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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

**

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

**

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

**

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..

**

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!

**

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..

**

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!

    Eros, the Renaissance and advertising

    Sunday, May 5th, 2019

    [ by Charles Cameron — Dell ad challenges magic, Couliano shows advertising is magic (in the Renaissance sense) — intro to a series on TV commercials ]
    .

    Continuing the series we began with Advertising series 01: Music..

    Dell intro:

    Dell Technologies, not having much historical insight into either magic or advertising, pits magic against tech and suggests that tech wins, hands down..

    I take that as a personal affront..

    **

    Ioan Couliano:

    The late, esteemed scholar Ioan Couliano, in contrast to Dell, shows in his great book Eros and Magic in the Renaissance that magic, as practiced in the Renaissance, is precisely what advertising is up to today..

    Renaissance magic, according to Couliano, was a scientifically plausible attempt to manipulate individuals and groups based on a knowledge of motivations, particularly erotic motivations. Its key principle was that everyone (and in a sense everything) could be influenced by appeal to sexual desire. In addition, the magician relied on a profound knowledge of the art of memory to manipulate the imaginations of his subjects. In these respects, Couliano suggests, magic is the precursor of the modern psychological and sociological sciences, and the magician is the distant ancestor of the psychoanalyst and the advertising and publicity agent.

    That’s from the cover of Couliano‘s book, and the remainder of this post will track eros from simple erotic desire — mostly from the male perspective? — to the mystical ascent in response to the divine beloved..

    **

    Desire, the universal lure:

    The lure of the erotic will peel your money from your wallet in various skillful ways:

    Sandals

    What is love? Love is advertising. Love — didn’t the Beatles mention this? — is all you need.

    Nugenix:

    What is love? It is nod-nod, wink-wink..

    You wanna go more overt still?

    For that (beer) you’d best be in Rio..

    **

    And then there’s the broader sense of desire:

    Wanting it all:

    But that’s just the desire for food — easily satisfied, even here in these United States..

    But wanting the world, in the cultural appropriation sense? That’s a more subtle desire, and Las Vegas aims to satisfy it by bringing analogs of Venice, the Pyramids, whatever, to a single easily accessible location:

    **

    But wait..

    All of these inevitably fall short of what interests me: the desire to be acquainted with the ludus globi or game of the world, which Couliano describes:

    The ludus globi is the supreme mystical game, the game the Titans made Dionysus play in order to seize him and put him to death. From the ashes of the Titans struck down by the lightning of Zeus, arose mankind, a race guilty without having sinned because of the deicide of its ancestors. But, since the Titans had incorporated part of the god, men also inherited a spark from the murdered child, the divine child whose game is the metaphor of the ages: ?Aion is a child who plays checkers: the sovereignty of a child!

    and the desire for the mystical ascent, not infrequently expressed in erotic terms:

    In Mecca in 1201, he composes a Diwan dedicated to Nezam (Harmony), daughter of an Imam nobleman of Persian origin, Zahir ibn Rostam. Entitled The Interpreter of Burning Desires, the
    Diwan’s prologue contains these intimate confessions:

    Now this sheik had a daughter, a slender and willowy adolescent who attracted the attention of anyone who saw her, whose presence alone was the embellishment of public meetings and struck with amazement all who looked upon her. Her name was Nezam (Harmonia) and her surname ?Eye of the Sun and of Beauty” [?ayn al?Shams wa’Z-Baha? .[Scholarly and pious, with experience of the spiritual and mystical life, she personified the venerable antiquity of the Holy Land and the innocent youth of the prophet’s great city. The magic of her glance, the grace of her conversation, was so enchanting that if she happened to be prolix her speech was filled with references; if concise, a marvel of eloquence; holding forth on a subject, clear and lucid. . . . Were it not for petty minds eager for scandal and inclined to slander, I would here comment on the beauty that God lavished on her body as well as on her soul, which was a garden of generosity. .. .

    Plato in The Symposium:

    Love is simply the name for the desire and pursuit of the whole.

    Sports metaphors, metaphors, 30, & happy / unhappy phrasings

    Friday, March 29th, 2019

    [ by Charles Cameron — including an intermezzo with Bach’s links with Mendelssohn — as usual, quite a diverse haul ]
    .

    Nicolle:

    There are cracks in the frenzied spin from the White House around the Barr summary of the as-yet-unreleased Mueller report. As the President tracks down axes to grind, consensus is building around Robert Mueller’s refused to exonerate the President in the obstruction of justice investigation ..

    Joyce Vance:

    We’ve seen all these dots out in the pubic domain, indications of obstruction, and apparently Mueller wasn’t able to connect them, and the question is, Why?

    Ari:

    You just can’t write a book-report for a book you haven’t read ..

    Disclosure: You can. I have.

    Here’s a weird sequence..

    And if that isn’t weird enough..

    Okay, a twinning once I get the transcript: chyrons “Dem grills” / “bip[artisan rebuke”

    **

    A move I want to watch, and you may too: Hotel Mumbai:

    Well, you know, ads intervene in even the best paid programming of mice and men .. and, you know, trailers are ads..

    And BTW, the Roger Ebert reviewer wrote:

    I watched and wrestled with Anthony Maras’ searing, startlingly confident debut “Hotel Mumbai,” where every fatal bullet fired out of the ruthless terrorists’ semi-automatic weapons hit me at my core.

    That’s screen-to-viewer violence, as when the heaalights of a car sweeping up thr movie drive suddenly swerve and blind you..

    Back to Hardball:

    Regarding his work as a speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, Chris Matthews describes

    The most honest and moral man, who honored the call of the prophet

    Matthews opening clip:

    Jumping over the Barr — let’splay Hardball

    Comey:

    Chris Matthews, quoting him:

    .. all the smoke, if you will, of a deal between the President’s people and the Russians, all the interactions between them, he said — imagine if Obama, in a parallel universe, had those kinds of relationships with the Iranians, would you think they might have investigated it?

    Pause.

    Trump, a brief essay in turning the other cheek hitting back:

    One of the things you should do in terms of success: If somebody hits you, you’ve got to hit ’em back five times harder than they ever thought possible. You’ve got to get even. Get even. And the reason, the reason you do, is so important…The reason you do, you have to do it, because if they do that to you, you have to leave a telltale sign that they just can’t take advantage of you. It’s not so much for the person, which does make you feel good, to be honest with you, I’ve done it many times. But other people watch and you know they say, “Well, let’s leave Trump alone,” or “Let’s leave this one,” or “Doris, let’s leave her alone. They fight too hard.” I say it, and it’s so important. You have to, you have to hit back. You have to hit back.

    Times two:

    Get even with people. If they screw you, screw them back 10 times as hard. I really believe it.

    As a motto:

    My motto is: Always get even. When somebody screws you, screw them back in spades.

    Chris M:

    He [DJT] goes after Adam Schiff .. says, He couldn’t hit a drive 50 yards..

    I’m not sure, but today’s [3/29] DJT quote, “he’s not a long ball hitter” may belong here as a second shoe dropping? — or is it a different aport and different target?

    Matthews, on healthcare:

    Trump is walking right into that Gatling gun***** of defeat — why is he doing this?

    **

    Okay game of glass beads players, HipBone-style — here’s the Bach-Mendelssohn graph for your consideration:

    And –I’m missing one name, which may be in the video — Bach, Mendelssohn and the Saint Matthew Passion:

    — a direct line, as I understand it, of teachers and pupils from Bach to Mendelssohn..

    Fox inserts:

    Matthews:

    My morning doppelgänger Joe Scarborough ..

    **

    Ok, a few loose quotes. I’m looking for Elizabeth Warren using the phrase “war of ideas” but the closest I could find was:

    This is the fight of our lives. The fight to build an America that works for everyone, not just the wealthy and the well-connected. It won’t be easy. But united by our values, we can make big, structural change. We can raise our voices together until this fight is won.

    Fight of our lives is as strong as fight metaphors get without adding details — Queensbury Rules boxing, Mixed Martial Arts in the Hexagon, a Jagger-style street-fighting man?

    This one has been quoted often enough to fade into the woodwork:

    The budget is a moral document.

    A missing chyron — when people post videos of MSNBC shows, and probably other news channels too, they often leave off the last 5 minutes [sad face] — Green New Deal ignites firestorm ..

    O’Donnell 3/28/2019:

    .. the suspended animation as we wait for the actual Mueller report ..

    Good one: suspended animation*****.

    Unknown, 3/28 at 10.17:

    Go to present day baseball, stay on the sidelines, stay out of it ..

    **

    This is an oldie, but I saw it today and it’s a matter of concern for me as I deal with pain from amputations & neuropathy:

  • Patrick Radden Keefe, The Family That Built an Empire of Pain
  • **

    I’ll close with this tweet —

    — and this speech in response to DJT’s attack by Adam Schiff —

    — plus this in commentary, from Lawrence O’Donnell:

    This is just Kabuki theater, they have no power to remove Adam Schiff from his position ..

    Oiut.

    Remembering mathematician and Glass Bead Gamer Bob de Marrais

    Monday, February 11th, 2019

    [ by Charles Cameron — this is strictly for the record — you don’t need to read it unless — like Bob — you’re a poly-mathematician, para-biologist, meta-psychiatrist or native-born glass bead gamer ]
    .

    1984. Illustrating for Bob de Marrais‘ article on Computer Graphics,
    published in Digital Deli: The Comprehensive, User-Lovable Menu
    of Computer Lore, Culture, Lifestyles and Fancy
    , ed. Steve Ditlea.

    **

    My late friend Bob de Marrais wrote a five-part short-book-length essay, Catastrophes, Kaleidoscopes, String Quartets: Deploying the Glass Bead Game, which is so wide-ranging in its scholarship that no single journal had peers sufficient to review it, so witty, subtle, enchanting, and generally impossible that its continued existence on the web and in the time-worn hard drives of a scattering of computers has made of it a sort of samizdat — a secret publication passsed from hand to hand, or in this case memory to memory, and in this post I wish to memorialize both the essay and Bob himself.

    Here are five sips, to give you a sense of the work.

    **

    Catastrophes, Kaleidoscopes, String Quartets:

    Part I: Ministrations Concerning Silliness, or: Is “Interdisciplinary Thought” an Oxymoron?

    We seek deep concepts by silly means. Think of this, for openers at least, as a cerebral equivalent of a well-known Monty Python skit: welcome to the Ministry of Silly Thoughts. [ … ]

    Essential to easy generation of the “silliness effect” – as in the frivolous juxtaposing of Kings Arthur and Elvis in the last paragraph – is production of collisions between disparate things, which context makes us associate unexpectedly. No one not on drugs or writing late-night standup material would be likely to seek a link between the latest news from robotic interplanetary exploratory vehicles and political upheaval in the Hispanic community in the general vicinity of Miami. But when Elian Gonzales’ mom fled Castro’s regime on a flimsy makeshift boat and died at sea while getting her son to (what she thought would be his) freedom, Jay Leno noted how scientists had just discovered water on the Red Planet, “and in an unrelated story, a boat of Cuban refugees washed up on Mars this morning.”

    Aside from late-night comedic unwinding from the day’s events, there is only one other area where such juxtapositions are hunted down and put to use. (No, not dreams: that’s involuntary; and besides, many people today no longer have any.) This area is largely deemed, regardless of lip services paid, “absurd; trifling; frivolous” in academia – when not, that is, subjected to sober attempts at its production which typically display all these three aspects in spite of themselves. This is the domain of what often passes for an oxymoron in our supremely specialized research establishment: interdisciplinary thought. And this, of course, is what we’re here to talk about.

    Compare “the silliness effect .. is production of collisions between disparate things, which context makes us associate unexpectedly” with, from this morning’s diggings:

    Brecht:

    He [Darko Suvin] cites Brecht as follows: “A representation which estranges is one which allows us to recognize its subject, but at the same time make it seem unfamiliar.” This permits a new cognition of the now and creates a moment which is potentially liberating. Placing familiar objects (or subjects) in unfamiliar settings allows us to see differently. Our old and tired perceptions can thus be revitalized and transformed. — Lucy Sargisson, Fool’s Gold?: Utopianism in the Twenty-First Century

    Boulez:

    For Boulez, the challenge was to present the borrowed ideas in a new light that could lead to results far removed from the original, which had provided only a single solution. — The Gramophone

    Both quotes via JustKnecht, another Glass Bead Game-player of note, discussing his Rattlesnake Games.

    **

    Part II: Canonical Collage-oscopes, or: Claude in Jacques’ Trap? Not What It Sounds Like!

    For this section of Bob’s work, I’ll just post a snippet referencing the Catastrophe Theory of René Thom:

    Of the many, many ways to frame the two-control Cusp, the most interesting for us is the predator-prey chain, due to Thom himself. Let us frame it mythically: in the Vedic lore of pre-Hindu India, the great god Indra – the Zeus of the Aryan invaders – had (or was trapped in) a magical net. Depending on the story told, and teller’s point of view, Indra is the hunter and the hunted too. According to the mathematics of Catastrophe Theory, this is fundamental, not unusual. The theory’s creator typically focuses on the single Cusp as the basis of all richer models .. Its stable “splits and mergers” mode of yoyo-ing between the Two and the One, he tells us, is “the most fundamental regulatory process” in non­linear dynamics: not only in the abstract, but, under the guise of the “predation loop,” in the ultimate concreteness of animal feeding. At least since the emerging of the amoeba, this is, sim­ply, merging: “fundamentally, engulfing a prey into the organism” … and herein resides an enigma.

    It’s a rich broth, you see — connecting perhaps to Ali Minai‘s comment tweeted today:

    Polyphony, in an abstract sense, applies not just to human complex systems but to all complex systems. .. One of the most unappreciated facts about natural complexity is that it emerges from interaction of simpler processes, and not from some prior complexity.

    **

    Part III: Grooving on the Sly with Klein Groups

    No one knows that this tale is a part of an immense poem: myths communicate with each other by means of men and without men knowing it. … The situation which Le Cru et le cuit describes is analogous to that of musicians per­form­ing a symphony while kept incommunicado and separated from each other in time and space: each one would play his fragment as if it were the complete work. No one among them would be able to hear the concert because in order to hear it one must be outside the circle, far from the orchestra. In the case of American mythology, that concert began millennia ago, and today some few scattered and moribund communities are running through the last chords.

    That’s Octavio Paz writing on Claude Lévi-Strauss, and Bob uses it as the epigraph to section III. Just today I was writing of the various friends of mind who are making profound contributions as islands in an archipelago — and how I long for the richness that will emerge when the connections between them are strong, the transmission of ideas between them fluid..

    Further, from section III:

    Somebody calls you, you answer: “In theory, a twirl of kaleidoscopes” – why?

    If you were called to provide a summary of the first two installments preceding this, to someone who’s only just joined us, the perpetual revolution of Sir David Brewster’s famous tube should certainly be the very first image to pop from that jack-in-the-box you keep in your head. For Jacques Derrida, as we saw, lopped off this capstone of Lévi-Strauss’s extended metaphor of how the mythic mind operates: the workings of “bricolage” were like those of a kaleidoscope, as the anthropologist summed it up; but Derri­da’s demolition job didn’t so much as footnote, much less explicitly point to, this motif. [ … ]

    … Beat­les’ paean to “the girl with kaleidoscope eyes.” …

    Leary and Ralph Metzner meanwhile wrote about, and advocated, the use of low-tech kaleidoscopes, imported from the East, for inner exploration as well: I refer, of course, to mandalas. Mixing scientific and New Age styles, they managed to synthesize, in brief compass and without the “depth psychology,” the gist of what Jung’s approach toward such sacred objects (about which, more in the next installment) is taken to be by those who’d worn bell-bottoms and “love beads” while reading such things:

    [As] the mandala is a depiction of the structure of the eye, the center of the man­dala corresponds to the foveal “blind spot.” Since the “blind spot” is the exit from the eye to the visual system of the brain, by going “out” through the center, you are going in to the brain. The Yogin finds the mandala in his own body. The mandala is an instrument for transcending the world of visually perceived phenomena by first centering them and turning them inward.

    Note that Leary’s reading of the foveal blind spot is markedly at odds with Derrida’s

    **

    Part IV: Claude’s Kaleidoscope . . . and Carl’s

    As before, note that the epigraps to this section contain doors intonwhat is within:

    All the creative power that modern man pours into science and technics the man of antiquity devoted to his myths. This creative urge explains the bewildering confusion, the kaleidoscopic changes and syncretistic regroupings, the continual rejuvenation, of myths in Greek culture.

    That’s Carl Jung, in Symbols of Transformation

    Here he goes:

    For those who’ve tuned in late to this mini-series, the first episode performed a sort of sitcom set­up of the main conundrum: Derrida’s deconstruction launched itself using Lévi-Strauss’ structuralism – as epitomized in his Mr. Fixit figure of the “bricoleur” – as thrust-block . . . the irony being that the latter “failed” analytics of myth proved a harbinger of advanced mathematical toolkits whose utility in linguistic and cultural studies has been burgeoning, while the former “success story” has shown itself to be ever more hollow – intellectually, morally, and spiritually.

    In Part Deux, we blowfished the argument, treating the core event – the 1966 Johns Hopkins con­ference where Derrida struck his “deal with the Devil” – as itself a sort of myth requiring structural analy­sis, inspecting it through the lens of Derrida’s 1987 reminiscences about the postmodernist “quotation market” and his own role in fomenting it . . . and then beefed up our discussion of Lévi-Strauss’ own “canonical law of myths” with Catastrophe Theory mathematics and the tasteful injection of celebrity quotes, movie reviews, and porno­graphic movie ads to, um, “flesh out” the argument.

    Strike three, though, was where the ubiquitous form-language of the so-called “A,D,E Problem” and its lowly instancing as a new sort of Timaeus-style creation myth – based on kaleido­scopes instead of an odd lot of triangles and things whose names rhyme with Tipi Hedron[1] but don’t look half as fetching – was taken much too seriously, with the limitations in Husserl’s phenomeno­logy shame­lessly con­trasted (unfa­v­or­ably) with the concentric run-out groove at the end of the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper album. The point being, natural­ly, that the Madhyamika Buddhism of Nagarjuna’s “full void” was allowed to under­write the super­po­si­­tion principal of quantum mechanics in spite of its looking like something Derrida liked to mutter about, while all the while all of this was subsumed in some mare’s nest of compari­sons between the struc­tures of mythical argument, their “reincarnation” in the forms of classical music, and the Glass Beads that Hermann Hesse’s Magister Ludi was known to like to play with when he thought no one was watching.

    Of course, if we’re going to keep a load like that down without providing our readers free Pepto-Bismol, it would behoove us to make the people reading this think the linchpins of the argument were some­­how intrinsic. Put another way (which is our specialty here), we could say that it’s all very nice that this “A,D,E Problem” gives us kaleidoscopes as the Meaning of Life and like that there, but wouldn’t it be so much better if we got the same basic mishmash without all the abstraction – if the kaleidoscope could legi­timately be seen as some kind of “archetype” in its own right, which “just happened” to bring in Catas­trophe-type “shock waves” into the argument without all the hand-waving … and all without losing all the rest of our baggage, once the argument has landed?

    **

    Part V: Spelling the Tree, from Aleph to Tav (While Not Forgetting to Shin)

    I didn’t even know there was a fifth part — quint-esseence? — until a couple of days ago, and am very grateful to Steven H. Cullinane for conserving all five for us.

    One of the epigraphs for this fifth section comes from Gregory Bateson, Steps to an Ecology of Mind:

    “The heart has its reasons which the reason does not at all perceive.” Among Anglo-Saxons, it is rather usual to think of the “reasons” of the heart or of the unconscious as the inchoate forces or pushes or heavings – what Freud called Trieben. To Pascal, a Frenchman, the matter was rather different, and he no doubt thought of the reasons of the heart as a body of logic or computation as precise and complex as the reasons of consciousness. (I have noticed that Anglo-Saxon anthro­po­logists sometimes misunderstand the writings of Claude Lévi-Strauss for precisely this reason. They say he emphasizes too much the intellect and ignores the “feelings.” The truth is that he assumes that the heart has precise algorithms.)

    WHat can I tell you? We haven’t delved in any detail into Bob’s mathematical work, but this section contains a footnote — a quotation that delights us with the concept of a perfectly square ship with vertical sides, and offers enough catastrophe-cusp based math to illustrate that central aspect of the whole work:

    Tim Poston and Ian Stewart, Catastrophe Theory and its Applications (Boston, London, Melbourne: Pit­man, 1978): “The commonest kind of water-going vessel which is actually built with vertical sides all the way round is a floating oil-platform. These are normally fixed to the ocean floor when on site, but they float during transport. Often they are built square. This symmetry goes through to the buoyancy locus… and the buoyancy locus is a circularly symmetric paraboloid of revolution. The metacentric locus may therefore, apparently, be found by spinning the two-dimensional case, so that the geometry of the perfectly square, vertical-sided ship is remarkably simple. From a catastrophe theory viewpoint this simplicity is thoroughly deceptive, the energy function takes the form (x2 + y2)2. This is not finitely determined … and so has infinite codimension…. Physically, this means that the apparently simple geometry of the ‘ideal’ vessel .. is violently unstable.”

    **

    Bobert de Marrais was born Nov. 30, 1948, and died April 4, 2011 in Boston, MA. His obit notes he “had a lifelong interest in history, his French heritage, music, history of science, and multidimensional algebras.” He was a remarkable polymath, profoundly loved and deeply admired by the fortunate few who knew him.

    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 ]
    .

    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:

    **

    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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