Saturday, March 22, 2014

Shi (Instruction)

Michel Foucault's The Order of Things, a thorough account of categories or classification in the history of Western literacy (in other words, a grammatological approach to metaphysics), begins with this declaration:
This book first arose out of a passage in Borges, out of the laughter that shattered, as I read the passage, all the familiar landmarks of my thought - our thought, the thought that bears the stamp of our age and our geography - breaking up all the ordered surfaces and all the planes with which we are accustomed to tame the wild profusion of existing things, and continuing long afterwards to disturb and threaten with collapse our age-old distinction between the Same and the Other.

This passage quotes a `certain Chinese encyclopedia’ in which it is written that `animals are divided into:
(a) belonging to the Emperor,
(b) embalmed,
(c) tame,
(d) sucking pigs,
(e) sirens,
(f) fabulous,
(g) stray dogs,
(h) included in the present classification,
(i) frenzied,
(j) innumerable,
(k) drawn with a very fine camelhair brush,
(1) et cetera,
(m) having just broken the water pitcher,
(n) that from a long way off look like flies’.

In the wonderment of this taxonomy, the thing we apprehend in one great leap, the thing that, by means of the fable, is demonstrated as the exotic charm of another system of thought, is the limitation of our own, the stark impossibility of thinking that. (
Jullien's Propensity of Things removes the mystery of this effect when he explains that such collections are indeed an alternative system of knowledge, functioning not like Western abstract categories that unify by genus and species according to shared properties, but a series of positions (shi) for performing some skill, anything from playing the flute to the equivalent of the kama sutra.  Chinese knowledge does not work with concepts and definitions, but gathers into coherence by means of networks of affinities and contrasts, correlations.

The relay for a heuretics of electrate metaphysics is the refinement of the very notion of "apparatus" itself, the resonance between the "disposition" or configuration of a situation, producing a potentiality, with dispositif and the Wide Image matrix.   Works of art, especially landscape painting, are the prototype for actualizing and exploring a specific "set-up," and set-up as such.  The formal coherence of relationships within a set up, the design of tensions, the style (efficacy) of the design, create an effect of vitality.  This vitality or dynamism has metaphysical significance, emblematized in the dragon as the icon of a Chinese disposition.  The vitality or dynamism experienced in making and contemplating art directly concerns our inquiry into metaphysics, with ontology as the study precisely of being (life).  The feeling of vitality in art expresses the force of being.

A rule for heuretic instructions is to note in Jullien any points of analogy, as well as direct comparison/contrast between East and West.  The categorial theme concerns shi as the guiding notion for observing Chinese metaphysics (despite Jullien claiming that Chinese landscape painting evokes the invisible force governing reality without resorting to metaphysics).  The instruction is first to locate the relationship, and then to ask:  what is that for electracy (to be answered by means of the CATTt)? There are numerous useful analogies, but the one featured  here as instruction is the following (commenting on the list of shi or positions for learning a skill such as playing a musical instrument).
 These positions in movement (and of movement) defy thought cast in the mold of dichotomies.  For us too, the only way to describe them is through metaphor, by resorting to a cinematographic technique, for instance, and envisaging these series of shi as so many "freeze frames."  Alternatively, using the terms of graphic representation, one might liken them to "sections" made for a drawing of an object imagined as divided across planes; the series of shi could thus be thought of as so many different sections cut through a continuous movement. Each section reveals in itself a fixed plane, but one reads it as a "configuration" matching the dynamic force invested in it (114).
The choice of this particular analogy (shi as cinematographic freeze frame), is motivated by our CATTt Analogy-- a book on "Cinematics," treating artists's explorations of relations between photography and cinema.  The instruction is: Art forms capture and realize potential set-ups, even in an experimental way.  Specifically, be alert for a pattern (a configuration) emerging across the CATTt referencing freeze frame and related photographic and filmic devices.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Generating Instructions

Image of Wide Scope (personal metaphysics: Ulmer).

Heuretics requires several levels of process:  the first step is to take a set of notes on a resource, in order to generate the inventory of possibilities for the intertext poetics. The notes must be an accurate if reduced and condensed representation of the resource, useful in any project.  The instructions generated from the notes (second level) are relative to the specific experiment (in our case, an electrate metaphysics).  In the spirit of translating hermeneutics into heuretics, the analytical and interpretive arguments of the original are rewritten as rules for production.  The caveat is provided by the history of drama:  the prestige of Aristotle's original poetics, describing the features of an ideal tragedy (Oedipus Rex), became prescriptions for Neoclassical tragedy, having a constraining and ultimately negative effect.  Caveat duly noted, but still at this initial stage the procedure is to select key descriptions to revise into provisional prescriptions. 

The assignment describes the project and experiment, providing the goal the instructions address.  The experiment is to test the conductive image logic used in the Wide Image to perform and communicate the electrate poetics generated in Part Two.  The method is to use the assignment to help read the CATTt texts, beginning with Jullien.  In this context we recognize a certain homology between Jullien and the Wide Image.  The Wide Image was produced from a mystory by means of the Emblem--itself an unpacking of a basic image form: vehicle as material icon with properties and connotations; tenor as answers to three questions, concerning "metaphysics" (the nature of reality), "morality" (how one behaves), "mood" (feeling, attitude).  Jullien's Propensity of Things, not by chance, manifests a similar organization.  The book includes three parts, each with a conclusion: 1: A Logic of Manipulation.  This Part corresponds with Morality (how does one act). 2: The Dragon Motif. Part Two concerns aesthetics, art practices expressing attitude, mood of this world. 3: Conformism and Efficacy; Part Three makes explicit the understanding of reality.  These are an alternative three "Ms" of the H'MMM disciplines (counterpart to the STEM disciplines of literate science) -- a relationship that calls for a separate post.

The immediate point is that in generating instructions for the poetics, one understands that a metaphysics is precisely that cultural environment that directs collectively, as a set-up for a civilization, comprehension of how reality is, how one must behave to thrive in that reality, and the attitude of feeling of this living.  The Wide Images designed in Part One are intuitive, folk metaphysics.  The experiment in Part Two is to correlate and augment the personal metaphysics with a potentially collective version.

The Propensity of Things

(Cover Art) Dragon in Clouds
Jullien's study functions as Contrast in the CATTt for an electrate metaphysics.  Given the rule of heuretics-- that the poetics must be confined to the assigned resources -- it is desirable to have generous resources.  The looseness of the heuristics can be frustrating.  The first thing to note is that we are not contrasting with Jullien himself, but with the literate metaphysics he describes.  Some confusion may arise to begin with since Jullien himself produces our contrast for us.  A stricter CATTt might have placed Aristotle's Metaphysics in Contrast, in which case an inversion of that inventory might have resembled an ersatz "China" (just as, in Heuretics, an inversion of Descartes's Discourse on Method resembled a certain "Deleuze").  Derrida recommended in Of Grammatology that a theory and history of writing must include all literacies, not just alphabetic writing but also Chinese, Mayan, Egyptian (et. al.). Electracy in other words learns from and also distinguishes itself from all existing writing.

Thus Jullien occupies Contrast in a complex manner.  His method is to explain Chinese metaphysics for Western readers by a systematic comparison and contrast between Classical Chinese culture and Western (especially Classical Greek) culture.  Our inventory extracts several levels of generative material from this arrangement: 1) Every major point of contrast may first be read as identifying a slot of any metaphysics.  Our understanding of "metaphysics" as such derives from Jullien's survey of these two civilizations:  we need to generate an entry for these slots by extracting from our Analogy and Theory our own version of what the contrast defines. 2) Chinese metaphysics may be construed as "opposite" to Alphabetic (Greek), and certainly it is "different" in principle, beginning with the difference between Chinese and Indo-European languages.  This difference accounts for why at times there are parallels rather than oppositions found in our inventories, so that Jullien produces some analogies as well as contrasts.  At the same time, the Chinese case is still a literacy, albeit calligraphic and ideogrammic.  While it is true that some major inventors of electracy, such as Sergei Eisenstein and Ezra Pound, used Asian writing and arts as relays for their exemplary innovations, nonetheless an electrate metaphysics will not be Chinese anymore than Greek.  Its exact relation to extant civilizations is not oppositional, however, but syncretic, operating as apparatus for a global civilization.

Designing a Metaphysics for Electracy

Where do we come from? What are we? Where are we going? (Paul Gauguin, 1897).
Gauguin's masterpiece, whose title alludes to a catechism Gauguin learned during his school days, introduces our heuretics of metaphysics.  In the first part of the semester we used Internet Invention as guide for composing an Image of Wide Scope. In the second project the goal is to develop a theoretical framework situating the wide image in an electrate metaphysics.  In fact, the claim is that a wide image is a mystorical metaphysics.  The electrate metaphysics is generated using the CATTt heuristic:  Contrast = Jullien, Propensity of Things; Analogy = Cinematics; Theory = Lacan, Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis; Target = the Internet; tale = blog.  One purpose of the seminar is to gain some experience operating the CATTt, which was derived from a pattern emerging withing the genre of discourse on method (see Ulmer, Heuretics: The  Logic of Invention). A rule of thumb is: any hermeneutics may become heuretics: it happens through a certain style of reading:  description becomes guide to prescription -- look for instructions.

The CATTt slots function like a spread in Tarot reading (or in any template): the slot itself is active and inflects any resource it receives.  The syntax of CATTt begins with the articulation of a problem: Contrast repels; Target attracts.  Contrast: the extant metaphysics of literacy are fine as far as they go, but are relative to their apparatus. Target: The Internet requires a native metaphysics.  The C & T are kenotic, emptying out, opening a site for invention.  The procedure is to inventory the respective resources to understand the terms of the problem, both what is being rejected, that for which an alternative is sought, and the affordances of the new condition.  Solution is generated from an inventory of Analogy and Theory.  Analogy is an extant related practice suggesting possibilities of the new discourse; Theory identifies the principles structuring the invention as a whole (the What of the enterprise).  The heuretic produces four inventories, four lists, each list inflected by its slot.  A pattern of correspondences emerges in the intertext created by the juxtaposition of lists.  This pattern is configured into a poetics, a forumla or recipe of instructions for composing (in our case) an electrate metaphysics.  The blog medium supports and organizes this process of collection, inventory, and correlation.

In our project, this poetics is immediately tried, correlated with the first project, the Wide Image.