetings are invitation-only. Reportedly, both men appear in the video alongside the logo of the state news channel.
what's in the video? nobody knows (which is the point). in the trial, joseph k. never quite understands the nature of the charges imputed against him.
On Wednesday, Bruguera posted a letter on her #YoTambieExijo Facebook page addressed to Vice Minister Rojas asking for access to the video. That access was denied earlier last week when Bruguera visited del Valle's offices, provoking the artist's immediate expulsion from the premises. 
bruguera's letter to the minister of culture, her request was rejected (?)

why would the minister of culture help with the smearing campaign against bruguera, instead of defending her? (my question is deliberately naïve).

i'm trying to make a point: the ministry of culture should've applauded bruguera's whisper for december 30 in havana. after all,  qua cultural event, bruguera's whisper in havana #2 is in synch with performative mass actions defended by raul castro in a recent speech:
I hope to see ... the popular movements and NGOs which fight for nuclear disarmament, ecologists, occupy wall street, los indignados, university students, farmers, syndicates, defenders of immigrants' rights [...]  
ditto: why would the minister of culture help with the smearing campaign against bruguera, instead of defending her?

because the ministry of culture is a proxy of the ministry of interior. 

cuba's government is a two-face: a progressive front for international consumption and a repressive state against its own people.   

side note: many of bruguera's artists friends in the island have simply disappeared (supporting her would automatically risk job security and possible loss of institutional support).

even as bruguera is well-known outside cuba, after her detention and subsequent release, not many voices have come out in her defense, with the exemption of  coco fusco's article for e-flux.  

so, is tania bruguera cuba's weiwei?

let's wait and see.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Evan Thompson's Waking, Dreaming, Being

Antonio Correa Inglesias

How is the self a changing process? How can it express itself in the remembered past or anticipated future? Evan Thompson, a renowned philosopher of mind answers these questions in his new book: Waking, Dreaming, Being: Self and Consciousness in Neuroscience, Meditation, and Philosophy (November 2014).

The focus of Thomson's work is at the intersection between Western and Eastern culture, i.e, the fields of cognitive science, philosophy of mind, phenomenology, and Eastern philosophy. Particularly contemporary Buddhist philosophy in dialogue with Western philosophy and science.

Waking, Dreaming, Being presents an interaction between two levels of understanding: the meaning of self (soul, entity and identity) and the significance of self in contemporary philosophy. It suggests three parallel and irreconcilable differences: one’s epistemological approach of self, the experience of self in Buddhist philosophy and its empirical understanding in science.

Self-process has been the focus of some of the most important works by philosophers such as Hayward, Varela, Watson, Wallece, Damasio and others, working at the intersection between cognitive science and Buddhist philosophy for the last twenty years.

Thompson aims at reconciling these seeming disparate disciplines, which is behind the interdisciplinary idea of Complexity. As we know, Complexity has grown as a field in philosophy over the last twenty years. After being presented with "irreconcilable differences" the reader may come to the conclusion that "contemplative traditions" cannot say anything new today.

Weaving neuroscience, philosophy, and personal narrative to depict these transformations, Thompson’s book adds uncommon depth to life’s deeper questions. Contemplative experience  illuminates scientific findings, and scientific evidence enriches the vast knowledge acquired by contemplation.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

bad induction and the loss of faith (in music?)

aLfReDo tRifF

i read oliver rudland's article for standpoint entitled "the loss of faith made music mute."

in the good tradition of english criticism, rudland opens contentiously:
It is a mystery to many people why so few contemporary classical composers seem capable of writing "a good tune". Surely, given the number of students who pursue composition in our universities and conservatoires, and the hugely increased access which technologies such as music-notation software give to prospective composers, we should expect to find at least one or two capable of making a popular impact?
he connects "good tune" and "popular impact" as if comparing popular against classical music, while keeping the latter in a slightly higher conceptual plateau(?)

i wonder, 1- what's the connection between the number of students of composition in our universities and being capable of writing a "good tune" ("good" already bracketed by the author, which screams for further clarification) and 2- is a good tune a sufficient condition for popular impact?

this is what rudland is really after:
Why is it that, with more people than ever engaged in the activity of composing, our culture still seems incapable of fostering a contemporary Verdi or Stravinsky, with the celebrity and popular recognition that such great figures once garnered?
well, pharrell williams is as popular as verdi was in his heyday. and daft punk is as célèbre if not more than stravinsky. in fact, the russian composer was not that popular amongst classical music lovers in early and mid 20th century. regardless, rudland wouldn't accept my analogy if he's looking for a "contemporary" verdi, and pharrell williams is no verdi, though he is, ahem, contemporary.

rudland sees himself uncovering an enigma:
To understand the deficit of successful contemporary classical music, what we need to uncover are the feelings which motivated the artistic instincts of the great composers of the past, but which are now absent in the minds of modern composers... 
no small endeavor to uncover mental states of composers of the past, but let's proceed, what is next? nationalism, a definitely a potent cultural glue.

rudland adds christianity to his recipe. he brings examples from opera, a popular genre of 19th century music (though after mid-19th century opera becomes increasingly elite and more popular genres emerge from the social cauldron, such as vaudeville, "variétés," zarzuela, "wiener operette," etc). if "popular" is an important category, i don't understand how rudland doesn't pursue these finer developments.

going off on a tangent, why is it that nowadays, when critics discuss history, they prefer to bring their own cutlery?

next slice? modernism. but first a potage of history, theology and sociology:  
To gain a proper and complete understanding of what we call "classical" music is to appreciate that it was all written within the context of societies which were predominantly Christian in nature, and where celebrations of traditional national attributes were not seen as old-fashioned or backward-looking as they often are today. This all changed, however, in the 1960s, with the old moral authority of Christianity and nationalism brought into question by two World Wars which had slain "half the seed of Europe one by one", and the dawning of the sexual revolution.
the fragment in red above is as nugacious as tap water. yeah, traditions generally subside compared to, "today." the second paragraph (in yellow) takes us for a sky/diver ride. one feels seized by rudland's bombardment of events: two world wars (and, i imagine, all the lots in between), plus the downing of the sexual revolution(?) why not throwing some cool names like marx, freud and elvis into the mix?    
Musical modernism is what was left behind after the feelings which motivated the great classical composers had dissipated.
a poetic sentence (the kind i wished i could come up with if it only was true). the aftertaste betrays a sugary nostalgic ethos.
What you are hearing in the dysfunctional harmony... once natural authority and faith resided. This is what "atonal" music really is: a loss of faith, and this is why anyone who counteracts its dominance is quickly condemned as "naive", in just the same manner as those who continue to hold religious convictions in a scientific age. 
what is "functional" in harmony other than a redundant polyphonic representation within a given music grammar? c'mon, where does western harmony begin? rameau's traité de l'harmonie? the tonary? 

if i listen to webern's 5 geistliche lieder (a sacred song cycle by the most abstract of 12-tone music composers) am i receiving webern's loss of faith?

i find rudland's heavy-handed, reductionist style more entertaining than his actual argument. he tries hard to connect the dots at the expense of killing generalizations like this:
I would be the first to acknowledge the dramatic talents of Alban Berg, the brilliant textural instrumentation of György Ligeti or the accomplished musicianship of Thomas Adès, but what all these composers have in common—despite the stylistic differences and time which separate their work—is that lack of inspiration within the musical material itself which began with Schoenberg and persists to this day.  
i get it. what all the planets in the solar systems have in common (despite their difference in mass, and material composition, etc) is that they rotate around the sun.

the critic doesn't stop:
Things might be about to change, however, and I think I can suggest a few reasons why this might be: popular music has run out of steam. The young know this (several students of mine have testified to its truth); they admit that even the best that is on offer these days—the chilly sounds of Coldplay or the Arctic Monkeys—cannot compete with the energetic exuberance of, say, Abba, and that so much that is pumped out of the radio is now empty commercialism.
can one not say about any time whatsoever that "things might be about to change"?

rudland's inductive rigor: "the young know this." who? "several students of mine."

it's difficult to cogitate as sloppily as this:
This decline, I suspect, relates back to the ongoing liberalisation of societies which began in the 1960s. The overthrowing of Christian chastity and discrediting of nationalism went hand in hand with the rights revolutions, which improved the freedoms of non-white races, homosexuals and women, and these causes were also reflected in popular music: hence, "[It doesn't matter if you're] Black or White" by Michael Jackson, "I want to break free" by Queen, or "Eleanor Rigby" by the Beatles. 
rudland haphazard thesis doesn't make me lose faith in modern --or contemporary-- music. what he makes me lose faith is in people's inductive competence. is this a generalized trend? i don't rule out the possibility that he's a smart lad who just wrote this piece while listening to schoenberg's moses und aron. in fact, i'm curious to listen to his compositions.

(if it's true what they say that what one lacks in one occupation one plentily makes up for in another, rudland should be a decent composer). i'll keep you posted.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

what is cockroach-like like?

aLfReDo tRifF

let's bring forth the following conjecture:
Being signifies on the basis of the one-for-the-other of substitution of the same for the other.*
why not apply this result to the dictyopteran entity in the photo above?

a cockroach is not a "who" according to a phenomenologist like levinas: he simply never examines the question. heidegger comes a bit closer, but he declares the animal kingdom as weltarm, i.e., poor in world.

but insects got to have being. the question, by definition, cannot be meaningless or superfluous:

what's the cockroach's being?

to get at the bottom of it we must make an entity -the inquirer in the traditional case - transparent in its own being. but the question of being is not up to the cockroach. it's up to us.   

can one bridge the seemingly incommensurable man/insect gap? why not?

(with about 1,000,000 brain cells cockroaches may have a tiny rudimentary proto-consciousness!)

paired structures called mushroom bodies in a cockroach brain play a key role in navigation.

getting "close" to the insect means using whatever intentionalität available to find sameness in difference. franz kafka's man-to-insect transformation in metamorphosis is an interesting exercise, but kafka was not really interested in the phenomenological side of the insect as much as presenting a "human insect" literary prototype.

brazilian writer clarice lispector offers a deeper phenomenological analysis in her novel the passion according to HG:
The cockroach, with its dangling white matter, kept looking at me, but I do not know if it really saw me (I do not know how a cockroach sees). But she and I looked at each other (and I do not know how a woman sees).
in lispector's metaphysical comparison (human) mental-states are as intractable a problem as the cockroach's hypothetical gaze.
... in the eyes of the cockroach I could see my own existence. In the world we were meeting there are several ways of looking: you look the other without seeing it; one has the other; one eats the other; one is just in the corner and the other is there too. The cockroach was not looking at me with its eyes but with its body.
cockroaches have 360º vision, which make up for the flatness of their bodies. each eye contains about 2,000 lenses, which means that their reality is not static. they assimilate a dizzying multiplicity at any given time. lispector's conclusion is quite advanced. in the phenomenology of merleau ponty the gaze has fundamental properties. why? seeing means being drawn into a particular dimension of being, let's say, a slice of being to which the perceiving body is not foreign. is that why lispector concludes the cockroach sees with its body?

was lispector aware of phenomenologists insistence on the importance of the gaze? i dunno. what's important is that she cares for the insect's gaze. she echoes merleau-ponty's advice:

... "with the first vision ... there is initiation, ... the opening of a dimension that can never again be closed."** yet, that first vision is not exempt from horror (human's and the cockroach's too, i bet).

lispector finds common ground in our shared prehistory.
What I saw was life looking back at me. How to name that horrible, raw matter, that dry plasma. While I recoiled inward, I felt a dry nausea, I was falling into the very roots of my identity. Centuries and centuries in the mud --wet mud, filled with life; moving with excruciating slowness.
a shared fate with insects (in the permian primordial mud).

if there are eyes there is a face. what a coincidence! according to levinas the encounter between self and other is given by the face.

do cockroaches have faces?

in violence and metaphysics, jacques derrida belabors levinas' idea of the encounter with the other:
What then is this encounter...? Neither representation, nor limitation, nor conceptual relation to the same. The ego and the other do not permit themselves to be dominated or made into totalities by a concept of relationship.  
derrida doesn't have a non-human being in mind. a face-to-face encounter is always a human encounter. yet lispector's analysis addresses the insect's otherness via its face.

now, is there any other way to access the insect's being?

distance human/insect is not without a riddle:  we fall for the illusion of approaching difference to reach sameness, but that's a circular trap. can we abstract both insect and human likeness to seek a more hierarchical animal likeness?

even if the heuristics may look a bit fuzzy, positing the problem already hints @ solution.  

when do we start?

(to be continued)
* Emmanuel Levinas, Otherwise than Being (Duquesne University Press, 2009), p. 26. **Merleau-Ponty, The Visible and the Invisible (Northwestern University Press, 1979), p. 151.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

wrestling predictability from the demon's determinist clutches

do you know laplace's demon?

it's a classic determinist presentation by mathematician and physicist pierre simon laplace, in his philosophical essays on probabilities:
We may regard the present state of the Universe as the effect of its past and the cause of its future. An intellect which at a certain moment would know all forces that set nature in motion, and all positions of all items of which nature is composed, if this intellect were also vast enough to submit these data to analysis, it would embrace in a single formula the movements of the greatest bodies of the Universe and those of the tiniest atom; for such an intellect nothing would be uncertain and the future just like the past would be present before its eyes.
let's suggest it as: ∀s ∈U, η su 

i.e., every state "s" in the Universe is necessary (i.e., determined by a set of initial conditions plus the laws of physics). 

a terse conclusion, but there is a problem. theorems apply to mathematical objects*, not to reality. though we have reasons to believe that the universe is structurally mathematical, not all our representations of the the universe are, well, mathematical. for instance, the existence of solutions to some equations that represent physical laws does not imply physical existence (see my previous post).

laplace's demon is incompatible with quantum mechanics. said differently physical phenomena cannot be -completely- reduced to strict deterministic laws. 

*what is a mathematical object? o is mathematical if it exhibits mathematical properties, i.e., nullity, identity, commutativity, associativity, distributivity, etc.

Friday, February 20, 2015

the iffity of reducibility

alFreDo tRifF

lately, i've been dealing with the idea of irreducibility. 

what does it mean?

p is irreducible in system S when one cannot fully explain p from the set of principles given in S

there are several examples of this:

1- in mathematics, gödel's famous incompleteness theorem.

2- in computer science, stephen wolfram's computational irreducibility principle.

3- intentionalität in the philosophy of mind.

i'm no physicist, but i'd like to advance a general idea about irreducibility in physics.

we have different systems to explain different physical phenomena: newtonian mechanics to explain macro phenomena in general, einstein (general) relativity being a definite refinement to newton's classical mechanics, and quantum mechanics, a refinement to einstein's theory (now to explain the micro phenomena), and then the various string theories to reconcile einstein's general relativity with quantum mechanics, etc.
let's suppose in some future we have S the set of all systems (S1, S2, Si...Sn), to explain physical phenomena. 

  (a trivial question): will S ever explain all of physical phenomena? 

lets ask the question differently. is physical phenomena completely reducible to physics? 

(if it did, there would be nothing new, deeper or different to explain,

yet, what vouchsafes such possibility --of closure-- could only come from within S, since any Si is precisely defined within S

but nothing in the already existing set (S1, S2, Si...Sn) prevents a new Sj from revising Si and so forth...