Sunday, April 14, 2013

Concepts. And hyperbollocks in eleven dimensions

  Sethren, I return even thinner than I left.  MadamMeMe’sMeatyBits will seem to me as the cherries of Paradise.  No fucker told me that the holy monastery of Skellig Michael has been a ruin since the Sixth Century.
Demon? Locus of a hundred concepts?
© James Waddington
  And here in the world, I gather, the tapeworms of government have been suffering orgasms of enraptured grief (insofar as a tapeworm’s orgasm is distinguishable from a morbid twitch of the integument) because a decayed leader, one who has brought about the ruin of our land and sold it off to global corporations and bankers, one furthermore guilty of nepotistic embezzlement and fraud, and therefore the moral beacon of all her tribe, has snuffed it.
  Leader!  A very exemplar of the human stupidity of which I spoke before my involuntary fasting in the wilderness on that rocky waste miles out in the Atlantic (I had imagined mead and fish stew at least).  She was not a leader, she was a politician.  Leaders are the cultural artefacts of war.  Politicians are the mouthparts of power, and power is ultimately wealth.  Behind the mouthparts of power is a great echo chamber, where demons become the size of clouds, few, but huge in presence, and they bounce around and around, an ever-present clangour.  This dead person's clangour was the public bruting of a counter-revolution already present, capital’s transition from production to consumption, to siphoning off the atrophying wealth of the nation into the proliferating proglottids of the City tapeworms.  Beyond the dead's melancholy hooting, she was a paltry human being, ignorant, spiteful, conservative, totally unilluminated by any idea that could not be fully expressed in five words max.
  Yet our present pundits beatify her.  They attribute miracles.
  Britannia had ruled the world, then this sceptred isle went down the plug hole, but the dead person came trailing clouds of glory, and she put the Great back in Britain.  And all the peoples of the earth now bow the knee saying, behold, thou art great among nations, the paragon of humankind, you Brits.
  Hyperbollocks in eleven dimensions.  Let us dismiss this irrelevance from our discourse.
Demon    thing    act    concept    map    praxis    Culture
  You will not believe this, sethren, but when I returned from Africa to this land at the end of the Sixties (the people afire with Beatles, Minis, car and skirt, street fashion and street revolution) to do a further degree (for though I am now as you see me, in tattered robes, stained with the filthy splash of passing traffic, I was once educated and full of promise) I did not know what a concept was.  Our tutor kept using the word, and we students looked askance one at another.  “Concept”, he would say, and none liked to admit that they knew not the fuck what a concept was, in case they were alone in their ignorance.  Up to 1968 we, the intellectual élite, got through life without the concept of a concept.
  Yet Lev Vygotsky had made things plain, half a century before.
  Red triangle.  Yellow triangle.  Yellow circle.  Red circle.
  What you see are pairs of demons (but remember that each demon consorts with many kinship groups and even clouds of associate demons); red; circle; triangle; blue.
  A concept at its simplest is two demons, which still exist independently elsewhere, but are now coupled. To go back further, it is two loci of irreducible difference that, interlocked and superimposed, make a third locus of irreducible difference.  I am reminded (as learned people say) of the disc of mammoth ivory with a mother Auroch on one side and her calf on the other.  Spin the disc, and they are side by side.  The concept of a virtual superimposition of two separate demons would be easily apprehensible to our ancestors 20,000 years ago.  And even today it not so difficult.  In a triangle that is wholly red (not for instance bounded by a black line) the redness and the triangularity are inseparable.  Yet at the same time we know perfectly well what component is redness, what triangle, and can easily separate the one from the other, two pristine demons.
  A red triangle has no sequence, except in syntax (and language, as I have said, is a clumsy, hugely overdetermined system for locating demons in an ideoverse and transmitting them through the metaverse, no more than that.  Poets have long lamented this state of affairs, while failing to note that overdetermination is what gives us poetry.)
  If… then…
  Logic is a concept.  Why I even approach it with the wind howling round my head here on the ringroad I don’t know.  Logic has sequence.  The infant learns sequence young.
  We are going out.  We find the pushchair.  We put on something warm.  We are going shopping.  We find a bag.  Keys? We have keys.  We unlock the door.  We go out.  We shut the door.  We lock it.
  Some of these acts can be done in another order.  Others cannot.  One thing must come before another.  The basis of logic is already there.
  If… then…
  A precondition is a state of affairs that must necessarily come before another state of affairs.  Having a key is a precondition of unlocking the door.  So is the door being locked in the first place.  Getting mush on a spoon is a precondition of shoving it somewhere in the region of your mouth.  If, and only if, there is mush on the spoon, can I shove it in my gob.
  Thus logic, in the form of Vygotsky’s natural concept, is already there.  The scientific concept will take time to develop.  If is a word that links to the demon precondition.  At first glance it would seem more difficult, more complicated to anatomise the demon precondition than the demon red.  Red is of course almost pure demon.  One can produce a thousand demons, a million all keen to surround red, envelop it, stand for it; the electromagnetic spectrum, the visual cortex; but we know full well that none of that busy-ness is red, sethren.  Red is red, end of story.  Pure demon if ever there was one.  And then  you can make it into a triangle.  If too is pure demon.  "If I am good can I have an ice cream?"  "If, my son.  If."  Pure demon simply understood.  But ask the child to anatomise the concept if, it won’t have a clue.
  If all cats have hearts, and Orlando is a cat, then Orlando has a heart.
  If all cats have hearts, and I have a heart, then I am a cat.
  The scientific concept of logic has to be developed, the sequential coupling and obligate linkage (there can be no if without a then) of the if… then… demons has to be explored and refined.  But the concept of logic is a relatively simple one.
  The demons that combine in alliances if one tries to anatomise the demon movement are multitudinous and hard to marshal, and thus the concept of movement is hard to explain (except for “movement is when something moves”-type explanations).  Yet movement is a very simple and basic concept.  It seems that concepts, processes that are abstruse… er… conceptually, are much easier to recognise as demons than simple things like needles, where the various bits (associated demons) are obvious to the eye (or neural substrate if no needle is present).
  Some concepts are quite extensive, the Standard Model, for instance.  Others are less so.  Food, for instance.  Our bellies rumble, craving mechanically recovered horse slurry, the poisonous soya, glutinous white sludge embrowned by who knows what magic into gravy.  Madam MeMe subverts our hunger, elicits self-destructive craving.  As a picture puzzle in the search for concepts, let me commend to you the work of the great Martin Rowson.  The horror. The horror.

No comments: