Tag Archives: phenomenology

Stirring Together, In the Midst of the Unending Stream

I traced a circle on the ground,
It was a mystic figure strange
Wherein I thought there would abound
Mute symbols adequate of change,
And complex formulas of Law,
Which is the jaws of Change’s maw.
My simpler thoughts in vain had stemmed
The current of this madness free,
But that my thinking is condemned
To symbol and analogy:
I deemed a circle might condense
With calm all mystery’s violence.
And so in cabalistic mood
A circle traced I curious there;
Imperfect the made circle stood
Thought formed with minutest care.
From magic’s failure deeply I
A lesson took to make me sigh.

Alexander Search (Fernando Pessoa)
July 30th. 1907. [1]

artist Stephen Calhoun b1954 USA

Twin Study I. (2016) Stephen Calhoun

“I have always been particularly interested to see how people, if left to their own devices and not informed about the history of the [Mandala] symbol, would interpret it to themselves. I was careful, therefore, not to disturb them with my own opinions and as a rule I discovered that people took it to symbolize themselves or rather some- thing in themselves. They left it as belonging intimately to themselves as a sort of Creative background, a life-producing sun in the depths of the unconscious mind. Though it was easy to see that it was often almost a replica of Ezekiel’s vision, it was very rare that people recognized the analogy, even when they knew the vision -which knowledge, by the way, is pretty rare nowadays.” C.G. Jung, The Terry Lectures

Gemini with respect to psyche, broadly conceived, brings into ‘co-motion’ the regressive chthonic and the transgressive totality. At a higher, finer grain, the twin–as image–represents the prospect of the alchemical marriage. As Gemini, its transformative operations take up scattered elements and brings these back into order.

The Twin is the archetype of recursion. With this repetition, the twin holds the potential for any reassembly, be it playful or serious or trial-and-error. The gesture bends back. Its sound is the yielding reassembly of harmony, via sonic palintropos.

Overnight contents separate, and come to be stirred back together. Gemini.

Cleveland artist Stephen Calhoun

Twin Study II. (2016) Stephen Calhoun

What gets hatched at night, in the lunar phase?

Sometimes the organic pair is subject to fierce moralizing. For example, what of the facile distinction oft made between thinking and feeling, or, head and heart? Their deep structure is blanketed. Heavy associations weigh one of the poles down, like a cinder block tied to a victim’s ankles.

This is like mashing two things together, pulling them back apart, and, finally deciding one has to go! The shadow of the twin is found in the demonization and suppression of the organic opposite, in the making of, and, next, sanctioning against this fallen angel, and finally turning it out (or away.)

(Gemini forensics! Where is the antimony buried?)

A theory of recurrence, such as that of Yeats, in exemplifying the cycling between lunar Antithetical and solar Primary tinctures is a twin study. Fusion with the ideal, and disavowal of the organic opposite provides for the violent dismissal and covering over of this other side.

Where feeling reigns ‘apart,’ this may move vast numbers of voters toward the light cast by the idealized father, concretized to be, well. . .


Leaving, returning. Turning back. . .


Uncovering bends back the cover.

They do not understand how, though at variance with itself, it agrees with itself. It is a backwards-turning attunement like that of the bow and lyre. -Heraclitus

It lifts up the buried: part, aspect, inferior. The twin is at once separate and a unifier.

Gemini’s hidden holistic relationship to all the houses, tracks the pairings which are the relations discoverable in all projections. Cast from to you.

The phenomena of the twin anchors the resurrection and recovery of the opposites.

The Rhizome and the Flower: The Perennial Philosophy, Yeats and Jung, By James Olney

The Harmonia of Bow and Lyre in Heraclitus Fr. 51 (DK)
Jane McIntosh Snyder, Phronesis Vol. 29, No. 1 (1984) JSTOR

[1] Sacred Geometry of Being: Pessoa’s Esoteric Imagery and the Geometry of Modernism
Patrícia Silva McNeill, Pessoa Plural 6, 2014 (pdf)

[2] Beyond Fascism: W.B. Yeats’s A Vision and the Complexities of His Authoritarian Politics
Justin Abel, Eastern Washington University (pdf)

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Artist’s Statement, Part II. & III.

Hat Thangka II (Stephen Calhoun 2016)

Hat Thangka II (Stephen Calhoun 2016)

Secondary and Tertiary Contexts and Multiplicities

ARTIST’S STATEMENT (middle section)


I came to this as a matter of my lifelong drive to satisfy my curiosity. This mission demands that I wander, experience, explore, do experiments.


To steep ourselves in a subject-matter we have first to plunge into it.— John Dewey

If you have not experienced a thing, it is not true!— Kabir

The goal of life is rapture. Art is the way we experience it. Art is the transforming experience.
— Joseph Campbell

Follow the perfume, not the tracks.— Shams of Tabriz

Commentary: My art isn’t post-modern. This doesn’t mean that a post-modern trip is impossible. All trips may be possible. From my personal outlook, there is a cybernetic reaction possible and so I’m doing the only thing I know how to do. What gets read into this counter-normativity my work supposes? Whatever it is, it is tertiary. It would interest me. There are some bridges which could be fashioned. These would join the secondary to the tertiary!

What’s the best explanation of what you are seeing? This is a very hard question.

I’m working a cybernetic formula too. It has three constituents. It would shock and delight me were anyone to figure this formula out from the reflection on experience, or, (easier,) from the background.

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Body Acting Virtually I.

Interaction-Design.org Youtube channel

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Floating Gestures

IDEO: Each sphere is equipped with inertial motion sensors—acceleration, rotation, and the Earth’s magnetic fields—enabling the spheres to act as a gestural musical interface. The gestures are interpreted through machine learning and used to control an evolving soundscape.

via Synthtopia

taches (excerpt)

to obscure
to reject
to uninhabit
to destabilise
to be reborn
to erase
to pin down
to spill memory
to depart

coda: “I was possessed by movements, on edge with these forms which came to me rhythmically.”

Henri Michaux

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The Stack of Symmetry

All Hail the Center Pieces (S. Calhoun, 2015, 24x48h")

All Hail the Center Pieces
(S. Calhoun, 2015, 24x48h”)

Over the past few years I have not combined a vertical with a ‘flipped’ horizontal symmetry so as to synthesize the above stack.

Presumably, there is a transcendent function hidden in my (a) intention, or, (2) unconscious urge, because it goes from the two via the processual three to the whole four.

Two, plus two, next four.

odis tamquam fures et homicidas, tamquam specula celesti fulgore micantia mirare cogeris et amare.46
(you hate them as robbers and murderers; you love and worship them as mirrors reflecting a celestial light)
dialog of Ficino

My artistic sensibility admits as much, so, not surprisingly, the visual result is completed by the viewer, and, as well, the dialectical stasis captured in the moment of the viewer’s experience is also ‘half’ in the sensibility of the viewer. I term this: diastasis. The basic formulation could be enumerated, one, two, three, four; so this is most simply: creation, field, experience, engagement. The hidden bridge in the (social) cybernetic sense is the viewer’s abduction, which is the means for the viewer ‘reason-experiencing’ to the best explanation of their experience of the forms hidden in plain sight.

As the creator, I do not code those abductions into the visual field (piece.) Rather, their animation is contingent on the four-fold, as is this ‘adding up’ to: mirrors reflecting a celestial light.

This is, from certain perspectives, a very serious business!



Engagement (transcendent function)

(I would use different terms than Adorno, yet it is self-evident to me that the viewer completes the engaging experience with her own cultural conditioning. Because my aesthetic is intentionally underdetermined as a matter of the constitutive generativity underlying both creative process and artistic product, my aesthetic also greatly underdetermines the programmatic encoding. I like to think this lack of masterful coding sets the piece free from being only a simple message.)

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Around and Round, and Never Off the Surface


Ask yourself: what kinds of “whats” express your own depth? Your depth is, what?


To which problem do you go to first, the problem of ‘what is the what,’ or, the problem of, what is depth in terms of my depth? 


from: www.counterbalance.org/

Alternately, can you read the meta-problem backward? In which case, one would identify the ends which are the ramifications of the varieties of the result of: what depth is a deep what? Then you argue your answers from these end results.

(Apologies to Dr. Seuss.)

Escher uroboros


Short cut: make a list of all your accomplishments on any given day. Circle the deep accomplishments. Justify your choices. Elaborate the terms of justification. Deepen the terms of justification.

Klein Bottle

Model makers around the end of the nineteenth century realised that their models’ translucent and airy forms could make real what till then might have seemed invisible abstractions: their faith rested in the possibility of turning geometry into artefacts. So, at Goettingen and other major research centres in mathematics, students were encouraged to contemplate, handle and design ever more exotic forms as part of their training in the realities of higher geometry. In 1882 their master, the mathematician and entrepreneur Felix Klein, designed a three dimensional form which seemed to have but one surface – it came to be known as the Klein bottle. At least as interesting as its formation is its dependence on the malleable materials of which it is made. The plasticity of glass and related substances was decisive for many of the great scientific advances of a century ago, for by manipulating and twisting such substances into elegant and manageable form, technicians were able to design objects which not only helped make abstractions real, but also aided the scientists of microphysics and the subatomic world perform trials which first showed the existence of rays which could penetrate matter and particles smaller than atoms: radiation tubes, radiometers, cathode ray instruments. The magnificent glass works of the labs and workshops of the Belle Epoque showed the world how it was made. Anish Kapoor, Unconformity & Entropy

See: Imperatives for unbiased holistic education: the Klein bottle, a universal structure: an archetypal image Melanie Purcell, Department of Philosophy, University of Newcastle, PDF

What is Radical Recursion?
Steven M. Rosen, Departments of Psychology and Philosophy (Emeritus) College of Staten Island/City University of New York


Paul Ryan: Gregory, the insistence that you have that the map is not the
territory. Okay. Axiomatic in terms of a way of approaching things.
Gregory Bateson: That’s old Korzybski, right.
P: Yes. As I understand it, this axiom is an insurance that logical
typing not be confused.
G: The territory not to be confused with the map. Right. Don’t eat the
menu card.
P: Now, in the Kleinform that I’m working with, there are times in
which the map becomes the territory and the territory becomes the
map. One part would be explained by being contained by two other
G: Right.
P: And in that instance we could call that the territory to be explained.
G: Wait a minute. So you draw the pictures. But these are not pictures
of something. These are pictures about something.
P: There’s no something as far as I can tell.
G: Oh, then, I don’t know what you’re at. I’m stuck again. Well, I can
say what I understood you to be at. At wanting to describe,
what shall we say, a process of embryology. And within the embryology,
there would be relations such that there would be whatever it is,
these sort of descriptive statements you’d need to make about the
embryology. And they would be related, as these three parts of the
kleinbottle are related to each other. It would then be suitable to
map them onto a Klein bottle. That’s not what you’re at.
P: No, no…it’s not.
G: Then I got you wrong. And I was so proud of myself. I thought I
was getting…( Laughter)
P: I feel it’s close, somehow, but…Let me try it this way. This is not
propositional. The intelligence here is not propositional.
G: The intelligence of no tautology in the end is propositional.
P: I didn’t realize that about logical types. There’s more flexibility
there than I’d thought.
(excerpt: Metalogue: Gregory Bateson, Paul Ryan PDF

I’ve been pondering this subject:  how a person abdicates depth by instrumentalizing their activities to such a great degree that all their means no longer connect to depth. (Yes, what is depth?) In a sense, what happens is those means merely are the set-up for the consumption of the next means. Uroboros.

The test for this is the enfolded question: what is my deep what?

May depth only be supported by content and identity? (This is a meta-question. Does any justification obtain this tautology: ‘The best of what I do reflects what I do best.’)

Is there nothing deeper than me at my best, doing my best?

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The Precarity of the Estimate

Free Play Aug 4

This week, with the game on the line in the top of the last inning, the visiting team smartly aimed their offense at a weak spot in the infield and ended up with one single, one runner on base by error, and three successfully fielded ground balls. Outlier!

Then, needing a run to win with two outs in the bottom of the last inning, and bases loaded, this same fielder came up with his bust-to-boom hitting approach and pumped a pitch 300 feet for the walk-off win.

One run  game. Ideal obtained!


A simple example will show the nature of this difficulty. Consider some ball game played by a few people of approximately equal skill. If we knew a few particular facts in addition to our general knowledge of the ability of the individual players, such as their state of attention, their perceptions and the state of their hearts, lungs, muscles etc. at each moment of the game, we could probably predict the outcome. Indeed, if we were familiar both with the game and the teams we should probably have a fairly shrewd idea on what the outcome will depend. But we shall of course not be able to ascertain those facts and in consequence the result of the game will be outside the range of the scientifically predictable, however well we may know what effects particular events would have on the result of the game. This does not mean that we can make no predictions at all about the course of such a game. If we know the rules of the different games we shall, in watching one, very soon know which game is being played and what kinds of actions we can expect and what kind not. But our capacity to predict will be confined to such general characteristics of the events to be expected and not include the capacity of predicting particular individual events. Friedrich August Von Hayek

As the Free Play Softball handicapper for ten years, social systems/human cybernetic theories provide me with critical perspectives, none of which impact my ability to obtain the ideal of handicapping: a close game. Such perspectives are meta-related (second order in a cybernetic sense,) to the game at-hand. They allow me to not only be a participant/observer, but also to be informal analyst/ethnographer. Crucially, at least for my peace of mind, I can step back and consider the interplay of domains in the game but not of the game. Another consequence of how I view my role is: I make out line-ups knowing beforehand that any line-up possesses characteristics of some kinds,and, doesn’t possess characteristics of other kinds.

For example, line-ups do not possess the characteristic of embedding the eventual outcome of the game within their flux of estimations and generalizations.

They do reflect an on-the-spot generalization of a quick reconnaissance of performative variables. However, I know going into the exercise that the actual dynamic interplay of many player’s regression-to-the-Mean with the outlying performances of a handful of players is enough to falsify any hope for a close game, and realization of a game that objectifies actual parity. I make a very informed effort to design a close game and yet close games, decided by three or fewer runs, are comparatively rare.

(I have had occasion to point out to a few of the several players who monitor my handicapping track record that outlying negative performance of the better players and exceptional performances of the mediocre players tends to be more decisive than the mean performance of mediocre players.)

Other players theorize the line-ups. Player’s folk theorizing doesn’t bother me because I understand the double framework of the performative system: the Meta-system is focused by its norms and heuristics–a line-up is a heuristic–while the phenomenal system instantiates the precarity of performance. The latter system cannot ratify idealized estimations. Idealized estimations are heuristic; what players actually do to implement the five skills (hit, catch, throw, run, remember where they bat in the lineup,) is part of the phenomenal–enacted by experience–system.

One of the most fascinating aspects of the Free Play Softball League for me, the inveterate researcher, is that I assume most players think meta-thoughts about the game and these in turn refer at least loosely to their cognition within their own contextualizing of their individual Free Play experience. I don’t know anybody else’s detailed specific system-making, but I do know how I contextualize the game. Players may regard the heuristics, regard their phenomenal experience of the game, and reflect upon and make connections between the two fields in completely different ways. There is something of the black box in this, but also, the line-up–which after all is a quasi-economic object too–is established to be the main totem of anticipation of outcome.

The line-up is a charismatic object, and along with this come, at times, a projection onto the handicapper which holds that in some direct way the result of the game is embedded by me (!) in the line-up. No, most times my estimations and generalizations, aimed to achieve parity, are falsified.

What allows me to put up with line-up related guff is my understanding something about the math of precarity in human systems.

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The Untamed Monad in the Happy World


extremely rare photo of Gershom Scholem & Henry Corbin loving time on Virginia Street, Lakewood, Ohio

But if the “root” and possibility of Declaration always goes back to the topology of Being itself, what fundamentally Declaration “sees” that authorizes its hazarding concrete steps toward the possibility field it originates and seeks to get underway, is in every case Being itself. The topological feature of Being that is relevant here, would be its propensity to take on appearances. …one can profess neither Thomism, Scotism, nor Augustinianism, and yet ‘valorize’ these theological universes positively, and, without taking up one’s abode in them, keep an abode for them in oneself…

The more perceptions and representations of the universe each monad integrates, the more it unfolds its own perfection and differs from every other. (Chuck Stein – Parimenides Project; Notes on some passages from Henry Corbin’s Avicenna and the Visionary Recital)

Sacrament of Heresy
The Sacrament of Heresy

The Village has set sail for the future, like all of unanchored America, set sail or set adrift, take your choice. A visit to the Village always provokes a crisis of nostalgia in those who have moved on but do not want the Village to move on. (Herbert Gold The Age of Happy Problems)

KW sends my way a deep feed. Miller hails from that great Wood shed of outsider genius. What Herbert Gold did for the outsider in the Wood with Birth of a Hero in 1951 Miller is doing now with Atrocity Parade. Michael A. Miller describes his work:

Atrocity Parade amplifies the sadistic trivia of day-to-day existence. It’s the hymnal and prayer book of society’s heretics. In its angst-riddled pages, post-goths, thrashing bohos, crumbly artqueens, liberal-arts grad students, and all other phyla of overly-ripe, choleric day-job hostages will find asylum.

Commentary. An iconoclastic notion of an active, and interactive urban anthropology could propose that the most determined modes of inquiry would both tease and dig out, first, the overt story, and, second, the covert story. Thirdly, in driving this inquiry beyond and beneath these promotional tales the goal, to borrow from Stein, would be to appear in the possibility field. So: the investigator arrives, body and soul, in the field where the possibilities, say–creative kinds, are unfolding in real time.

This is really to invoke anthropological inquiry as praxis, yet without carrying into the act of enjoining the field, any pretense of objectivity. Another way to put this is to suggest the observer is landed in the poetic Topos; is faced with the fleshy, pulsing, ‘outerward’ cast manifestation of the inner dealing. Asylum here is hideaway, shelter, and possesses both outer and inner wards.

To play with this forming projection would be to sit in a window seat, or on a public bench, or at the park’s picnic table, and intently watch the scurrying about of patients and personnel–as if sidewalk and street were hallway. Them you could ask, as Miller has done.

The, a, City’s deep creative life, in someway, always implicates a daring observer willing to participate. The Sacrament of Heresy seems to me to surface an inevitability, a necessary fluid–moist in the archetypal sense–turning of the conscious citizen.

hat tip to Ken Warren for the pointer to Herbert Gold. I sense with Gold a northcoast Lafcadio Hearn type.) I discovered, evidently, Gold is still alive and has turned or will turn eighty-seven this year. At the bottom of the brief Wikipedia article are links to recent writing on the web.

I love this:

“So I guess you haven’t read one of my actual texts.”

“Not personally. Like I explained, I’ve got a lot on my plate these days.”

That was okay with me; or at least okay enough while, like the gathering clouds of the thunderstorms of my Midwestern boyhood, rage accumulated in my vengeful heart—this is the typical inept poetic strophe of a confirmed author who doesn’t need precision anymore because he has already arrived in the marketplace. Bewitched, Bothered, Begoogled; November 2004; News From the Republic of Letters.

Gold is onto, here, one of the primary rationales for seeking stories in the hideaways.

The excerpt from Stein comes from an email Ken offered, January 5, 2006, about visionary knowledge platforms.

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Reduced Bateson Set: III. Set Up; Actuality Matters

(I continue musings which exemplify what I’m musing about. This is the set up to my presenting a schema, the Reduced Bateson Set, I can use to interpret my experience of other person’s presentation of information. Caveat: I am entertaining here an informal perspective. My eventual goal is to connect this perspective with further musings on adult learning.)

Although it may count as one of my most abstruse attempts at communicating complex, ‘softly’ phenomenological discoveries about the exchange of knowledge between persons, between human systems of awareness, the previous post in this series nevertheless entertains several main points. Its first point was that seemingly simple systems of human action do not yield answers to simple questions. The second point was these unanswerables are apparently due to incapacities in both formal and heuristic means for deriving answers and making accurate predictions. The third point was that in a discussion among persons who bring into the discussion differing perspectives and approaches, this discussion productively can happen irrespective of pertinent differences found or implicit in individual perspectives and/or approaches.

Here’s a mundane example. Your car needs a repair. You take it to the mechanic and discuss its ill symptoms. The mechanic sketches some possible causes. You don’t know much about how cars work. The mechanic does know how cars work. Yet, you have a discussion about what’s possibly wrong with your car. In this example, you and the mechanic share the assumption you the car owner do not need to know how a car works, as a condition for having the discussion. However, if you say to yourself, “I really don’t know what he’s talking about since I don’t know how a car works,” then it would be the case that you hold a different assumption. In fact, this different assumption could prove to be decisive. Still, you and the mechanic can have a discussion.

I’m not qualifying, in setting out this example, whether this kind of a discussion is a good or bad kind of discussion. The suggestion is: these kinds of discussions are common.

Another example. A friend once shared a description of their spirituality. The key element of the description was their belief in a single God. I asked my friend if he understood this God to be the God of All. We clarified that I was asking whether this singular God could be defined as being behind or above ‘everything’. He put it that his definition of God could be reduced to a complex proposition:

“God is first, God is last, God is in relation to all phenomena.”

I asked my friend,

“Then your God is also the God the other Abrahamic faiths believe in?”

He had never pondered this. We talked it over, with me suggesting the following implication of the proposition.

“If there is a God of All, then this God is also in relation to those who do not believe in this God.”

On one hand, in this example I’m striving to understand a very fundamental feature of his proposition, while, on the other hand, there’s no reason we could not have discussed his spirituality without attending to the proposition in this particular way. I don’t have to know how his God works to engage in a discussion about his God.

Another example. If I remember correctly, Ludwig Wittgenstein sharply criticizes the method of Freudian analysis by pointing out that the psychoanalyst chooses the element in the analysand’s chain of association that is of psychoanalytic, and potentially curative, interest. Well, by what right understanding of how the psyche works is this a fruitful intervention? The analysand, in this example, is taking symptoms to a different kind of mechanic.

In the same vein, I can discuss Jung’s analytic psychology without entering into this discussion the very basic assumption that holds that there is no substantial empirical evidence able to demonstrate the implicit understanding that each and every human psyche in actuality reflects the structural model given by Analytic Psychology. On one hand, this is a big problem at the level of foundational assumptions, on the other hand it doesn’t have to subvert a fruitful discussion.

I’m sensitive to foundational assumptions. Often hidden, nonetheless these basic assumptions are related to the content of most common kinds of discussions. (‘Discussion’ here is used also as shorthand for many other kinds of communicative acts.) It was fascinating in 2008 as the financial crisis unfolded to read and discuss what different people thought were its causes. That discussants had no substantial idea about how Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are actually operationalized in the system of finance does not prevent peoples’ productive discussion about possible causes.

For example, at times in my work life I’ve been told what a marketing plan is to be. I often choose to overlook the plan’s mistaken (to me) assumptions about what are the facts (of mechanics, or operations, or contingencies in the market,) so I can proceed to my role in the plan. The plan doesn’t really make sense, yet this does not prevent discussing it. This doesn’t mean my view is correct. This only means I believe it to be correct given unexamined, or presumptive, or, missing, or, poorly formed, assumptions, suppositions, assertions of factitude, etc..

Obviously, the following point is not profound. Discussions may implicate assumptions which could be part of the discussion, but are not brought into the discussion. Some assumptions could disrupt the discussion, yet these same assumptions are not entertained in the discussion.

Discussions, etc., have consequences. The auto mechanic goes fishing. The inept marketing plan unfolds. Deadly force is unleashed on Iraq even though the assumption that there are WMD is mistaken. The rationales for the Iraq war constitute a series of mistaken assumptions which yielded mountains of productive discussion, even given that assumptions implicit within these discussion were abject.

The Reduced Bateson Set provides, among its six factors, a factor for analysis of whether or not a presentation of knowledge or understanding both depends on, and is informed by, an accurate estimation of what is actually materially, (or positively,) true as a matter of spoken or unspoken knowledge or understanding.

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What If Your Parents Had Never…?

In my continuing research into what I term transformative anthropology, or, into developmental serendipity in the human life cycle, every question or speculation is worth investigation. This includes questions considered ridiculous:

“What if your parents had never met?”

To which I respond: Indeed. (So, I gently pull it into my mental lab.)

I had an opportunity this fall to pose clinical-like questions to one of my softball associates, a pediatrician, Dr. Art. What I was wondering about was whether or not it would be equally correct, given the what if you’re parents never met query, to pose a similar question: “What if your, (or my own, or anybody’s,) parents had instantiated the fertilization at some other timely point, say seconds, minutes, hours, the next day, later, other than at the time at which point you, me, anybody came to be?”

Here’s the encapsulation of my questioning of Dr. Art.

Given the chanciness of what comes together at point of fertilization, is it correct to state that the fertilization that produced me, you, anybody, exactingly reflects the outcome of a single and unique outcome of sperm meeting egg? (In other words, fertilization is not able to be comprehensively duplicated in anyway.)

Okay, so, the nature of fertilization is a spectacular instance of something, a human he or she, in its generative case, created and necessarily from this, completely unique.

Dr. Art’s answer was,

“As far as anybody can know, human fertilization causes a unique person.”

Its instance comes down to a singular event and a rapid unfolding of unique configuration. This is entirely given by the nature of the mechanics involved. A different instantiation would unfold under the slightly different conditions given by these same mechanics.

Several aspects of this (class of) instance figure into how one thinks about it–as a matter of these mechanics. Fertilization’s uniqueness is not repeatable. Nor is this like shuffling a deck of cards or rolling the dice. The unique result is singularly so. There are many many possible outcomes when the deck is shuffled. Yet, over time, and with enough shuffles, the outcomes aren’t singularly unique. Likewise if we pose such an instance as a roll of the dice. I don’t know what a rigorous mathematically-minded appreciation of the consequential uniqueness of fertilization would be, yet I suspect the analogous two dice have to have an odd, not finite, configuration.

The scale of the temporal condition is something like: instantaneous, yet this also reflects the physical conditions through which fertilization happens as a result of one sperm actor, so-to-speak, being successful against all the other actors. It’s a measurable amount of time too, this instant.

A consequence of this set-up is that the instantiation of one’s own self hangs on the slender thread of these conditions. If Marvin Gaye comes on the CD player, and one of the parties to conception gasps, “Hold On!” then the internal process will be configured differently. Yet, consider how even this kind of adjustment occurs at an almost ridiculously huge scale given how the outcome of fertilization is itself contingent on the tiny scale at which the jockeying of sperm happens.

Perhaps, say you, “So what?”

As I mentioned, I take this seriously because I’m researching the element of fortuity as it plays a part in the resolution of human development at any scale of condition or time. I’m tracking back here to what I term the primordial biological dependent contingency. This is where any map of fortuitous contingency tracks back to. However, at the same time, there is also the implicit regress, ‘what if your parents’ parents had never met?’ And, the circumstances for consequential conjoinment, and for relationship, are entangled in vast, requisite ‘narratives’ for which all the necessary human players, and time-and-space, features necessarily are in some exacting way configured by long chains of, well, fertilization!

Backing up from this, we can sift through other consequences (of primordial biological dependent contingency) at much larger scales of relationship and agency. The evolutionary perspective warrants consideration of where this all can be said to commence and how the two, at least, most primal actors came to make something like the first instance, and how the original hims and hers were instantiated in kind.

Also recognized are other perspectives and the explanations or suppositions each invokes. The idea that a unique soul animates the physical instance of fertilization is, obviously, a very ancient idea. This same idea is deeply embedded in many varieties of how persons culturally grappled with the presumably self-evident unique outcome of procreation. Actually, is there a good reason to presume even this was so? I’m willing to wager without knowing–yet–conceptions about the soul finding its physical incarnation predate ideas about every born human constituting an utterly unique instance of human being.

Obviously, fortuitous dependencies track backward from biological scales ‘down and further’ back through material and temporal scales. My main research interest lies in the other direction, long after the presumptive collapse of enjoined human wave functions (!) granted in fertilization have occurred. Still, it would remain true enough that the serendipity decisive in later human development all are in the light of the strange and implicit fragility of fertilization, and, the: “I might never have come to be!”

Except for this crucial feature: successful fertilization and thus the biological evocation of a him or her sets up this new person as a unique in stance of human being, but is not the whole story by any means.

So much for the notion that DNA determines what an organism is like; it doesn’t. There is, in principle, no one-to-one relationship, no “mapping,” from DNA sequences to characters. (Of course, we can map differences of character– like albinism or Parkinson’s disease–to species differences in DNA.) The whole process of development, from ovary- making egg to mother-making ovary, holds itself together. Each bit of information context, like the egg mechanisms, is necessary and specific for each bit of information content, like the DNA. What makes the fly, or you, is the complete process of development. All of it. Can you blame your DNA for your funny squiggly handwriting, your passion for Fats Waller and
Burmese cats, your blue eyes! Well, perhaps the last, but certainly not the others. You can’t blame the DNA for what you’ve made of yourself. You, the process, are responsible for what you are, what you do. And for what you become. (biologist Jack Cohen)

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Reduced Bateson Set II. Set up; Participant-Dependence

Consider a thought problem about human whistling.

You are placed in the role of observer. Presented to you is a person who will whistle Mary Had A Little Lamb. Your direction for the exercise is to describe the act of this person whistling this tune. The only qualification for the description you are to document is that you are able to articulate for any of its elements what each has to do with the whistling you are observing.

At the conclusion of you, the observer, documenting observations, your report will be evaluated against two constructs: Observer-Independence/Observer-Dependence. Each element of observation will be classified as being one, or the other.

For the purpose of the former classification, Observer-Independent descriptive elements are those elements that are necessary to human whistling, and, do not require prior knowledge beyond the modest scope given by self-observation.

For example, to state:

(1) I am observing a whistler.
(2) Whistler whistling have to include a human with a blood-pumping heart.
(3) Whistling has to include brain activity.

is to assert Observer-Independent elements.

For example, to state:

(1) This is a fast version of the tune.
(2) The whistling is loud.
(3) The last passage was uncertainly in-tune.

is to assert Observer-Dependent elements. These latter descriptions are not necessarily findings every observers could possibly note.

The situation given by observations rendered through using particular kinds of prior knowledge have feet in both camps. A physiologist might identify a muscle necessary to whistling. The muscle is used in every instance of whistling. Yet, this prior knowledge is instituted only by the kind of observer who can employ it.

What we have here, in such a thought problem–and it’s one which could be done–is one human system observing the acts of another human system. The observations could be furthered qualified with respect to what is their subjective quotient.

There’s a paradox in all this. Let’s say the problem to be solved is this: predict the time the tune will be finished. What kind of information derived from prior observations of other whistlers would be helpful in deciding the answer? Interestingly, much of the Observer-Independent information about the human whistler is completely useless. Even if we formalize this to include specialized (in some formal sense) prior knowledge, most of that kind of information will be useless with respect to simple problems, and the simple problems out of which more complex problem are built.

Would you be able to detail the features of, for example, the heuristic you commonly employ for the sake of getting to know another person? Many dyadic, and group, procedures for inquiry are born by meshing of ‘heuristical’ tools, given differently to such procedures by the various (so-to-speak) parties. Another paradox is that these meshed procedures may be, often are, very effective means for making an inquiry, even though the underlying heuristics are not roughly the same, or similar, or commensurate with one another. In fact, parties to inquiry may not have thought through the very tools he or she employs. These tools can be said to be partly tacit to the user: they operate without the operator entirely knowing what is being operated by their self.

The formal means for understanding complex interactive inquiries use prior knowledge and formalized methods, yet these means are not precisely useful when trained on everyday–for example–interpersonal actualities. If these means can’t unravel whistling, they won’t be more powerful with many times more complex phenomena.

Yet, this situation, the basic imprecision of both informal and formal naturalistic inquiry when trained on particularized subjects, is extended to almost every natural process where knowledge is presented in particularized subjects and situations. So: a marketing idea is presented; a developmental plan is presented; an interpretation is offered; a self-report is revealed; an illustrative story is told; etc., and each of these exchanges is about something truthful, and, each is also about that which constitutes the human system, so-to-speak, of presenting its stuff, and its moment of some kind of truth.

The Reduced Bateson Set, appropriated from my interpretation of Bateson, collects six motifs, (Bateson’s term,) in an array of three positions and three orders. This array of motifs sets up the following means for interpreting a ‘presentation.’

It locates the human subject. It suggests by way of interpretation and analysis that explicit choices reveal implicit choices, and, reveal what is not chosen. It does the same for figuring out what is and is not connected to positive actuality. Then, along the other ‘side’ of the array, it qualifies these motific means with respect to how sensitive the human subject is to modifying their presentation. This latter means for interpretation and analysis holds that this sensitivity itself refers to implicit choices which argue for the human system being, roughly, flexible or not flexible.

Roughly, the suggestion is this: there are human exchanges of knowledge, and these are most often, or commonly, ‘heuristical’ on the part of both parties. What is then given by this flux of two largely informal systems are informal understandings. Embedded in such understandings are great amounts of implicit and tacit givens; threaded into this also are other systems; partialities of informal and formal prior knowledge; histories of experience; and, among many other factors, novelties and innovations given by the specific consequences granted in two or more particular human systems coming into particular participation together over the matter of an exchange of knowledge; alternately, information.

The flux in this human system is a situation of Participation-dependence, which is to say the practical description of the seeming paradox is that there are, for example discussions between two people that necessarily instantiate such an exchange, yet, in this, often widely disparate, individualized features in direct relation to the matter of exchange are not also relevant factors in the exchange. In other words, to turn the Batesonian cybernetic posit on its head, in these instances–which are everyday and ubiquitous, some differences do not make any difference.

My suggestion here is this kind of smoothing of difference allows two people, two human systems of awareness, to conduct exchanges of information without introducing what are demonstrably pertinent differences discoverable as features not shared between the two people.

Another way to put it, is that a conversation proceeds productively without negotiation of, for example, pertinent unshared assumptions.

Were we to convene a group mixed between technical experts and keen observers who are not technical experts, the answer to the question, ‘when will the whistler stop whistling?’ will not arise as a matter of differentiating between formal or informal estimates. However, this same group can productively discuss this question and do so without entertaining its individualized and specific to each member, assumptions about how to answer the question.

Any number of similar thought problems can be created. In each such problem, the suggestion is that there are a large, if not infinite, number of questions which can be discussed but not resolved by the efficacy of either formal or heuristic prior knowledge.

There are two currents given here. One is that the discussion can nevertheless evoke knowledge, and, that the discussion cannot evoke knowledge-in-the-form of an accurate prediction.

From here I would next move to support the claim that most exchanges of knowledge in everyday circumstances refers to heuristical means, is constructed from individualized heuristics, and that the differentiation of this heuristic basis does not prevent productive and efficacious exchanges.

The differences are smoothed over so that these exchanges may happen.

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The Precision of Imprecision

Charles Sanders Peirce

Louis Menand’s capsule intellectual history of American pragmatism’s initial development, The Metaphysical Club, was an enjoyable read. But even little ol’ me could note he advanced a highly selective narrative, where he chops off C.S. Peirce’s technical discoveries, and, just about erases William James’s “post” transcendentalism. (The latter move was surprising because the only work of James that is widely read is The Varieties of Religious Experience.) Years later, a few weeks ago, I happened upon a discussion at The Valve.

Here the criticisms follow in the comment thread to a review by Andrew Seal in August, Invidiousness and Parentheticals: Louis Menand’s The Metaphysical Club. I came across this while searching for something else, and was first surprised to see Menand’s book get any kind of notice eight years after it was published, and then was amused by the interesting thread the late-out-of-the-gate review evoked.

I noted Mr. Menand gets whacked around freely, and, Richard Rorty get dragged onto the firing range too. I’ve clipped a few interesting fragments.

CW – But that position is not the same as saying that the quest for more knowledge should cease. I understand Rorty to be arguing that viewing that quest as having “objective truth” as an ultimate goal has some unfortunate consequences which can be avoided by instead viewing it as seeking new and hopefully better (in the sense of more useful in achieving one’s immediate objectives) “vocabularies”. That view can perhaps be seen as more-or-less consistent with what Peirce might have meant by “chance will remain ‘until the world becomes an absolutely perfect, rational and symmetrical system in which mind is at last crystallized in the infinitely distant future” (from the Haack paper you suggested as a more palatable intro to her work – which it definitely is! Thanks.) Except I suspect that Rorty would have questioned the convergence implicit in Peirce’s quote; he argued against the hopeless quest for a “final vocabulary”, the one supposedly “spoken” by nature.

O – I really like your argumentation here, and I do not entirely disagree with your conclusion. Moreover, I think you are quite correct in your dissection of the ‘truth’ of the issue, however, you do mischaracterize Peirce’s position, which is not far removed from James’ argument that “truth happens to an idea”, truth has no ontological status – then again, to Peirce, nothing has ontological status except process itself, as seen in his cenopythagorean categories. The common claim that truth is what is, confuses being and truth. What is, is; a ‘truth’ is merely a functional (i.e. useful) depiction of the ongoing process, the interaction that is all that actually is. Here I generalize across several arguments. There are differences between James and Peirce on the issue, however, both agree with Wright in that the greatest possible certification of the ‘truth’ of a notion is its usefulness in the furthering of both knowing, and life itself.


Peirce: “Knowledge can only be furthered by the real desire for it.”

This statement strikes me as a kind of American koan. Can a track be grooved between this and the sort of generative process able to elicit more robust vocabularies, as per Rorty?

Peirce, “The first proper significant effect of a sign is a feeling produced upon it.”

I come upon this philosophical thread and I’m immediately the voyeur who has landed in the territory of scholarly marginalia. In its direction, and in one direction, the subject matter is well beyond me. Yet, in the other direction, in the direction I can forge myself, I reckon with really ‘surface,’ intuitions, albeit this is my surface. So, for me, Rorty wanders through Pragmatism; he is a wanderer. He can argue against anything, say representationalism. And, there are sober secondary scholars of the–in actuality–varieties of pragmatism. There is, again, in actuality, a scholarly industry for and against, in this case, ‘Rorty,’ and this is about what he said and wrote.

It’s funny (to me.)

Yet, in this other direction I recognize the connecting thread, what I would call the urging upon provided by the, as Peirce offers, the effect and the incumbent feeling, the incumbent urging upon. The connecting thread is: that which, unknown to us, urges upon us a groping for knowledge, and, granting this as exemplar, the common instance where what is to be useful, what is to be begun to be known, what is not yet reliable, nevertheless comes to be begun to be known. With this turn, or initiation, the terms are not yet precise, fixed, let alone complete.

The secondary appropriation of somebody’s body of work sometimes, maybe often, gets bogged down in interpretation fused to the assumption the work is complete. ‘This is what Coltrane gave us.’ Or,’ this is how we’ll describe Yeats’s journey.’ The echo of provisionality and contingency is silenced. This is a kind of narrative or linear fallacy.

“Knowledge can only be furthered by the real desire for it.” seems to me, (again from the other, ‘surface,’ side,) to be the sturdy connecting thread, and it even allows for, loops in, Louis Menand. The urging upon, the deeply real desire, quickens exploration proximal to that which is not to be completed. This pragmatism is then, a work in progress–always.

I’m not arguing against locating and getting the terms right. My suggestion is that those terms are also, at once, opened up to their own, as it were, future. And this follows from the feeling produced upon their dynamic ‘it.’

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Catastrophic Image

The Shadow that the Future Throws
Text based on a conversation between Nathan Gardels and Ivan Illich in 1989

Now, nearly two decades [after 1969] later, a woeful sense of imbalance has dawned on the common sense.

The destruction of the ozone layer, the heating up of the earth’s atmosphere, the non-reversible and progressive depletion of genetic variety, the ability to discuss what shall be a human being through genetic intervention – all these things bring to consciousness, even to a non-philosophically inclined intelligent official of the World Bank, that we now face the banquet of consequences of our Promethean transgression.

There is a generalized sense now that the future we expected does not work and that we are in front of what Michel Foucault called an “epistemic break”: a sudden image-shift in consciousness in which the once unthinkable becomes thinkable. For example, it was simply not thinkable that a king could be beheaded up until the French Revolution. Then, suddenly, there was a new way of seeing, a new form of language that could speak about such things.

For most of the Cold War, atomic bombs were commonly considered as weapons. People like myself were little understood in our arguments that such bombs were literally unspeakable; that, epistemically, they are not within the realm of speech because they are not weapons, but acts of self- annihilation.

It is no longer tolerable to the common sense to think of nuclear bombs as weapons, or of pollution as the price of development. The disintegrating ozone layer and warming atmosphere are making it intolerable to think of more development and industrial growth as progress, but rather as aggression against the human condition. It is now imaginable to the common mind that, as Samuel Beckett once said, “this earth could be uninhabited.”

So, what is different than when I first wrote about Nemesis is that the common sense is also searching for a language to speak about the shadow which the future throws. What is new is not the magnitude, nor even the quality, but the very essence of the coming shift in consciousness. It is not a break in the line of progress to a new stage; it is not even the passage from one dimension to another. Mathematically, we can only describe it as a catastrophic break with industrial man’s image of himself.

Now, nearly four decades later…

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Is Bubba Really Gone?

I’ve been feeling my way around vampires because the Jung-Fire group has also been doing so.

Whilst descriptions of vampires varied widely, certain traits now accepted as universal were created by the film industry. Where did vampires originate? Well, nearly every culture has its own undead cretures which feed off of the life essence of the living but ancient Persian pottery shards specifically depict creatures drinking blood from the living in what may be the earliest representations of vampires. In the 1100s English historians and chroniclers Walter Map and William of Newburgh recorded accounts of various undead fauna. By the 1700s, an era often known as the Age of Enlightenment, fear of vampires reached it’s apex following a spate of vampire attacks in East Prussia in 1721 and the Hapsburg Monarchy from 1725 to 1734. Government positions were created for vampire hunters to once-and-for-all rid man of this unholy scourge.

Even Enlightenment writer Voltaire wrote about the vampire plague in his Philosophical Dictionary, “These vampires were corpses, who went out of their graves at night to suck the blood of the living, either at their throats or stomachs, after which they returned to their cemeteries. The persons so sucked waned, grew pale, and fell into consumption; while the sucking corpses grew fat, got rosy, and enjoyed an excellent appetite. It was in Poland, Hungary, Silesia, Moravia, Austria, and Lorraine, that the dead made this good cheer.” Movie Myths 101 – Vampires (Amoeblog)

Vampires occupy a class of folkloric beings termed revenant. In this class are all the varieties of beings believed to have returned from being dead. (Ghosts are revenants.) Revenants, as mythologem, have ancient origins. Their genealogy, (given by anthropology and literary history,) is woven in the folklore of almost every culture.


I was moved to do a little digging, in the phenomenological moonlight.

The vampire is one of the representatives of a phenomena part-and-parcel with any ‘folk’ skepticism a person would have when is believed the soul persists beyond bodily death. In Christian terms, a revenant is a work-around. The piper is paid, yet the rules are different than the normative rules for succession into the next life. Revenants are outliers in relation to the normal redemptive scheme. It’s important to understand the revenant is not a formalization, is not part of the strict cast of characters. The revenant–as work-around–is a strain of necessary superstition, is in a sense an archaic adjunct in the folk scheme of life and death.

A vampire lives forever under particular conditions, but our human night is their day. This inversion suggests also an inversion of the christological mythologem.

Yet, this can go beyond a Christian antithesis. It is possible, maybe likely, that wonderment over the finality of death. goes back beyond paganism, penetrates beyond proto-religion, goes back even before the organization of a spirit world. And, maybe even is among the most primitive of all social-existential phenomena; expressing as it does the base quandry, “Is Bubba really dead?”

I take this up in this way to highlight the archaic of a (kind of) archetype. Buried in this quasi-archetype is a very primitive, primeval layer.

From this, I wonder about the brute opposition in these same primal terms: here today, gone tomorrow, yet gone where? I can imagine how mysterious both would be if we, with modest imagination, consider how death was dealt with intrapsychically, long before the mystery was organized and concretized by proto-pagan artifice.

This development would suppose the development of a chain of being as a response to the mystery of mortality. Moreover, this would be a response given by skepticism: ‘is Bubba gone-where did Bubba go?’ This is all prior to the conceptions of salvation, purgatorial penance, damnation. Also, in supposing that the dead could manifest a near semblance of ‘the living,’ or otherwise manifest a phantasmal form, the particulars of types of revenants fit in culturally distinct ways into Preternatural–worlds behind worlds–cosmic, vertical schemes.

Edvard Munch – Vampire

The pagan layer is persistent. Belief in the work-around of the revenant is inflected with the revenant’s mercurial nature, and this seems to be an important aspect of their alternative myth of resurrection. Vampires are worrisome, unpredictable, and, the vampire’s activities could be glossed as: bugging, tormenting, fooling, tricking, gaming, messing around with, the living. After all, vampire and ghost and spectral phantasm, are also kin.

The revenant provides a kind of gnawing reminder: the ‘vertical’ world itself isn’t in the thrall of the light-bearing beings, ‘the angels.’ Revenants are profane. They exemplify in different ways, negative models.

Archetype is darkened, manifest in human enactment of a particular feeling tone, in precise ways, from specific contexts. Vampire, in the imagination, is an archetype of evil, but only from specific perspectives. The Benedictine Calmet sharpened his axe in antipathy to revenant denizens in accordance with his Catholic perspective. Three centuries earlier, the infections of plague, came to be understood in terms committed to explain the spread of death to be a damnation. At that time, the idea was: the dead were able to cause havoc even though ‘they appeared dead.’ Again, in the context of communities dealing with vast contagion, this response is in accordance with the timely intrapsychic ground. The contagion’s agents of punishment were the ubiquitous dead.

Archaic prototypes may infuse attempts at explaining what had befallen the community. Calmet leaned on, railed against(!) the archaic precedent.

So, why the fascination with vampires today? I don’t know anything about the cultural details. I enjoy the tv serial, True Blood, but this isn’t because I get a charge from vampires. I can’t analyze the trend in any Jungian way because I’m not a proponent of Jung’s collective unconscious.

I do note several rough features of today’s, in effect, multi-media vampire. One, he or she is often a very energized erotic figure. Two, often vampires are sorted out into good vampires, bad vampires, and ‘tweener’ vampires. Taking True Blood as an example, it seems to offer ambiguous morality tales. These take place within a decidedly supernatural cosmos, but much of the primitive vampire is not appropriated.

However, the focal point of the ongoing narrative seems to be how living and undead refract one another’s light and dark. Supernatural conceits don’t matter. In this drama, human and vampire are much closer to being two sides of the same coin. There is then, in at least this example, a humanization of the vampire. This would stand against demonization. Humanity inflects profanity.

The contemporary vampire may even be–all too human. This vampire is often a libertine, with sex* subsuming blood lust. Sometimes, as is the case with Bill from True Blood, he is ambivalent, conflicted, a tweener vampire between worlds, yet not able to transcend the vampire rules. Here is the post-modern turn: vampire as loose, identity mashup, This vamp reflects the chancy play of cosmopolitan identity. And, he or she may be more at home in the intoxicating nights’ cape, than in the tightening days’ cape.

Short of any fascination with vampires, the most common way the idea is entertained is when people speak of having their energy glommed onto and sucked by vampire-like pests. In this what’s left of either the token of the irredeemably fallen or the magical explanation for contagion, is: energy-sapping neediness.

The mercurial-work around able to defeat bodily death and enlightened eternal being is a more subtle layer of the undead.

Dr. Jung wrotes in the chapter Paracelsus as a Spiritual Phenomenon, (in Alchemical Studies.)

Paracelsus, like many others, was unable to make use of Christian symbolism because the Christian formula inevitably suggested the Christian solution and would have conduced to the very thing that had to be avoided. It was nature and her particular “light” that had to be acknowledged and lived with in the face of an attitude that assiduously avoided them.

(Jung earlier in the chapter speaks of the limits of the adept’s “daymind.”)

Archetype possesses the mechanics of refraction in the splitting of dominants and subordinate into further aspects. I’m going to recombine my rough intuitions and suggest the vampire is a subaltern figure–so the contemporary vampire imago stands “outside,” even when the currency of our day’s edgy, camp Vamp, is more the lip-sucking idol, is more sensitive, is more bourgeois. Remember, the contrast between primitive instrumentality and modern character is as stark as that between night and day.

As a practical matter, the attraction to the vampire at least seems to be a worthwhile anecdote to religious neuroticism; does not, as Jung put it, ‘conduce to the very thing that has to be avoided.’

It was nature and her particular NIGHT that had to be acknowledged and lived with in the face of an attitude that assiduously avoided them.

*Most psychoanalytic criticism related to vampires focuses on Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Maurice Richardson, in “The Psychoanalysis of Ghost Stories,” says: “From a Freudian standpoint—and from no other does the story really make any sense—it is seen as a kind of incestuous, necrophilous, oral-anal-sadistic all-in wrestling match”. Phyllis A. Roth finds Bram Stoker’s neurotic fear of sex and women to be the clue to his novel’s popularity; it allows readers “to act out” their own “essentially threatening, even horrifying wishes,” based in the “lustful anticipation of an oral fusion with the mother”. Judith Weissman concurs: “The vampire, an ancient figure of horror in folk tales, undoubtedly represents in any story some kind of sexual terror . . .”. Others, like Christopher Craft and Andrew Schopp, regard vampire literature as a disguised opportunity, as Schopp says, “for acting out socially prohibited roles, and for reconfiguring desire”. p54:Vampire God. The Allure of the Undead in Western Culture, Mary Y. Hallab, SUNY Press 2009 Amazon

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Grey Area of Motivation, Alas

Looking through old drafts, I came across a long essay on motivation. The essay was the result of a research project I did several years ago. You don’t get to see it; it’s moment has passed. Nevertheless, motivation fascinates me as a subject matter. It’s complex, reaches into conundrums of meta-psychology, and remains a mildly controversial subject as a matter of research. As for the latter, motivation has long been one of the most written-about subjects in industrial and management psychology.

When I did my research, itself based in a partial literature review, I was drawn to the fundamental challenge for researchers studying a human phenomena where the dividing line between internal and external seems to go through linked developments: first is the external task–including the environment; second is the responsive internal activity; third is the responsive, now altered, externality–including the environment; fourth is the end result for the primary agent.

Asks the question: what is the status of the agent’s intentionality (each ‘step’ of the way?) Motivation begs some questions about attribution too.

Here’s another schema I discovered (somewhere!) that could be used to ontologically evaluate the answer to the question.

At the time of my original study, what I was gripped by was the difficulty of sorting out the nature of extrinsic motivation if the simple conception of intrinsic motivation was abandoned. This came up because this simple conception–defined as the agent being motivated to do a task for nothing more than the internal reward provided by doing the task–is sometimes abandoned when motivational theories are reconfigured to be the foundation of, for example, managerial practice. Then there are practices, many of which are informally derived and normative, which aren’t informed by anything more than ‘folk psychological’ sensemaking and hunches.

I found the following illustrative diagram.

In a reflexive, phenomenological exercise, I identified what for me are the ecological features of my being intrinsically motivated.


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The Direction of the Horizon

Whether there is or is not an absolute thought and an absolute evaluation in each practical problem, my own opinions, which remain capable of error no matter how rigorously I examine them, are still my only equipment for judging. It remains just as hard to reach agreement with myself and with others, and for all my belief that it is in principle always attainable, I have no other reason to affirm this principle than my experience of certain concordances, so that in the end whatever solidity there is in my belief in the absolute is nothing but my experience of agreement with myself and others. Recourse to an absolute foundation-when it is not useless-destroys the very thing it is supposed to support. As a matter of fact, if I believe that I can rejoin the absolute principle of all thought and all evaluation on the basis of evidence, then I have the right to withdraw my judgments from the control of others on the condition that I have my consciousness for myself; my judgments take on a sacred character; in particular-in the realm of the practical-I have at my disposal a plan of escape in which my actions become transfigured: the suffering I create turns into happiness, ruse becomes reason, and I piously cause my adversaries to perish.

Thus, when I place the ground of truth or morality outside ongoing experience, either I continue to hold to the probabilities it offers me (merely devalued by the ideal of absolute knowledge), or I disguise these probabilities as absolute certainties-and then I am letting go of the verifiable for the sake of truth, which is to say I drop the p to catch its shadow. I waver between uncertainty and presumptuousness without ever finding the precise point of human resolution. If, on the other hand, I have understood that truth and value can be for us nothing but the result of the verifications or evaluations which we make in contact with the world, before other people and in given situations of knowledge and action, that even these notions lose al meaning outside of human perspectives, then the world recovers its texture, the particular acts of verification and evaluation through which I grasp a dispersed experience resume their decisive importance, and knowledge and action, true and false, good and evil have something unquestionable about them precisely because I do not claim to find in them al>solute evidence. Metaphysical and moral consciousness dies upon contact with the absolute because, beyond the dull world of habitual or dormant consciousness, this consciousness is itself the living connection between myself and me and myself and others. Maurice Merleau-Ponty; Sense & Nonsense (p95)

One of my projects over the next few weeks is to try to wrap up a half year’s worth of wandering and exploration. Ironically, this will allow me to pick up some dangling threads. The main subjects I’ve been kicking around ‘inside’ are right now in an odd flux. After all, these subjects, folk psychology, metaphysical foundationalism, (what I term) supranatural solipsism, and, the social (constructionist) organization of heirophanies*, seem to me mixed up in something together I need to compress, wrap up and send away.

There’s a class of schema I have in mind’s eye, of vertical forms. My regard so depicted–or soon to be–is about verticality.

Noting this, in this post is the move into the, or maybe toward, the horizontal form. I’ve got the model set, but it will need to come at the end. Why? Because nothing I’ve been investigating has converted me away from the primariness of, (if you will,) the creative horizon.

*Breakthroughs into consciousness of the archetype of the Self; versioning here Eliade in terms of Analytic Psychology.

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Transformative Anthropology – More Grey Swans

C. Seize any opportunity, or anything that looks like opportunity. They are rare, much rarer than you think. Remember that positive Black Swans have a necessary first step: you need to be exposed to them. Many people do not realize that they are getting a lucky break in life when they get it. If a big publisher (or a big art dealer or a movie executive or a hotshot banker or a big thinker) suggests an appointment, cancel anything you have planned: you may never see such a window open up again. I am sometimes shocked at how little people realize that these opportunities do not grow on trees. Collect as many free nonlottery tickets (those with open-ended payoffs) as you can, and, once they start paying off, do not discard them. Work hard, not in grunt work, but in chasing such opportunities and maximizing exposure to them. This makes living in big cities invaluable because you increase the odds of serendipitous encounters—you gain exposure to the envelope of serendipity. The idea of settling in a rural area on grounds that one has good communications “in the age of the Internet” tunnels out of such sources of positive uncertainty. Diplomats understand that very well: casual chance discussions at cocktail parties usually lead to big breakthroughs—not dry correspondence or telephone conver­ sations. Go to parties! If you’re a scientist, you will chance upon a remark that might spark new research. And if you are autistic, send your associates to these events. Nassim Nicholas Taleb – p208-209 – The Black Swan. The Impact of the Highly Improbable

“They are rare, much rarer than you think.”

Hypothesis central to Transformative Anthropology (my term): people’s development with respect to their crucial relationships, work life, interests, and, location, much more often than not present necessary developmental events that are happenstance, serendipitous, random.

Such events, I term strategic serendipity.

They’re rare in the sense that a person may identify several key events in their life story. but, they’re common were it overwhelmingly true that almost all persons are advantaged by strategic serendipity.

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Transformative Anthropology – Strategic Serendipity

After a little “mind wringing” I’ve decided to refashion the coinage, Chance Strategic Contingency, into:


My thinking about terminology, having passed through the former term, has come, next, through the keep it simple stupid phase, and arrived at Strategic Serendipity.

Strategic Serendipity: in the context of individual human development, a chance event that comes to completely alter the course of a person’s development. Among the many kinds of change such an event impacts, the common kinds result in changes in: key relationships; career; location; interests.

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Steve Beyer on Jung’s Collective Unconscious

For me, Jung’s conception of the collective unconscious is not essential to a comprehensive perspective concerned with how it is symbols, meaningfulness, and evocative patterns are necessary to, and featured in, human personal and social generativity.

Beyer, in his fine overview, gently presents an obvious critique. I’ve excerpted below Beyer on James Hillman.

The Collective Unconscious

Just how many archetypes are there? There appears to be no constraint on their number or nature. Steven Walker, a scholar of comparative literature sympathetic to Jung, says that “the list of archetypes is nearly endless.” There can be an archetype for just about any possible human situation, it seems; and conversely each archetype can produce an indefinite number of archetypal images. And apparently we can make up archetypes at will. Is there a solar penis archetype? That seems surprisingly narrow for a fundamental a priori category of the imagination. A few minutes thought can yield a dozen archetypal possibilities, from masculine generativity to magical control of the weather. In the endless list of archetypes, how do we decide?

And if the person who has produced the numinous image gets to decide with which mythic motif or fairy tale situation it most clearly resonates, then it is not clear why we need to postulate transcendental archetypes of the collective unconscious at all.

Psychologist James Hillman faced this issue squarely, and he chose to eliminate the noun archetype altogether, while preserving the adjective archetypal. The problem, he says, is that Jung moved “from a valuation adjective to a thing and invented substantialities called archetypes… Then we are forced to gather literal evidence from cultures the world over and make empirical claims about what is defined to be unspeakable and irrepresentable.”

But we do not need to take the idea of the archetypal in this reified sense. Any image can be archetypal, Hillman says; it need only be given value — archetypalized or capitalized — by the person experiencing it. “By attaching archetypal to an image,” he says, “we ennoble or empower the image with the widest, richest, and deepest possible significance.”

This view informs Hillman’s approach to dreams, which is not hermeneutic, as it is for Jung, but rather phenomenological or, in Hillman’s term, imagistic, image-centered. “To see the archetypal in an image,” he says, “is not a hermeneutic move.” He thus sees little value in traditional amplification. “Hermeneutic amplifications in search of meaning take us elsewhere, across cultures, looking for resemblances which neglect the specifics of the actual image.” Instead of asking how an image is related to an archetype, the patient begins with and concentrates on images in all their multiple implications — a process psychologist Stephen Aizenstat calls animation, “entering the realm of the living dream.” The idea is to personify the image, ask it questions, interrogate its purposes, engage it as a teacher — even identify with it and question its meaning as one’s own. Hermeneutics is replaced by imagination.

By all means, read the entire article over at singingtotheplants.

Hillman’s heresy is mostly on the money for me.

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A Programming Problem

In today’s New York Times, in the magazine, Paul Krugman asks, How Did Economists Get It So Wrong? In the article he recounts how it happened that the world’s finest experts in macroeconomics were unable to adapt their models and, in doing so, develop better models able to predict the housing market implosion.

In my earlier post, the Second Order position vis a vis belief was explored. There are many ways to describe a Second Order belief. One way says: such a belief is a knee jerk reaction. Another option says: such a belief automatically follows from a specific predisposition. Enter an internalized model of any kind into the fundamentals of a predisposition, then where there is Second Order belief derived from the model, it follows inevitably from the model.

In other words, the model, in effect, programs the belief. Idealized programs very often generate idealized, absolute beliefs about the model.


But the self-described New Keynesian economists weren’t immune to the charms of rational individuals and perfect markets. They tried to keep their deviations from neoclassical orthodoxy as limited as possible.
But there was something else going on: a general belief that bubbles just don’t happen. What’s striking, when you reread Greenspan’s assurances, is that they weren’t based on evidence — they were based on the a priori assertion that there simply can’t be a bubble in housing.
In short, the belief in efficient financial markets blinded many if not most economists to the emergence of the biggest financial bubble in history.

What would you say about a model purported to model macroeconomic actuality, where total belief in the model itself causes the model user to be blinded to particular actualities? What would you say about the nature of total belief in any blinded model. Apparently, best and brightest economic experts can come to be irrationally exhuberant about their own models.

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