1.3 predesterminationisms

The methodology employed by creationists is another factor which is indicative that their work is not science. A scientific theory must be tentative and always subject to revision or abandonment in light of facts that are inconsistent with, or falsify, the theory. A theory that is by its own terms dogmatic, absolutist, and never subject to revision is not a scientific theory. [...] The Court would never criticize or discredit any person's testimony based on his or her religious beliefs. While anybody is free to approach a scientific inquiry in any fashion they choose, they cannot properly describe the methodology as scientific, if they start with the conclusion and refuse to change it regardless of the evidence developed during the course of the investigation.

—US District Court Judge William R. Overton; Judgement on McLean v. Arkansas Board of Education, Jan 5, 1982

The various flavors of Mysterianism that wish to purport an “Explanatory Gap” or “Remaining Mystery” or “Hard Problem” comprise a precritical anti-episteme that is nothing if not “by its own terms dogmatic, absolutist, and never subject to revision.” However, should we wish to purport a defensibly positive episteme, it seems at a glance that—at least in the terms of an epistemology routinely characterized as post-Kantian (yet pre-“naturalized” as Quine would have it)—we would have to declare a fiat “paradigm shift” (Kuhn) of a character no less dogmatic and/or absolutist than the prior paradigm(s) we purported it to have replaced. Any takers? Evidently (e.g., given the accelerating corruption of the US political process by sectarian perversities), such a shift is called for, but formulating (if not formalizing) the conditions by which it could be called forth are problematical, to say the least. Just ask Hegel.


Why? The scientist—at least since Popper made the case for the criterion of falsifiability—cannot, without appearing foolish (to philosophers, logicians, and District Court Judges, if not fellow scientists), confidently warrant assertions to the effect that past events must have occurred in such-and-such a way. To apply the extreme example of cosmogonic events (i.e., ‘from whence we came’), experimental replication (i.e., ‘atom smashing’) intimates Hume’s least digestible provisions—namely, that those regularities we take as ‘physical laws’ are not immutable—insofar as their experimental con-vergence echoes (on a time-scale of trillionths of seconds) as a presupposed di-vergence. In other words, in regard to fundamental particles or forces, if we can ‘put them together’ we surmise that they must have ‘come apart’ during an infinitesimally anterior cosmic catastrophe—an abductive inference that will (‘always-already’) continue to have remained just out of reach to all but Stephen Hawking’s most fevered fantasy fandangos with Marilyn Monroe and Doctor Who.


“Time takes all and gives all.”

Or so says Bruno, never mind the numberless analeptic unnameables nominated in its proleptic wake. As for the give and take, so long as we repudiate ideology tout court—i.e., the entire rainbow-striped multi-culti spectrum of popular hysterics, religious doctrines, and pragmatic psychologisms—the temporal termini should pose a problem not so much for the scientist, very much for the philosopher, and selectively for the theologian. But then, how many (nominally ‘natural’ or ‘social’) scientists can be routinely counted on to repudiate popular hysterics, religious doctrines, and pragmatic psychologisms?



At the other extreme, if we cannot discern global mutation of practically invariant constraints (‘laws of nature’ as necessarily contingent) from local mutation of theoretically constrained variables (Quine: “continuity of change in ... shape, mass, and habits”, Bruno: “with regard to the composite bodies ... an eternal vicissitude”) then we shall remain impaled in perpetuity on Hume’s infernal fork. One (or two? or more?) way(s?) out of the double-bind would be to nominate (or, if you must, hypostatize) the (scilicet,) invariably-changing variables-of-change, either in mechanistic terms of ‘Chaos Itself’ (cf. prima materia to massa confusa) or, in (the standardized, conventional) modal terms—e.g., as ‘Contingency Itself’—or, as per Cusanus, “Possibility Itself [Lat. Posse Ipsum ].”


In other words, this pairwise modalization of strictly impredicative predicables would juxtapose a self-contradictory ‘Necessary Contingency’ (a universalized particular negation,) with a non-contradictory ‘Necessary Possibility’ (a universalized particular affirmation)—but without, as we shall endeavor to explain, the Leibnizian consequence of “Sufficient Reason” (being, obversely, a universalized necessitation of particulars). Cusanus, despite the best efforts of his interpreters (and translators) to retract, revoke, reframe, recuse, refuse, refute, or redact his surmises as if to conform them to contemporary (or contemporaneous) Catholic doctrine—never mind his having negotiated a contested papacy—ultimately offers a concise formula for ontological monism, a formula we find—irrespective of his various Hyperbolic Hypostases (“Absolute Intellect”, “Infinite Maximum”, “Supreme Preciseness”, et hoc genus omne )—bereft of supernatural claims to individual self-substance:

What the mind sees are intelligible things, and they are prior to perceptible things. The mind, therefore, sees itself. And because the mind sees that its own possibility is not the Possibility of every possibility, since many things are impossible to it, the mind sees that it is not Possibility Itself but an image of Possibility Itself. As the mind, in its possibility, sees Possibility Itself, yet the mind is only its own possibility of being, it therefore sees that it is a mode of appearance of Possibility Itself. And it likewise sees that in all things that exist; therefore, all things that the mind sees are modes of appearance of the incorruptible Possibility Itself.

—Nicolas Cusanus, 1464


If human knowledge can reach non-knowledge of the absolute, it thereby gains knowledge of this non-knowledge itself. It does not grasp absolute unity in its pure ‘whatness’; but it does grasp itself in its complete ‘otherness’. And precisely this otherness implies a relation to this negative pole of knowledge. Without such a relation, knowledge could not even recognize its own nullity; to speak with Hegel, whose basic thought Cusanus anticipates with clarity—knowledge could not set up the limit if it had not already transgressed it in some sense.

—Ersnt Cassirer, 1927


two cleaver by haft

Lacan, called to the card table, unfurls his kit of scalpels and sutures; as if to retool errant loot, he spades diamonds, clubs hearts, and buries his hand in a hat-box. Le Docteur dutifully deals a dialectic of—what else? Bridge!—the most complex of all card games, one for four players—or rather, one for two for three for give-or-take Lacan’s ventriloquism of “the dummy [Fr. mort ]” that occludes Beckett’s desolate anti-Nomata behind the clownfacemasklessness of a Deleuzean Killing Joke. Lacking Batman’s penchant for pendants, our own Joker opts to upend le Pendu and retract Lacan’s trick Tarock to a much simpler card game, one for two players—albeit similarly hamstrung, and with exponentially increasing stakes.




Or, to put it in something a bit closer to English: Lacan’s “four-corners game” is always one corner short of a full square (if not ‘one card short of a full deck’), just as Aristotelian four-valued logic is always one propositional form short of decidable. Where the latter provoked the formulation of three-valued logics (e.g., TRUE/FALSE/UNKNOWN) from Avicenna to Łukasiewicz and beyond, the former provoked hostile rebukes and convoluted interpretations (“of interpretations interpreted”) from and by Lacan’s confreres. We shall disentangle his knotted oddity (lest we cut the rope and crack our nutshells), first by comparing two unwinnable table games, each of which explicates a set of three entities cleverly implicated as four. Should we re-present this formalization by way of metaphor and metonym, it would look something like this redoubled no-win either/or for neither/nor scenario:



three-card monte vs. the shell game

While these two turpitudinous table games are closely related, here we take ‘Three-Card Monte’ to refer to persons (who/whom/whose), and ‘The Shell Game’ to refer to somethings (which/what/that). That is to say, where the former is anthropomorphic—as in our Good Cop/Bad Cop example, the latter is not—as in our redoubled color-scheme example. As with the two prior examples, these two bring the problem of “Who?” versus “What?” quickly to the fore. If we can discern their similarities and differences through the murk of analogical representation, they may yet crystallize into a clear homological presentation.


Of the either-turns-to-neither type, we have Three-Card Monte, in which the obscure fourth party, the (Virgin) Queen (being, e.g., to compound analogy with allegory, Elizabeth I in her literary function for the Bard’s crafty lot as an emblem of Diana, Virgin Goddess of the Hunt—Mother/Midwife/Guardian of Absolute Knowledge, etc., etc.), is a nominally integral (inherent?) attribute (aspect? accident?) of the obverse (hidden, obscure, occluded, occult, mysterious) side of: which card? During the setup, of one card and one card only—as shown by the huckster (prestidigitator, charlatan, shark, shaman, medium, guru, high-priest muckety-muck) to the rube (sucker, dupe, chump, mark);



during prestidigitation, as an assumed potential of any or every card;



during play, of no card chosen by the sucker;



finally, at the non-payout, of the ‘third’ card lifted by the prestidigitator as the demonstration of (ahem) good faith obliged to return the game to its agreed-upon rules.



For the dupe, this last gesture may stand in contradistinction to Pascal’s dire warning, that “Custom is the whole of equity for one solitary reason: that it is accepted. This is the mystic foundation of its authority; whosoever brings it back to its first principle destroys it.” On the other hand, ‘mystic knowledge’ of the principle remains with the mediator: whither Diana? For the charlatan, She appears on demand. That the mark is permitted to “look but not touch” holds—but only in theory; in practice (by way of allegory), Actaeon, ill-fit to gaze upon Her resplendent Form, lost more than his measly sawbuck. One question remains, Namely: is there a fourth card, and if so, by whose Very Important Pate is it graced?



or, the principium and the pea

Of the or-turns-to-nor type, we have The Shell Game, which differentiates itself from Three-Card Monte by abstracting the obscure fourth in the body of the pea (here standing in for the dogmatic kernel or doctrinal hot-potato). Now if you cannot discern the onto-theological import of this distinction, irrespective of its being irrespective of its outcome, you may be so embedded in a particular belief system that you would do well to stop reading now—for we are about the “bring[ing] it back to its first principle” and we take it as given that we shan’t “destroy it” but rather we shall demystify it—if only by leaving off of representational analogy in favor of homological presentation. (While this distinction may seem odd in English, cf. Ger. Vorstellung/Darstellung in Kant and elsewhere.)


Should spectators to the game include a number of the usual suspicious naysayers, cynics, skeptics, and wiseacres, our Magister Ludi will enlist a third party (how quickly mixed metaphors multiply), namely, the audience plant (shill, dummy, puppet, accomplice, confederate, partner-in-crime) who play-acts a dramatic yet empty gamble, and whose false winnings serve to bolster the appearance of juridical integrity. Insofar as Pascal’s Wager (“It is a game certain to result in the loss of all”) is of this type, we must go further afield to find a misfit mystic who puts his money where his mouth is—for example, Jakob Böhme:



“The signature of the real [Lat. Signatura Rerum ] lies most artfully composed in the center of the human mind, in accord with the essence of essences [...] and man wants nothing but that the wise master may strike this instrument, which is the true spirit of the high might of eternity.” Now, given the contemporaneity of these two—viz., Pascal qua sophistical Jansenist polymath versus Böhme qua humble Lutheran shoemaker—you may be tempted to infer correlative judgement on our part vis-à-vis Catholic and Protestant doctrine. To excise such unintended effects, we would be better served by avoiding both representational analogies and ad hominem exemplars. Thus, if we were to present this same three-for-fourfold formalism by way of a topographical (visuospatial, geometrical) homology (or better yet, a homo-morphism), it would perform an operation such as this:



. . .ad infinitum. In the interest of fairness, let us note that (A) the ‘Sierpinski Sieve’ appeared (as did the ‘Penrose Tiles’) in medieval mosques avant Sierpinski; (B) its triangles comprise a finite area with an infinite perimeter (as does, e.g., Ireland); (C) it will ‘plot itself’ by way of recursive dice-throws. So what? So, for good measure, we double back (re-course, re-trace, in-vestig-ate), to formalize the interval (lacuna, disjoint, exception) lodged amid our ambivalent (ambiguous, equivocal, oscillating) false-choice non-game metaphor: Should we present the two most closely related (yet non-identical) topological specifications by way of topographical representations, they would comprise something like this either(both/and)/or(neither/nor) scenario:



And again, the moment we apply this formulation to a discourse, we pervert our hard-won purity of form with contentiously contingent content. For example, compare the uses of the triadic (‘Borromean’) rings to the triune (‘Triquetra’) knot by Christian rhetoricians—historical usages which may or may not conform to sectarian doctrines of purport through the ages (Trinitarianism vs. Unitarianism? Theism vs. Deism? etc.) Moreover, this confusion is only compounded by (neo-)Lacanians retying his apocryphal “Borromean Knot” . . .



With but the slightest nudge, we come to face a redoubled example of how that which we can coherently and consistently present in the visuospatial modality becomes incoherent and inconsistent when we represent it using propositional (logic, via) language. Here too, we locate the connotative distinction of ‘ineffable’ from ‘impredicative’—to wit: there is nothing ‘mysterious’ or ‘contradictory’ or ‘irrational’ about the linked rings, so long as we ex-plain their self-evident interdependence in the diagram: if any one of the rings is cut, the other two are separated. That’s that. However, the effort to de-scribe the inter-de-pend-ence in propositional, sentential, predicative terms yields a fourth, central entity. Or, as Hegel puts it:

“. . . now as the first negative is already the second term, the term reckoned as third can also be reckoned as fourth, and instead of a triplicity, the abstract form may be taken as a quadrupliticy . . .”


The resulting graph is differentiated from the rings by the same irreducible (be it irrational, infinitesimal, or other) interval as that by which the rings are differentiated from the knot. If, as above, we take the fourfold (node-and-edge, vertex, or net) lattice as topologically anarchic, the four triangular faces yield the tetrahedron, the simplest of the Platonic solids. Are we still ‘talking about’ the same Trinity here? (cf. Vedic Brahmanism, Hindu Trimurti, Kashmiri Shaivism: one as not-two? or not-three? or not-four?) To implicate ‘mysterious’ interrelation to the four nodes, we must augment the six edges with two sets of three explicitly contradictory propositions, as in the medieval Shield of the Trinity(-as-non-Quaternity):



We should note that our reckoning by way of Christian and Islamic geometry is a matter of historical convenience, as the bulk of Western philosophy and science was hoisted from the medieval to(wards) modernity on the backs of Catholic and Muslim polymaths. Moreover, lest we be charged with sins of omission—or more to the point, as Christopher Bollas has it, “absence of reference” being a cornerstone to the application of fascist ideology—we shan’t neglect to favorably cite Maimonides, being (now as then, for the perplexed,) premodernity’s preeminent Jewish Talmudic-Scholastic-neo-Platonist.


Now for good measure (with a bit less ecumenism), we might switch the blade and cut back through the pundit’s platitude of “Judeo-Christian values” to counter that the US “Founding Fathers” rather infused our Ur-documents with either (1) by dint of a Deism of profound Remove, something more like ‘Judeo-Islamic’ values—or (2) by dint of a Freemasonry of selective Fraternity, something more like ‘Islamo-Christian’ values. But then, such a sardonic switchback would amount to little more than fighting smoke with mirrors. Ladies and gents, we have nothing up our sleeves.


It would be more accurate (and forthright) to say that the ‘F. F.’ imported an unapologetically political potpourri of post-protestant valuations that exceeds the bounds every nominal sect of ‘Christianity’ purported then or now. The po-pro potluck nonetheless remains (as, or in, or vestigial of) an amalgam which, at its best, reduces to “I don’t care how funny your hat is, neither you nor the horse you rode in on constitute any capacity whatsoever for the intercepting of, interceding for, or interfering with my choice of Absolutes.”—and at its worst, reduces to “if God Loves me, he gives Me Money.” So, we shall pull back again for perspective, from anthropomorphic topography to inhuman topology: to see abstract form in material concretion without invoking contentious hypostases of the “Who?” versus “What?” variety, compare the (triune) trefoil, or (3,2)-torus knot to the Lorenz Attractor:



We drink Coke—or any drink—for two reasons: for its thirst-quenching or nutritional value, and for its taste. In the case of caffeine-free diet Coke, nutritional value is suspended and the caffeine, as the key ingredient of its taste, is also taken away—all that remains is a pure semblance, an artificial promise of a substance which never materialized. Is it not true that in this sense, in the case of caffeine-free diet Coke, we almost literally “drink nothing in the guise of something”?

—Slavoj Žižek, 2001

Here we shall insist that Žižek has uncharacteristically understated his case, for we can demonstrate “absence of reference” in terms of pragmatic motive force as totalitarian erasure by way of null anaphora in triplicate: The Coca-Cola Company (mind not, O bureaucrats, our non-disclosive Ps and Qs) is an abstract corporate entity that does not ‘make soft drinks’—as concrete matters of fulfillment descend from the auspices on high of Coca-Cola USA and Coca-Cola International unto earthly affiliated bottlers far and wide. The Coca-Cola Company, rather, directs marketing efforts towards perfuse penetration by (A) placing refreshment “Within Arm’s Reach of Desire” (a corporate-report bullet-point shot through the clockwork heart of Lacan’s LaLectern, never mind “The Real Thing”) where e’er upon our humble orb there thirsts a biped with two bits. Second, should there reign one rule of belting out props to the world’s undisputed #1 heavyweight champion of carbonated colas, it is that (B) Coca-Cola is the world’s undisputed #1 heavyweight champion of carbonated colas—and third, we need nary a ‘neuromarketing’ voxel-boxer with dueling drips to edify us to the effect that (C) it is the taste of brand that “Desire” doth desire undisputedly, thank you very much.


wants that may strike instrument

Lacanian theory, with its link between surplus-enjoyment and surplus-value, offers the best theoretical framework for grasping [... how] cultural studies which celebrate new multiple perverse forms of artistic production do not take sufficiently into account how these phenomena are grounded in global capitalism, with its accelerated commodification—it is Lacanian theory that enables us fully to conceptualize this link, to effectively re-historicize the topics of cultural studies.

—Slavoj Žižek, 2001

Whether it be “Lacanian theory” in particular, or structural analysis in general that provides conceptual traction, we are not only inclined to agree but impelled to demonstrate. Moreover, in future we should like to forego unilateral branding jingo in favor of multilateral lingo brokerage; as such, we must ask whether English in particular is brokerable—and for that matter, is it broke? If it ain’t, why fix it? Quine mounts a spirited defense of the term—with tongue in cheek, of course (but which cheek?)—as after all, despite abuse, “ain’t” legitimately contracts “am not” on the model of “isn’t” from “is not.” He further warrants a preference for “hain’t” to “haven’t” as the latter, cut neither of phoneme nor of grapheme, contracts “have not” not one bit. Then again, Quine also warrants—with a wit lacking all irony—that “freedom to choose to do otherwise than one likes or sees fit would be a sordid boon.”



And a sordid boon it is—that is, unless you hold Pangloss (with Leibniz) over Kant (with Sade). In regard to Dawkins’s petition for memetic replication of “militant atheism”, every English schoolboy worth his knickers knows it by such historical names as Leninism or Stalinism. This is not to say that militancy is wholly uncalled for, only that the twentieth century explicated its scenarios sufficient for one and all to reckon with historicist aim, even if in want of a historian’s acumen. For example, should we prefer to petition for a ‘militant secularism’ that would safeguard what remains of our pluralism (if not raise our “freedom of worship” to the high-water mark of the Ur-Constitutional Flushing Remonstrance), we find the paradigmatic exemplar in one Mustafa Kemal Atatürk:


Between 1923 and 1938, Atatürk abolished the Ottoman Caliphate, proscribed sectarian headwear, prescribed that the Turkish language be inscribed in Roman in place of Arabic, etc.—in sum, he instituted a program of radical secularization, the success of which consisted in establishing the Republic of Turkey as exactly not an ‘Islamic Nation’—irrespective of a statistical 96% Muslim citizenry. But then of course, if we wished to publicly purport the foregoing, we would have to account for the ambiguous status of Orthodox Christian Armenians, not to mention the trisected ghost-nation of Kurdistan, whose disembodied corpus, bereft of mantle, would haunt Turkey, Iran, and Iraq alike. So perhaps “militant thus-and-such” is not the best foot forward—that is, unless you’ve rigged the roulette wheel the better to chip sophistries as to whether our huddled masses will be drawn magnetically towards an Atatürk or an Ayatollah. Ladies and gentlemen, betting is closed.



On the one hand, we want to do justice to the intuitive self-evidence of a sense of freedom that performatively accompanies every intentional action; on the other hand, we want to satisfy the need for a coherent picture of the universe that includes humans as part of nature. Kant was able to reconcile “causality through freedom” with natural causality only by adopting a dualism of the intelligible and phenomenal realms. Nowadays we would like to dispense with such metaphysical background assumptions. But then we have to reconcile what we learned from Kant about the transcendental conditions of knowledge with what Darwin has taught us about natural evolution.

—Jurgen Habermas, 2008

What he said. Now (with apologies) to distill a rhetorical template: “On the one hand, we want to do justice to [...] on the other hand, we want to satisfy the need for [...] Nowadays we would like to dispense with [...] But then we have to reconcile what [...]” —or better, further boiled down to: (1) On the one hand, we want _______; (2) on the other hand, we need _______; (3) nowadays we would like _______; (4) but then we have to _______. Want; need; would-like; have-to. Rinse, lather, repeat. Faced with the problematical ping-pong particulars that Habermas serves up, are we forced to take sides? No—but, we would not be the first to note that modern science and philosophy, in maxim and in method, draw out several disconcertingly redoubled parallels to the sectarian schisms, in doctrine and in dogma, within the historically dominant Abrahamic faiths.


what’s black and white and red all over?

Among the more popular platitudes punted from the punditron of cultural relativism, “science and religion are not in conflict” is a misguided bit of wishful thinking, and to use the paraconsistent charge notably levied at string theory, “not even wrong.” As such, we should rather make explicit that this conflict has precipitated a fight for survival. Here in the US, our ‘representatives’ have not only exempted select religious institutions from taxation, but have gone so far as to dole out additional taxpayer dollars to “faith-based initiatives” (irrespective of institutionally-mandated discriminatory hiring practices, etc.), while conversely, to remain solvent, scientific institutions within academia and without are forced to prostitute themselves to corporate interests (thereby disqualifying their work as “science” tout court ). This strictly practical conflict betrays a more theoretical conflict on the obverse, namely: that with which science is not “not in conflict” is not religion—which, like psychotherapy, strives (through practice) to materially integrate individuals into a community’s shared model of meaning, but rather theology—which, like metapsychology, strives (through theory) to formally dis-integrate the composite models to better articulate their component meanings.



Should we attempt to reduce these parallels to a schema, we would find (1) an effectively transparent affirmative parallel, e.g., of Materialist “determinism” with Calvinist “predestination”—and (2) an effectively opaque negative parallel, e.g., of falsifiability with apophaticism. Should we combine (1) and (2) by way of dialectical sublation (or speculative synthesis) in the manner of Hegel, we could resolve them into the aforementioned parallel of (post-Kierkegaardian existential) fideism with (post-Kantian skeptical) fallibilism. With some luck, we would thus crystallize a translucent “transcendental schema” through which our gaze into the refractory abyss is more or less refracted across the horizon (and vice-versa . . . Solve et Coagula . . .); barring luck, given the speculative (if not exactly optical) difficulties inherent to ratiocination on (2) and (3), let us see if we can’t first make out the contours of (1) through the foggy lens of discursive conventions.


Formally, we could say this parallel consists in no more than conducing chains of affirmative and negative syllogisms to and fro transversally between discursive accidents—after all, propositional logic ‘doesn’t care’ whether it’s conducing religious doctrine, quantum-mechanical dogma, or cake recipes. But Wittgenstein (‘one’) already captured this ars brevis in his neatly-numbered Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus and, speaking pragmatically—that is, vis-à-vis the ‘real world’ (“a coherent picture of the universe that includes humans as part of nature”), such trivia as ‘discursive accidents’ are wont to convoke Holy Wars at the flip of a switch, the drop of a hat, a throw of the dice, the toss of a coin. So—call it in the rarified air, between Wittgenstein’s ladder and Pico’s throne, heads or tales?

In order to lose themselves in God, the Sufis repeat their own name or the ninety-nine names of God until the names mean nothing anymore. I long to travel that path. Perhaps by thinking about the Zahir unceasingly, I can manage to wear it away; perhaps behind the coin is God.

—Jorge Luis Borges, The Zahir (1949)


And the same thing holds in respect of the facts of human behavior, only the investigation of these facts in so far as the Holy Law is silent about them is more legitimate, especially when they are of the same genus as those about which the Law pronounces judgement. For this reason the lawyers disagree about this kind of facts; some of them, the Zahirites, deny the use of analogy, whereas others, the analogists, admit it, and this is absolutely the same thing as happens in the sphere of knowledge, only perhaps the Zahirites are happier in the purely intellectual sphere than in the practical.

—Averroës, The Incoherence of the Incoherence (c.1170)

What we might half-jokingly call the (1) ‘predesterminationism’ parallel (whether purported as ‘predestinarianism’ or as ‘determinism’) is functionally articulated as a maxim—more specifically, a metaphysical presupposition, the (1A) affirmation of which is incompatible with (1B) ‘free will’ (being a matter of theology-cum-psychology), and as such, with (1C) individual culpability (a matter of jurisprudence). The (A) affirmative argument is a ‘non-starter’ insofar as Civilization as such demands allegiance to (B)—the contravening free-will Fiat, at (C)—point of arms, irrespective of the (deterministically affirmative) contrary and, to say the least, contentious findings of empirical neuroscience, evolutionary biology, Freudian psychoanalysis, behavioral psychology, computational anthropology, and the rest of the discursive nay-by-way-of-yay-sayers—not to mention the equally disparate doctrines of post-protestant purport that erase said freedom from the (double-)books.



Is this an unbreakable deadlock? Maybe, maybe not—that depends upon your defining criteria for “lock” and “dead”—and perhaps upon your fault-tolerance, or your breaking point under cognitive torsion. Should we take a quick spin through the exponentially-expanding discourse domain of cognitivism, we would espy such (arguably) subsidiary genera as a Science of Consciousness and a Philosophy of Mind—but the former is an etymological reflex (or concatenation of cognates), wherein the prepositional “of” at once recapitulates and occludes the crucial link: science, conscience, consciousness. Moreover, the latter is a pleonasm (try ‘Philosophy of Philosophy’?), or rhetorical tautology (a logical tautology being, e.g., “It is either raining or not raining”, from which two-bit non-information, as Wittgenstein quips, we “know nothing about the weather”).


Where shall we turn for shelter (from rain or not-rain, as the case may be)? Meanwhile, (on another scene), with ‘psychoanalysis’ having become something of a four-letter word (improbably enough), we have metastasized ‘metapsychology’ by retroactively extending its purview to subsume Wittgenstein’s (internally-antagonistic Freudo-Jamesian) Philosophy of Psychology and furthermore (if not further mores). Given than we can rummage these clothes from mantle to portmanteau without finding an emperor, are we now supposed to redress ourselves in meta-stases and paint the town pseudo-quale red? Or again: what is the state (if not the stake) of our would-be cognitive science? Let us take a more recent (and more typical) example from (so to speak) the best of both worlds—namely, the would-be centrist media purveyor of record, CNN, as it recaps the peer-reviewed academic journal of record, Nature Neuroscience:

Researchers asked 58 participants, who ranged in age from 19 to 83, about the number of people they interact with regularly per week and what roles those people play in their lives. [...] Study authors then looked at the volume of the amygdala, controlling for the size of the overall brain, in each participant. The relative size of the amygdala was not associated with perceived social support, satisfaction with social interactions, or how much participants enjoy interacting with people in general. It did, however, correlate well with the size and complexity of individuals’ social networks. [...] Because the study does not show causation, it is impossible to know whether the amygdala actually grows in size because of social interaction, or if people with larger amygdalae gravitate toward larger groups of friends, or both.

CNN.com (December 26, 2010)



The recap of experimental criteria, data collection and correlation (the ‘science-y’ portion) is straightforward enough, cautioning as it does by way of the ‘correlation is not causation’ caveat. While this phrase may offer comfort to pay-per-posit pundits, it is as cold and empty as the wastes of the north pole—for we should like very much to read a study that is able to “show causation”. What we find in the discursive cloverleaf of popular and academia media (particularly in the US) is a schematically formal symptom of our systemically redoubled double-bookkeeping: To warrant either anti-predestination (as per book B: free-will theology,) or anti-determinism (as per book C: deontological ethics,) is to ignore (or worse, to dismiss) every epistemological insight since Hume. To wit: on the heels of CNN’s acausal correlation, we find the (customarily blurred) line from inferences and surmises to findings and conclusions (the ‘human interest’ portion), whither our academician in bona fide girdle augers an unvarnished gaze into the glazed eye of pseudo-philosophy:

Lead study author Lisa Barrett, professor of psychology at Northeastern University and associate neuroscientist at Massachusetts General Hospital, does not believe that people born with larger amygdalas are destined to have broader social networks. “You're never destined for anything. Your brain gives you the potential for things, it doesn’t dictate that those things will materialize,” Barrett said.

What this provides is a typical example of (more precisely, a clearly demarcated paradigm for) the disavowal by which scientistic purport is inverted—either by reversion to an autopoietic causa sui (the ‘self-cause’ or ‘uncausedness’ historically reserved for theistic agents), or by ‘folk psychology’—which (pace Fodor et al.), being undergirded by naïve realism, is more suitable for Oprah Magazine—and her well-meaning readers, who cannot be expected to keep pace—than Nature Neuroscience, and its best-intentioned readers, who must keep pace—but with what? Where causality is concerned, an empirical predisposition can only be hammered into a coherent formal argument along the lines of determinism (per book A),or predestination (contra book B)—both of which reduce to: “things happen”—the cause of which is either divine (per fideism) or vacuous (per fallibilism), and in either case, non-human (or, if you prefer, in-human). This chain of reasoning does not impugn Barrett’s motives or methods—only her maxim, insofar as the chain breaks between ‘the science-y bit’ and ‘the human interest bit’ as she moves from enunciating the position of an empirical scientist to that of a wishful-thinking layperson. Of course this transverse is, so to speak, only human (or, as Nietzsche has it, “all too Human”).

On this front, precritical naïvety is to be expected of those material scientists who may be blissfully unconcerned with human intersubjectivity—despite supposing said intersubjectivity to have replaced correspondence or conformity (or the Scholastic adequatio as per Aquinas, but not necessarily as per Cusanus) as the empiricist benchmark. However, in the case of self-identified experimental psychologists and neuroscientists, evolutionary biologists, ethologists and the like, such naïvety calls into question their (and who knows? perhaps your) criteria for experiment design and data selection—irrespective of what may very well be apodeictic rigor. Why? Benchmarks, controls and selection criteria are invariably governed, where in want of formal axioms, by fundamental onto-epistemic presuppositions. This we will have learned from Quine, if not from Hume.


“And the partially purgatorial agent? The partially purged.”

Freedom of religion tests the neutrality of the state. The latter is often jeopardized by the predominance of a majority culture that abuses its historically acquired power of definition to lay down what shall count as the generally binding political culture in a pluralistic society according to its own standards. This intact fusion can lead to a gradual infiltration of an essentially procedural constitution by cultural substance. For the essential moral content of the constitutional principles is secured through procedures that owe their legitimizing power to the fact that they guarantee impartiality and the equal consideration of the interests of all. They forfeit this power when substantive ethical ideas infiltrate the interpretation and practice of the formal regulations.

—Jurgen Habermas, 2008

Pragmatismus in der Nussschale. Not for nothing do the more coherent procedural arguments issue from countries with historically consistent juridical paradigms (irrespective of valuation; just ask Pascal). Compare, for example, our many and varied (and as such, not exactly United) State’s laws that enjoin punitive termination of life—or, if you prefer affirmative negation to negative affirmation, punitively caused death—or again, as Top Texan Rick Perry affectionately put it into a swell of applause, “the ultimate justice.” That our so-called ‘capital punishment’—lacking the Jacobin transparency of actual de-capit-ation—falls under the purview of bureaucrats (if not headless chickens, exactly), might say a thing or two about our integrity as a would-be civilized nation. Of course, any Justice elevated to Pascal’s standards for blindness would be ill-fit to exchange an eye for an eye.


I know you are but what am I?

—which is, as Paul Reubens (qua Pee-Wee Herman) demonstrated indelibly, the riposte of first resort for would-be adults playing overgrown children. (To invert intransitivity ad absurdum, “I know I’m not but what aren’t you?”) Chief among axiomatic sandbox toys we find the ‘autonomous ego’ (and/or ‘rational agent’ e.g. of pseudo-objectivist economics)—a slippery actant invoked by hauntological hypostasis—one which, as Lacan charged in 1960, “merely perpetuates an academic framework, no matter how one dresses up its premises. Its criterion is the unity of the subject, which is one of the presuppositions of this sort of psychology [...] as if the psychical had to obtain recognition as doubling the organism.” Redouble, rebubble, retoil and retrouble. Why the forced choice between false choices? Why do we “perpetuate [this] academic framework”?


Foremost, the rule of law requires that, insofar as individuals must be held responsible for their actions (alarming mental health statistics notwithstanding), we maintain some semblance of “this sort of psychology”—despite that the methods of science forbid. The “criterion [of] the unity of the subject” (whether nominally sustained as one ‘person’ or ‘self’ or ‘ego’ or ‘agent’) was forcefully revoked by Sperry et al. some forty years ago by way of radical neurosurgery in conjunction with controlled laboratory experiment (with “split-brain patients”), the empirical findings and deducible consequences of which are in no way ineffable—yet they remain unspeakable in the discourse by which public policy is adjudicated.



For a concise example, we might turn to population growth over resource depletion, which will surely remain “unspeakable” by offices high and low, irrespective of GDP-growth politico-economic rabbit-holes. Or, we could find a less concise example (but one that is more certain to get your hackles up, no matter where you may stand on the issue) in the reckoning of self-styled “rogue economist” Stephen Levitt vis-à-vis the correlation of the 1973 passage of Roe v. Wade (and state precedents) with the plummeting crime rates of the 1990s. Put in terms that any schoolchild could understand: X quantity of socioeconomically-less-than-viable births + 18 years = Y quantity of socioeconomically-less-than-viable adults.


Should we attempt to feed Levitt his own medicine, we would find that on one spoon, he claims that, insofar as his research is (or, is to remain warrantable as) effectively “objective, statistical” (yet somehow also “empirical”) scientific reportage (i.e., with no warrantable basis for sociopolitical inferences), he is neither in favor of nor opposed to abortion rights. On the other spoon, he doesn’t hesitate to flip open the double-books (of the speakable and the unspeakable) vis-à-vis Japanese culture in general, Shinto culture in particular, Sumo match-rigging specifically. But is this a fair fight?


It seems as though Levitt can choose (so to speak) to expose (divulge, disclose, explicate, demonstrate) any discursive hypocrisy, so long as it remains sufficiently ‘other’ (cf. ‘oriental’)—but when it comes to his own culture (our culture), his own discourse (our discourse), he (we) has (have) no choice but for his (our) disavowal—that is to say, he (we, etc.,) could not stand behind his own work unless he were willing to fully embrace the role of social pariah (at what expense? he has kids and stuff)—not only by following out but by giving full voice to his deductions as they apply to “social engineering” (aka “eugenics”). But is his a false choice, or a forced choice, or both?


If held captive to denial by a double-bind, how can one legitimize claims to have conducted double-blind trials? One cannot, but for to (A) muster the ‘courage of one’s convictions’ and face the full force of ideological backlash, or (B) choose from a constrained set of hypocritical fiat axioms. So, take your pick. Or don’t. You could always flip a coin. Then again, perhaps your pick has already been made for you—in which case, you should feel free (as it were) to deny culpability. As for our own culpability, in the interest of disclosure (if not fair play): in our former capacity as meta-purveyor of meta-commercial meta-media, we (“we” being the author, Ian Thorne, and his prior corporate entities) performed extensive contract work for Time-Warner/Turner, including the CNN television network and subsidiary brand extensions. Our sole connection with CNN.com, however, was a drinking arrangement with its erstwhile creative director, one Stefan Kjartansson, whose singular genius consisted in fabricating spurious “Icelandic proverbs” of such poetic verity as:


“You cannot knit a sweater out of smoke.”

While we should like to protest that past involvement with journalism and advertising fails to sway our surmises, we shan’t. Rather, we should note the specific manner in which this praxis warrants our assertions vis-à-vis psychosocial dynamics as compared to those of theorists whose institutional milieux provide closed-loop (circular-citation) legitimation without (so to speak) broad market testing—for it’s a bit late in the day (as it were) for entropic (int-ra-disciplinary) “interventions.” On one hand, in the work-for-hire private sector, when you are not right, you do not eat—but given our area of expertise (in contrast to, say, private medical practices), by “right” we can only mean measurably motive. We break it, you buy it. On the other hand, we would be remiss in suggesting that all mercenary Mad Men and mercantile meta-mediators see clear of their own smoke and mirrors.



For a counter-example: once upon a time, we watched the above, a notorious bit of stagecraft, on a live feed patched into a video editing suite; present were no fewer than three other broadcast producers, of whom two were shooter-editors. That is to say, these were top-notch framers and cutters of static and dynamic picture and sound. Imagine our horrified witness (not of the multimodal assault on professionally satiated senses and desensitized sensibilities, but rather) in finding that, instead of the customary eruption of critique from a gang who scrutinizes frame-by-frame playback if for no reason other than to mock cheap technical shortcuts, these otherwise sharp tacks took every tightly cropped shot, hypnotic repetition, and vetted platitude as gospel. As it happens, propaganda—being the utilitarian instrument par excellence—expends no more effort than necessary insofar as it operates on the assumption of invariant constraints over contingent variables.

What does Christianity mean today? National Socialism is a religion. All we lack is a religious genius capable of uprooting outmoded religious practices and putting new ones in their place. We lack traditions and ritual. One day soon, National Socialism will be the religion of all Germans. My party is my church, and I believe I serve the Lord best if I do His will and liberate my oppressed people from the fetters of slavery. That is my gospel.

—Joseph Goebbels, 1928

And what, prithee, is yours? Quid pro quo, our own position on (A) the swearing of oaths, (B) the intercession of bureaucrats, and (C) the state-sponsored killing of persons is (D) none of the above; as it happens, all three correspond to the Quaker positions on same by a strictly homologous mechanism—that is to say, despite hailing from Pennsylvania, as descended from disgruntled dirt-farming emigrants (of the Rhineland and elsewhere), we are not in fact Quaker. Nevertheless, we shall steal back under the hex to fetch fork and pitch—for if we must stoop to prick the wheezing nag of “Analytical” versus “Continental” Philosophies, as if to trot out a muckety straw jockey, this bowbacked Pushmi-Pullyu Pegasus would in protest cough up a recirculating smokescreen, of which one muzzle snorts speculative ekstasis and the other specular involution. “That dog won’t hunt”? This unicorn won’t fly. While Eco’s insinuation vis-à-vis the “prodigious and providential” platypus is unequivocally humorous, its “very early appearance in the development of the species” is monstrously equivocal. For if (again, with apologies) the Search for the Perfect Monism is strictly coeval with the Search for the Perfect Monotheism, it seems we may have devolved to bilious monotremes wont to bloviate out the wrong hole.



If, even by an admittedly slipshod, cursory recourse to their rhetorical bases, we find that e.g., Dawkins (and Dennett, for differing reasons) are not atheists, then who is? Or again: what, then, does a legitimately purported atheism sound like? Well, that’s one question. Another question would be: what does a legitimately purported religion sound like, if not like Goebbels? Well, maybe that’s the same question—at least, as we would find it posed by pundits in posit-per-pay pulpits. In kind, should we find Mitt Romney thrust unto the 2012 bread and circus, we shall be entreated to enjoy a scriptural comedy of errors plunged into a hermeneutic tragedy of fruit-loops. (Feb 2012 update: as it turns out, we even got the sanctimonious Santorum bonus!) Stock up on popcorn and cop-porn. Your pounds of flesh. Survival of the spittest. While a knife is clearly inadequate to a gunfight, one is no better served by a flagellum. We’re not in Kansas anymore, are we?


Again, as far as we’re concerned, in the (procedural, juridical, legislative) public discourse of the USA, as a necessarily secular Republic of pluralist purport (in light of our repudiation of the ‘Divine Right of Kings’), we ought grant no voice (nor open a place at the table, nor lend a sympathetic ear) to sectarian religious content (doctrines, myths, archetypes, superstitions, habits, taboos, dress codes, and so forth). In particular, we cannot abide apocryphal proclamations of a so-called “Christian Nation.” Or again: our United States can no more legitimately con-stitute a Kingdom than a Caliphate. Should you harbor doubts, we aim to dispel them presently; should you require justification (for our rhetoric) or strategies (for yours), we aim to detail them in the course of this and further texts.


On one hand, as regards first principles, every propositionally explicable dead end was already mapped out and bricked up before the first US Congress, to the effect that (insert axiomatic hypostasis of choice here:) your ‘Black Box’ cannot beat up my ‘Black Box’, such that what remains is but book-keeping. On the other hand, given the puritanical post-protestant/pre-paradigmatic foreclosure that governs the ghost-kingdom of Christendom, ‘book-keeping’ allows for such illegitimate categorial constraints as “every free negro and mulatto manumitted” to be legislated as criteria for the taxon of personhood. In consequence, (Ø) while my Black Box cannot beat up your Black Box, so long as your personhood is (1) contingent to any or every juridically arbitrated, immaterial, n-dimensional Black-Box allegiance—rather than, say, (2) necessitated by the singular physiologically arbitrated (if semi-permeable) three-dimensional material envelope of your hide—my Black Box can (-1) deprive you of your personhood as per my arbitrary immaterial criteria, at which point, the task of (-2) removing your material envelope is downgraded from ‘murder’ to ‘butchery’.



While we cannot pretend to speak for academics (or for ‘Academia’), we can well warrant our assertions in regard to (the mechanisms and machinations of) mass-market media, a discursive stage on which ‘evidently’ (as Quine would say), you—“you” having the necessary minimum of two axioms to rub together, thereby shedding much-needed light on present topics, and sufficient ingenuity to focus it on crucial points—have been effectively displaced by them—“them” being pay-per-posit punks pre-lected by advertorialobbyists to spout magical nonsense by rubbing shiny bric-a-brac. What’s worse, here in the US, where the media most move the masses, we hear very little complaint from your institutions of higher employ. But if their coffers are collated with corporate interests, what could we expect? Thus, the (quantitative, if admittedly polemical) question we would put to the American academic falls to the individual: exactly how much money compensates for the increasingly deafening affronts to reason (“affronts to dignity” being qualitative ) trumpeted by pundits, and for how long do you reckon you and yours will profit from your silence?


Which affronts? Take for example the occasional issue of “corporate personhood”—a strictly ontological problematic, scaffolded from a deictic clerical error (e.g., see Trustees of Dartmouth College v. Woodward ) to the Apodeictic Über-Kleric (e.g., see Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission ). Insofar as we (“we” being Archemind qua private-sector technologists) live outside your glass houses, we may seem better positioned to pitch brickbats at fat-cats in top-hats—but alas, we are even further indisposed from petitioning genies back into bottles: we are, after all, not a 501(c)(3). The best we can do, by way of our cryptic commedia, is squeeze fatuous weasels from fetid minks. All clothes, no emperor. So long as the press is disinclined from hosting pointed riposte, rationale must be couched in persuasive rhetoric, being—now as always—the coin of the public-policy realm. (Feb 2012 update: between the ‘Occupy’ movement and talk of amendments from the more radical legislative quarters, more umbrage is being voiced than we expected. We shall see.)


Why retort? Why riposte? Why respond? Why repudiate? Why refute? Why “refudiate”? Vigilance and vehemence are required for as long we (i.e., “We the People”) maintain the precisely ambiguous characteristics to which “personhood” is conditional (i.e., is qualified in order to allot or revoke it by fiat), for these characterizations in turn condition the abstract (virtual, ideal) implications of Law as unfolded to concrete (actual, real) application via laws. The map folds up, it folds over; the map rolls up, it ties down. Hence, in postmodern want of the much-mournfully-pre-vaunted ‘Master Narrative’ (as we drift from Nietzsche’s “inclined plane” onto our ‘slippery slope’) are we now supposed (by the sandlot baseball idiom) to turn to ever larger bats to guarantee ourselves the upper hand? If so, we shall run out of necessary wood well before we run afoul of contingent rules. What’s more (with apologies to Teddy Roosevelt), if history gives any indication, the Lex Fiat stops with whichever dictator barks the loudest by girding his big-stick fasces with the most tightly bound lictorae.




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