Deus Sive Natura

Whether an age or an individual will express itself in creative thinking or in repetitive pedantry is more a matter of desire than of intellectual power, and it is probably more the nature of their desires than of their capacities that will determine whether or not humanity will develop further. Now it would seem that the present time is a very critical one for the evolution of human desire. It is an age in which the nature of desire has been glimpsed at for the first time, and that glimpse enables us to see two very different possibilities. The intellectual life, both in its scientific and its æsthetic aspects, is seen no longer as the vocation of the rational mind, but as a compensation, as a perversion of more primitive, unsatisfied desires. Now the question arises is this perversion in the line of evolution, or is it a merely temporary, pathological process? If by a sounder psychology, a way of living more in accordance with nature, it should be found that the satisfaction of purely human – or, as we might almost say, purely mammalian – desires is capable of absorbing all the energy that suppression now forces into scientific or æsthetic channels, then the human race may well find itself statically employed in leading an idyllic, Melanesian existence of eating, drinking, friendliness, love-making, dancing and singing, and the golden age may settle permanently on the world. On the other hand it may that though the desire, the necessity to escape life on the paths of intellectual or æsthetic creation may be weakened by the application of an intelligent psychology, yet a corresponding freedom from the internal conflicts which now hinder both these forms of expression may more than compensate for what is lost, and we may find the capacity to live at the same time more fully human and fully intellectual lives (J.D. Bernal, The Word The Flesh The Devil)

Arretratezza e folklore (Gramsci)


From “Quaderni del carcere”, by Antonio Gramsci
Einaudi 2001, vol. II, pp. 1375-1395 (here). In the English translation:

In acquiring one’s conception of the world one always
belongs to a particular grouping which is that of all the social
elements which share the same mode of thinking and acting. We
are all conformists of some conformism or other, always man-in-
the-mass or collective man. The question is this: of what historical
type is the conformism, the mass humanity to which one belongs?
When one’s conception of the world is not critical and coherent
but disjointed and episodic, one belongs simultaneously to a
multiplicity of mass human groups. The personality is strangely
composite: it contains Stone Age elements and principles of a
more advanced science, prejudices from all past phases of history
at the local level and intuitions of a future philosophy which will
be that of a human race united the world over. To criticise one’s
own conception of the world means therefore to make it a
coherent unity and to raise it to the level reached by the most
advanced thought in the world. It therefore also means criticism of
 all previous philosophy, in so far as this has left stratified deposits
in popular philosophy. The starting-point of critical elaboration is
the consciousness of what one really is, and is “knowing thyself”
as a product of the historical process to date which has deposited
in you an infinity of traces, without leaving an inventory. The first
thing to do is to make such an inventory (QdC, pgg 627ff)

Compare this paper by Cirese (english|italian). See also “Can the subaltern speak?” by Spivak.

A more articulate expression can be found here.

The problem of power

Upon reading

  1. Sigmund Freud, The Future of an Illusion; Civilization and its discontents
  2. Amos Vogel, Film as a Subversive Art
  3. Hans Richter, Dada
  4. Lunacharski, Narkompros

the following problem springs to the mind. It revolves around the concept of evil, but can be framed also in terms of the idea of ‘trust’.
The power structures that be do not trust the human being as able to liberate {him,her}self from habits, mental constructions and traditions that are clearly ‘arretrati’ (in the sense of Gramsci) but that are also comfortable, they dumb the minds down but secure a stable society.

Russell (HWP), Steiner (Bluebeard’s Castle, Archives of Eden) and J.D. Bernal (The World, the Flesh, the Devil) had same dilemma:
the periods of most intense fast forward in history (Athens V century bc, Italian Renaissance, Weimar Republic) were also the ones that ended up in very unstable social arrangements and ultimately broke down entirely, with massive human cost. Do we need a tyrant to produce “Sein und Zeit”?

A generous conceptualization of the unwillingness to promote a rational, progressive world view by the society’s power structures, of their reluctance to give rein to free though, to subversive contents, to true experimentation in the population at large, would be that they do not trust the human being.

A different – but linked – stream of ideas is the one linked to PR, essentially Stuart Ewen (PR; Captains of Consciousness) and Nystrom, Paul H. (Economics of fashion).
In particular, see this interview

Characteristica Universalis


“Utile erit scribi \int pro omnia” (Leibniz, 29 October 1675, Paris, now in Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, Manuskript Analysis tetragonistica, 1675, Manuskriptseite, GWLB: LH XXXV, 8, 18, Bl. 2.)
A new world was born. If numbers \in \mathbb{Q} are just like stars in the night sky of numbers \in \mathbb{R}, another metaphor is possible. Calculus as devised by Leibniz is just a way to save computational effort (as compared with Eudoxus ‘method of exhaustion’) where the formal symbolic method could be used to compute the integral. Finding a symbolic manipulation (solving an integral analytically, i.e.) is then just like landing in one of the stars, surrounded by the deep dark sky of not-analytically solvable problems. Leibnitz realized that devising a notation (a language) in which the problems could be properly expressed would contribute to their solution, by virtue of the very language struts.
The Step Reckoner was an attempt to reduce an analytical problem to a mechanical algorithm. See Martin Davis, The Universal Computer, the Road from Leibniz to Turing

Stanislaw Lem: Revolution in the Mind

In Summa Technologiae,


Stanislaw Lem of “Solaris” fame addresses some of the most pressing questions connected to the shape human life has acquired in the modern world because of technology, whereby the ontology of previous Weltanschauungen has been replaced in re by a constantly evolving redressing of possibilities. As professor Jerzy Jarzębski puts it: “This book’s title alludes to Thomas Aquinas’s “Summa Theologiae” for a reason. In effect Lem creates an entire atheistic paradigm for the Cosmos with God replaced by Reason; the latter, a creative force independent from biology, drives the evolution towards its own, enigmatic goals.” Here, what is obviously at stake is Transhumanism (For a nice survey of the history of Transumanism see here)

Almost any civilization prior to the Aufklärung (even the Greek civilization!) had a way to mask the concept of ‘limit’ and ‘boundary’ – be it Hubris, be it Sin, be it God, be it Truth. (See also B.Russell, HWP[ss.699-700]). Lem, Asimov, Sagan and their followers tried to go further, to break free. It seems to me that the construction of an entirely immanent ontology, materialistic, atheistic is the real target Lem is pursuing. Wir heimatlosen!

What about the likes of Kant and Gödel? What can we make of the limits to the human mind and its possibilities of comprehension they set with (1) “Kritik der reinen Vernunft” and (2) the famed 1931 “Incompleteness” Theorem?