Monday, June 18, 2012

A comment on "Zeno's Sound": Representation, nothing, and the shift to process

Hello folks,

I have decided to embody what I was describing previously about commenting via blog posts with links. The source of this current post, on which I am commenting, is a blog post titled "Zeno's Sound."

I am familiar with the author and, thus, this post is a continuation of an extended conversation we have been having. You, my fellow hypothetical readers, will now have the luxury of enjoying (or joining) it, given the shift to the current framework.

The issue I am having with the post has to do with the framework in which the author is operating. I would further like to contextualize by stating that I previously endorsed a variation of this framework, but had a recent turn due to the work of Mark Bickhard. Thus, this post will, simultaneously, be the first in a series of related topics to this recent turn.

I would explain the author's perspective as a particular rendition of the implications of such theorists as Alain Badiou, Gilles Deleuze, and other, similar continental philosophers. In fact, there is a related post that engages with Badiou's material directly. However, what is added in the discussion is the ties to music, sound, and art, more generally.

Before I continue, I should put a disclaimer:
I do not purport to know what the authors of any of these works are saying. I am not a student of continental philosophy, nor the respective authors. I am familiar with their works and have discussed many of their ideas with other students. But, that is the extent of my scholarly prowess. Thus, I am engaging with this material from a largely removed position as well as a different framework. The author of the work that I am commenting on, in this framework, is key to my ties to this literature base. However, part of my point in this comment is that I do not believe it is even possible to know what the authors are saying. I can hear people already cringing at this statement (another absolute relativist), but give me a moment to explain.

The framework that I am endorsing--which (potentially) remedies the initial spur for this comment--no longer accepts the proposition that symbols and/or information (including both these words as well as sound, etc.) encode and/or transmit anything. This theory, interactivism, denies encodingism of any form. Instead, one merely has their anticipations of future states as dictated by prior experiences with symbols, dialogue, etc. (this is an oversimplification but I am only going to peripherally engage with this idea for now...). The result, then, is that I can only comment on the previous experiences I have had with this material, largely through the author on whom I am commenting. Thus, if you have a rebuttal that runs very close to the text, you may be viewing an entirely different world from the 'same' set of symbols. I am always interested in such criticisms, but they may be missing my point entirely. I would kindly ask, given this, that one takes an initially agnostic position to the framework which I am endorsing: an external critique is inherently comparative and thus only peripherally relevant from an internal perspective.

Now, a particularly astute observer might notice that I am also making a comparative claim. You would be right. This is actually my point. I am introducing a new (i.e., vulnerable) form through a juxtaposition with the authors work via this comment. It requires some space in which to grow before it can clash into fully fledged bodies of knowledge with massive support bases.

To continue my comment...
The continental philosophers who the author is appealing to, in this new framework, are geniuses of the encodingist world view. That is, they addressed many of the inherent problems and contradictions created by the endorsement of encodingism through such fascinating concepts as "nothing" or the "null set." And, it turns out, that the author's conception of silence is closely related to this idea.

In sum, I would reduce (probably incorrectly) the author's points to the following:

(1st paragraph) Silence (or nothing) is nowhere or is not a thing.
(2nd paragraph) Silence is simultaneously everywhere and in everything.
(3rd paragraph) Representation ruins negative sound.
(4th paragraph) Representation ruins positive sound.
(5th paragraph) This problem is fundamental or it is not merely a matter of pragmatics.
(6th paragraph) Any discussion of sound has already lost the silence.

As my translation demonstrates, representation or encodingism is the issue and silence or nothing is only a minor, if particularly creative, palliative. What is needed is a different framework.

If one removes representation in place of anticipation one gets the following:
The digitization of sound and/or silence is merely a means to create anticipatory structures of what will occur in process when interaction occurs between the listener and the productive mechanism. It is a crystallized, symbolic foreshadowing in a highly complex anticipatory network. Thus, what Cage, Zeno, and the null set are pointing to is merely the limits of the current anticipations, limits which arguably no longer exist in systems which have integrated these paradoxes in a productively anticipatory fashion (i.e., which can utilize their predictions of these phenomena in their systems cohesively and usefully [i.e., to make further predictions]).

Interestingly, one can actually take the author's post to be the perfect embodiment qua illustration of this claim. That is, the author is illustrating how Cage, Zeno, and the null set are no longer limits since he can use their implications in a productive fashion as per the example of sound.
 I can, however, anticipate that they would oppose the null sets inclusion in this list as illustrated by the last two sentences of the 6th paragraph:

"... can there be a change of intensity of no sound? Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, there is not an answer to this within our range of hearing."

Silence is a symbol that is not a symbol. Again, a property that is not necessary if symbols don't contain anything. They have no content so all symbols are the null set--an oddly poignant point given the parallels in mathematics. One simply anticipates future numbers and, thus, the symbolic system entirely.