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Mind-stuff.. and a thought-experiment

Wednesday, May 15th, 2019

[ by Charles Cameron — I’m no longer captivated by chyrons, it seems — and for the next week weeks, it’ll be glass bead games at BrownPundits and my extended examination of advertising as magic here ]
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Mind-stuff.. mind-stuff that grabs my attention is what I’ll deliver here

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Baghdadi — not meditating — contemplating, perhaps — more mayhem?

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Another pattern to follow:

It was unclear whether the increase was the result of a shift of Taliban tactics, or just the greatly increased tempo of the war this year, as both sides pushed to improve their positions at the negotiating table.

Taliban Train Sights on Aid Groups, an Ominous Turn in Afghanistan

One thinks — I tend to think — of negotiations as leaning away from warfare and violence and towards peace and reconciliation. My pattern language now needs to encompass negotiations as warfare and violence inducing as well as peace and reconciliation leaning.

For an analytic mind, boggling; for on the ground negotiators, something to bear in mind

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It’s like our scattered space debris, mind-stuff.

As Patanjali says: Yogas Chitta Vritti Nirodha — Great Silence quiets the mind-stuff..

Ah, well..

I’ll do a post on religions that offer analytic methods shortly..

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And on that topic —

I have always wondered — I haven’t been here always, but wot the hell, Archie, as Mehitabel would say — always wondered about the parallelism between koans, ie case law precedents in Chan and Zen Buddhist tradition, and case law precedents in Western jurisprudence>

Now my wish gets new life, as I read Jason Giannetti, Koan and Case Law:

The Zen koan comes from the Chinese kung-an, meaning a “public case,” as in a legal matter brought before a judge. There are numerous ways in which these koan could be related to law cases. Very straightforwardly, these are public records, the recorded sayings of the early Chan masters that have been passed down and commented upon, just as there may be public legal cases that have authority as precedent and have been commented upon. The koan encounter could be understood as a judgement by a master upon a student based upon the student’s understanding of the “case.” A third way in which the connection could be understood is that the koan tests the student’s understanding of the Dharma. Dharma has many meanings in Buddhism, but one of those meanings is “law.”

Wheee thanks, Jason!

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Nancy Pelosi’s “self-impeachable” is both a wonderful ouroboros and nonsense — a contradiction in terms. Trump’s “investigating the investigators” is far more (semantically) interesting. It’s a bit like that card game where you call out “War” or “Snap when you see both cards are the same..

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I’m keeping an eye out for security implications of climate chamnge, also “climate migrants” which may well become quite a phenomenon:

  • DoD, FY 2014 Climate Change Adaptation Roadmap
  • DoD, National Security Implications of Climate-related Risks and a Changing Climate
  • World Bank, Groundswell: Preparing for Internal Climate Migration
  • Climate & Security, Activities of Agencies to Address Potential Impact on Global Migration
  • DoD, Report on Effects of a Changing Climate to the Department of Defense
  • Climate & Security, U.S. GAO Issues 2 Reports in 2 Months Covering Climate and Security
  • **

    To wrap up:

    I was looking for an ilklustration to go with my weaponized thoughts post, To weaponize metaphors.. thoughts as clothes, clothes as thoughts, and I finally — too late — came across this:

    I certainly think that pic could be interpreted as illustrating the assembling and disassembling of thoughts (2nd Amendment, Don’t Tread on Me, Safety First etc) as a function of weaponizing them.

    It comes from an (is it?) anti-gun (as if one can be pro- or anti- gun rather than pro- or anti- certain kinds of access) piece titled Thought Experiment: What might the world be like if there were no guns?.

    But a thought experiment? That’s a refreshing change from arguments pro- or con!

    To weaponize metaphors.. thoughts as clothes, clothes as thoughts

    Monday, May 13th, 2019

    [ by Charles Cameron — if i may be a bit presumptuous, language is a topic for the wise — in this case, how language can be used as a knife ]
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    I was reading a Vice News piece, Leaked chats show white nationalist group’s plot to infiltrate Turning Point, and was struck by the phrase “weaponize metaphors” in the paragraph:

    Part of Identity Evropa’s strategy now relies on its ability to weaponize metaphors to make their white nationalism seem more acceptable, like referring to “European heritage” — which white nationalist often use as a euphemism to mean “white” — or seizing on mainstream conservative issues like immigration.

    I frankly don’t see”metaphor” and “euphemism” as equivalents, but at least we’re looking at the language used to convey a political stance, albeit an abhorrent one.

    **

    Semioticians won’t be surprised to see that clothes can also be a mode of signalling — of conveying meaning — every bit as much as verbal language. In fact, to paraphrase my title, we can see here that thoughts can be viewed as clothes, clothes as thoughts.. Indeed, in the paragraph immediately before the one I just quoted, we read:

    According to the leaked Slack chats, about 200 members were expected to attend a secret Identity Evropa conference in Kentucky last weekend. Consistent with their brand overall, the event had a fairly strict dress code: Attendees were urged to wear “dress slacks or chinos” — no jeans. Some attendees fretted about whether they had enough time to get their suits dry-cleaned.

    Clothes as thoughts, thoughts as clothes..

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    Speaking of semioticians — Charles Sanders Peirce, the father of semiotics, coined the phrase “the play of musement” which I’ve been toying with recently. Here’s a play, a musement of my own:

  • There’s the music of the spheres, around and within us.

  • Then there’s the boundary layer, the troposphere, the ozone layer, the stratosphere, the mesosphere, the thermosphere, the exosphere and so forth, space, deep space, and deep deep space —

  • or if you’ll believe the brilliant jazz comedian Lord Buckley riffing on Albert Einstein — we should also add “the zonesphere, and the vautisphere, and the routesphere, and the hippisphere, and the flippisphere, and the zippisphere, and the gonesphere, and the way-gonesphere” — hey, the “way-gonesphere” has a distinctly Prajnaparamita feel to it, no? —

  • or better yet, there’s the atmosphere, which includes equally both the sphere of weather out the window and the realm of emotional tensions within a room, group or event..

  • and what Dylan Thomas calls “the weather of the heart”..
  • **

    But really, listen to the whole Hip Einie thing, Buckley gets into the 1905 Annalen der Physik and more:

    And consider the profound beauties of the Heart Sutra with its mantra, and Dylan Thomas marvelous poem:

  • Prajñaparamita, Gone, gone, gone beyond, gone utterly beyond, Enlightenment hail!
  • Dylan Thomas, A Process In The Weather Of The Heart
  • The thing about a carrier strike group and John Bolton

    Friday, May 10th, 2019

    [ by Charles Cameron — strategy / metacognition — here’s an easy to feel, hard to conceptualize notion: the threat to Iran is a human+carrier-group threat, not just a carrier-group threat, okay? ]
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    The U.S. Navy’s Abraham Lincoln carrier strike group includes guided-missile cruiser USS Leyte Gulf, and missile destroyers USS Bainbridge, USS Gonzalez, USS Mason and USS Nitze. Photo by MCS3 Stephen Doyle

    As the son of a captain RN, I can’t resist images like this:

    **

    Aside:

    Let me start by noting that MSNBC’s Richard Engel today mentioned that North Korea expresses varying levels of frustration by exploding underground nukes when “really, really angry” — and then in descending order firing off ICBMs and then short-range missiles — the stage we’re at this week, indicating “moderate displeasure — but why? — And Engel suggests the Kim regime is signalling that it “wants to get back to the bargaining table”..

    So the firing of missiles, albeit into the Sea of Japan, an act of aggression on the face of it, and plausibly a bit of a threat — an example of “saber-rattling”, as Engel goes on to say — can carry a message of tghe wish to negotiate, if not for actual reconciliation.

    I mention this merely to indicate that threat — along with such related categories as exercise, deployment, war-game, &c — is a polyvalent matter.

    But that’s just to open our minds to the matter of The thing about a carrier strike group and John Bolton…

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    Main point:

    John Bolton just announced that the USS Abraham Lincoln was hastening to the Persian Gulf “to send a clear and unmistakable message to the Iranian regime that any attack on United States interests or on those of our allies will be met with unrelenting force.”

    That’s a threat.

    Presumably, as far as Bolton is concerned, the threat in this case is the Lincoln strike group and accompanying bomber wing — the deployment of massive lethal force.

    I don’t think that’s the threat — or to put it another way, I think that’s only half the threat, or more precisely, it’s y in the threat xy.

    What I’m getting at is on the one hand patently obvious, and on the other, conceptually difficult to handle: that the threat is in fact John Bolton force-multiplying the carrier strike group..

    John Bolton is a hawkish hawk — Trump himself said today with a laugh that he’s the one who has to “tempers” Bolton, rather than the other way around — Bolton, if I may say so, is somewhere between a rattling saber and a loose cannon. He may be in complete control of himself, full of sound and fury purely for effect, and far more cautious in purpose and action than he lets on. But his hawkishness is unpredictable, and it’s that unpredictable bellicosity — multiplied by the lethality of the carrier group — that constitutes the real thread.

    It’s easy to feel that, particularly if you’re an Iranian honcho — but not so easy to think about it or discuss it strategically, because there’s no such conceptual category as a human-warforce hybrid.

    We need that category.

    Because the threat to Iran is a human-warship threat, not just a warship threat. And when the human is John Bolton — watch out!

    It’s snowing metaphoric chyrons, ignore unless interested 2

    Wednesday, February 13th, 2019

    [ by Charles Cameron — politics is the straightforward topic, metaphor is the metalanguage we use to describe it, and reveals more than it refers to ].
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    More chyrons &c from yesterday’s haul:

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    With regard to that last one:

    On Friday, Donald Trump tweeted the headline to a recent Washington Examiner story, which read: “Border rancher: ‘We’ve found prayer rugs out here. It’s unreal.’” As the headline suggests, the story is about a New Mexico rancher who claims to have seen prayer rugs—typically used by observers of Islam—near the U.S.-Mexico border. After the headline, Trump added this: “People coming across the Southern Border from many countries, some of which would be a big surprise.”

    His decision to amplify the Examiner piece has since come under scrutiny. Why? Because the prayer-rug story sounds an awful lot like something that happens in Sicario: Day of the Soldado, as several people have pointed out on Twitter.

    The 2018 action film, which revolves around the drug war along the border, opens with border agents chasing after a group of migrants—one of whom turns out to be a Muslim suicide bomber. He kneels, prays, then detonates his bomb. After that, agents come across abandoned prayer rugs along the border; in the next scene, three suicide bombers walk into a store in Kansas City and kill innocent civilians.

    A case of Matryoshka realities:

    The particular interest here from a formal point of view is that it is Borgesian or Escherian in its flipping of realities — but that only makes the Islamophobia more poisonous, because it’s delivered in what’s effectively a subliminal manner.

    **

    More chyrons etc:

    And the suggestions Melber’s viewers made for art illustrative of the Mueller probe:

    That whole painting series relates back to the Ari Melber conversation I quoted in the previous post, in which his guests suggested the Mueller probe and Giuliani in particular reminded them of Impressionism, Cubism and Jackson Pollock, surrealism, and Salvador Dali with his melting clocks..

    **

    Need to slip this in, it’s excerpted from my transcription of a clip of Hakeem Jeffries of the House Judiciary Cttee questioning Whitaker:

    Manafort. Gates, Cohen, Papanopoulos, and Stone. All in deep trouble. One by one, All the President’s Men, going down in flames. It’s often said, where there’s smoke there’s fire. There’s a lot of smoke emanating from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue now. Yet. You decided not to recuse yourself, is that right?

    And I’m not sure when this exchange took place, but it’s Nicolle Wallace talking with Brennan, and the metaphor here comes from physics (Everett‘s many worlds theory) via science fiction:

    What’s it like to live in these parallel worlds, where the President doesn’t just want to have whatever policy he wants, he wants whatever facts he chooses to pursue that policy..

    The President. Nicolle says, doesn’t want facts, he wants — let’s call them ficts.

    And Nicolle to Brennan again:

    You’ve been warning about this sort of lurch towards autocratic behaviors — one of them is bashing the intelligence community, one of them is bashing law enforcement and the rule if low, another one is bashing the media..

    Bash, bash, bash.

    **

    Phew.

    Here are a few more chyrons from yesterday:

    And here’s a first chyron from today — this one continuing the shift of metaphoric emphasis from sports and games to warfare, the metaphor Trump uses is landmines.. metaphorically invoking hidden dangers that suddenly appear to attack you when you least expect it:

    On the felicities of graph-based game-board design: fourteen

    Tuesday, December 25th, 2018

    [ by Charles Cameron — this one, on sacrament, symbol and such, winds up being an intro to #15, not yet written ]
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    My last post On the felicities of graph-based game-board design drew forth a stunning tweeted response from JustKnecht, friend and fellow explorer or Hesse’s Glass Bead Game and the magic of ideas behind it:

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    That’s a fascinating graphical DoubleQuote, at first glance, so I dug into the two images, the left hand one coming from a Sembl post of mine in this series, On the felicities of graph-based game-board design: two dazzlers.

    It’s the one on the right, however, that opened doors for me — one door being the article by Gentner and Jeziorski, the other being Richard Boyd‘s article that follows it in Andrew Ortony (ed), Metaphor and Thought, 2nd ed, CUP (1993):

  • Gentner & Jeziorski, The shift from metaphor to analogy in Western science
  • Richard Boyd, Metaphor and Theory Change: What is ‘Metaphor’ a Metaphor for?
  • Notice, incidentally, the beautiful ouroboros in Boyd‘s title!

    Okay, that’s my Christmas reading.

    **

    It seems I’m way behind, and it’s time maybe for the HipBone Games to enter the slipstream of Philosophy as she is practiced these days.

    But first, and to put the good folks of Elizabeth Anscombe‘s discipline off the scent, there’s the question of Sacrament to consider. Sacrament, along with Entropy, is something Gregory Bateson instructed his medical students to comprehend if they are to be civilized in their discourse as future doctors and psychiatrists. In the first paragraph of the Introduction to his Mind and Nature, Bateson writes:

    Even grown-up persons with children of their own cannot give a reasonable account of concepts such as entropy, sacrament, syntax, number, quantity, pattern, linear relation, name, class, relevance, energy, redundancy, force, probability, parts, whole, information, tautology, homology, mass (either Newtonian or Christian), explanation, description, rule of dimensions, logical type, metaphor, topology, and so on. What are butterflies? What are starfish? What are beauty and ugliness?

    Note that the concept of “sacrament” occupies a place of honor second only to “entropy” in Bateson’s listing.

    **

    Sacrament?

    Sacrament?What does that have to do with the philosophy (and graphical rendering) of metaphor?

    First, here’s a quick look at the notion of Sacrament, from the Introduction: Mapping Theologies of Sacraments (pp. 1-12) of Justin Holcomb and David Johnson’s Christian Theologies of the Sacraments: A Comparative Introduction:

    In the prologue of the Gospel According to John the apostle writes about the incarnation of the Word of God, Jesus Christ, that “from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace” (1:16). One of the means by which Christians believe we receive the grace of God in Christ is the sacraments. But what are the sacraments? As many Christians know, Augustine of Hippo succinctly defined a sacrament as being “an outward and visible sign of an inward and invisible grace.”

    The central sacrament of Christianity is the Eucharist, instituted by Christ with the words — pointing to the bread about to be broken and shared, in a complex that includes his coming crucifixion, and the institution of the Church as his continuing body or presence on earth — This is my Body.

    The Catholic view:

    The doctrine that Christ’s real presence is thus to be found in the communion wafer consecrated with the remembrance of those words at Mass is that of Transubstantiation — a contested doctrine to be sure. And the contest is viewed theologically as being between metaphor and simile.

    Thus, as I have noted before, Northrop Frye in his Anatomy of Criticism writes:

    The animal and vegetable worlds are identified with each other, and with the divine and human worlds as well, in the Christian doctrine of transubstantiation, in which the essential human forms of the vegetable world, food and drink, the harvest and the vintage, the bread and the wine, are the body and blood of the Lamb who is also Man and God, and in whose body we exist as in a city or temple. Here again the orthodox doctrine insists on metaphor as against simile, and here again the conception of substance illustrates the struggles of logic to digest the metaphor.

    The Reformed view:

    Simply put, the Reformed view, contra Frye, considers the Words of Institution as simile, see Literary Devices in the scripture [Caution: this link auto-downloads a Word doc]:

    A metaphor is an abridged simile

    — ie, Matthew 26.26 is to be understood as meaning not “this is my Body” but “This is like my Body”..

    Thus Daniel Featley DD in his Transubstantiation Exploded (1638) writes:

    If in this sentence “This is my Body,” the meaning be “this Bread is my Body,” the speech cannot be proper, but must of necessity be figurative or tropical.

    But in this sentence, “This is my Body,” the meaning is, “This Bread is my Body.“

    Ergo this speech cannot be proper, but must of necessity be figurative and tropical; and if so, down falls Transubstantiation built upon it, and carnal presence built upon Transubstantiation, and the oblation and adoration of the Host built upon the carnal presence.

    That’s a whole lot of toppling of the Catholic edifice, all predicated on a reading of Christ’s words as simile, not metaphor.

    Here “simile” seems to mean figurative rather than literal — where the Catholic view, as we have seen, aka “metaphor”, posits literal real presence in the form of a (transcendent) inward and spiritual grace..

    **

    A by-gone Queen of the Sciences

    How does this theology of metaphor fare today? Theology, my own discipline at Oxford, sadly seems a by-gone Queen of the Sciences. Thus William Grassie writes:

    Our medieval ancestors understood theology to be the queen of the sciences. Her twin sister Sophia — the Greek word for “wisdom” — was also venerated in the discipline of philosophy. It was hard to tell the two beauties apart, but together they once ruled the many domains of human knowledge.

    Theology departments today, however, are increasingly irrelevant backwaters in the modern university, engaged in seemingly solipsistic debates.

    Ouch.

    Just for the record, while we’re slipping a theological understanding of metaphor into our thinking on the topic, should also consider Coleridge on symbol:

    Now an allegory is but a translation of abstract notions into a picture-language, which is itself nothing but an abstraction from objects of the senses; the principal being more worthless even than its phantom proxy, both alike unsubstantial, and the former shapeless to boot. On the other hand a symbol … is chaacterized by a translucence of the special in the individual, or of the general in the special, or of the universal in the general; above all by the translucence of the eternal through and in the temporal. It always partakes of the reality which it renders intelligible; and while it enunciates the whole, abides itself as a living part in that unity of which it is the representative.

    **

    In the spirit of Hermann Hesse‘s Nobel-winning Glass Bead Game — and if you can’t abide the arts and humanities, then of EO Wilson‘s concept of consilience — these notions of sacrament, metaphor and symbol should be entered into the philosophical and scientific thought-stream on metaphor and its graphical representation, IMO, YMMV, &c.

    In case you missed all that.

    And so to the present readings, Boyd and Gentner & Jeziorski..

    **

    **

    Earlier in this series:

  • On the felicities of graph-based game-board design: preliminaries
  • On the felicities of graph-based game-board design: two dazzlers
  • On the felicities of graph-based game-board design: three
  • On the felicities of graph-based game-board design: four
  • On the felicities of graph-based game-board design: five
  • On the felicities of graph-based game-board design: six
  • On the felicities of graph-based game-board design: seven
  • On the felicities of graph-based game-board design: eight
  • On the felicities of graph-based game-board design: nine
  • On the felicities of graph-based game-board design: ten
  • On the felicities of graph-based game-board design: eleven
  • On the felicities of graph-based game-board design: twelve
  • On the felicities of graph-based game-board design: thirteen

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