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Tag Archives: sub specie aeternitatis

Reverse Causation, Changes from the Future

Why the CERN accelerator won’t work

I’m unsure just why this made the New York Times just now (the original article is almost 2 years old, but perhaps the idea is picking up steam/heat), but Complete Lies brought this to my attention. It is the sci-fi idea that the CERN particle accelerator that has been plagued by curious difficulties, as well as other pursuits to produce the Higgs particles, are being interfered with from the Future, supposedly to ward off a potentially universal catastrophe that would be triggered by a successful uncloaking of Higgs particles.

New York Times article “The Collider, the Particle and a Theory About Fate”, a bloggist ridiculing the original thought “Respectable physicists gone crackpotty” and the original article “Search for Effect of Influence from Future in Large Hadron Collider”.

What is now getting attention seems to be the idea that CERN should avoid future unexpected costs and delays through an experiment involving a very large deck of cards. Only a very small percentage of cards would tell CERN to affect the operations of the huge device, and only one to be marked “close the LCH”. From the original article:

The experiment proposed in the present article is to give “foresight”, a chance of avoiding forced closure of LHC due to lack of funding or other form of bad luck, as happened to SSC.

We imagine a big stack of cards on which are written various restrictions concerning the operation of LHC, for example “allow the production of only 10 Higgs particles”. On most of the cards there should just be written “use LHC freely” so that they cause no restrictions. However, on a very small fraction of cards, there should be restrictions on luminosity or beam energy or some combination of them. One card may even have “close (shut down) LHC”. The crucial idea of this proposal is that if our model were true, then the most likely development sol with the P(sol) ≃ e−2SI (sol) factor included would be a development involving one of the cards which strongly restricts on the Higgs particle production at LHC.

The image is brilliant, a huge multi-billion dollar effort forestalled, yet again, but this time with everyone gathered around an enormous deck of cards, waiting to see if the future would reach back and influence the picking of a card in a kind of “anti-miracle”. One commenter on the blog cited suggested that the card need only read “close the LCH for 24 hours” with the proviso that another card is picked ever 24 hours thereafter. There is something just suitable about this image of science trying to avoid destroying the entire universe, or some other bit of “bad luck”, through such seemingly unscientific means.

Backwards Prone Causation

But I would like to consider some of the concepts involved here, apart from the science or even the science fiction. The ridiculing blog spent even more time criticizing the grammar of the article (which I do not believe was published), than its ideas, clearly with the sense that something more normative than even the direction of causation was at stake.

The general sense of repressed ideas, thoughts, desires, is that something occurrant now, if it was allowed to take effect would have disastrous consequences on the whole of coherence. Freud was of course big on this, and much of the critique of a philosophy of Presence comes out of the notion that the present coherence comes out of repressing something that lies in the margins. And, as we are told, the “repressed” always returns.

But what if we were allowed to think fantastically, that it is not an active, present day stranglehold that coherence exerts upon the margin (tarrying with its own genetic history), but that, in fine Philip K. Dick fashion, something from the future can exert itself back upon the past (our present), such as to avoid catastrophe. Now, surely the psychosis of such a regular interpretation of events is not to be recommended – the theory of the Higgs particle backwards causation is one in which boundary conditions themselves might be effected (if I understand the thinking here), and no average event can figure backwardsly – but the logic of the fantasy engages me.

At the psychological or even ideological level of our organizations of ourselves are there deck of card tests that we perform which are meant to allow the trace of a future, backwards activation (whether they be true tests or not)? Are there not small ways in which our future selves (if only in real fantasy projections) act backwards upon our current states? Spinoza theorized, or at least strongly mused, that events of the future can reach us if we share an essence with those conditions (as wild as that sounds for such a sobering philosopher). If we can think in terms of a “field” of organic relations that organize the meaning of events (not the universe, but here, socially, locally), and that this field is grounded in real participatory closure wherein actions at different times in the sequence actually work to bolster each other, recursively, could it not be that a real (possible) event late in the sequence if it thoroughly enough casts a shadow over the whole field can echo back and determine present conditions, if it is of a nature profound enough to effect the very fabric of our interactions? This is not to say that this is what is happening, but rather to imagine out the possibilities of this retaining some theoretical coherence.

The advantage to the thought is that the war over change is not just occurring presently, as if there were some vast system of effects that is ever pressing against a tide of eruptive multiplicities, but it is occurring retroactively, the way that we overcode our pasts, sewing them back up to the present (and future). This is not to evoke final causes, which are specific ends, but rather to suggest that the coherence of the field our behaviors and interactions with the world may be so anchored unto a ballasted field of being that the very fabric holds together aspects of our present moment due to the atemporal nature of world continuity, a kind of effect sub specie aeternitatis.  When we say to ourselves intuitionally, “We better not do that or we risk disaster” how does this differ logically from an effect from the future, or from the very domain of our possilities? Can deep, structural catastrophe tend to echo backwards and avoid itself? Or is it worth thinking/imagining how it can? Is there something to social organization that promotes this kind of thinking or effect?

I would like to think more on this, as absurd as it rings, but that would likely take a novel. No doubt a science fiction novel of a kind. Perhaps.


Spinoza Opera, Spinoza Sung

I have had the extraordinary pleasure today of listening to what can only be called a Spinoza Opera, recordings of music written for the 2002 VeenFabriek performance of Spinoza: I am not where I think myself to be  [performance website]. It is an thought-provoking rendition of both Spinoza’s defintions of the affects, taken from the end of part three of the Ethics, read in Latin and put to a harpsichord’s punctuating notes and aura effects; and then, it is the acoustical reading of Spinoza’s letter to G. H. Schaller [62 (58)], wherein he determinatively explains the illusion of Freewill by evoking the “thoughts” of a stone that flies through the air (how we are all resolutely to be). The baroque instrumentation, the haunt of precise Latin passing through the affectation of a feminent throat (concievably repressed to some degree in Spinoza, how we see the figure of the Courtesan rise up again, gathering up in her tresses the whole of the scholia which drag like a great train to her/his thought). One wonders how a 17th century Amsterdam marano who loved the theatre and Terence would respond to hearing his sculpted propositions on the affects, so themselves affecti-fied, doubling back upon their employ.

The title of the recording is The Thing Like Us, in reference to one of the most powerful analytical condensations of all of Spinoza’s thought. Rem nobis similem… (3p27). As the composer envisioned it, the music was to engage the very affective and imaginary foundations of our sociability, the way that we interpret the world inescabably through a projection of seeing others as “things like us”. Part of this ratio-imaginary capacity is extended to the affective way that we “see ourselves” in music, expressed there, amid the arrangement of the notes. (One should keep in mind that traditionally in Latin Res is not only “thing” as in “object”, but situation, condition, matter.) In very real senses, the reason why we can even read music is because it is a “thing like us”, echoing to the core of our body’s affective and rational capacities. But part of the piece’s reflexivity is not only in comment upon how music operates by being in similitude to us, but also, as the composer Yannis Kyriakides confesses, in acknowledgement of the very musical, self-referential, recursive structure of the Ethics itself. In this way The Thing Like Us shows us how music itself is a Thing Like Us, but also it does so through a remarkable involution, by being a Thing Like the Ethics. Instead of merely a copy of a copy in any Platonic sense of diminishment, it is a productive similitude, an enabling affective entrance into the priorities and claims of the Ethics. As we hear the note and tonal cartographies of the Latin, is it not so like how we encounter a proposition. So engaged, the entire Ethics  almost stands up with a kind of articulative force, its many propsitions like so many operative, inter-connected legs, ambulate, its proofs newly so like organs of internal exchange. There is something of the animation of the Golem in this piece, a Golem that is internal to Us.

After the clear and distinctly voiced musical manifestations of the affects, in the second half as Spinoza’s letter to Schaller is read/performed, it should not be missed that through the introduction of the worker’s “everyman” voice, how human and connected historical Spinoza was. Not only was it through the glimmering and glass edifice of the Ethics  that Spinoza performed his truth, but in epistolary bridgings. His thought extended out in handwriting across plague and sea-lanes, in greeting. At a unique hour of Western becoming, as a man of science and the politic of words, Spinoza attempted thought sub specie aeternitatis, and the lived consternation of a historical homo faber, a balancing act in which friendship and communication played a vital part. Epistolary Spinoza was an artisan, a worker, and ultimately his great systematic assemblage was one that he imagined would physically”work”, much like the lathe he applied himself to daily. The Ethics was a smithed tool, not only metaphorically, fashioned out of our own body of God, and designed to affect our bodies as much as our minds. Without actors and stage much of the interpretive power of this opera’s original performance is lost in the second half — wherein it seems a working class Haguean encounters something of a Lady Philosophia on stage (if I read the description right – the singing character of Carla being inspired by Van den Enden’s daughter), entering with the audience a theatrical space meant to affectively be the interior of Spinoza’s architectural mind — yet the two voices in dialogue still bring forth a historicism which cannot not be lost in Spinoza, (what is Spinoza in dialogue?), the flesh and body of finite action.

I think that this is what at most this musical rendition allows, the shining forth of the flesh of Spinoza’s contemplations (and life lived), the affection of the affectio. In the end any diadactic interpretation of Spinoza that might have inspired and structured these pieces in the minds of the composer, director, and actors, falls to the essential and unitary trans-lation of a Latin text meant to be invisibly read, without moving one’s lips, translation into a stringed-vibration (instrument and throat). The materiality of his invention is recaptured it if was ever lost in the great Rationalist appropriation/interpretation of his thought.

So what does Spinoza sound like?

I found most powerful here the expression of the affects, in the first half. The vibrato way in which the Latin words, each sonically isolated in their short sentences, are made to resonant higher, even higher than the text alone could take them. In this way they here scale  the body.

Take for instance one of my favorite defintions of the affects…love

The Affect of Love : “Love is Joy/Pleasure accompanied by the idea of an external cause”.

Read with the voice, “Amor/est…lae-ti-ti-ah…concomitante idea CAUsae externae”

See, feel, how Amor rises out of the atmospherics of a potentiality of the Body, and the verb to-be seals it off. How Joy floats momentarily, suspended ontologically until it is brought up with the mechanics of causal interpretation, the sour-rise of cause, pushing the affect forward, as a passion, the closure of causal understanding itself caught in a aural crespification. The potentiality of human love is segmented out in a bit by bit anatomy of thought within tremendous historical consequence. (At least this is my reading and experience.)

Or the whispering, precise feather in the Affect of Desire that causes us to linger, to contemplate not only the thought itself, but also the conditions of the Latin within which Spinoza wrote, the citizen-of-the-world lingua, fostered by Catholic and Protestant imaginations that were tearing. Like a long tenebrous string Kyriakides’ and Harpaz’s “Desire” plays under, sub, to the immanence of our organizations, like a subtle thought.

And then Laetitia itself, Joy/Pleasure, the increase of  perfection, “Laetitia est hominis transitio a minore ad maiorem perfectionem” . The harmonics are haunting in the contemplation of the definition Spinoza provides. The way that the tone of “perfectionem” carries out, incompariably, does more than indicate the nature of Laetitia, it affectively qualifies it within our meditation on the definition. The ultimate coherence of the defintion, and their whole, plays out. This not so much an inter-pretation, as a consub-statiation, in mind and body, a renewal.

These are just a few thoughts.

Here is where you can explore each of the tracks devoted to Spinoza in extended clips, and purchase the CD (or Amazon). You will find the text that comes with the music, as expressed by the composer, the director Paul Koek, and the actor/singer Carola Arons, a commentary which serve to bring to life not only the philosophy behind the composition and performance, but also summon up the full physicality that emerged from this engagment between rational construction and the affecture of the body in theatre and music.

The material of the Ethics, Spinoza’s letters and life comes alive in very much the sense that Spinoza defined alive, that which opens into and as a degree of freedom. If Spinoza imagined the propositions of the Ethics to be the eyes of the Mind, then singing propositions can perhaps be imagined as something like the skin of the Mind, as they allows us to be envoloped and oriented to what the eyes can see — perhaps more tenebrated, communicated, in-speed. Part of understanding the fidelity of Kyriakides’ opera is appreciating that its aesthetic power, the authenticity of its form, may lie in its pedagogic power, much as with the method more geometico of Spinoza’s own Ethics. It is contemplation of Spinoza’s propositions (and letter), a meditation via musicality, that something of its rationality is grasped, in process.

The extended tonal lyricism of this “opera”, as it negotiates tipping between peaks of cacophony, and clustered hues of sweeter clarity, should be fruitfully compared to “Breathing in Reverse”, Joseph Semah’s performance reading of Spinoza Theological-Political Treatise in three antique languages. The tonal justapositions in the former compliment the historical juxapositions in the latter.

[Also of interest, here, a rich personal response and review to Kyriakides’ Spinoza, and Stan Verdult’s weblog comment on the production in 2005]