Descartes, updated.

December 27, 2012 § 1 Comment

Yes, I am a Cartesian. Well, at least abstractly and partially.

Why Descartes? And why updating him? And why here in this series about Urban Reason?

Well, there are roughly three reasons for that. Firstly, because he was the first who concisely expressed the notion of method. And that is certainly of some relevance concerning our collateral target, planning in the context of urban affairs. Second, because the still prevailing modernist thinking is soaked by Descartes’ rationalist ideas. Doing one thing after another, the strategy of divide and conquer, is essentially Cartesian. Such, Descartes is still the secret hero among functionalists and software programmers of our days. And the third reason, finally,  for revisiting Descartes is that regarding the issues risen by planning and method we have to get clear about the problematics of rationalism1, quite beyond the more naturalist approach that we put forward earlier, aligning planning to the embryonic mode of differentiation. We again meet the “binding problem,” for at the one side Descartes’ “Methode” considers epistemic issues,  but on the other neither planning nor method could be considered just as a matter of internal epistemic stances. To put in a more rhetoric manner, could we (i) plan thinking2 and could we (ii) expect to completely think through a plan?

Descartes, living in a transitional time between two great ages, between renaissance and enlightenment, expressed for the first time a strong rational “system”, renewing and updating thereby Platon’s philosophy. When dozing in the Portuguese sun, while ears being filled with some deep house I can imagine that today we are going to experience kind of a reverse passage, a trajectory through Descartes, back from rationalist, logicist, mechanist way of thinking full of abstract ideas that are detached from life like for instance independence towards the classic praise of vortices, broiling, emergence, creativity and dignity of the human practices, that is relating to each other in first place. As one of the first we will meet Leonardo, the timeless genius.

Figure 1. A vortex, in Leonardo’s imaginations.

blobs-1b-det2

In short,  it seems,  in such day dreaming, that we are going to leave the (Roman) module, returning to Athens figures.3 Of course, on this course we carry a backpack, and not a small one, filled with more recent philosophical achievements.4

Here in this essay, I will try to outline a possible update of Cartesian thinking. I tend to propose that modernism, and thus still large parts of contemporary culture, is strongly shaped by his legacy. Obviously, this applies also for the thinking of most of the people and their thinking at least in Western Cultures.

Descartes brought us the awareness about method.  Yet, his initializing version came with tremendous costs. Cartesian thinking implemented the metaphysical believe of independence into the further history of Western societies to come.5 For our investigation, it is the general question about method, mainly with regard to planning, that serves us as a motivational base. We will see whether it is possible to develop the Cartesian concept of method without sticking to his metaphysical believes and the resulting overt rationalism.

Serving still the same purpose as intended by Descartes—to add some update on the notion of method—, in the end this update will turn out to be more like a major release, just to borrow a notion from software production. While the general intention may still resemble Descartes’ layout, the actual mechanisms will be quite different, and probably the whole thing won’t be regarded as Cartesian any more by the respective experts.

But why should one, regarding plans and their implementation, bother with philosophy and other abstract stuff of similar kinds at all, particularly in architecture and urbanism? Isn’t architecture just about pretty forms and optimal functions, optimal fulfillment of a program—whether regarding land-use or the list of rooms in a building—, mingling those with a more or less artful attitude? Isn’t urbanism just about properly building networks of streets and other infrastructure, including immaterial ones such as safety (police, fire, health) and legislative prescriptions for guiding development?

Let us listen to the voice of Vanessa Watson [3], University of Cape Town, South Africa, as she has been writing about it in an article published in 2006 (my emphasis):

The purpose of this article has been to question the appropriateness of much of the thinking in planning that relates to values and judgement. I argue that two main aspects of this thinking are problematic: a focus on process and a neglect of outcomes, together with the assumption that such processes can be guided by a universal set of deontological values, shaped by the liberal tradition. These aspects become particularly problematic in a world which is characterized by deepening social and economic differences and inequalities and by the aggressive promotion of neoliberal values by particular dominant nation-states. (p. 46)

Obviously,  she is asking about the conditions of such implementation. Particularly, she argues that one should be aware about values.

The notion of introducing values into deliberative processes is explored.  (p.31)

In fact, the area of planning6 is a hot spot for all issues about the question what humans would like to “be”, to achieve. Not primarily as an individual (though this could not be neglected), but rather as a “group” in these ages of globalization.7 And many believe not only that human affairs are based on values, but also that this is necessarily so. Watson’s article is just one example for that.

Quite obviously, planning is about the future, and more precisely, about decision-making regarding this future. Equally obvious, it would be ridiculous to confine planning just to that. Yet, stating that ex-post is something very different from ex-ante, as Moroni [4] does in his review of [5], is not only not sufficient, it is struck by several blind spots, e.g. regarding the possibility of predictive modeling. Actually, bringing ex-post and ex-ante perspective to a match is the only way to enable oneself for proper anticipation, as it is well known in financial industries and empiric risk analysis. This is not only admissible in economic contexts. It has been demonstrated as a valuable tool in digital humanities as well. Else, it should be clear that a reduction to either the process or the outcome must be regarded as seriously myopic. What then is planning? (If there is a possible viable definition of it at all.)

Actually, looking to the literature there seem to be as much different definitions for planning as there are people calling themselves planners. In the community of those people there is a fierce discussion about it, even after more than a century of town planning offices. Different schools can be observed, such as rationalists (cf. [5]) or “radical hands-on practitioners,” the former believing in the possibility of pervasive comprehension, the latter denying the feasibility of theory and just insisting on manuals as collections of mystical hands-on recipes [6]. Others, searching for kind of a salvation, are trying to adopt theories from other domains, which poses at least a double-sided problem, if neither the source such as complexity or evolutionary theory is properly understood (cf. [7], [8], [9]) nor the process of adopting them, as Angelique Chettiparamb has been pointing out [10]. As a matter of fact urban or regional planning still fails much too often, particularly corresponding to the size and the scope of the project, and a peculiar structure shows up in this failure: the missing of a common structure across planning projects. One of the reasons at the surface for complicating the subject matter is certainly the extended time horizon affected by the larger plans. Of course, there is also the matter of scale. Small projects often succeed: they are completed within budget, within time, they look like designed and clients are permanently satisfied. Yet, this establishes swarms of independent planning and building, which, according to Koolhaas led to Junkspace. And we should not overlook urban sprawl, which many call the largest failure of planning. Swarms of small projects, even if all of them would be successful, can’t replace large-scale design, it seems.

In other words, the suspicion is that there is a problem with the foundations, with the concepts buried in the idea of planning, the way of speaking, i.e. the performed language games, and probably even with the positioning of the whole area, with the methods, or with all of those issues together. In agreement with Franco Archibugi [5] we may conclude that there are two main challenges: (i) the area of planning is largely devoid of a proper discourse about its foundations and (ii) it is seriously suffering from the binding problem as well.

The question about the foundations is “foundational” for the possibility of a planning science at large. Heidegger in “Sein und Zeit” mentioned ([11]p.9)

Even as the significance of scientific research is always given in this positivity, its actual progress completes not so much through the collection of results and their salvage in “manuals” than in the asking for the basic constitutions of the respective domain, an asking that mostly will be seen as reactively driven out of the increasing technical expertise being fixed in such manuals.

…and a few sentences later :

The level of a science is determined by its capability for a crisis of its foundational concepts.8

Nowadays, we even can understand that this crisis has to be an ongoing crisis. It has to be built into the structure of the respective science itself, such that the “crisis as event” is not possible any more. As an example we will not only throw a glimpse towards biology, we will even assimilate its methodological structure.

I believe that all those methodological (meta-)issues can’t be addressed separately, and also not separately from so-called practical issues. Additionally, I think that in case of an investigation that reaches out into the “social” the question of method can’t be separated from that about the relation between ethics and planning, or from its target, the Urban (cf. [12]). Such a separation would implicitly follow the structure of reductionist rationalism,  which we have, of course, to avoid as a structural predetermination. Therefore I decided to articulate and to braid these issues in a first round all together into one single essay, even to the cost of its considerable length.9

The remainder of this essay revolves around method, plan and their vicinity, arranged to the following sections (active links):

1. Method a la Carte(sian)

Descartes meant to extend the foundations devised long before him by Aristotle. The conviction that some kind of foundations are necessary and possible is called foundationalism. In his essay about Descartes epistemology [13], Newman holds that

The central insight of foundationalism is to organize knowledge in the manner of a well-structured, architectural edifice. Such an edifice owes its structural integrity to two kinds of features: a firm foundation and a superstructure of support beams firmly anchored to the foundation. A system of justified beliefs might be organized by two analogous features: a foundation of unshakable first principles, and a superstructure of further propositions anchored to the foundation via unshakable inference.

In Descartes’ own words:

Throughout my writings I have made it clear that my method imitates that of the architect. When an architect wants to build a house which is stable on ground where there is a sandy topsoil over underlying rock, or clay, or some other firm base, he begins by digging out a set of trenches from which he removes the sand, and anything resting on or mixed in with the sand, so that he can lay his foundations on firm soil. In the same way, I began by taking everything that was doubtful and throwing it out, like sand … (Replies 7, AT 7:537)

Here the reference to architecture is a homage to Aristotle, who also used architecture as kind of a structural template. The big question is whether such a stable ground is possible in the realm of arguments. If not, a re-import of the expected stability won’t be possible, of course. The founder of mechanics, Archimedes, already mentioned that given a stable anchor point he could move the whole world. For him it was clear that such a stable point of reference is to be found only for local contexts.

In his “Discours de la Methode” Descartes distinguished four precepts, or rules, about how to achieve a proper way of thinking.

(1) The first was never to accept anything for true which I did not clearly know to be such; that is to say, carefully to avoid precipitancy and prejudice, and to comprise nothing more in my judgment than what was presented to my mind so clearly and distinctly as to exclude all ground of doubt.

(2) The second, to divide each of the difficulties under examination into as many parts as possible, and as might be necessary for its adequate solution.

(3) The third, to conduct my thoughts in such order that, by commencing with objects the simplest and easiest to know, I might ascend by little and little, and, as it were, step by step, to the knowledge of the more complex; assigning in thought a certain order even to those objects which in their own nature do not stand in a relation of antecedence and sequence.

(4) And the last, in every case to make enumerations so complete, and reviews so general, that I might be assured that nothing was omitted.

Put briefly, and employing a modernized shape, he demands to follow these principles:

  • (1) Stability: proceed only from stable grounds, i.e. after excluding all doubts;
  • (2) Additivity: practice the strategy of “divide & conquer”;
  • (3) Duality: not to mistake empirical causality for logical sequence;
  • (4) Transferability: try to generalize your insight, and apply the generalization to as much cases as possible.

Descartes proposes a certain “Image of Thought”, as Deleuze will call it much later in the 1960ies.10 There are some important objections about these precepts, of which Descartes, of course, could not have been aware. It needed at least two radical turns (Copernican by Kant, Linguistic by Wittgenstein) to render those problems visible. In the following we will explicate these problems around Descartes’ four methodological precepts in a yet quite brief manner.

ad (1), Stability

There two important assumptions here. First, that it is possible to exclude all doubts, (2) that it is possible to use language in a way that would not be vulnerable to any kind of doubt. Meanwhile, both assumptions have been destroyed, the first by Gödel and his incompleteness theorem, the second by Wittgenstein with his insisting on the primacy of language. This primacy makes language as a languagability a transcendent (not: transcendental!) entity, such that it is even apriori to any possible metaphysics. There are several implications of that, first regarding the meaning of “meaning” [14]. Surprisingly enough, at least for all rationalists and positivists, it is untenable to think that meaning is a mental entity, as this would lead to the claim that there is something like a private language. This has been excluded by Wittgenstein (see also [14][16]) and all the work of later Putnam is about this issue [17]. Language is fundamentally a “communal thing,” both synchronically and diachronically. Frankly, it is a mistake to think that meaning could be assigned or that meaning would be attached to words. The combined rejections of Descartes’ first precept leads us to the primacy of interpretation. Before interpretation there is nothing. This holds even for what usually is called “pure” matter. A consequence of that is the inseparability of form and matter, or if you like, information and matter. It is impossible to talk about matter without also talking about information and form. For Aristotle, this was a cornerstone. Since Newton, many lost the grip onto that insight.

ad (2), Additivity

This inconspicuous rule is probably the most influential one. In some way it dominates even the first one. This rule was to set out the framing for positivism. The claim is basically that it is generally possible, that is for any kind of subject in thinking, to understand that subject by breaking it up into as many parts as possible. Nothing would be lost by breaking it up.  In the end, we could recombine the “parts of understanding” into a combined version. If this property is assigned to an empirical whole11, this property is usually called “additivity” or “linearity”.

By this rule, Descartes clearly sets himself apart from Aristotle, who would clearly have refused it. For Aristotle, most things could not be split into parts without loosing the quality. The whole is different from the sum of its parts. (Metaphysic VII 17, 1041b) From the other direction this means that putting things together always creates something that haven’t been there before. Today we call this emergence. Yet, we have to distinguish different kinds of emergence, as we have to distinguish different kinds of splitting. When talking about emergence and complexity, we are not interested in emergence by rearrangement (association or by combination (water from hydrogen and oxygen), but rather in strong emergence, which opens a new organizational level.

The additivity of things in thought as well as of things in the world is a direct consequence of the theological metaphysics of Descartes. For him, man had to be independent from God in order to be able to be man able to and for reason.

He [God]… agitated variously and confusedly the different parts of this matter, so that there resulted a chaos as disordered as the poets ever feigned, and after that did nothing more than lend his ordinary concurrence to nature, and allow her to act in accordance with the laws which he had established.

There are general laws effective in the background, as a general condition, but there is no direct action of the divine principle anymore. In other words:  In his actions, man is independent from God. By means of this believe into the metaphysical independence12, Descartes and Leibniz, who thought similarly (see his Theodizee), became the founders and grandfathers of modernism as it still prevails today.

ad (3), Duality

Simply great. The issue has been rediscovered, and of course extended and deepened by Wittgenstein. Wittgenstein understood as the first ever that logic is transcendent. There is neither a direct way from the world into logic, nor from logic into world. It is impossible to claim truth values for worldly entities. Doing so instead results in the implicit claim that the world could be described analytically. This has been the position of idealist rationalists and positivists. Note that it is not a problem to behave rationally, but it is definitely a problem to claim this idealistically as a norm. For this would exclude any kind of creativity or inventiveness.

Descartes did not recognize that his third precept contradicts his second one at least partially. Neither did Aristotle with his conceptualization of the whole and the claim that the truth could be recognized within the world.

ad (4), Transferability

Also a great principle, which is still valid. It rejects what today is known as case-study (the most stupid thing positivism has brought along).

Yet, this also has to be extended. What exactly happens when we are generalizing from observations? What happens, if we apply a generalization to a case? We already discussed this in detail in our contemplation about the comparison.

One of the results that we found there is that even the most simple comparison needs something that is not empirical, something that can not be found by just looking (starring?) at it. It not only implies a concept, it also requires at least one concept that is apriori to the comparison or likewise the observation. The next step is to regard the concept itself as a quasi-material empirical thing. Yet, we will find the same situation again, though this does not establish circularity or a regress!

In order to apply an already established generalization, or a concept, we need some rules. This could be a model of some kind. The important thing then is to understand completely the fact that concepts and generalizations could not be analytical. Hence there are always many ways to apply a generalization. The habit to select a particular style for the instantiation of the concept I called orthoregulation. In Kantian terms we could call it forms of constructions, mirroring his forms of intuition (or schemata).

It is this inevitability of manifold instantiation of abstractions, ideas or generalizations which idealist rationalism does not recognize and thus fails in the most serious way. For its mistake being the claim that there is a single “correct” way to apply a concept.

2. Foundation, now

Descartes clearly expressed that the four parts of the method are suitable to follow first principles, but not sufficient for finding the first principle. For that he devised his method of doubt. Yet, after all, this as well as his whole foundationalist systematics was in need for being anchored in God.

But what if we would try to follow the foundational path without referring to God?13 Setting something else as a first principle is not suitable outside of mathematics or logic. In the case of the former we call it axiom, in the case of the latter tautology. In kind of a vertigo both areas still struggle for a foundation, searching for a holy grail that can’t exist. Outside of mathematics, it is quite obvious that we can’t set an axiom as a first principle. How to justify it?

Now we met the real important question. If we can’t answer it, so it was thought, any knowledge would immediately become subject to the respective circumstances, implying kind of a tertiary chaos, deep relativity and arbitrariness. Yet, the question is important, but somewhat surprisingly the answer is irrelevant. For the question is ill-posed, where its misguidedness represents its importance. There is no absolute justification, thus there is no justification at all, and in turn the question is based on a misbelief.

This does not mean, however, that there is no foundation in the sense that there is nothing beyond (or: behind) this foundation. In our essay “A Deleuzean Move” we presented a possibility for a self-referential conceptualization of the foundation that provides a foundation without being based on a first principle. Of course, there are still requirements. Yet, all required positive-definite items or proposals—such as symbols or logic—become part of the concept itself and are explained and dissolved by it. The remaining conditions are identified as transcendent: modelity, conceptuality, mediality and virtuality. Each of them can be translated or transposed into actual items, and in each “move” all of them are invoked to some, varying degree. These four transcendent and foundational conditions for thought, ideas and language establish a space, whose topology is a hyperbolic, embedding a second-order Deleuzean differential. All together we called it the choreostemic space, because different styles of human activity creates more or less distinct attractors in this space.

Such, the axiomatic nature of Descartes’ foundation which we may conceive as a proposal based on constants is changed into a procedural approach without any fixed point. Instead, the safety in the ocean of possible choreostemic forms derives solely from the habit of thought as it practiced in a community. The second-order differential prevents this space becoming representational, as it needs a double instantiation. It can’t be used to map or project anything into it, including intentions. Nevertheless it records the style of unfolding intentions, wishes, stories, informational activities etc. and renders different styles comparable. These styles can be described as a distinct dynamics in the choreostemic space, between the transcendent entities of concept, model, mediality and virtuality.

This choreostemic space traces the immanence of thought and the relation between immanence (of creation), transcendence (of condition) and the transcendental (of the outside). This outside is beyond the border of language, but for the first time it appears as an imaginary. Note that the divine and the existential are both in this outside, yet into different virtual directions. Neither God nor existence is conceived as something to which we could point to, or about which we could speak by means of actual terms. And at least for the existential it doe not make much sense to doubt it. Here we agree with Descartes as well as with Wittgenstein. Despite we can’t say anything about it, we can traverse it. We always do so when we experience existential resistance, like an astronaut in a Space Shuttle visiting the incompatible interplanetary zone. Only limited trips are possible, we always have to return into an atmosphere.

Saying that the choreostemic space establishes a self-referential foundation implies that it is also critical (Kantian), and even meta-critical (Post-Kantian), yet without being doomed to idealism (Fichte, Frege) or totality (Hegel) and the logicistic functionalism implied by those.

Above we mentioned that the transcendent elements of the choreostemic space, namely model, concept, mediality and virtuality, can be transposed into actual items. This yields a tremendous advantage of the choreostemic space. It does not just dissolve the problem of ultimate justification without scarifying epistemic stability, it also bridges the rather wide gap between transcendence and application. In order to put it into simple terms, the choreostemic space just reflects the necessity of social embedding of modeling, the role of belief and potential in actual moves we take in the world, and finally the importance of concepts, which can be conceived as ideas being detached from the empiric constitution (or parts) of language. In discourses about planning as well as in actual planning projects this 4-fold vector describes nothing less than a proper communicational setup that is part of goal-directed organizational processes.

There are some interesting further topics that can be derived from this choreostemic space, which you can find in the main essay about it. The important message here is that a constant, a metaphysical axiom gets completely dissolved in a procedure that links the informational of the individual with the informational of the communal. 

3. Method, now

3.1. …Taken Abstract

Method is not primarily an epistemological issue, such as models or concepts, or modelity and conceptuality, respectively. It combines rules into a whole of procedures and actions such that this whole can be seen as the operational equivalent of a goal or purpose. As such, it refers to action, strategy, and style, thus aesthetic issues. Hence, also to creativity and its hidden company, formalization. Despite the aspect of reproducibility is usually strongly emphasized, there is also always an element of open experimentation in the “methodological,” allowing to “harvest” the immanent potential, far beyond the encoding and its mechanistic implications. This holds even for thinking itself.

Descartes, of course, and similarly to Kant later, clearly addressed the role of projected concepts as a means of “making sense,” while these projections don’t respond to the object(s) hosting some assumed necessity. As part of the third precept in performing method he writes (see above):

“…   assigning in thought a certain order even to those objects which in their own nature do not stand in a relation of antecedence and sequence.”

Objectively, logically confirmed stable grounds are not part of methodological arrangements any more. There is some kind of stability, of course, yet this comes just as a procedural regularity, which is dependent on the context. In turn, this allows to evade analyticity towards adaptivity.

Any method thus comprises at least two different levels of rules, though usually there are quite a few more. The first will address the factual re-arrangement, while the second—let us call it the upper—level is concerned about the regularization of the application of the rules on the first level, as well as the integration of the rather heterogenic set on the lowest level. Just think about a laboratory, or the design and implementation of a plan in a project to get a feeling for the vey different kinds of subjects that have to be handled by and integrated into a method. The levels are tightly linked to each other, there is still a link to empiric issues on the second level. Thus there are not too much degrees of freedom for the rules on the upper level.

Saying this we already introduced a concept and actively built upon it that has not been available to Descartes: information. Although it could be traced in his 3rd and 4th precept, information as a well-distinguished category was not available before the mid of the 20th century. Itself being dependent on the notions of the (Peircean) sign and probability, information does not only allow for additional levels of abstraction, it also renders some important concept accessible, which otherwise would remain completely hidden. Among those are a clear image about measurement, the reflection about rules, the reflection about abstraction itself—think about the Deleuzean Differential—, the proceduralization, accumulation, transformation and re-distribution of executive knowledge, the associative networks, distributed causes, complexity, and the distinction between reversibility and irreversibility. All those conceptual categories are highly relevant for a theory of planning. None of them could be found explicitly and appropriately assimilated so far in the literature about planning (in the end of 2012).

These categories provide us with a vantage point that opens the possibility for a proper formulation of “method”, where “proper” means that it could be appropriately operationalized and instantiated into practical contexts. We can say that…

Methods are structured collections of more or less strict rules that organize the transformational flow of items.

These items could be documents, data, objects in software, material objects, but also ideas and concepts. In short, and from a different angle, anything that could be symbolized. In the context of planning, any of those particular kinds may be involved, since planning is the task of effectively rearranging matter, stocks and flows embedded into a problematic field spanning from design [19] and project management to logistics and politics. There is little sense to wrangle about the question whether design should be included in planning and planning theory or not [1]. Or whether one should follow a dedicated rationalist route or not [4].

Such questions derive mainly from two blind spots. Firstly, people are obviously caught in a configuration ruled by the duality of “context” and “definition”. It is not that the importance of context is not recognized. Fortunately,  the completely inadequate and almost stupid response of leaning towards case-based-reasoning, case studies or casuistic (cf. [20]) is quite rare.14 Secondly, planning seems to be conceived implicitly as something like an external object. Only Objects can be defined. Yet, objects are created by performing a definition and this “act of defining” in itself is strongly analytical. Conceptual work is outside of the work of the definition. Who, besides orthodox rationalists or logical positivists would claim that planning is something analytical? As a further suspicion we already could add that there are quite strong hints that favor a grand cultural hypothesis for planning.

3.2. … from the Domain Perspective

In order to get clear about this we could look for an example from another domain, where the future—as in planning—is also a major determinant. Hence, let us take the science of biology. Organisms are settling in a richly structured temporal space, always engaging with the future, on any scale. The reason is quite simple: Those who didn’t sufficiently, let it be as a species, or as individual, do not exist any more.

Biology is the science about all aspects of living entities. This definition is pretty simple, isn’t it? Yet, it is not a definition, it is a vague description, because it is by no means clear what “life” should mean. Recent textbooks on biology do not contain a definition of life anymore. So, how is biology structured as a science? Perhaps you know that physicists claimed since Darwin that biology isn’t a “science” at all, because its proclaimed lack of “laws” and respective abstract and formal generalizations. They always get puzzled by the huge amount of particularities, the historicity, the context-specificity, the individuality of the subjects of interest. So, we can clearly recognize that a planning science, whatever it will turn out to be, won’t be a science like physics.

It is not possible to describe all the relevant structural aspects of biology as science and the respective approaches and attitudes here. Yet, there is kind of an initiation of biology as a modern science that is easy to grasp. The breakthrough in biology came with Niko Tinbergen’s distinction of the four central vectors of or perspectives in biological thought:

  • (1) ontogenesis (embryology, growing up, learning),
  • (2) physiology,
  • (3) behavior, and
  • (4) phylogenesis (evolution).

The basic motivation for such a distinction arose from the differences regarding the tools and approaches for observation. There are simply different structures and scales in space-time and concept- space, roughly along the lines Tinbergen carved out. From the perspective of the organism, these four perspectives could be conceived as “functional compartments”. Later, this concept of the functional compartment has been applied with considerable success in cell biology. There, people called them genome, transcriptome, proteome, etc., in order to organize the discourse. Meanwhile it became obvious, however, that this distinction is not an analytic, i.e. “idealistic” one, since in cells and organisms we find any kind of interaction across any number of integrative organizational “levels”.

Any of these areas started with some kind of collecting, followed by taxonomies in order to master the particularity. Since the 1970ies, however, there is an increasing trend towards mathematical modeling. Techniques (sometimes fuzzily also called methods) comprise probabilistic modeling, Markov-models, analytic modeling such as the Marginal-Value-theorem in eco-behavior [21], any kind of statistics, graph-based methods, and data-based, or empirical classification by means of clusterization, and often a combination of them. These techniques are used for deriving concepts.

Interestingly, organisms and their populations are often described (i) in terms of a “currency”, which in biology is time and energy, and (ii) in terms of “strategies,” both on the individual as well as on the collective level. Famous the concept evolutionarily stable strategy (ESS) by Maynard-Smith from 1970 [22].

As a fifth part of biology we nowadays could add the particular  concerns about the integration of the four aspects as introduced by Tinbergen. The formal study of this integration is certainly given by the concept  of complexity.15

Whatever the final agreement about planning and method in Urban16 Affairs will comprise, it is pretty sure that there won’t be a closed definition of planning. Instead, and almost certainly we will also see the agreement on some kind of “Big four/five” perspectives. In the next section we are going to check out the possibility for an extension of it.  Note, that taxonomy is not one of those! And despite there are myriads of highly particular descriptive reports, biology never engaged in case studies.

3.3. The Specialty…

No question, the pragmatic approach of separating basic perspectives without sacrificing the idea of integration has been valuable for the development of biology. There are good chances that the adoption of these perspectives—carried out appropriately, that is not representationalist—will be fruitful for the further development of the domain of planning and planning theory. There is at least kind of a homeomorphism: in both areas we find a strong alignment to the future, which in turn means that adaptivity and persistence (sustainability) also play an important role.

The advantage of such a methodological alignment would be that planning theory would not have to repeat all the discussions regarding the proper concepts of observation. Planning could even learn from the myriads of different strategies of natural systems. For instance, the need for compartmentalization. Or the fact that the immediate results of initial plans (read: genes and transcripts) are in need for heavy post-processing. Or the reliability of probabilistic processes. Or the fact, that evolutionary processes are directed to increased generality, despite their basic blindness.

Yet, there are at least two large differences to the domain of planning. Firstly, planning takes place as a symbolic act in a culture, and secondly, planning involves normative structures and acts, to which we will take a closer look below. Both aspects are fundamentally different from the perspectivism in biology insofar as they don’t allow for a complete conceptual externalization as it is the case with biological subjects. Quite to the contrary, symbols and norms introduce a significant self-referentiality into all methods regarding method and planning in the context of the Urban.

Thus, additionally to the 4+1 structure that we could adopt from biology for dealing with the externalizable aspects, we need two further perspectives that are suitable to deal with the dynamics of symbols and the normative. For the first one, we already have proposed a suitable structure, the choreostemic space. Two notes about that. First, the choreostemic space could be turned into a methodological attitude. Second, the choreostemic explicitly comprises the potential and mediality as major determinants of any “worldly” move, besides models and concepts. The further issue of normativity we will discuss in the next section.

Meanwhile, we finally can formulate what method could mean in the context of the Urban. First, our perspectives for dealing with the subject of “planning,” the subjects of planning, and the respective methods would be the following (read 1 thru 4 in parallel to Tinbergen’s)

  • (1) genesis of the plan and genesis of the planned;
  • (2) mechanisms for implementation, mostly considering particular quasi-material aspects, and mechanisms in the implemented;
  • (3) behavior (of individuals, groups, and the whole) and social dynamics, during planning and in the implemented arrangement;
  • (4) adaptivity, persistence, sustainability and evolution of plans and the planned;
  • (5) Choreostemic of concepts and interaction, in planning and in the planned,;
  • (6) Ethical and moral considerations;
  • (7) Integration of planning and the planned as a complex system (see also below).

Within these perspectives, particular methods and techniques will evolve. Yet, we also could bundle all of it into a single methodological attitude. In any case we could say that…

Methods are collections of more or less strict rules that organize the transformational flow of items, where these collections are structured along basic perspectives.

3.4. …and the (Notorious, Critical) Game

Last, but not least, “method” is a language game—of course, I would like to add. As usual, several implications immediately derive. First, it is embedded into a Form of Life. Methods are by no means restricted to rationalism or the famous “Western perspective”. Any society knows language, rules and norms, and thus also regularity. Of course, the shape of the method may differ considerably. Yet, from the concept as we propose it here, these differences are just parameters. In terms of choreostemic space, methods result in different attractors in a non-representative metaphysical space of immanence.

This brings us to the second implication: the language game “method” is a “strongly singular term”. We can’t do anything without it, not even thinking in the most reduced manner, let even be a combined action-thinking. “Method” is one of these pervasive constructs in the basement of culture. Moreover, as a strongly singular term it introduces self-referentiality, and hence an immanent creativity. Thus the third implication: Whenever we use a method, we have to apply it critically. This basically means that there is no method without a clear indication about its conditions.

Regarding our concept of Generic Differentiation and its trinitary way of actualizing change, we thus have to expect that we will find the “method aspect” everywhere. No matter whether we take the perspective of the planning process or that of the planned. In order to illustrate this aspect using a metaphor, let me refer to the structure of atoms and molecules, particularly to the concept of the electron orbital. Orbital electrons are responsible for the electro-magnetic binding forces between atoms in molecules. It is through these electrons that molecules (and also metals and crystals) can exist at all.

Figure 2: the so-called orbitals of outer electrons of atoms in a molecule of CO2, showing their importance in building molecules from atoms. The cudgels (yellow, blue, green) should not be taken as well-defined 3-dimensional material volumes. They rather indicate fuzzy areas of increased probability for meeting an electron if a measurement would be taken.

co2-hybridization

Similarly, methods, as elements of choreostemic moves, may be conceived the mediators of binding forces between the aspects involved in thinking about differentiation.

Our concept of Generic Differentiation allows to overcome the wrong distinction between theory and practice. While the true dualism consists of theory or practice on the one side and performance on the other, it is still necessary to clarify the relation between theory, model and operation. We already derived that theories may be beneficially conceived as orthoregulating milieus for assembling models. But still, this is only a condition. I think that the relation between theory and structural models on the one side,  and predictive/operational models on the other side concerns a question that points right to the heart of actualization: How to organize interpretation? Again we meet a question that is invisible for rationalists and modernists17 as well, since both are blind against the necessity of forms of construction and the implied freedom, or manifoldness of choice, respectively. This issue of how to organize interpretation concerns, of course, all phases and aspects of planning, from creating the plan until living in the implemented plan.

4. Grand Cultural Perspective

Franco Archibugi is completely right in emphasizing that planning is pervasively relevant [5]. Planning of xyz is not just relevant for the subject xyz, where xyz could be something like land-use, city-layout, street planning, organizational planning, etc.

In other words, it [m: planning] is a system that concerns the entire social life and includes all the possible decision-makers that act within it. It is a holistic system. 18

So far, so good. He is also right in criticizing the positivistic approach to planning, which, according to him, has been prevalent in planning until recently. Yet, despite in his book he describes a lot of reasonable means and potential practices for an improved choreography of planning, comprising institutions down to consulting, it is not really an advance to replace the positivist attitude with a functionalist one, claiming that planning has to follow the paradigm of “programming”.

Among other weaknesses such as a weird concept of theory and theoricity—leading to rather empty distinctions like theory on, of and in planning and the mistake to mix case-studies with story-telling—, Archibugi is almost completely unaware about the ethical dimension and/or its challenges, apparently hoping to cover the aspect of difference and divergence by means of institutions. Since he believes in penetrating comprehensibility, complexity  and self-referentiality didn’t make it into his treatise as well, even if we would consider it in the limited way mainstream is using it.  Despite he wants to separate from positivist approach in his outline of “the first routes of the new discipline,” he proposes an “operational logical framework” which integrates and unifies all types, forms, and procedures of planning.19

Therein, Archibugi surely counts as an arch-rationalist, a close relative to the otherworldly stories published by Luhmann and Habermas. Yet, we certainly can’t apply pervasive rationalism for designing this “system”.  Social life can’t be planned and, more important, it should not be planned, as the inherent externalizing perspective introduced by plans implies to treat human beings as means.20

Our support of the grand cultural attitude is rooted quite differently. In this series of essays about the Urban (with a capital “U”, see footnote 16) we have been trying to find support for the concept of Urban Reason. Basically, this concept claims that human reason is strongly shaped or even determined by the embedding culture, which today, as a matter of fact, is urban culture. In short, human reason is itself a cultural phenomenon. One could indeed argue that this follows quite directly from Wittgenstein’s philosophy and the extensions provided by the late Putnam: Any rule following is deeply anchored in the respective Form of Life; any human thinking, which is largely based on language, hence has the communal as one of its main components. As a consequence of the increasing weight of urban culture, which meanwhile turned into a dominance even against the nation state, human reason is strongly shaped by the Form of Life of urban citizens. This holds for any tiny bit of the surface of planet earth, of course, even if an arbitrary tribal community never would have been in contact with modern forms of human social organization.

The quality of the Urban can’t be separated any more from human reason, thus from human culture at large. Everything we do around the Urban and within the Urban contributes to culture. This we call the Grand Cultural Hypothesis. In Deleuzean terms we could say that the Urban could be conceived as a distributed, process- and population-based, probabilistic plane of immanence. Regarding our extension of this Deleuzean concept, the Choreostemic Space, we could also say that the Urban establishes a particular attractor in it.

We even could extend this Grand Cultural Hypothesis by stating that all the institutions we nowadays rate as cultural emanence always have been urban. Things like writing, numbers, newspapers, books, astronomy, guilds, printing, operas, stadium, open source, bureaucracy, police, power or governmentality could have emerged only in those arrangements we call city. We have been discussing this already elsewhere and won’t repeat it.

The argument here is that the Urban is a particular form of dealing with differentiation. In turn, designing or at least establishing a particular way of dealing with differentiation and of inducing differentiating processes circumscribes what could be labeled a particular culture. Urban differentiation processes rarely engage with physical constraints, for the Urban introduces an emancipation from them, and people being immersed in the Urban invent things like money and insurances. In other words, the Urban provides a stable platform for safe-guarded experimentation with cultural goods, inventing also methods and conditions for experimenting. Thus, even the very notion of method, as opposed to tradition, has been shaped by the Urban.

All this is not really surprising.  It is well-known that cities are breeding grounds for symbolization and sign processes. The Urban creates its own mediality. The Urban puts differentiation onto its stage, it invokes an almost cinematographic mise-en-scene of differentiation21. This result is strongly contradicts the Cartesian and rationalist expectation that it would be possible to plan (aspects of) the city. Planning must be considered as just one of the three modes of differentiation, besides evolution and learning. Believing into the possibility and sufficiency of an apriori determinability just means to mistake the embryo for the fully fledged animal.

Obviously, the weighting of the three forms of actualization of differentiation is an act of will, albeit this could be observed so far only in very rare cases22. This irreducible trinity in differentiation should, however, not be assigned just to the individuals. It is a matter of politics and the collective as well, though this introduces a completely new level of negotiation into politics for most countries (except Switzerland, perhaps). Yet, probably it is the only form of politics that will remain in a truly and stable enlightened society. Each particular configuration of the above mentioned trinity will exert rather specific constraints and even consequences. A first benefit from our extended concept of Generic Differentiation concerns the possibility and the mode of communicating qualitative consequences of implementing certain designs.

The  great advantage of talking at this level of abstraction is that the problematic field can be relieved from the collision of “values” and facts. It is accessible through the Differential23, that is, a vertical speciation (just in contrast to Descartes’ method and also deconstructivism, both of which are applying horizontal differencing only). Values and facts are not disregarded completely by rigorous linguistic hygienic, as Latour suggests. They are just not taken as a starting point. One should acknowledge that values and facts are nothing else than kind of shortcuts in thinking, when thinking becomes a bit lazy.

Another advantage is that there is no possibility any more to clash outcome (by any means) and process (towards an open end). They are now deeply integrated into Generic Differentiation. This does not exclude indicative measures for the quality of a city or its neighborhoods, whether regarding for instance more general issues like adaptivity, or more concrete ones like the development or relative level of the attractiveness as measured by the monetary value of the cells in a district. It should be clear, however, that it is impossible to define short-term outcomes, e.g. as the “result” of the implementation of a plan. We even could say that measuring the city could be done almost in arbitrary ways, as long as there are many measures, the measures are going to address various organizational levels and the measures are stable across a long period of time.

All this allows us to rethink planning. It will have a profound effect on the self-perception of planners and the profession of planning at large. Calls like that forwarded by Vanessa Watson, demanding for “respecting cultural differences” [1] become dispensable, at least. We can see that they even lead to a false emphasis on identity, revitalizing the separation of into process and outcome against its own intentions.

Starting with the primacy of difference, in contrast, allows to bring in evolutionary aspects in a completely self-conscious manner. Difference is nothing that must be respected or created. It must be deeply braided into the method, not into the corporeality of people as a representationalist concept. More exactly, as deep as possible, that is as a transcendent principle. It is more or less canting to acclaim “be different”, or “rescue difference”, as this implies the belief in transcendental identity and logicism.

But now it is urgent to discuss the issue of ethics regarding planning and methods.

5. Values, Ethics, and Plans

No doubt, our attitudes towards our own future(s) are not only shaped by contextual utility and some overarching (idealistic) rationality may play only a partial role as well. From the background, or if you prefer: subliminally,  a rich and blurry structure determines our preferences, hopes and intentions. Usually, this sphere of personal opacity is also thought to comprise what often is called values. Not surprising, values also appear in the literature about planning  (cf. [24]24).

Undeniably, planning is in need for ethics25 and moral standards [25]. Yet, the area is a rather difficult one, to say the least. Rather well-known approaches like that proposed by Rawls (based on the abstract idea of justice), rationalism, or utilitarianism are known to be either defect, not suitable for contemporary challenges, or both. Furthermore, it is difficult to derive moral standards from the known philosophical theories. Fortunately, there is an alternative. Yet, before we start we have to shed some light on the rhetoric implied by the notion of “plan”.

5.1. Language Games

In the context of the concept of Generic Differentiation we already identified the “plan” and the respective notion of “development” as just one of the three modes of differentiation—development, evolution and learning—, which neither can’t be separated from each other nor be reduced to each other. It is just a matter of relative weight.

Such we can ask about the language game of “plan”.  Language games are more or less organized and more or less stable arrangement of rules about the actualization of concepts into speech. I won’t go into details here, you can find the discussion of relevant aspects in earlier essays.26 Yet, some points should be made explicit here as well.

 The first is that the notion of language game, as devised by Wittgenstein in his Philosophical Investigations, implies the “paradox of rule-following”27, which can be resolved only through the reference to the Form of Life, which in simplified terms concerns the entirety of culture. Second, as a practice in language, the language game, e.g. that of talking about “plan”, implies a particular pragmatics, or different kinds of aspect is such a speech act. Austin originally distinguished the locutionary, illocutionary and perlocutionary aspect. Austin maintains that these aspects are always present, they are not a matter of psychology or consciousness, but rather of language. With Deleuze (in Cinema 2) we can add the aspect of story-telling, which we called the delocutionary aspect of speech acts. Third, any actualization of a “bag of concepts” which let us then invoke the term “plan” is just one out of a manifold, for actualization of concepts require forms of construction, or orthoregulation, as we called it. Usually, we apply rather stable habits in this “way down” from concepts to words and acts, but always keep in mind that there are many different ways for this.

Underneath of all of that is an acknowledgment of the primacy of interpretation, which includes a strong rejection of the claim of analyticity. Note, that we reject analyticity here not as a consequence of some property of our subject, that is the property of “complexity,” in our case the complexity of the city. I think it is much stronger to reject it as a consequence of (human) culture and the fact of language itself.

Such, we can ask about three things regarding the notions of “plan” or “planning”, despite the aspects are certainly overlapping. First, which concepts are going to be invoked? Second, which story is to be told? Third, how is the story to be told?

The dimension of concepts could be covered by the notion of the “image of the city”. The “image of the city” is quite a bit more than just a model or a theory, albeit these make up a large deal of it. A preferential way to deal with images about the city, albeit it is just a starting point, is David Shane’s way of theorizing the city. He manages to combine morphological, historical, political, technological and socio-dynamical aspects in a neat manner. Another, quite different mode of story-telling is provided by Rem Koolhaas, as we have discussed it before.

The two latter questions are, of course, the more important ones. Just think about the idea of “ideal city,” the “garden city,” the “city of mobility,” or the “complex city”. Or the different stances such as rationalism, neo-liberalism, or utilitarianism. Or the issue of participation versus automation. Or who is going to tell the story? Let us start by returning to said “values”.

5.2. Values

Values are constants, singularities, quite literally so. As such, they destroy any possibility of comparison or mediatedness. Just as numbers as mere values don’t have an meaning. To build a mathematics you need a systematicity about operations as well. The complete story is always made from procedures and variables, where the former always dominates the latter. A value itself is like a statue showing a passer-by. Yet, values are fixed, devoid of any possibility to move around, “pure” territorialization.

Thus, a secondary symbolization, mediatization and distribution of values (cf.[26]) does not really help in mitigating these difficulties. Claiming and insisting on values means just to claim “I am not interested in exchange at all”. Values are existential terms: either they are, or they are not. They are strictly dichotomous. Thus they are also logical terms. Not really surprising we find utilitarist folks to make abundant use of positively formulated values.

Yet, values fail even with regard to their pretension of existentiality. Heidegger [11] writes (p.100) that

[…] the recourse towards “valueish” configurations [can not] bring into sight the Being as readiness-to-hand, let alone becoming it an ontological issue.
( […] die Zuflucht zu »wertlichen« Beschaffenheiten [kann] das Sein als Zuhandenheit auch nur in den Blick bringen, geschweige denn ontologisch zum Thema werden lassen.)

Consequently it is nothing but a formal mistake to think that values could be even near the foundation for decision-making. Their existential incommensurability is the reason for a truly disastrous effect: Values are the cause of wars, small ones and large ones. (And there is hardly another reason for it.) Values implement a particular mechanic of costs, which only could be measured in existential terms, too. What would be needed instead is a scale, not necessarily smooth, but at least useful for establishing some more advanced space of expressibility. Only such a double-articulating space, which is abstract and practical at the same time, allows for the possibility of translation, at first, followed by mutual transformation.

This triple move of enabling expression, translation and transformation has nothing to do with tolerance. Tolerance, similar to values, is a language game that indicates that there is no willingness for translation, not even for transformation of ones own “position”. In order to establish a true multiplicity, the contributing instances have to interpenetrate each other; otherwise, one just ends up with modernist piles of dust, “social dust particles” in this case, without any structure.

In this context it is interesting to take a look to Bergson’s conceptualization of temporality. For Bergson, free will, the basic human tendency for empathy and temporality are closely linked through the notion of multiplicity. In his contribution to the Stanford Encyclopedia Lawlor writes [27]:

The genius of Bergson’s description is that there is a heterogeneity of feelings here, and yet no one would be able to juxtapose them or say that one negates the other. There is no negation in the duration. […] In any case, the feelings are continuous with one another; they interpenetrate one another, and there is even an opposition between inferior needs and superior needs. A qualitative multiplicity is therefore heterogeneous (or singularized), continuous (or interpenetrating), oppositional (or dualistic) at the extremes, and progressive (or temporal, an irreversible flow, which is not given all at once).

Bergson’s qualitative multiplicity that he devises as a foundation for the possibility of empathy is, now in our terms, nothing else than the temporal unfolding of a particular and abstract space of expressibility. The concept of values make this space vanish into a caricature of isolated points. There is a remarkable consistency now that we can conclude with Bergson that values also abolish temporality itself. Yet, without temporality, how should be there any exchange, progress, or planning?

Some time ago, Bruno Latour argued in his “Politics of Nature” [28], albeit he meanwhile refreshed and extended his first investigations, that the distinction between facts and values is rarely useful and usually counterproductive:

We must avoid two types of fraud: one in which values are used in secret, to interrupt discussions of facts; and one in which matters of fact are surreptitiously used to impose values. But the point is not to maintain the dichotomy between moral judgments and scientific judgments. (p.100)

The way to overcome this dual and mutual assuring fraudulent arrangement Latour proposes three major moves. First, stopping to talk about nature (facts), which results in abolishing the concept of nature completely. This amounts to a Wittgensteinian move, and aligns to Deleuze as well in his critique of common sense. Already the talk about nature insinuates the fact and produces values as their complementary and incommensurable counterpart. “Nature” is an empty determination, since fro a considerable time now everything on this globe relates to mankind and the human, as Merleau-Ponty pointed out from a different perspective.

The second step in Latour’s strategy amounts to the application of the Actor-Network-Theory, ANT.  As a consequence, everything becomes political, even if the “thing” is not human, but for instance a device, or an animal, or any other element being non-human.28 Within the network of actors, he locates two different kinds of powers, the two powers to take into account (perplexity and consultation), traditionally called science, and the two powers to put in order (hierarchy and institution),  usually called politics. The third step, finally, consists in gluing everything together by a process model29, according too which actors “translate” them mutually in a purely political process, a “due process”. In other words, Latour applies a constitutional model, yet not a two-chamber-model, but rather one of continuous assimilation and transformation. This process finally turns into kind of “collective experimentation”.

Latour’s model is one that settles in in the domain of socio-politics. As such, it is a normative model. Latour explicates the four principles, assigned to two kinds of power, by respective moral demands, this or that one “shall” do or not. Not being rooted in a proper theory of morality, the Latourean moral appears arbitrary. It is simply puzzling to read about the “requirement of closure” meaning that once the discussion is closed, it should not be re-opened, or about the “requirement of the institution” (p.111).

What Latour tries to explain is just the way how groups can find a common base as a common sense that stabilizes into a persistent organizational form, in other words that would align this thought to our concept of complexity the transition from order—patterns in the widest sense—to organization.

Yet, Latour fails in his endeavor as it is presented in the “Politics of Nature”.

As Fraser remarked from a Deleuzean perspective [29],

Latour’s concept of exteriority obliges him to pursue a politics of reality which is the special providence of ‘moralists’, rather than a politics of virtual reality in which all entities, human and non-human, are engaged.

In order to construct his argument, he just replaces any old value by some new values, while his main (and mistaken) “enemy” is Platon’s idealism. His attempts are inconsistent and incomplete.

Latour’s concept is too flat, without vertical contours, despite its rugged rhetoric. We must go “deeper,” and much more close to the famous wall where one could get a “bloody nose” (Wittgenstein). Yet, Latour also builds on a the move of proceduralization, rejecting a single totalizing principle [28].

[…] to redifferentiate the collective using procedures taken either from scientific assemblies or from political assemblies. (p.31)

This move away from positive fixation yet towards procedures that are supposed to spur the emergence of a certain goal or even purpose may well be considered as one of the most important ones in the history of thought. The underlying insight is that any such positive fixation inevitably results in some kind of naïve metaphysics or politically practiced totalitarianism.

5.3. Ethics: Theories of Morality

Contrary to a widely held belief, ethics itself can’t say anything about the suitability of a social rule. As a theory30 about moral, ethics helps to derive an appropriate set of moral rules, but there can’t be “content” in ethics. It is extremely important to distinguish properly between ethics and morality. Sue Hendler, for instance, a rather influential scholar in planning ethics, never stopped messing ethics and morality [30].

As a branch of philosophy, ethics is the study of moral behaviour and judgements. A key concept from the field of ethics is that it is possible to evaluate a given behaviour and give coherent reasons why it is ,good or bad’. […] What criteria can be used to decide whether a given action is ethical?

Philosophy never “studies behavior”. Actions “are” not ethical, they can’t be for grammatical reasons. Henderson equates types with tokens, a common fault committed by positivists. Contrary to the fashion of initiating any kind of ethics, such as environmental ethics or said planning ethics, a terminology that appears frequently in respective journals about planning, it is bare nonsense, based on the same conflation of ethics and morality, that is, theory and model. There can be only on level of theoretical argumentation that could be called ethics. There could be different such theories, of course, but any of them would not consider directly practical cases. Behavior is subject of morality, while morality is subject of ethics. 

5.4. Proceduralizing Theory

Some years ago, Wilhelm Vossenkuhl [31]31 published a viable alternative, or more precise, a viable embedding for the concept of value, one which then ultimately would lead to their dissemination. By means of myriad of examples, Vossenkuhl first demonstrates that in the field of morals and ethics there are no “solutions”. Moral affairs remain problematic even after perfect agreements. Yet, he also rejects well-founded the usual trail of abstract principles, such as “justice”, which has been proposed by Rawls in 1971. As Kant remarked in 1796 [32],  any such singular principle can’t be realized except by a miracle. The reason is that any actualization of a singular principle corrupts the principle and its moral status  itself.32 What we can see here is the detrimental effect of the philosophy of identity. If identity is preferred over difference33, you end up with a self-contradiction. Additionally, a singularity can’t be generative, which implies that an external institution is needed to actualize the principle formulated by the singularity. This leads to a self-contradiction as well.

Vossenkuhl’s proposal is radically different. In great detail He formulates a procedural approach to ethics and moral action. He refuses a positive formulation of moral content. Ethics, as a theory of morality, is necessarily empty. Instead, he formulates three precepts that together can be followed as individual and communal mechanisms in order to establish a moral procedurality. This allows to achieve commonly acceptable factual configurations (as goals) without the necessity to define apriori the content of a principle, or even a preference order regarding the implied values, or profiles of values. These three precepts Vossenkuhl calls the maxims about scarcity (affecting the distribution of goods), norms (ensuring their viability) and integration (of goods and norms). All precepts regard the individual as well as the collective. The threefold mechanisms unfold in a field of tensions between the individual and the communal.

Such, ethics becomes the theory of the proceduralization of morality. Values—as constants of morality—are dissolved into procedures. This is the new Image of Ethics. Instead of talking about values, whether in planning, politics or elsewhere, one should simply care about the conditions for the possibility that such a proceduralization can take place. It should be noted that this proceduralization is closely related to Wittgenstein’s notion of rule-following.

There is nothing wrong to conceive this as an implementation, because this ethics as well as the moral is free of content. Only if this is the case, people engaging in a discourse that affects moral positions (values) can talk to each other, find a new position by negotiation, transforming such themselves, finally settling successfully a proper agreement. Note that this completely different from a tradeoff or from “tolerance”.

The precepts should not be imagined as kind of objects or entities with a clear border, or even with a border at all. After all, they are practiced by people, and usually by many of them. It is thus an idealistic delusion to think that the scarcity of goods or the safety of norms could be determined objectively, i.e. by a generally accepted scale. Instead, we deal with a population and the precepts are best conceived as quasi-species, more or less separated subsets in the distribution of intensities. For these reasons, we can find a two-fold source for opposition. (i) The random variation of all implied parameters in the population, and (ii) the factual or anticipated contradiction of expected outcomes for small variations of the relative intensities of the precepts. In other words, the precepts introduce genuine complexity, and hence creativity through emergence and self-generated ability for performing grouping.

The precepts are not only formulated as maxims to be followed, which means that they demand for dynamic behavior of individuals. Together, they also have the potential to set a genuine dynamic creativity into motion, yet now on the level of the collective. The precepts are dynamic and create dynamics.

So, what about the relation between planning and ethics, between a plan and moral action? Let us briefly recapitulate. First, the modern version of ethics combines generative bottom-up mechanisms with the potential for mutual opposition and top-down constraints into a dynamic process. Particularly this dynamics dissolves the mere possibility for identifiable borders between good and bad. The categories of good and bad are unmasked as misguided application of logic to the realm of the social. Second we found that plans demand inherently their literal implementation. As far as plans represent factual goals instead of probabilistic structural ones, e.g. as possibility or constraint, plans must be conceived as representational, hence simplistic models about the world. In extremis we even could say that plans represent their own world. Plans are devices for actualization the principle of the embryonic.

The consequence is quite clear. As long as plans address factual affairs they are not compatible with an appropriate ethics. Hence, in order to allow for a role of ethics in planning, plans have to retreat from concrete factual goals. This in turn has, of course, massive consequences for the way of controlling the implementation of plans. One possibility is again to follow an appropriate operationalization through some currency, where for instance the adaptive potential of the implemented plan is reflected.

This result may sound rather shocking at first sight. Yet, it is perfectly compatible with the perspective made possible through an applicable conceptualization of complexity, which we will meet again in a later section about the challenge of dealing with future(s).

6. Dealing with Future(s)

Differentiation is a process, pretty trivial. Yet, this means that we could observe a series of braided events, in short, an unfolding in time and a generation of time. We have to acknowledge that the events neither do unfold with the same speed, nor on the same thread, nor linearly, albeit at large the entirety of braided braids proceeds. The generation of time refers to the very possibility for as well as the possible form of further differentiation is created by the process itself.

We already mentioned that planning as one of the possible forms of differentiation represents only the deterministic, embryonic part of it. It is inherently analytic and representationalist, since the embryonic game demands a strict decoding and implementation of a plan, once the plan exists as some kind of a encoded document. In other words, planning praises causality.

6.1. Informational Tools

Here we meet just a further blind spot of planning as far as it is understood today. Elsewhere we have argued that we can’t speak about causality in any meaningful manner without also talking about information. It is simply a rather dirty reductionism, which even does not apply in physics any more, except perhaps in case of Newton’s balls (apples?).

This blind spot concerning information comes with dramatic costs. I mean, it is really a serious blindness, affecting the unlocking of a whole methodological universe. The consequence of which has been called the “dark side of planning” Bent Flyvbjerg [34]. He coined that notion in order to distinguish ideal planning from actual planning. It is pretty clear that a misconceived structure opens plenty of opportunities to exploit the resulting frictions. It is certainly a common reaction among politicians to switch to strong directives in cases where the promised causality does not appear. Hence, failing planning is always mirrored in open—and anti-democratic—demonstration of political power, which in turn affects future planning negatively. As any deep structure, so the philosophy of identity is more or less a self-fulfilling prophecy… unfortunately with all the costs, usually burdened to the “small” people.

The argument is pretty simple. First, everybody will agree that planning is about the future. Second, as we have shown, the restriction of differentiation to planning imposes the constraint that everything around a plan is pressed into the scheme of identifiable causality, which excludes all forms that can be described only in terms of information. It is not really surprising that planners have certain difficulties with the primacy of interpretation, that is, the primacy of difference. Hence they are so much in favor of cybernetic philosophers like Habermas and Hegel. Thinking in direct causes strictly requires that a planner is pervasively present. Since this is not possible in reality, most plans fail, often in a double fashion: The fail despite huge violations of budgets. There is a funny parallel to the field of IT-projects and their management, of which is well-known that 80% of all projects fail, doubly. Planning induces open demonstration of power, i.e. strictness, due to its structural strictness.

Without a “living” concept of information as a structural element a number of things, concepts and tools are neither visible nor accessible:

  • – risk, simulation, serious gaming, and approaches like Frederic Vester’s methodology,
  • – market,
  • – insurance
  • – participatory evolutionary forms of organization, such as open source.

Let us just focus on the aspects risk and market. Taking recent self-critical articles from the field of planning (cf. [4],[35]), but also a quick Google ™ search (first 300 entries), not a single notion of risk can be found, where it would be taken as a tool, not just as a parlance. Hence, tools and concepts for risk management are completely unknown in planning theory,  for instance value-of-risk methods for evaluating alternatives or the current “state” of the implementation, or scenario games34. Even conservative approaches such as “key performance indicators” from controlling are obviously unknown.

We already indicated that planning theory suffers from a lack of abstract concepts. One of those concerns the way of mediating incommensurable and indivisible goals. In an information-based perspective it is easy to find ways to organize a goal-finding process. Essentially, there are two possibilities: the concept of willingness-to-pay and the Delphi method (from so-called “soft operations research”).

Willingness-to-pay employs a market perspective. It should not be mistaken as a “capitalist” or even “neo-liberal” strategy, of course. Quite in contrast, it introduces a currency as a basis for abstraction, thereby the possibility for constructing a comparability. This currency is not necessarily represented by money. Else, it serves in both possible directions, regarding costs as well as benefits. Without that abstraction it is simply impossible to find any common aspects in those affairs that appear as incommensurable at first sight. Unfortunately, almost every aspect in human society is incommensurable at first sight.

The second example is the Delphi method. This can be used, for instance, even for the very first step in case of the necessity of mediating incommensurabilities in goals and expectations: finding a common vocabulary, operationalized as a list of qualitative, but quantifiable properties, finding “weights” for those, and making holistic profiles transparent for any involved person.

It is quite clear that a metaphysical belief in identity, independence and determinability renders the accessibility of such approaches completely impossible. Poor guys…

6.2. Complexity

Not only in planning theory it is widely held that, as Manson puts it [36],

[…] there is no single identifiable complexity theory, but instead an array of concepts applicable to complex systems.

Further more, he also states that

[…] we have identified an urgent need to address the question of appropriate levels of generalization and specificity in complexity-based research.

Research about complexity is strongly flavored by the respective domain of its invocation, such as physics, biology or sociology. As an imported general concept, complexity is often more or less directly equaled to concepts like self-organization, fractals, chaos or even the edge of it, emergence, strange attractors, dissipativity and the like. (also Haken etc.)

A lot of myths appeared around these labels. For instance, it has been claimed that chaos is necessary for emergence, which is utterly wrong. Even more catastrophic is the habit to mix cybernetics and cybernetical systems theory with complexity. Luhmannian and Habermasian talking represent the conceptual opposite to an understanding of complexity. Nothing could be more different from each other! Yet, there are even researchers [37] who (quite nonsensical) explain emergence by the Law of Large Numbers, … indeed a rather disappointing approach. Else, it must be clear that self-organization and fractals are only weakly linked to chaos, if at all. On the other hand, concepts like self-organization or emergence are just aspects of complexity, and even more important, they are macro-theoretical descriptive terms which could not be transferred across domains.

The major problem in the contemporary discourse about complexity is that it this discourse is not critical enough. Instead, people first always asked “what is complexity?” before they then despaired of their subject. Finally, the research about “complexity” made its way into the realm of the symbolic, expressing now more a habit than a concept that could be utilized in a reasonable manner. The 354th demonstration of a semi-logarithmical scaling is simply boring and has nothing to do with “complexity”. Note that a multiplicative junction of two purely random processes creates the same numerical effect…

Despite those difficulties, complexity entered various domains, yet, always just as an attitude. Usually, this leads either to a tremendous fuzziness of the respective research or writing, or to perfected emptiness. Franco Archibugi, who proposes a rationalist approach to planning, recently wrote ([5], p.64):

The planning system is a complex system (footnote 24).

… and in the respective footnote 24:

Truly this seems a tautology; any system is complex by definition.

Here, the property “complex” gets both inflated and logified, and neither is appropriate.

What has been missing so far is an appropriate elementarization on the level of mechanisms. In order to adapt the concept of complexity to any particular domain, these mechanisms then have to be formulated in a probabilistic manner, or strictly with regard to information. The five elements of complexity as we devised it previously in a dedicated essay are

  • (1) dissipation, i.e. deliberate creation of additional entropy by the system at hand;
  • (2) an antagonistic setting of distributed opposing “forces” similar to the morphogenetic reaction-diffusion-system described first by Alan Turing;
  • (3) standardization;
  • (4) active compartmentalization as a means of modulating the signal horizon as signal intensity length;
  • (5) systemic knots.

Arranging the talk about complexity in this way has several advantages. First, these five elements are abstract principles that together form a dynamic setup resulting in the concept of “complexity”. This way, it is a proceduralization of the concept, which allows to avoid the burden of a definition without slipping into fuzzy areas. Second, these elements can be matched rather directly to empirical observation across a tremendous range of domains. No metaphorical work is necessary as there is no transfer of a model from one domain to another.

Note, that for instance “emergence” is not part of our setup. Emergence is itself a highly integrated concept with a considerable degree of internal heterogeneity. We would have to discern weak from strong emergence, at least, we would have to clarify what we understand by “novelty” and so on, that is questions that neither could be clarified nor be used on the descriptive, empirical level.

There is yet a third significant methodological aspect of this elementarization. It is possible to think about a system that is missing one of those elements, that is, where one of these elements is set to zero in its intensity. The five elements thus span a space that transcends the quality of a particular system. These five elements create two spaces, one conceptual and one empirical, which however are homeomorphic. The elements are first necessary and sufficient to talk about complexity, but they are also necessary and sufficient for any corporeal arrangement to develop “complexity”. Thus, it is easy and straightforward to apply our concept of complexity.

The first step is always to ask for the respective instantiation of the elements: Which antagonism could we detect? What is the material carrier of it? How many parts could we distinguish in space and time? Which kind of process is embedding this antagonism? How is compartmentalization going to be established, material or immaterial? How stable is it? Is it morphological or a functional compartmentalization? What is the mechanism for establishing the transition from order to organization? Which levels of integration do we observe? Is there any instance of self-contradictory top-down regulation? Are there measures to avoid such (as for instance in military)?

These questions can be “turned around,” of course, then being used as design principles. In other words, using this elementarization it is perfectly possible to scale the degree of volatility shown by the “complex system”.

The only approach transparently providing such an elementarization and the respective possibility  for utilizing  the concept of complexity in a meaningful way is ours (still, and as far as we are aware of recent publications35… feedback about that is welcome here!)36.

From those, the elements 2 and 4 are the certainly the most important ones when it comes to the utilization of the concept of complexity. First, one has to understand that adaptivity requires a preceding act of creativity. Next, only complex systems can create emergent patterns, which in turn can be established as a persistent form only in either of two ways: either by partially dying, creating a left-over, or by evolution. The first of which is internal to the process at hand, the second external. Consequently, only complex systems can create adaptivity, which in in turn is mandatory for a sustainable regenerativity.

So, the element (2), the distributed antagonism denies the reasonability of identity and of consensus-finding as a homogenizing procedure, if the implemented arrangement (“system”) is thought to be adaptive (and enabled for sustainability). Element (4) emphasizes the importance of the transition from order (mere volatile pattern) to persistent or even morphological structures, called organization. Yet, living systems provide plenty of demonstrations that persistence does not mean “eternal”. In most cases structures are temporary, despite their stability. In other words, turnover and destroying is an active process in complex systems.

Complexity needs to be embraced by planning regarding its self-design as well as the plan and its implementation. Our elementarization opens the route to plan complexity. Even a smooth scaling of regarding the space between complexity and determination could be addressed now.

It is quite obvious that an appropriate theory of complexity is highly relevant for any planning in any domain. There are of course some gifted designers and architects as well as a few authors that have been following this route, some even long ago, as for instance Koolhaas in his Euro-Lille. Others like Michael Batty [42][43] or Angelique Chettiparamb (cf. [44][45][46]) investigate and utilize the concept of complexity in the fields of urbanism or planning almost as I propose it. Yet, just almost, for they did not conceptualize the notion of complexity in an operationalizable manner so far.

There is a final remark on complexity to put here, concerning its influence on the dynamics of theory work. Clearly, the concept of complexity transcends ideas such as rationalism or pragmatism. It may be conceived as a generic proceduralization that reaches from thought (“theory”) till action. It is its logic of genesis, as Deleuze called it, that precedes any particular “ism” as well as the separation of theory and practice in the space of the Urban. It is once again precisely here in this space of ever surprising novelty that ethics becomes important, notably an ethics that is structurally homeomorphic through its own proceduralization, where the procedures are at least partially antagonistic to each other.

6.3. Vision

Finally, let me formulate kind of a vision, by referring just to one of the more salient examples. In developing countries there is a large amount of informal settlements, more often tending towards slum conditions than not. More than 30% of urban citizens across the world live in slum conditions. At some point in time, the city administration usually decides to eradicate the whole area. Yet, this comes at the cost of destroying a more or less working social fabric. The question obviously is one of differentiation. How to improve means how to differentiate, which in turn means how to accumulate potential. The answer is quite easy: by supporting enlightened liberalism through an anti-directionist politics (cf. [48]). Instead of bulldozing and enforcing people to leave, and even instead of implanting the “solution” of whatsoever kind in a top-down manner, simply provide them two things: (i) the basic education about materials and organization in an accessibly compiled form, and (ii) the basic materials. The rest will be arranged by the people, as this introduces the opportunity for arbitrage profits. It will not only create a sufficiently diversified market, which of course can be supported in its evolution. It also will create a common good of increased value of the whole area. Such an approach will work for the water problem, whether fresh water or waste water. My vision is that this kind of thinking would be understood, at least (much) more frequently…

7. Perplexion

The history of the human, the history of conceptual thinking and—above all—its transmission by the manifold ways and manners this conceptual thinking has been devising, all of this, until the contemporary urban society, is a wonderful (quite literally) and almost infinite braid. Our attempts here are nothing more than just an attempt to secure this braiding by pointing to some old, almost forgotten embroidery patterns and by showing some new one.

I always have been clear about another issue, but I would like to emphasize it again: Starting with the idea of being, which equals that of existence or identity, demolishes any possibility for thinking the different, the growing, the novel, in short, life. This holds even for Whitehead’s process philosophy. Throughout this blog, as it is there so far, I have been trying to build something, not a system, not a box, but something like an Urban Thought. The ideas, concepts, ways in which that something have been actualizing are stuffed (at least in my hopes) with an inherent openness. Nevertheless I have to admit that it feels like approaching a certain limit, as thoughts and words tend increasingly to enter the “eternal return”. Yet, don’t take this as a resignation or even the beginning of a nihilistic phase. It is said as an out and out positive thought. But still…

Maybe,  these thoughts have been triggered by a friends’ hint towards a small, quite (highly?) exceptional book or booklet of unknown origin:  The “Liber viginti quattuor philosophorum”, the Book of the 24 Philosophers.37 Written presumably somewhere between 800 and 1200 ac38, it consists just of 24 philosophical theses about our relation to God. The main message is that we can’t know, despite it seems to be implicated.

7.1. Method, Generic Differentiation and Urban Reason.

Anyway. In this essay we explored the notion of method. Beginning with Descartes’ achievements, we then tried to develop a critique of it. Next we embedded the issue of planning and method into the context of Urban Reason, including the concept of Generic Differentiation [henceforth GD], which we explicated in the previous essay where we devised it for organizing theory works. Let us reproduce it here again, just as a little reminder.

Figure 3: The structural pragmatic module of Generic Differentiation for binding theory works, modeling and operations (for details see here). This module is part of a fluid moebioid fractal that grows and forms throughout thinking and acting, which thereby are folded into each other. The trinity of modes of actualization (planning, adapting, learning) passes through this fractal figure.

urban reason 4t

All of the four concepts of growth, networks, associativity and complexity can be conceptualized in a proceduralized form as well. Additionally, they all could be taken as perspectives onto abstract, randolated and thus virtual yet probabilistic networks.

Interestingly, this notion opens a route into mathematics through the notions of computability and non-turing computing (also see [52]). Here, we may take this just as a further indication to the fundamental perspective of information as a distinct element of construction whenever we talk about the city, the Urban and the design regarding it.

7.2. “Failing” Plans

Thinking of planning without the aspects of evolution and learning would equal, we repeatedly emphasized this point, the claim of the analyticity of the world. Such a planning would follow positivist or rationalist schemes and could be called “closed planning”. Only under the presupposition of the world’s analyticity such planning could be considered as reasonable.

Since the presupposition is obviously wrong, closed planning schemes such as positivist or rationalist ones are doomed to fail. Yet, this failing is a failure only from the perspective of the plan or planner. From the outside, we can’t criticize plans as failing, since in this case we would confine ourselves to the rationalist scheme. For the diagnosis of failure in a cultural artifice like such of a city, or settlement in the widest sense, always requires presuppositions itself. Of course, in some contexts like that of financial planning within an organization these presuppositions can be operationalized straightforwardly into amounts of money, since the whole context is dominated by it. Financial planning is almost exclusively closed planning.

In the context of town planning, however, even the result of bad planning will always be inhabitable in some way, for in reality the plan is actualized into an open non-analytical world. The argument is the same as Koolhaas applied to the question of the quality of buildings. In China, architects in average build hundreds if not thousands of times more space than in Europe. There is no particular awareness on what Western people call the quality of architecture. The material arrangements into which plans actualize will always be used in some way. But is is equally true that there always will be a considerable part in this usage that imposes ways of using the result that have not been planned.

This way, they never fail, but at the same time they always fail, as they always have to be corrected. The only thing that becomes clear by this is that the reduction of the planners perspective to plan sensu stricto is the actual failure. A planning theory that does not consider evolution and learning isn’t worth the paper onto which it is written.

Both aspects, evolution and learning, need to be expressed, of course, in a proper form before one could assimilate them to the domain of arranging future elements (and elements of the future). Particularly important to understand is that “learning” does not refer to human cognition. Here it refers to the whole, that is the respectively active segment of the city itself, much in the sense of an Actor-Network (following Bruno Latour [53]), but also the concept of the city as an associative corporeality in itself,  as I have been pointing out some time ago [54].

7.3. Eternal Folds

Generic Differentiation is deeply doubly-articulated, as Deleuze would perhaps have said it39. GD may serve as kind of a scaffold to organize thoughts (and hence actions) around the challenge of how to effectuate ideas and concepts. Remember that concepts are transcendent and not to be mistaken as definitions! Here in this piece we tried to outline how an update of the notion of “method” could look like. Perhaps you have been missing references to the more recent discourses, in which, among others, you could find Michel Serres, or Isabelle Stengers, but also Foucault to name just a few. The reason to dismiss them is just given by our focus on planning and the Urban, about which those authors did not talk too much (I mean with respect to the problematics of method).

Another route I didn’t follow was to develop and provide a recipe for planning of whatsoever sort, particularly not one that could be part of a cookbook for mindless robots. It would simply contradict the achieved insights about Differentiation. Yet, I think, that something rather close to a manual could be possible, perhaps a meta-manual targeting the task of creating a manual, that would help to write down a methodology. A “methodology“ which deserves the label is kind of an open didactic talking about methods, and such necessarily comprises some reflection (which is missing in recipes). Such, it is clear that the presented concepts about method around Generic Differentiation should not be perceived as such a methodology. Take it more as a pre-specific scaffold for externalizing and effectuating thought, to confront it with the existential resistance. Thus, the second joint of said double-articulation of Generic Differentiation, besides such scaffolding of thought, connects towards the scaffolding of action.

The double-articulated rooting of method (as we developed it as a concept here) in the dynamics of physical arrangements and the realm of thoughts and ideas enables us to pose three now rather urgent questions in a clear manner :

  • (1) How to find new ways into regenerative urban arrangements? (cf. [51]);
  • (2) How to operate the “Image of Urban”?40
  • (3) The question for a philosophy of the urban […] is how the energetic flow of undifferentiated potentiality in/of urban arrangement might be encoded and symbolically integrated, such that through its transposition into differentiable capacity ability, proficiency and artifice may emerge. (after [52], p.149)

Bühlmann (in [55] p.144/145) points out that

The difficulty, in philosophically cogitating the city or the urban, lies […] with the capacity of dealing in an open and open-ended, yet systematic manner with the determinability of initial and final states. It is precisely the determination of such “initial” and “final” states that needs to be proceduralized.

I guess that those three questions could be answered only together. It is in the corpus (and corporeality) of the virtual and actualized answers that we will meet the Urban Reason. Here, in concluding this essay, we can only indicate the directions, and this only rather broad strokes.

Regenerative cities in the sense of “sustainable sustainability” can be achieved only through a persistent and self-sustained, yet modulated complexity of the city. A respective process model is easy to achieve once it is understood how complexity and ethics are mutually supportive. This implies also a significant political aspect which has been often neglected in the literature about planning. We also referred to Latour’s suggestion of a “Politics of Nature,” which however does not contribute to the problem that he pretends to address.

We have shown here, that and how our notion of method and complexity can be matched with a respective contemporary ethics, which is a mandatory part of the planning game. Planning as such, i.e. is in the traditional meaning of mechanistic implementation ceases to exist. Instead, planning has to address the condition of the possible.

Such, any kind of planning of any kind of arrangement undergoes first a  Kantian turn through which it inevitably changes into “planning of the potential”. Planning the potential, in turn, may be regarded as a direct neighbor to design, its foundation [56] and methodology.41 This reflects the awareness for the primacy of the conditions for the possibility for complexity. These conditions can be actualized only, if planning is understood as one of the aspects of the trinity of Generic Differentiation, which comprises besides planning also evolution and learning, invoking in turn the concepts of population/probabilism and associativity. All parts of the “differentiation game” have to be practiced, of course, in their prozeduralized form. No fixed goals on the level of facts any more, no directive policies, no territorialism, no romanticism hugging the idea of identity any more, please… It is the practice of proceduralization, based on a proper elementarization and bridging from ethics to complexity, that we can identify as the method of choice.

The philosophical basis for such a layout must necessarily deny the idea of identity as a secure starting point. Instead, all the achievements presented here may appear only on the foundation provided by transcendent difference [57]. I am deeply convinced that any “Science of the City” or “Methodology of Planning” (the latter probably as a section of the former) must adhere to appropriate structural and philosophical foundations, for instance those that we presented here and which are part of Urban Reason. Otherwise it will quite likely give rise to the surge of a quite similar kind of political absolutism that succeeded Descartes’ consideration of the “Methode”.

8. Summary

We explored the notion of “method” and its foundations with regard to planning. Starting from its original form as created by Descartes in his “Methode de la Discourse” we found four basic vectors that span the conceptual space of planning.

Ethics and complexity are not only regarded as particular focal points, but rather as common and indispensable elements of any planning activity. The proposed four-fold determination of planning should be suitable to overcome rationalist, neo-liberal, typical modernist or positivist approaches. In other words, without those four elements it is impossible to express planning as an activity or to talk reasonably about it. In its revised form, both the concept and the field of planning allow for the integration of deep domain-specific knowledge from the contributing specializing domains, without stopping the operational aspects of planning. Particularly, however, the new, or renewed, image of planning offers the important possibility to join human reason into the Urban activities of designing and planning our urban neighborhood, and above all, living it.

9. Outlook

In most cases I didn’t give an outlook to the next essay, due to the spontaneous character of this bloggy journey as well as the inevitable autonomy of the segregated text that is increasing more and more as time passes.

This time, however, the topic of the follow-up is pretty clear. Once started with the precis of Koolhaas “Generic City” the said journey led us first to the concept of “Urban Reason” and the Urban as its unique, if not solitary cultural condition. The second step then consisted in bundling several abstract perspectives into the concept of Generic Differentiation. Both steps have been linked through the precept of “Nothing regarding the Urban Makes Sense Except in the Light of the Orchestration of Change.” The third step, as elaborated here, was then a brief (very brief indeed) investigation of the subject and the field of planning. Today, this field is still characterized by rather misty methodological conditions.

The runway towards the point of take-off for the topic of the next essay, then, could be easily commented by a quote from Sigfried Giedion’s “Space, Time and Architecture” (p.7):

For planning of any sort our knowledge must go beyond the state of affairs that actually prevails. To plan we must know what has gone on in the past and feel what is is coming in the future.

Giedion has been an interesting person, if not to say, composition, in order to borrow a notion from Bruno Latour. Being historian, engineer and entrepreneur, among several other roles, he has been in many ways modernist as well as a-modern. Not completely emancipated from the underlying modernist credo of metaphysical independence, he also demanded an integration of the aspect of time as well as that of relationability, which assigns him the attitude of a-modernism, if we utilize Aldo Rossi’s verdict on modernism’s attempt to expunge time from architecture.

Heidegger put it very clear (only marginally translated into my own words): Without understanding the role of time and temporality for the sphere of the human we can’t expect to understand the Being of man-made artifacts and human culture. Our challenge regarding Heidegger will be that we have to learn from his analysis without partaking in his enterprise to give a critique of fundamental ontology.

More recently, Yeonkyung Lee and Sungwoo Kim [58] pointed to the remarkable fact, based on Giedion’s work, that there is only little theoretical work about time in the field of architecture and urbanism. We regard this as a consequence of the prevailing physicalist reductionism. They also hold that

further critical and analytical approaches to time in architecture should be followed for more concrete development of this critical concept in architecture. (p.15)

Hence, our next topic will be just a subsection of Giedion’s work: Time and Architecture. The aspect of space can’t be split off of course, yet we won’t discuss it in any depth, because it deserves a dedicated treatment itself, mainly due to the tons of materialist nonsense that is floating around since Lefebvre’s (ideologic) speculations (“Production of Space”). Concerning the foundations, that is the concept of time, we will meet mainly Deleuze and Heidegger, Bergson and his enemy Einstein, and, of course, also Wittgenstein. As a result, I hopefully will enrich and differentiate the concept of Generic Differentiation even more, and thus also the possible space of the Urban.

Notes 

1. Descartes’ popularity is based, of course, on his condensed and almost proverbial “Cogito, ergo sum”, by which he sought to gain secure grounds for knowledge. Descartes’ Cogito raises difficult issues, and I can only guess that there are lots of misunderstandings about it. Critique of the Cogito started already with Leibniz, and included among almost everybody also Kant, Hume, Nietzsche and Russell. The critique targets either logic (“ergo”), the implications regarding existence (“sum”), or the “I” in the premise. I won’t neither add to this criticism nor comment it; yet, I just would like to point to another possibility to approach it opened by refraining from logic and existentialism: self-referentiality. The “I am thinking” may be taken as a simple, still unconscious observation that there is something going on that uses language. In other words, a language-pragmatic approach paired with self-referentiality opens a quite fresh perspective onto the cogito. Yet, this already would have to count as an update of the original notion. To my knowledge this has never been explored by any of the philosophical scholars. In my opinion, most of the critiques on the cogito are wrong, because they stick to rationalism themselves. The foundation of which, however, can’t be rational itself in its beginning, only through its end (not: “ends”!) and its finalization. Anyway, neither the Cogito nor the sum nor the “I” is subject of our considerations here. Actually, there is not much to say, as such “traditional” metaphysics misunderstands “grammatical sentences” as metaphysical sentences (Ludwig Wittgenstein, in “About Certainty”).

Concerning the wider topic of rationalism as a problematic field in philosophy, I suggest to resolve its position and (at least partial) incommensurability to other “-ism” – modes by means of the choreostemic space, where it just forms a particular attractor.

2. Wittgenstein and main stream cognitive science hold that this should not be possible. Yet, things are not as simple as it may appear at first sight. We could not expect that there is a “nature” of thinking, somehow buried beneath the corporeality of the brain. We certainly can take a particular attitude to our own thinking as well as we can (learn to) apply certain tools and even methodologies in our thought that is directed to our thought. The (Deleuzean) Differential is just one early example.

3. Just to mention here as a more recent example the “failure” of Microsoft’s strategy of recombinable software modules as opposed to the success of the unique app as it has been inaugurated by Apple.

4. Most of the items and boxes in this backpack did not influence the wider public in the same way as Descartes did. One of the most influential among the available items, Hegel, we already removed, it is just dead freight. The group of less known but highly important items comprises the Kantian invention of critique, the transparent description of the sign by Peirce, the insight into the importance of the Form of Life and the particular role and relation of language (Wittgenstein, Foucault), or the detrimental effects of founding thought on logicism—also known as the believe into necessity, truth values, and the primacy of identity—are not recognized among the wider public, whether we would consider sciences, the design area or politics. All these achievements are clearly beyond Descartes’, but we should not forget two things. Firstly, he just was a pioneer. Secondly, we should not forget that the whole era favored a mechanic cosmology. The lemma of the large numbers in the context of probabilism as a perspective had not been invented yet at his times.

5. The believe into this independence may well count as the most dominating of the influences that brought us the schizophrenias that culminated in the 19h and 20th century. Please don’t misunderstand this as a claim for “causality” as understood in the common sense! Of course, there have been great achievements, but the costs of those have always been externalized, first to the biological environment, and second to future generations of mankind.

6. By “planning” I don’t refer just to the “planning of land-use” or other “physical planning” of course. In our general context of Urban Reason and the particular context of the question about method here in this essay I would like to include any aspect around the planning within the Urban, particularly organizational planning.

7. Meant here without any kind of political, ethical or sociological reading, just as the fact of the mere physical and informational possibility.

8. Original in German language (my translation): ” Ob das Gewicht der Forschung gleich immer in dieser Positivität liegt, ihr eigentlicher Fortschritt vollzieht sich nicht so sehr in der Aufsammlung der Resultate und Bergung derselben in »Handbüchern«, als in dem aus solcher anwachsenden Kenntnis der Sachen meist reaktiv hervorgetriebenen Fragen nach den Grundverfassungen des jeweiligen Gebietes. […] Das Niveau einer Wissenschaft bestimmt sich daraus, wie weit sie einer Krisis ihrer Grundbegriffe fähig ist.”

9. As we mentioned elsewhere, the habitus of this site about practical aspects of Hilary Putnam’s philosophical stance is more that of a blook than that of a blog.

10. Descartes and Deleuze are of course not the only guys interested in the principles or methods of and in thought. For instance, Dedekind proposed “Laws of Thought” which shall include things like creative abstraction. It would be a misunderstanding, however, to look to psychology here. Even so-called cognitive psychology can’t contribute to the search for such principles, precisely because it is in need for schemata to investigate. Science always can investigate only what “there is”.

11. Nowadays often called system, and by that referring to “systems science”, often also to Niklaus Luhmann’s extension of cybernetics into the realm of the social. Yet, it is extremely important to distinguish the whole from a system. The whole is neither an empiric nor an analytic entity, it couldn’t be described completely as observation, a set of formula(s), a diagram or any combination thereof, which for instance is possible for a cybernetic system. Complex “systems” must not be conceived as as systems in the mood of systems theory, since openness and creativity belong to their basic characteristics. For complex systems, the crude distinction of “inside” and “outside” does not make much sense.

12. Thinking “items” as independent becomes highly problematic if this belief is going to be applied to culture itself in a self-referential manner. Consequently, man has been thought to be independent from nature. “Precisely, what is at stake is to show how the misguided constitution of modernity finds its roots in the myth of emancipation common to the Moderns. […] Social emancipation should not be condemned to be associated with an avulsion from nature, […]. The error of the modern constitution lies in the way it describes the world as two distinct entities separated from each other.” [18]. It is quite clear that the metaphysical believe into independence is beneath the dualisms of nature/culture, nature/nurture, and body/mind. This does not mean that we could not use in our talking the differences expressed in those dichotomies, yet, the differences need not be placed into a strictly dichotomic scheme. see section about “values” and Bruno Latour’s proposal.

13. This does not imply a denial of God. Yet, I think that any explicit reference to the principle of divinity implicitly corroborates that idea.

14. It is inadequate because by definition you can’t learn from a case study. It is a mis-believe, if not a mystical particularism to think that case studies could somehow “speak for themselves.” The role of a case study must be that it is taken as an opportunity to challenge classifications, models and theories. As such, they have to be used as a means and a target for transformative processes. Yet, such is rarely done with case studies.

15. Subsequent to Niko Tinbergen’s distinction, Dobzhansky introduced a particular weight onto those four perspectives, emphasizing the evolutionary aspect: Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution. For him, evolution served as a kind of integrative perspective.

16. As in the preceding essays, we use the capital “U” if we refer to the urban as a particular quality and as a concept in the vicinity of Urban Reason, in order to distinguish it from the ordinary adjective that refers to common sense understanding.

17. Difference between architecture and arts, particularly painting.

18. Yet, he continues: “As such, it must be designed according to a model which takes into account all the possible fields of decision-making and all decision-makers who play a role in social life. It has a territorial dimension which is “global” in the literal sense: it extends to the planetary scale.” (p.64) So, since he proposes a design of planning he obviously invokes a planning of planning. Yet, Archibugi does not recognize this twist. Instead, he claims that this design can be performed in a rationalist manner on a global scale, which—as an instance of extended control phantasm—is definitely overdone.

19. In more detail, Archibugi claims that his approach is able to integrate traditional fields of planning in a transdisciplinary methodological move, based on a “programming” approach ( as opposed to the still dominant positivistic approach). The individual parts of this approach are
+ a procedural scheme for the selection of plans;
+ clarification interrelationship between different “levels” of planning;
+ describing institutional procedures of plan bargaining;
+ devising a consulting system on preference, information,
monitoring, and plan evaluation.

Yet, such a scheme, particularly if conducted as a rationalist program, is doomed to fail for several reasons. In monitoring, for instance, he applies an almost neo-liberal scheme (cf. p.81), being unaware of the necessity of the apriori of theoretical attitudes as well as the limitation of reasoning that solely is grounded on empirical observations.

20. Of course, we are not going to claim that “society” does not need the activity of and the will to design itself. Yet, while any externalization needs a continuous legitimization—and by this I don’t refer to one election every four years—, the design of the social should target exclusively the conditions for its open unfolding. There is a dark line from totalitarian Nazi-Germany, the Jewish exiled sociologist, the Macy-Conferences and their attempt to apply cybernetics directly to the realm of social, finally followed by the rationalist Frankfurt School with its late proponent Habermas and his functionalism. All of those show the same totalitarian grammar.

21. Deleuze’s books about cinema and the image of time [33].

22. Rem Koolhaas, Euro-Lille, see this.

23. Just for recall: the Differential is the major concept in Deleuze’s philosophy of transcendental empiricism, which set difference, not identity, as primal, primacy of interpretation, rejection of identity and analyticity, a separation-integration.

24. Sue Hendler despises philosophical foundations of ethics for the area planning as “formalistic”. Instead she continues to draw on values, interestingly backed by a strong contractual element. As this may sound pragmatic in the first instance, it is nothing but utilitarian. Contracts in this case are just acts of ad-hoc institutionalizations, which in turn build on the legislative milieu. Thus I reject this approach, because in this case ethics would just turn into a matter of the size of the monetary investment into lawyers.

25. Note that ethics is the theory of morality, while morality is the way we deal with rules about social organization.

26. here and here or here;

27. It is a paradox only from a rationalist perspective.,of course.

28. “thing” is an originally Nordic concept that refers to the fixation of a mode of interpretation through negotiation. The “althing” is the name of the Islandic parliament, existing roughly since 930 ac in an uninterrupted period. A thing such exists as an objectified/objectifiable entity only subsequent to the communal negotiation, which may or may not include institutions.

29. inspired by Alfred N. Whitehead and Isabel Stengers.

30. See this about the concept of theory.

31. Unfortunately available in German language only.

32. This just demonstrates that it is not unproblematic to jump on the bandwagon of a received view, e.g. on the widely discussed and academically well-introduced Theory of Justice by John Rawls, as for instance exemplified by [23].

33. What is needed instead for a proper foundation is a practicable philosophy of Difference, for instance in the form proposed by Deleuze. Note that Derrida’s proclaimed “method” of deconstruction neither can serve as a philosophical foundation in general nor as an applicable one. Deconstruction establishes the ideal of negativity, from which nothing could be generated.

34. With one (1) [41], or probably two (2) [40] notable and somewhat similar exceptions which however did not find much (if any) resonance so far…

35. Jensen contributed also to a monstrous encyclopedia about “Complexity and Systems Science” [39], comprising more than 10’000 pages (!), which however does not contain one single useable operationalization of the notion of “complexity”.

36. One of the more advanced formulations of complexity has been provided by the mathematician Henrik Jeldtoft Jensen (cf. [38]). Yet, it is still quite incomplete, because he does neither recognize or refer to the importance of the distributed antagonism nor does he respond to the necessity that complex systems have to be persistently complex. Else he is also wrong about the conjecture that there must be a “large number of interacting components”.

37. see review by the German newspaper FAZ, a book in German language, a unofficial translation into English, and into French. Purportedly, there are translations into Spanish, yet I can’t provide a link.

38. Hudry [49] attributes it to Aristotle.

39. Deleuze & Guattari developed and applied this concept first in their Milles Plateaus [50].

40. The notion of an „Image of Urban“ is not a linguistic mistake, of course. It parallels Deleuze’s “Image of Thought”, where thought refers to a habit, or a habitus, a gestalt if you prefer, that comprises the conditions for the possibility of its actualization.

41. At first sight it seems as if such extended view on design, particularly if understood as the design of pre-specifics, could reduce or realign planning to the engineering part of it. Yet, planning in the context of the Urban always has to consider immaterial, i.e. informational aspects, which in turn introduces the fact of interpretation. We see, that no “analytic” domain politics is possible.

References

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۞

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Growth Patterns

November 29, 2012 § Leave a comment

Growing beings and growing things, whether material

or immaterial, accumulate mass or increase their spreading. Plants grow, black holes grow, a software program grows, economies grow, cities grow, patterns grow, a pile of sand grows, a text grows, the mind grows and even things like self-confidence and love are said to grow. On the other hand, we do not expect that things like cars or buildings “grow.”

Despite the above mentioned initial “definition” might sound fairly trivial, the examples demonstrate that growth itself, or more precisely, the respective language game, is by far not a trivial thing. Nevertheless, when people start to talk about growth or if they invoke the concept of growth implicitly, they mostly imagine a smooth and almost geometrical process, a dilation, a more or less smooth stretching. Urbanists and architects are no exception to this undifferentiated and prosy perspective. Additionally, growth is usually not con- sidered seriously beyond its mere wording, probably due to the hasty prejudgment about the value of biological principles. Yet, if one can’t talk appropriately about growth—which includes differentiation—one also can’t talk about change. As a result of a widely (and wildly) applied simplistic image of growth, there is a huge conceptual gap in many, if not almost all works about urban conditions, in urban planning, and about architecture.1  But why talking about change, for in architecture and urbanism is anyway all about planning…

The imprinting by geometry often entails another prejudice: that of globality. Principles, rules, structures are thought to be necessarily applied to the whole, whatever this “wholeness” is about. This is particularly problematic, if these rules refer more or less directly to mere empirical issues. Such it frequently goes unnoticed that maintaining a particular form or keeping position in a desired region of the parameter space of a forming process requires quite intense interconnected local processes, both for building as well as destroying structures.

It was one of the failures in the idea of Japanese Metabolism not to recognize the necessity for deep integration of this locality. Albeit they followed the intention to (re-)introduce the concept of “life cycle” into architecture and urbanism, they kept aligned to cybernetics. Such, Metabolism failed mainly for two reasons. Firstly, they attempted to combine incommensurable mind sets. It is impossible to amalgamate modernism and the idea of bottom-up processes like self-organization or associativity, and the Metabolists always followed the modernist route. Secondly, the movement has been lacking a proper structural setup: the binding problem remained unresolved. They didn’t develop a structural theory of differentiation that would have been suitable to derive appropriate mechanisms.

This Essay

Here in this piece we just would like to show some possibilities to enlarge the conceptual space and the vocabulary that we could use to describe (the) “growing” (of) things. We will take a special reference to architecture and urbanism, albeit the basics would apply to other fields as well, e.g. to the growth and the differentiation of organizations (as “management”) or social forms, but also of more or even “completely” immaterial entities. In some way, this power is even mandatory, if we are going to address the Urban6, for the Urban definitely exceeds the realm of the empirical.
We won’t do much of philosophical reflection and embedding, albeit it should be clear that these descriptions don’t make sense without proper structural, i.e. theoretical references as we have argued in the previous piece. “As such” they would be just kind of a pictorial commentary, mistaking metaphor as allegory. There are two different kinds of important structural references. One is pointing to the mechanisms2, the abstract machinery with its instantiation on the micro-level or with respect to the generative processes. The other points to the theoretico-structural embedment, which we have been discussing in the previous essay. Here, it is mainly the concept of generic differentiation that provides us the required embedding and the power to overcome the binding problem in theoretical work.

The remainder of this essay comprises the following sections (active links):

1. Space

Growth concerns space, both physical and abstract space. Growth concerns even the quality of space. The fact of growth is incompatible with the conception of space as a container. This becomes obvious in case of the fractals, which got their name due to their “broken” dimensionality. A fractal could be 2.846-dimensional. Or 1.2034101 dimensional. The space established by the “inside” of a fractal is very different from the 3-dimensional space. Astonishingly, the dimensionality even need not be constant at all while traveling through a fractal.

Abstract spaces, on the other hand, can be established by any set of criteria, just by interpreting criteria as dimensions. Such, one gets a space for representing and describing items, their relations and their transformations. In mathematics, a space is essentially defined as the possibility to perform a mapping from one set to another, or in other terms, by the abstract (group-theoretic) symmetry properties of the underlying operations on the relations between any entities.

Strangely enough, in mathematics spaces are almost exclusively conceived as consisting from independent dimensions. Remember that “independence” is the at the core of the modernist metaphysical belief set! Yet, they need neither be Euclidean nor Cartesian as the generalization of the former. The independence of descriptive dimensions can be dropped, as we have argued in an earlier essay. The resulting space is not a dimensional space, but rather an aspectional space, which can be conceived as a generalization of dimensional space.

In order to understand growth we should keep in contact with a concept of space that is as general as possible. It would be really stupid for instance, to situate growth restrictively in a flat 2-dimensional Euclidean space. At least since Descartes’ seminal work “Regulae” (AT X 421-424) it should be clear that any aspect may be taken as a contribution to the cognitive space [8].

The Regulae in its method had even allowed wide latitude to the cognitive use of fictions for imagining artificial dimensions along which things could be grasped in the process of problem solving. Natures in the Meditations, however, are no longer aspects or axes along which things can be compared, evaluated, and arrayed, but natures in the sense that Rule 5 had dismissed: natures as the essences of existing things.

At the same time Descartes also makes clear that these aspects should not be taken as essences of existing things. In other words, Descartes has been ahead of 20ieth century realism and existentialism! Aspects do not represent things in their modes of existence, they represent our mode of talking about the relations we establish to those things. Yet, these relations are more like those threads as String Theory describes them: without fixed endings on either side. All we can say about the outer world is that there is something. Of course, that is far to little to put it as a primacy for human affairs.

The consequence of such a dimensional limitation would be a blind spot (if not a population of them), a gap in the potential to perceive, to recognize, to conceive of and to understand. Unfortunately, the gaps themselves, the blind spots are not visible for those who suffer from them. Nevertheless, any further conceptualization would remain in the state of educated nonsense.

Growth is established as a transformation of (abstract) space. Vice versa, we can conceive of it also as the expression of the transformation of space. The core of this transformation is the modulation of the signal intensity length through the generation of compartments, rendering abstract space into a historical, individual space. Vice versa, each transformation of space under whatsoever perspective can be interpreted as some kind of growth.

The question is not any more to be or not to be, as ontologists tried to proof since the first claim of substance and the primacy of logics and identity. What is more, already Shakespeare demonstrated the pen-ultimate consequences of that question. Hamlet, in his mixture of being realist existentialist (by that very question) and his like of myths and (use) of hidden wizards, guided by the famous misplaced question, went straight into his personal disaster, not without causing a global one. Shakespeare’s masterfully wrapped lesson is that the question about Being leads straight to disaster. (One might add that this holds also for ontology and existentialism: it is consequence of ethical corruption.)

Substance has to be thought of being always and already a posteriori to change, to growth. Setting change as a primacy means to base thought philosophically on difference. While this is almost a completely unexplored area, despite Deleuze’s proposal of the plane of immanence, it is also clear that starting with identity instead causes lots of serious troubles. For instance, we would be forced to acknowledge that the claim of the possibility that a particular interpretation indeed could be universalized. The outcome? A chimaera of Hamlet (the figure in the tragedy!) and Stalin.

Instead, the question is one of growth and the modulation of space: Who could reach whom? It is only through this question that we can integrate the transcendence of difference, its primacy, and to secure the manifold of the human in an uncircumventable manner. Life in all of its forms, with all its immanence,  always precedes logic.3 Not only for biological assemblages, but also for human beings and all its produces, including “cities” and other forms of settlements.

Just to be clear: the question of reaching someone else is not dependent on anything given. The given is a myth, as philosophers from Wittgenstein to Quine until Putnam and McDowell have been proofing. Instead, the question about the possibility to reach someone else, to establish a relation between any two (at least) items is one of activity, design, and invention, targeting the transformation of space. This holds even in particle physics.

2. Modes of Talking

Traditionally spoken, the result of growth is formed matter. More exactly, however, it is transformed space. We may distinguish a particular form, morphos, or with regard to psychology also a “Gestalt,” and form as an abstractum. The result of growth is form. Thus, form actually does not only concern matter, it always concerns the potential relationality.

For instance, growing entities never interact “directly”. They, that is, also: we, always interact through their spaces and the mediality that is possible within them.4 Otherwise it would be completely impossible for a human individual to interact with a city. Before any semiotic interpretive relation it is the individual space that enables incommensurable entities to relate.

If we consider the growth of a plant, for instance, we find a particular morphology. There are different kinds of tissues and also a rather typical habitus, i.e. a general appearance. The underlying processes are of biological nature, spanning from physics and bio-chemistry to information and the “biological integration” of those.

Talking about the growth of a building or the growth of a city we have to spot the appropriate level of abstraction. There is no 1:1 transferability. In a cell we do neither find craftsmen nor top-down-implementations of plans. In contrast, rising a building apparently does not know anything about probabilistic mechanisms. Just by calling something intentionally “metabolism” (Kurokawa) or “fractal” (Jencks), invoking thereby associations of organisms and their power to maintain themselves in physically highly unlikely conditions, we certainly do not approach or even acquire any understanding.

The key for any growth model is the identification of mechanisms (cf. [4]). Biology  is the science that draws most on the concept of mechanism (so far), while physics does so for the least. The level of mechanism is already an abstraction, of course. It needs to be completed, however, by the concept of population, i.e. a dedicated probabilistic perspective, in order to prevent falling back to the realm of trivial machines. In a cross-disciplinary setting we have to generalize the mechanisms into principles, such that these provide a shared differential entity.5

Well, we already said that a building is rarely raised by a probabilistic process. Yet, this is only true if we restrict our considerations to the likewise abstract description of the activities of the craftsmen. Else, the building process starts long before any physical matter is touched.

Secondly, from the perspective of abstraction we never should forget—and many people indeed forget about this—that the space of expressibility and the space of transformation also contains the nil-operator. From the realm of numbers we call it the zero. Note that without the zero many things could not be expressed at all. Similarly, the negative is required for completing the catalog of operations. Both, the nil-operator and the inverse element are basic constituents of any mathematical group structure, which is the most general way to think about the conditions for operations in space.

The same is true for our endeavor here. It would be impossible to construct the possibility for graded expressions, i.e. the possibility for a more or less smooth scale, without the nil and the negative. Ultimately, it is the zero and the nil-operation together with the inverse that allows to talk reflexively at all, to create abstraction, in short to think through.

3. Modes of Growth

Let us start with some instances of growth from “nature”. We may distinguish crystals, plants, animals and swarms. In order to compare even those trivial and quite obviously very different “natural” instances with respect to growth, we need a common denominator. Without that we could not accomplish any kind of reasonable comparison.

Well, initially we said that growth could be considered as accumulation of mass or as an increase of spread. After taking one step back we could say that something gets attached. Since crystals, plants and animals are equipped with different capabilities, and hence mechanisms, to attach further matter, we choose the way of organizing the attachment as the required common denominator.

Given that, we can now change the perspective onto our instances. The performance of comparing implies an abstraction, hence we will not talk about crystals etc. as phenomena, as this would inherit the blindness of phenomenology against its conditions. Instead, we conceive of them as models of growth, inspired by observations that can be classified along the mode of attachment.

Morphogenesis, the creation of new instances of formed matter, or even the creation of new forms, is tightly linked to complexity. Turing titled his famous article the “Chemical Basis of Morphogenesis“. This, however, is not exactly what he invented, for we have to distinguish between patterns and forms, or likewise, between order and organization. Turing described the formal conditions for emergence of order from a noisy flow of entropy. Organization, in contrast, also needs the creation of remnants, partial decay, and it is organization that brings in historicity. Nevertheless, the mechanisms of complexity of which the Turing-patterns and -mechanisms are part of, are indispensable ingredients for the “higher” forms of growth, at least, that is, for anything besides crystals (but probably even for for them in same limited sense). Note that morphogenesis, in neither of its aspects, should not be conceived as something “cybernetical”!

3.1. Crystals

Figure 1a: Crystals are geometric entities out of time.

Crystals are geometrical entities. In the 19th century, the study of crystals and the attempt to classify them inspired mathematicians in their development of the concept of symmetry and group theory. Crystals are also entities that are “structurally flat”. There are no levels of integration, their macroscopic appearance is a true image of their constitution on the microscopic level. A crystal looks exactly the same on the level of atoms up to the scale of centimeters. Finally, crystals are outside of time. For their growth is only dependent on the one or two layers of atoms (“elementary cells”) that had been attached before at the respective site.

There are two important conditions in order to grow a 3-dimensional crystal. The site of precipitation and attachment need to be (1) immersed in a non-depletable solution where (2) particles can move through diffusion in three dimensions. If these conditions are not met, mineral depositions look very different. As far as it concerns the global embedding conditions, the rules have changed. More abstractly, the symmetry of the solution is broken, and so the result of the process is a fractal.

Figure 1b. Growth in the realm of minerals under spatial constraints, particularly the reduction of dimensionality. The image does NOT show petrified plants! It is precipitated mineral from a solution seeped into a nearly 2-dimensional gap between  two layers of (lime) rock. The similarity of shapes points to a similarity of mechanisms.

Both examples are about mineralic growth. We can understand now that the variety of resulting shapes is highly dependent on the dimensional conditions embedding the growth process.

Figure 1c. Crystalline buildings. Note that it is precisely and only this type of building that actualizes a “perfect harmony” between the metaphysics of the architect and the design of social conditions. The believe in independence and the primacy of identity  has been quite effectively delivered into the habit of the everyday housing conditions.

Figure 1d. Crystalline urban layout, instantiated as “parametrism”. The “curvy” shape should not be misinterpreted as “organic”. In this case it is just a little dose of artificial “erosion” imposed as a parametric add-on to the crystalline base. We again meet the theme of the geological. Nothing could be more telling than the claim of a “new global style”: Schumacher is an arch-modernist, a living fossil, mistaking design as religion, who benefits from advanced software technology. Who is Schumacher that he could decree a style globally?

The growth of crystals is a very particular transformation of space. It is the annihilation of any active part of it. The relationality of crystals is completely exhausted by resistance and the spread of said annihilation.

Regarding the Urban6, parametrism must be considered as being deeply malignant. As the label says, it takes place within a predefined space. Yet, who the hell Schumacher (and Hadid, the mathematician) thinks s/he is that s/he is allowed, or even being considered as being able, to define the space of the Urban? For the Urban is a growing “thing,” it creates its own space. Consequently all the rest of the world admits not to “understand” the Urban, yet Hadid and her barking Schumacher even claim to be able to define that space, and thus also claim that this space shall be defined. Not surprisingly, Schumacher is addicted to the mayor of all bureaucrats of theory, Niklas Luhman (see our discussion here), as he proudly announces in his book “The Autopoiesis of Architecture” that is full of pseudo- and anti-theory.

The example of the crystal clearly shows that we have to consider the solution and the deposit together as a conditioned system. The forces that rule their formation are a compound setup. The (electro-chemical) properties of the elementary cell on the microscopic level, precisely where it is in contact with the solution, together with the global, macroscopic conditions of the immersing solution determine the instantiation of the basic mechanism. Regardless the global conditions, basic mechanism for the growth of crystals is the attachment of matter is from the outside.

In crystals, we do not find a separated structural process layer that would be used for regulation of the growth. The deep properties of matter determine their growth. Else, only the outer surface is involved.

3.2. Plants

With plants, we find a class of organisms that grow—just as crystals—almost exclusively at their “surface”. With only a few exceptions, matter is almost exclusively attached at the “outside” of their shape. Yet, matter is also attached from their inside, at precisely defined locations, the meristemes. Else, there is a dedicated mechanism to regulate growth, based on a the diffusion of certain chemical compounds, the phyto-hormones, e.g. auxin. This regulation emancipates the plant in its growth from the properties of the matter it is built from.

Figure 2a. Growth in Plants. The growth cone is called apical meristeme. There are just a handful of largely undifferentiated cells that keep dividing almost infinitely. The shape of the plant is largely determined by a reaction-diffusion-system in the meristem, based on phyto-hormones that determine the cells. Higher plants can build secondary meristemes at particular locations, leading to a characteristic branching pattern.

 

Figure 2b. A pinnately compound leaf of a fern, showing its historical genesis as attachment at the outside (the tip of the meristeme)  from the inside. If you apply this principle to roots, you get a rhizome.

Figure 2c. The basic principle of plant growth can be mapped into L-Grammars, n order to create simulations of plant-like shapes. This makes clear that fractal do not belong to geometry! Note that any form creation that is based on formal grammars is subject to the representational fallacy.

Instead of using L-grammars as a formal reference we could also mention self-affine mapping. Actually, self-affine mapping is the formal operation that leads to perfect self-similarity and scale invariance. Self-affine mapping projects a minor version of the original, often primitive graph onto itself. But let us inspect two examples.

Figure 2d.1. Scheme showing the self-affine mapping that would create a graph that looks like a leaf of a fern (image from wiki).

self-affine Fractal fern scheme
Figure 2d.2. Self-affine fractal (a hexagasket) and its  neighboring graph, which encodes its creation [9].
self-affine fractals hexagasket t

Back to real plants! Nowadays, most plants are able to build branches. Formally, they perform a self-affine mapping. Bio-chemically, the cells in their meristeme(s) are able to respond differentially to the concentration of one (or two) plant hormones, in this case auxine. Note, that for establishing a two component system you won’t necessarily need two hormones! The counteracting “force” might be realized by some process just inside the cells of the meristeme as well.

From this relation between the observable fractal form, e.g. the leaf of the fern, or the shape of the surrounding of a city layout, and the formal representation we can draw a rather important conclusion. The empirical analysis of a shape should never stop with the statement that the respective shape shows scale-invariance, self-similarity or the like. Literally nothing is gained by that! It is just a promising starting point. What one has to do subsequently is to identify the mechanisms leading to the homomorphy between the formal representation and the particular observation. If you like, the chemical traces of pedestrians, the tendency to imitate, or whatever else. Even more important, in each particular case these actual mechanisms could be different, though leading to the same visual shape!!!

In earlier paleobiotic ages, most plants haven’t been able to build branches. Think about tree ferns, or the following living fossile.

Figure 2d. A primitive plant that can’t build secondary meristemes (Welwitschia). Unlike in higher plants, where the meristeme is transported by the growth process to the outer regions of the plant (its virtual borders), here it remains fixed; hence, the leaf is growing only in the center.

Figure 2e. The floor plan of Guggenheim Bilbao strongly reminds to the morphology of Welwitschia. Note that this “reminding” represents a naive transfer on the representational level. Quite in contrast, we have to say that the similarity in shape points to a similarity regarding the generating mechanisms. Jencks, for instance, describes the emanations as petals, but without further explanation, just as metaphor. Gehry himself explained the building by referring to the mythology of the “world-snake”, hence the importance of the singularity of the “origin”. Yet, the mythology does not allow to say anything about the growth pattern.

Figure 2f. Another primitive plant that can’t build secondary apical meristems. common horsetail (Equisetum arvense). Yet, in this case the apical meristeme is transported.

Figure 2g. Patrick Schumacher, Hadid Office, for the master plan of the Istanbul project. Primitive concepts lead to primitive forms and primitive habits.

Many, if not all of the characteristics of growth patterns in plants are due to the fact that they are sessile life forms. Most buildings are also “sessile”. In some way, however, we consider them more as geological formations than as plants. It seems to be “natural” that buildings start to look like those in fig.2g above.

Yet, in such a reasoning there are even two fallacies. First, regarding design there is neither some kind of “naturalness”, nor any kind of necessity. Second, buildings are not necessarily sessile. All depends on the level of the argument. If we talk just about matter, then, yes, we can agree that most buildings do not move, like crystals or plants. Buildings could not be appropriately described, however, just on the physical level of their matter. It is therefore very important to understand that we have to argue on the level of structural principles. Later we will provide an impressive example of an “animal” or “animate” building.7 

As we said, plants are sessile, all through, not only regarding their habitus. In plants, there are no moving cells in the inside. Thus, plants have difficulties to regenerate without dropping large parts. They can’t replace matter “somewhere in between”, as animals can do. The cells in the leafs, for instance, mature as cells do in animals, albeit for different reasons. In plants, it is mainly the accumulation of calcium. Such, even in tropical climates trees drop off their leaves at least once a year, some species all of them at once.

The conclusion for architecture as well as for urbanism is clear. It is just not sufficient to claim “metabolism” (see below) as a model. It is also appropriate to take “metabolism” as a model, not even if we would avoid the representational fallacy to which the “Metabolists” fell prey. Instead, the design of the structure of growth should orient itself in the way animals are organized, at the level of macroscopic structures like organs, if we disregard swarms for the moment, as most of them are not able to maintain persistent form.

This, however, brings immediately the problematics of territorialization to the fore. What we would need for our cities is thus a generalization towards the body without organs (Deleuze), which orients towards capabilities, particularly the capability to choose the mode of growth. Yet, the condition for this choosing is the knowledge about the possibilities. So, let us proceed to the next class of growth modes.

3.3. Swarms

In plants, the growth mechanisms are implemented in a rather deterministic manner. The randomness in their shape is restricted to the induction of branches. In swarms, we find a more relaxed regulation, as there is only little persistent organization. There is just transient order. In some way, many swarms are probabilistic crystals, that is, rather primitive entities. Figures 3a thru 3d provide some examples for swarms.

From the investigation of swarms in birds and fishes it is known that any of the “individual” just looks to the movement vector of its neighbors. There is no deep structure, precisely because there is no persistent organization.

Figure 3a. A flock of birds. Birds take the movement of several neighbors into account, sometimes without much consideration of their distance.

Figure 3b. A swarm of fish, a “school”. It has been demonstrated that some fish not only consider the position or the direction of their neighbors, but also the form of the average vector. A strong straight vector seems to be more “convincing” for the neighbors as a basis for their “decision” than one of unstable direction and scalar.

Figure 3c. The Kaaba in Mekka. Each year several persons die due to panic waves. Swarm physics helped to improve the situation.

Figure 3d. Self-ordering in a pedestrians population at Shibuya, Tokyo. In order to not crash into each other, humans employ two strategies. Either just to follow the person ahead, or to consider the second derivative of the vector, if the first is not applicable. Yet, it requires a certain “culture”, an unspoken agreement to do so (see this for what happens otherwise)

A particularly interesting example for highly developed swarms that are able to establish persistent organization is provided by Dictyostelium (Fig 4a), in common language called a slime-mold. In biological taxonomy, they form a group called Mycetozoa, which indicates their strangeness: Partly, they behave like fungi, partly like primitive animals. Yet, they are neither prototypical fungi nor prototypical animals. in both cases the macroscopic appearance is a consequence of (largely) chemically organized collaborative behavior of a swarm of amoeboids. Under good environmental conditions slime-molds split up into single cells, each feeding on their own (mostly on bacteria). Under stressing conditions, they build astonishing macroscopic structures, which are only partially reversible as parts of the population might be “sacrificed” to meet the purpose of non-local distribution.

Figure 4a. Dictyostelium, “fluid” mode; the microscopic individuals are moving freely, creating a pattern that optimizes logistics. Individuals can smoothly switch roles from moving to feeding. It should be clear that the “arrangement” you see is not a leaf, nor a single organism! It is a population of coordinating individuals. Yet, the millions of organisms in this population can switch “phase”… (continue with 4b…)

Figure 4b. Dictyostelium, in “organized” mode, i.e. the “same” population of individuals now behaving “as if” it would be an organism, even with different organs. Here, individuals organize a macroscopic form, as if they were a single organism. There is irreversible division of labor. Such, the example of Dictyostelium shows that the border between swarms and plants or animals can be blurry.

The concept of swarms has also been applied to crowds of humans, e.g. in urban environments [11]. Here, we can observe an amazing re-orientation. Finally, after 10 years or so of research on swarms and crowds, naïve modernist prejudices are going to be corrected. Independence and reductionist physicism have been dropped, instead, researchers get increasingly aware of relations and behavior [14].

Trouble is, the simulations treat people as independent particles—ignoring our love of sticking in groups and blabbing with friends. Small groups of pedestrians change everything, says Mehdi Moussaid, the study’s leader and a behavioral scientist at the University of Toulouse in France. “We have to rebuild our knowledge about crowds.”

Swarms solve a particular class of challenges: logistics. Whether in plants or slime-molds, it is the transport of something as an adaptive response that provides their framing “purpose”. This something could be the members of the swarm itself, as in fish, or something that is transported by the swarm, as it is the case in ants. Yet, the difference is not that large.

Figure 5: Simulation of foraging raid patterns in army ants Eciton. (from [12]) The hive (they haven’t a nest) is at the bottom, while the food source is towards thr top.  The only difference between A and B is the number of food sources.

When compared to crystals, even simple swarms show important differences. Firstly, in contrast to crystals, swarms are immaterial. What we can observe at the global scale, macroscopically, is an image of rules that are independent of matter. Yet, in simple, “prototypical” swarms the implementation of those rules is still global, just like in crystals. Everywhere in the primitive swarm the same basic rules are active. We have seen that in Dictyostelium, much like in social insects, rules begin to be active in a more localized manner.

The separation of immaterial components from matter is very important. It is the birth of information. We may conceive information itself as a morphological element, as a condition for the probabilistic instantiation. Not by chance we assign the label “fluid” to large flocks of birds, say starlings in autumn. On the molecular level, water itself is organized as a swarm.

As a further possibility, the realm of immaterial rules provides allows also for a differentiation of rules. For in crystals the rule is almost synonymic to the properties of the matter, there is no such differentiation for them. They are what they are, eternally. In contrast to that, in swarms we always find a setup that comprises attractive and repellent forces, which is the reason for their capability to build patterns. This capability is often called self-organization, albeit calling it self-ordering would be more exact.

There is last interesting point with swarms. In order to boot a swarm as swarm, that is, to effectuate the rules, a certain, minimal density is required. From this perspective, we can recognize also a link between swarms and mediality. The appropriate concept to describe swarms is thus the wave of density (or of probability).

Not only in urban research the concept of swarms is often used in agent-based models. Unfortunately, however, only the most naive approaches are taken, conceiving of agents as entities almost without any internal structure, i.e. also without memory. Paradoxically, researchers often invoke the myth of “intelligent swarms”, overlooking that intelligence is nothing that is associated to swarms. In order to find appropriate solutions to a given challenge, we simply need an informational n-body system, where we find emergent patterns and evolutionary principles as well. This system can be realized even in a completely immaterial manner, as a pattern of electrical discharges. Such a process we came to call a “brain”… Actually, swarms without an evolutionary embedding can be extremely malignant and detrimental, since in swarms the purpose is not predefined. Fiction authors (M.Crichton, F.Schätzing) recognized this long ago. Engineers seem to still have difficulties with that.

Such, we can also see that swarms actualize the most seriously penetrating form of growth.

3.4. Animals

So far, we have met three models of growth. In plants and swarms we find different variations of the basic crystalline mode of growth. In animals, the regulation of growth acquired even more degrees of freedom.

The major determinant of the differences between the forms of plants and animals is movement. This not only applies to the organism as a whole. We find it also on the cellular level. Plants do not have blood or an immune system, where cells of a particular type are moving around. Once they settled, they are fixed.

The result of this mobility is a greatly diversified space of possibilities for instantiating compartmentalization. Across the compartments, which we find also in the temporal domain, we may even see different modes of growth. The liver of the vertebrates, for instance, grows more like a plant. It is somehow not surprising that the liver is the organ with the best ability for regeneration. We also find interacting populations of swarms in animals, even in the most primitive ones like sponges.

The important aspects of form in animals are in their interior. While for crystals there is no interiority, plants differ in their external organization, their habitus, with swarms somewhere in between. Animals, however, are different due to their internal organization on the level of macroscopic compartments, which includes their behavioral potential. (later: remark about metabolism, as taking the wrong metaphorical anchor) Note that the cells of animals look quite similar, they are highly standardized, even between flies and humans.

Along with the importance of the dynamics and form of interior compartments, the development of animals in their embryological phase8 is strictly choreographed. Time is not an outer parameter any more. Much more than plants, swarms or even crystals, of course, animals are beings in and of time. They have history, as individual and as population, which is independent of matter. In animals, history is a matter of form and rules, of interior, self-generated conditions.

During the development of animal embryos we find some characteristic operations of form creating, based on the principle of mobility, additionally to the principles that we can describe for swarms, plants and crystals. These are

  • – folding, involution and blastulation;
  • – melting, and finally
  • – inflation and gastrulation;

The mathematics for describing these operations is not geometry any more. We need topology and category theory in order to grasp it, that is the formalization of transformation.

Folding brings compartments together that have been produced separately. It breaks the limitations of signal horizons by initiating a further level of integration. Hence, the role of folding can be understood as a way as a means to overcome or to instantiate dimensional constraints and/or modularity. While inflation is the mee accumulation of mass and amorphous enlargement of a given compartment by attachment from the interior, melting may be conceived as a negative attachment. Abstractly taken, it introduces the concept of negativity, which in turn allows for smooth gradation. Finally, involution, gastrulation and blastulation introduce floating compartments, hence swarm-like capabilities in the interior organization. It blurs the boundaries between structure and movement, introducing probabilism and reversibility into the development and the life form of the being.

Figure 6a. Development in Embryos. Left-hand, a very early phase is shown, emphasizing the melting and inflating, which leads to “segments”, called metamers. (red arrows show sites of apoptosis, blue arrows indicate inflation, i.e. ordinary increase of volume)

Figure 6b. Early development phase of a hand. The space between fingers is melted away in order to shape the fingers.

Figure 6c. Rem Koolhaas [16]. Inverting the treatment of the box, thereby finding (“inventing”?) the embryonic principle of melting tissue in order to generate form. Note that Koolhaas himself never referred to “embryonic principles” (so far). This example demonstrates clearly where we have to look for the principles of morphogenesis in architecture!

In the image 6a above we can not only see the processes of melting and attaching, we also can observe another recipe of nature: repetition. In case of the Bauplan of animal organisms the result is metamery.9 While in lower animals such as worms (Annelidae), metamers are easily observed, in higher animals, such as insects or vertebrates, metamers are often only (clearly) visible in the embryonal phase. Yet, in animals metamers are always created through a combination of movement or melting and compartmentalization in the interior of the body. They are not “added” in the sense of attaching—adding—them to the actual border, as it is the case in plants or crystals. In mathematical terms, the operation in animals’ embryonic phase is multiplication, not addition.

Figure 6d. A vertebrate embryo, showing the metameric organization of the spine (left), which then gets replicated by the somites (right). In animals, metamers are a consequence of melting processes, while in plants it is due to attachment. (image found here)

The principles of melting (apoptosis), folding, inflating and repetition can be used to create artificial forms, of course. The approach is called subdivision. Note that the forms shown below have nothing to do with geometry anymore. The frameworks needed to talk about them are, at least, topology and category theory. Additionally, they require an advanced non-Cartesian conception of space, as we have been outlining one above.

Figure 7. Forms created by subdivision (courtesy Michael Hansmeyer). It is based on a family of procedures, called subdivision, that are directed towards the differentiation of the interior of a body. It can’t be described by geometry any more. Such, it is a non-geometrical, procedural form, which expresses time, not matter and its properties. The series of subdivisions are “breaking” the straightness of edges and can be seen also as a series of nested, yet uncompleted folds (See Deleuze’s work on the Fold and Leibniz). Here, in Hansmeyer’s work, each column is a compound of three “tagmata”, that is, sections that have been grown “physically” independently from each other, related just by a similar dynamics in the set of parameters.

subdivision columns

Creating such figurated forms is not fully automatic, though. There is some contingency, represented by the designer’s choices while establishing a particular history of subdivisions.

Animals employ a wide variety of modes in their growing. They can do so due to the highly developed capability of compartmentalization. They gain almost complete independence from matter10 , regarding their development, their form, and particularly regarding their immaterial setup, which we can observe as learning and the use of rules. Learning, on the other hand, is intimately related to perception, in other words, configurable measurement, and data. Perception, as a principle, is in turn mandatory for the evolution of brains and the capability to handle information. Thus, staffing a building with sensors is not a small step. It could take the form of a jump into another universe, particularly if the sensors are conceived as being separate from the being of the house, for instance in order to facilitate or modify mental or social affairs of their inhabitants.

3.5. Urban Morphing

On the level of urban arrangements, we also can observe different forms of differentiation on the level of morphology.

Figure 8. Urban Sprawl, London (from [1]). The layout looks like a slime-mold. We may conclude that cities grow like slime-molds, by attachment from the inside and directed towards the inside and the outside. Early phases of urban sprawl, particularly in developing countries, grow by attachment form the outside, hence they look more like a dimensionally constrained crystal (see fig.1b).

The concept of the fractal and the related one of self-similarity entered, of course, also the domain of urbanism, particularly an area of interest which is called Urban Morphology. This has been born as a sub-discipline of geography. It is characterized by a salient reductionism of the Urban to the physical appearance of a city and its physical layout, which of course is not quite appropriate.

Given the mechanisms of attachment, whether it is due to interior processes or attachment from the outside (through people migrating to the city), it is not really surprising to find similar fractal shapes as in case of (dimensionally) constrained crystalline growth, or in the case of slime-molds with their branching amoeba highways. In order to understand the city, the question is not whether there is a fractal or not, whether there is a dimensionality of 1.718 or one of 1.86.

The question is about the mechanisms that show up as a particular material habitus, and about the actual instantiation of these mechanisms. Or even shorter: the material habitus must be translated into a growth model. In turn, this would provide the means to shape the conditions of the cities own unfolding and evolution. We already know that dedicated planning and dedicated enforcement of plans will not work in most cities. It is of utmost importance here, not to fall back into representationalist patterns, as for instance Michael Batty sometimes falls prey to [1]. Avoiding representationalist fallacies is possible only if we embed the model about abstract growth into a properly bound compound which comprises theory (methodology and philosophy) and politics as well, much like we proposed in the previous essay.

Figure 9a. In former times, or as a matter of geographical facts, attachment is excluded. Any growth is directed towards the inside and shows up as a differentiation. Here, in this figure we see a planned city, which thus looks much like a crystal.

Figure 9b. A normally grown medieval city. While the outer “shell” looks pretty standardized, though not “crystalline”, the interior shows rich differentiation. In order to describe the interior of such cities we have to use the concept of type.

Figure 10a. Manhattan is the paradigmatic example for congestion due to a severe (in this case: geographical) limitation of the possibility to grow horizontally. In parallel, the overwhelming interior differentiation created a strong connectivity and abundant heterotopias. This could be interpreted as the prototype of the internet, built in steel and glass (see Koolhaas’ “Delirious New York” [15]).

Figure 10b. In the case of former Kowloon (now torn down), it wasn’t geological, but political constraints. It was a political enclave/exclave, where actually no legislative regulations could be set active. In some way it is the chaotic brother of Manhattan. This shows Kowloon in 1973…

Figure 10c. And here the same area in 1994.

Figure 10d. Somewhere in the inside. Kowloon developed more and more into an autonomous city that provided any service to its approx. 40’000 inhabitants. On the roof of the buildings they installed the play grounds for the children.

The medieval city, Manhattan and Kowloon share a particular growth pattern. While the outer shape remains largely constant, their interior develops any kind of compartments, any imaginable kind of flow and a rich vertical structure, both physical and logical. This growth pattern is the same as we can observe in animals. Furthermore, those cities, much like animals, start to build an informational autonomy, they start to behave, to build an informational persistence, to initiate an intense mediality.

3.6. Summary of Growth Modes

The following table provides a brief overview about the main structural differences of growth models, as they can be derived from their natural instantiations.

Table 1: Structural differences of the four basic classes of modes of growth. Note that the class labels are indeed just that: labels of models. Any actual instantiation, particularly in case of real animals, may comprise a variety of compounds made from differently weighted classes.

Aspect \ Class crystal plant swarm animal
Mode of Attachment passive positive active positive active positive and negative active positive and negative
Direction from outside from inside from inside  towards outside or inside from & towards the inside
Morphogenetic Force as a fact by matter explicitly produced inhibiting fields implicit and explicit multi-component fields 11 explicitly produced multi-component fields
Status of Form implicitly templated by existing form beginning independence from matter independence from matter independence from matter
Formal Tools geometric scaling, representative reproduction, constrained randomness Fibonacci patterns, fractal habitus, logistics fractal habitus, logistics metamerism, organs, transformation, strictly a-physical
Causa Finalis(main component) actualization of identity space filling logistics mobile logistics short-term adaptivity

4. Effects of Growth

Growth increases mass, spread or both. Saying that doesn’t add anything, it is an almost syntactical replacement of words. In Aristotelian words, we would get stuck with the causa materialis and the causa formalis. The causa finalis of growth, in other words its purpose and general effect, besides the mere increase of mass, is differentiation12, and we have to focus the conditions for that differentiation in terms of information. For the change of something is accessible only upon interpretation by an observing entity. (Note that this again requires relationality as a primacy)

The very possibility of difference and consequently of differentiation is bound to the separation of signals.13 Hence we can say that growth is all about the creation of a whole bouquet of signal intensity lengths, instantiated on a scale that stretches from as morpho-physical compartments through morpho-functional compartments to morpho-symbolic specializations.14

Inversely we may say that abstract growth is a necessary component for differentiation. Formally, we can cover differentiation as an abstract complexity  of positive and negative growth. Without abstract growth—or differentiation—there is no creation or even shaping of space into an individual space with its own dynamical dimensionality, which in turn would preclude the possibility for interaction. Growth regulates the dimensionality of the space of expressibility.

5. Growth, an(d) Urban Matter

5.1. Koolhaas, History, Heritage and Preservation

From his early days as urbanist and architect, Koolhaas has been fascinated by walls and boxes [16], even with boxes inside boxes. While he conceived the concept of separation first in a more representational manner, he developed it also into a mode of operation later. We now can decode it as a play with informational separation, as an interest in compartments, hence with processes of growth and differentiation. This renders his personal fascinosum clearly visible: the theory and the implementation of differentiation, particularly with respect to human forms of life. It is probably his one and only subject.

All of Koolhaas’ projects fit into this interest. New York, Manhattan, Boxes, Lagos, CCTV, story-telling, Singapore, ramps, Lille, empirism, Casa da Musica, bigness, Metabolism. His exploration(s) of bigness can be interpreted as an exploration of the potential of signal intensity length. How much have we to inflate a structure in order to provoke differentiation through the shifting the signal horizon into the inside of the structure? Remember, that the effective limit of signal intensity length manifests as breaking of symmetry, which in turn gives rise to compartmentalization, opposing forces, paving the way for complexity, emergence, that is nothing else than a dynamic generation of patterns. BIG BAG. BIG BANG. Galaxies, stardust, planets, everything in the mind of those crawling across and inside bigness architecture.  Of course, it appears to be more elegant to modulate the signal intensity length through other means than just by bigness, but we should not forget about it. Another way for provoking differentiation is through introducing elements of complexity, such as contradictory elements and volatility. Already in 1994, Koolhaas wrote [17]15

But in fact, only Bigness instigates the regime of complexity that mobilizes the full intelligence of architecture and its related fields. […] The absence of a theory of Bigness–what is the maximum architecture can do?–is architecture’s most debilitating weakness. […] By randomizing circulation, short-circuiting distance, […] stretching dimensions, the elevator, electricity, air-conditioning,[…] and finally, the new infrastructures […] induced another species of architecture. […] Bigness perplexes; Bigness transforms the city from a summation of certainties into an accumulation of mysteries. […] Bigness is no longer part of any urban tissue. It exists; at most, it coexists. Its subtext is fuck context.

The whole first part of this quote is about nothing else than modulating signal intensity length. Consequently, the conclusion in the second part refers directly to complexity that creates novelty. An artifice that is double-creative, that is creative and in each of its instances personalized creative, how should it be perceived other than as a mystery? No wonder, modernists get overcharged…

The only way to get out of (built) context is through dynamically creating novelty., by creating an exhaustively new context outside of built matter, but strongly building on it. Novelty is established just and only by the tandem of complexity and selection (aka interpretation). But, be aware, complexity here is fully defined and not to be mistaken with the crap delivered by cybernetics, systems theory or deconstructivism.

The absence of a theory of Bigness—what is the maximum architecture can do? —is architecture’s most debilitating weakness. Without a theory of Bigness, architects are in the position of Frankenstein’s creators […] Bigness destroys, but it is also a new beginning. It can reassemble what it breaks. […] Because there is no theory of Bigness, we don’t know what to do with it, we don’t know where to put it, we don’t know when to use it, we don’t know how to plan it. Big mistakes are our only connection to Bigness. […] Bigness destroys, but it is also a new beginning. It can reassemble what it breaks. […] programmatic elements react with each other to create new events- Bigness returns to a model of programmatic alchemy.

All this reads like a direct rendering of our conceptualization of complexity. It is, of course, nonsense to think that

[…] ‘old’ architectural principles (composition, scale, proportion, detail) no longer apply when a building acquires Bigness. [18]

Koolhaas sub-contracted Jean Nouvel for caring of large parts of Euro-Lille. Why should he do so, if proportions wouldn’t be important? Bigness and proportions are simply on different levels! Bigness instantiates the conditions for dynamic generation of patterns, and those patters, albeit volatile and completely on the side of the interpreter/observer/user/inhabitant/passer-by, deserve careful thinking about proportions.

Bigness is impersonal: the architect is no longer condemned to stardom.

Here, again, the pass-porting key is the built-in creativity, based on elementarized, positively defined complexity. We thus would like to propose to consider our theory of complexity—at least—as a theory of Bigness. Yet, the role of complexity can be understood only as part of generic differentiation. Koolhaas’ suggestion for Bigness does not only apply for architecture. We already mentioned Euro-Lille. Bigness, and so complexity—positively elementarized—is the key to deal with Urban affairs. What could be BIGGER than the Urban? Koolhaas concludes

Bigness no longer needs the city, it is the city.’ […]

Bigness = urbanism vs. architecture.

Of course, by “architecture” Koolhaas refers to the secretions by the swarm architects’ addiction to points, lines, forms and apriori functions, all these blinkers of modernism. Yet, I think, urbanism and a re-newed architecture (one htat embraces complexity) may be well possible. Yet, probably only if we, architects and their “clients”, contemporary urbanists and their “victims,” start to understand both as parts of a vertical, differential (Deleuzean) Urban Game. Any comprehensive apprehension of {architecture, urbanism} will overcome the antipodic character of the relations between them. Hope is that it also will be a cure for junkspace.

There are many examples from modernism, where architects spent the utmost efforts to prevent the “natural” effect of bigness, though not always successful. Examples include Corbusier as well as Mies van der Rohe.

Koolhaas/OMA not only uses assemblage, bricolage and collage as working techniques, whether as “analytic” tool (Delirious New York) or in projects, they also implement it in actual projects. Think of Euro-Lille, for instance. Implementing the conditions of or for complexity creates a never-ending flux of emergent patterns. Such an architecture not only keeps being interesting, it is also socially sustainable.

Such, it is not really a surprise that Koolhaas started to work on the issue and the role of preservation during the recent decade, culminating in the contribution of OMA/AMO to the Biennale 2010 in Venice.

In an interview given there to Hans Ulrich Obrist [20] (and in a lecture at the American University of Beirut), Koolhaas mentioned some interesting figures about the quantitative consequences of preservation. In 2010, 3-4% of the area of the earths land surface has been declared as heritage site. This amounts to a territory larger than the size of India. The prospects of that have been that soon up to 12% are protected against change. His objection was that this development can lead to kind of a stasis. According to Koolhaas, we need a new vocabulary, a theory that allows to talk about how to get rid of old buildings and to negotiate of which buildings we could get rid of. He says that we can’t talk about preservation without also talking about how to get rid of old stuff.

There is another interesting issue about preservation. The temporal distance marked by the age of the building to be preserved and the attempt to preserve the building constantly decreased across history. In 1800 preservation focused on buildings risen 2000 years before, in 1900 the time distance shrunk to 300 years, and in 2000 it was as little as 30 years. Koolhaas concludes that we obviously are entering a phase of prospective preservation.

There are two interpretations for this tendency. The first one would be, as a pessimistic one, that it will lead to a perfect lock up. As an architect, you couldn’t do anything anymore without being engaged in severely intensified legislation issues and a huge increase in bureaucrazy. The alternative to this pessimistic perspective is, well, let’s call it symbolic (abstract) organicism, based on the concept of (abstract) growth and differentiation as we devised it here. The idea of change as a basis of continuity could be built so deeply into any architectural activity, that the result would not only comprise preservation, it would transcend it. Obviously, the traditional conception of preservation would vanish as well.

This points to an important topic: Developing a theory about a cultural field, such as it is given by the relation between architecture and preservation, can’t be limited to just the “subject”. It inevitably has to include a reflection about the conceptual layer as well. In the case of preservation and heritage, we simply find that the language game is still of an existential character, additionally poisoned by values. Preservation should probably not target the material aspects. Thus, the question whether to get rid of old buildings is inappropriate. Transformation should not be regarded as a question of performing a tabula rasa.

Any well-developed theory of change in architectural or Urban affairs brings a quite important issue to the foreground. The city has to decide what it wants to be. The alternatives are preformed by the modes of growth. It could conceive of itself as an abstract crystal, as a plant, a slime-mold made from amoeboids, or as an abstract animal. Each choice offers particular opportunities and risks. Each of these alternatives will determine the characteristics and the quality of the potential forms of life, which of course have to be supported by the city. Selecting an alternative also selects the appropriate manner of planning, of development. It is not possible to perform the life form of an animal and to plan according to the characteristics of a crystal. The choice will also determine whether the city can enter a regenerative trajectory, whether it will decay to dust, or whether it will be able to maintain its shape, or whether it will behave predatory. All these consequences are, of course, tremendously political. Nevertheless, we should not forget that the political has to be secured against the binding problem as much as conceptual work.

In the cited interview, Koolhaas also gives a hint about that when he refers to the Panopticum project, a commission to renovate a 19th century prison. He mentions that they discovered a rather unexpected property of the building: “a lot of symbolic extra-dimensions”. These symbolic capital allows for “much more and beautiful flexibility” to handle the renovation. Actually, one “can do it in 50 different ways” without exhausting the potential, something, which according to Koolhaas is “not possible for modern architecture”.

Well, again, not really a surprise. Neither function, nor functionalized form, nor functionalized fiction (Hollein) can bear symbolic value except precisely that of the function. Symbolic value can’t be implanted as little as meaning can be defined apriori, something that has not been understood, for instance, by Heinrich Klotz14. Due to the deprivation of the symbolic domain it is hard to re-interpret modernist buildings. Yet, what would be the consequence for preservation? Tearing down all the modernist stuff? Probably not the worst idea, unless the future architects are able to think in terms of growth and differentiation.

Beyond the political aspects the practical question remains, how to decide on which building, or district, or structure to preserve? Koolhaas already recognized that the politicians started to influence or even rule the respective decision-making processes, taking responsibility away from the “professional” city-curators. Since there can’t be a rational answer, his answer is random selection.

Figure 11: Random Selection for Preservation Areas, Bejing. Koolhaas suggested to select preservation areas randomly, since it can’t be decided “which” Bejing should be preserved (there are quite a few very different ones).

Yet, I tend to rate this as a fallback into his former modernist attitudes. I guess, the actual and local way for the design of the decision-making process is a political issue, which in turn is dependent on the type of differentiation that is in charge, either as a matter of fact, or as a subject of political design. For instance, the citizens of the whole city, or just of the respective areas could be asked about their values, as it is a possibility (or a duty) in Switzerland. Actually, there is even a nice and recent example for it. The subject matter is a bus-stop shelter designed by Santiago Calatrava in 1996, making it to one of his first public works.

Figure 12: Santiago Calatrava 1996, bus stop shelter in St.Gallen (CH), at a central place of the city; there are almost no cars, but every 1-2 minutes a bus, thus a lot of people are passing even several times per day. Front view…

…and rear view

In 2011, the city parliament decided to restructure the place and to remove the Calatrava shelter. It was considered by the ‘politicians’ to be too “alien” for the small city, which a few steps away also hosts a medieval district that is a Unesco World Heritage. Yet, many citizen rated the shelter as something that provides a positive differential, a landmark, which could not be found in other cities nearby, not even in whole Northern Switzerland. Thus, a referendum has been enforced by the citizens, and the final result from May 2012 was a clear rejection of the government’s plans. The effect of this recent history is pretty clear: The shelter accumulates even more symbolic capital than before.

Back to the issue of preservation. If it is not the pure matter, what else should be addressed? Again, Koolhaas himself already points to the right direction. The following fig.13 shows a scene from somewhere in Bejing. The materials of the dwelling are bricks, plastic, cardboard. Neither the site nor the matter nor the architecture seems to convey anything worthwhile to be preserved.

Figure 13: When it comes to preservation, the primacy is about the domain of the social, not that of matter.

Yet, what must be preserved mandatorily is the social condition, the rooting of the people in their environment. Koolhaas, however, says that he is not able to provide any answer to solve this challenge. Nevertheless it s pretty clear, that “sustainability” start right here, not in the question of energy consumption (despite the fact that this is an important aspect too).

5.2. Shrinking. Thinning. Growing.

Cities have been performances of congestion. As we have argued repeatedly, densification, or congestion if you like, is mandatory for the emergence of typical Urban mediality. Many kinds of infrastructures are only affordable, let alone be attractive, if there are enough clients for it. Well, the example of China—or Singapore—and its particular practices of implementing plans demonstrate that the question of density can take place also in a plan, in the future, that is, in the domain of time. Else, congestion and densification may actualize more and more in the realm of information, based on the new medially active technologies. Perhaps, our contemporary society does not need the same corporeal density as it was the case in earlier times. There is a certain tendency that the corporeal city and the web amalgamate into something new that could be called the “wurban“. Nevertheless, at the end of the day, some kind of density is needed to ignite the conditions for the Urban.

Such, it seems that the Urban is threatened by the phenomenon of thinning. Thinning is different from shrinking, which appears foremost in some regions of the U.S. (e.g. Detroit) or Europe (Leipzig, Ukrainia) as a consequence of monotonic, or monotopic economic structure. Yet, shrinking can lead to thinning. Thinning describes the fact that there is built matter, which however is inhabited only for a fraction of time. Visually dense, but socially “voided”.

Thinning, according to Koolhaas, considers the form of new cities like Dubai. Yet, as he points out, there is also a tendency in some regions, such as Switzerland, or the Netherlands, that approach the “thinned city” from the other direction. The whole country seems to transform itself into something like an urban garden, neither of rural nor of urban quality. People like Herzog & deMeuron lament about this form, conceiving it as urban sprawl, the loss of distinct structure, i.e. the loss of clearly recognizable rural areas on the one hand, and the surge of “sub-functional” city-fragments on the other. Yet, probably we should turn perspective, away from reactive, negative dialectics, into a positive attitude of design, as it may appear a bit infantile to think that a palmful of sociologists and urbanists could act against a gross cultural tendency.

In his lecture at the American University in Beirut in 2010 [19], Koolhaas asked “What does it [thinning] mean for the ‘Urban Condition’?”

Well, probably nothing interesting, except that it prevents the appearance of the Urban16 or lets it vanish, would it have been present. Probably cities like Dubai are just not yet “urban”, not to speak of the Urban. From the distant, Dubai still looks like a photomontage, a Potemkin village, an absurdity. The layout of the arrangement of the high-rises remembers to the small street villages, just 2 rows of cottages on both sides of  a street, arbitrarily placed somewhere in the nowhere of a grassland plain. The settlement being ruled just by a very basic tendency for social cohesion and a common interest for exploiting the hinterland as a resource. But there is almost no network effect, no commonly organized storage, no deep structure.

Figure 14a: A collage shown by Koolhaas in his Beirut lecture, emphasizing the “absurdity” (his words) of the “international” style. Elsewhere, he called it an element of Junkspace.

The following fig 14b demonstrates the artificiality of Dubai, classifying more as a lined village made from huge buildings than actually as a “city”.

Figure 14b. Photograph “along” Dubai’s  main street taken in late autumn 2012 by Shiva Menon (source). After years of traffic jamming the nomadic Dubai culture finally accepted that something like infrastructure is necessary in a more sessile arrangement. They started to build a metro, which is functional with the first line since Sep 2010.

dubai fog 4 shiva menon

Figure 14c below shows the new “Simplicity ™”. This work of Koolhaas and OMA oscillates between sarcasm, humor pretending to be naive, irony and caricature. Despite a physical reason is given for the ability of the building to turn its orientation such as to minimize insulation, the effect is a quite different one. It is much more a metaphor for the vanity of village people, or maybe the pseudo-religious power of clerks.

Figure 14c-1. A proposal by Koolhaas/OMA for Dubai (not built, and as such, pure fiction). The building, called “Simplicity”, has been thought to be 200m wide, 300m tall and measuring only 21m in depth. It is placed onto a plate that rotates in order to minimize insulation.

Figure 14b-2. The same thing a bit later the same day

Yet, besides the row of high-rises we find the dwellings of the migration workers in a considerable density, forming a multi-national population. However, the layout here remembers more to Los Angeles than to any kind of “city”. Maybe, it simply forms kind of the “rural” hinterland of the high-rise village.

Figure 15. Dubai, “off-town”. Here, the migration workers are housing. In the background the skyscrapers lining the infamous main street.

For they, for instance, also started to invest into a metro, despite the (still) linear, disseminated layout of the city, which means that connectivity, hence network effects are now recognized as a crucial structural element for the success of the city. And this then is not so different anymore from the classical Western conception. Anyway, even the first cities of mankind, risen not in the West, provided certain unique possibilities, which as a bouquet could be considered as urban.

There is still another dimension of thinning, related to the informatization of presence via medially active technologies. Thinning could be considered as an actualization of the very idea of the potentiality of co-presence, much as it is exploited in the so-called “social media”. Of course, the material urban neighborhood, its corporeality, is dependent on physical presence. Certainly, we can expect either strong synchronization effects or negative tipping points, demarcating a threshold towards sub-urbanization. On the other hand, this could give rise to new forms of apartment sharing, supported by urban designers and town officials…

On the other hand, we already mentioned natural structures that show a certain dispersal, such as the blood cells, the immune system in vertebrates, or the slime-molds. These structures are highly developed swarms. Yet, all these swarms are highly dependent on the outer conditions. As such, swarms are hardly persistent. Dubai, the swarm city. Technology, however, particularly in the form of the www and so-called social media could stabilize the swarm-shape.17

From a more formal perspective we may conceive of shrinking and thinning simply as negative growth. By this growth turns, of course, definitely into an abstract concept, leaving the representational and even the metaphorical far behind. Yet, the explication of a formal theory exceeds the indicated size of this text by far. We certainly will do it later, though.

5.3. In Search for Symbols

What turns a building into an entity that may grow into an active source for symbolization processes? At least, we can initially know that symbols can’t be implanted in a direct manner. Of course, one always can draw on exoticism, importing the cliché that already is attached to the entity from abroad. Yet, this is not what we are interested in here.The question is not so dissimilar to the issue of symbolization at large, as it is known from the realm of language. How could a word, a sign, a symbol gain reference, and how could a building get it? We could even take a further step by asking: How could a building acquire generic mediality such that it could be inhabited not only physically, but also in the medial realm? [23] We can’t answer the issues around these questions here, as there is a vast landscape of sources and implications, enough for filling at least a book. Yet, conceiving buildings as agents in story-telling could be a straightforward and not too complicated entry into this landscape.

Probably, story-telling with buildings works like a good joke. If they are too direct, nobody would laugh. Probably, story-telling has a lot to do with behavior and the implied complexities, I mean, the behavior of the building. We interpret pets, not plants. With plants, we interpret just their usage. We laugh about cats, dogs, apes, and elephants, but not about roses and orchids, and even less about crystals. Once you have seen one crystal, you have seen all of them. Being inside a crystal can be frightening, just think about Snow White. While in some way this holds even for plants, that’s certainly not true for animals. Junkspace is made from (medial) crystals. Junkspace is so detrimental due to the fundamental modernist misunderstanding that claims the possibility of implementing meaning and symbols, if these are regarded as relevant at all.

Closely related to the issue of symbols is the issue of identity.

Philosophically, it is definitely highly problematic to refer to identity as a principle. It leads to deep ethical dilemmata. If we are going to drop it, we have to ask immediately about a replacement, since many people indeed feel that they need to “identify” with their neighborhood.

Well, first we could say that identification and “to identify” are probably quite different from the idea of identity. Every citizen in a city could be thought to identify with her or his city, yet, at the same time there need not be such a thing as “identity”. Identity is the abstract idea, imposed by mayors and sociologists, and preferably it should be rejected just for that, while the process of feeling empathy with one’s neighborhood is a private process that respects plurality. It is not too difficult to imagine that there are indeed people that feel so familiar with “their” city, the memories about experiences, the sound, the smell, the way people walk, that they feel so empathic with all of this such that they source a significant part of their personality from it. How to call this inextricable relationship other than “to identify with”?

The example of the Calatrava-bus stop shelter in St.Gallen demonstrates one possible source of identification: Success in collective design decisions. Or more general: successfully finished negotiations about collective design issues, a common history about such successful processes. Even if the collective negotiation happens as a somewhat anonymous process. Yet, the relative preference of participation versus decreed activities depends on the particular distribution of political and ethical values in the population of citizens. Certainly, participatory processes are much more stable than top-down-decrees, not only in the long run, as even the Singaporean government has recognized recently. But anyway, cities have their particular personality, because they behave18 in a particular manner, and any attempt to get clear or to decide about preservation must respect this personality. Of course, it also applies that the decision-making process should be conscious enough to be able to reflect about the metaphysical belief set, the modes of growth and the long-term characteristics of the city.

5.4. The Question of Implementation

This essay tries to provide an explication of the concept of growth in the larger context of a theory of differentiation in architecture and urbanism. There, we positioned growth as one of four principles or schemata that are constitutive for generic differentiation.

In this final section we would like to address the question of implementation, since only little has been said so far about how to deal with the concept of growth. We already described how and why earlier attempts like that of the Metabolists dashed against the binding problem of theoretical work.

If houses do not move physically, how then to make them behaving, say, similar to the way an animal does? How to implement a house that shares structural traits with animals? How to think of a city as a system of plants and animals without falling prey to utter naivity?

We already mentioned that there is no technocratic, or formal, or functionalist solution to the question of growth. At first, the city has to decide what it wants to be, which kind of mix of growth modes should be implemented in which neighborhoods.

Let us first take some visual impressions…

Figure 16a,b,c. The Barcelona Pavilion by Mies van der Rohe (1929 [1986]).

This pavilion is a very special box. It is non-box, or better, it establishes a volatile collection of virtual boxes. In this building, Mies reached the mastery of boxing. Unfortunately, there are not so much more examples. In some way, the Dutch Embassy by Koolhaas is the closest relative to it, if we consider more recent architecture.

Just at the time the Barcelona pavilion has been built, another important architect followed similar concepts. In his Villa Savoye, built 1928-31, LeCorbusier employed and demonstrated several new elements in his so-called “new architecture,” among others the box and the ramp. Probably the most important principle, however, was to completely separate construction and tectonics from form and design. Such, he achieved a similar “mobility” as Mies in his Pavilion.

Figure 17a: La Villa Savoye, mixing interior and exterior on the top-roof “garden”. The other zone of overlapping spaces is beneath the house (see next figure 17b).

corbusier Villa Savoye int-ext

Figure 17b: A 3d model of Villa Savoye, showing the ramps that serve as “entrance” (from the outside) and “extrance” (towards the top-roof garden). The principle of the ramp creates a new location for the creation and experience of duration in the sense of Henri Bergson’s durée. Both the ramp and the overlapping of spaces creates a “zona extima,” which is central to the “behavioral turn”.

Corbusier Villa Savoye 06 small model

Comparing La Villa Savoye with the Barcelona pavilion regarding the mobility of space, it is quite obvious, that LeCorbusier handled the confluence and mutual penetration of interior and exterior in a more schematic and geometric manner.19

The quality of the Barcelona building derives from the fact that its symbolic value is not directly implemented, it just emerges upon interaction with the visitor, or the inhabitant. It actualizes the principle of “emerging symbolicity by induced negotiation” of compartments. The compartments become mobile. Such, it is one of the roots of the ramp that appeared in many works of Koolhaas. Yet, its working requires a strong precondition: a shared catalog of values, beliefs and basic psychological determinants, in short, a shared form of life.

On the other hand, these values and beliefs are not directly symbolized, shifting them into their volatile phase, too. Walking through the building, or simply being inside of it, instantiates differentiation processes in the realm of the immaterial. All the differentiation takes place in the interior of the building, hence it brings forth animal-like growth, transcending the crystal and the swarm.

Thus the power of the pavilion. It is able to transform and to transcend the values of the inhabitant/visitor. The zen of silent story-telling.

This example demonstrates clearly that morphogenesis in architecture not only starts in the immateriality of thought, it also has to target the immaterial.

It is clear that such a volatile dynamics, such a active, if not living building is hard to comprehend. In 2008, the Japanese office SANAA has been invited for contributing the annual installation in the pavilion. They explained their work with the following words [24].

“We decided to make transparent curtains using acrylic material, since we didn’t want the installation to interfere in any way with the existing space of the Barcelona Pavilion,” says Kazuyo Sejima of SANAA.

Figure 18. The installation of Japanese office SANAA in the Barcelona Pavilion. You have to take a careful look in order to see the non-interaction.

Well, it certainly rates as something between bravery and stupidity to try “not to interfere in any way with the existing space“. And doing so by highly transparent curtains is quite to the opposite of the buildings characteristics, as it removes precisely the potentiality, the volatility, virtual mobility. Nothing is left, beside the air, perhaps. SANAA committed the typical representational fault, as they tried to use a representational symbol. Of course, the walls that are not walls at all have a long tradition in Japan. Yet, the provided justification would still be simply wrong.

Instead of trying to implement a symbol, the architect or the urbanist has to care about the conditions for the possibility of symbol processes and sign processes. These processes may be political or not, they always will refer to the (potential) commonality of shared experiences.

Above we mentioned that the growth of a building has its beginning in the immateriality of thought. Even for the primitive form of mineralic growth we found that we can understand the variety of resulting shapes only through the conditions embedding the growth process. The same holds, of course, for the growth of buildings. For crystals the outer conditions belong to them as well, so the way of generating the form of a building belongs to the building.

Where to look for the outer conditions for creating the form? I suppose we have to search for them in the way the form gets concrete, starting from a vague idea, which includes its social and particularly its metaphysical conditions. Do you believe in independence, identity, relationality, difference?

It would be interesting to map the difference between large famous offices, say OMA and HdM.

According to their own words, HdM seems to treat the question of material very differently from OMA, where the question of material comes in at later stage [25]. HdM seems to work much more “crystallinic”, form is determined by the matter, the material and the respective culture around it. There are many examples for this, from the wine-yard in California, the “Schaulager” in Basel (CH), the railway control center (Basel), up to the “Bird’s Nest” in Bejing (which by the way is an attempt for providing symbols that went wrong). HdM seem to try to rely to the innate symbolicity of the material, of corporeality itself. In case of the Schaulager, the excavated material have been used to raise the building, the stones from the underground have been erected into a building, which insides looks like a Kafkaesque crystal. They even treat the symbols of a culture as material, somehow counterclockwise to their own “matérialisme brut”. Think about their praise of simplicity, the declared intention to avoid any reference beside the “basic form of the house” (Rudin House). In this perspective, their acclaimed “sensitivity” to local cultures is little more than the exploitation of a coal mine, which also requires sensitivity to local conditions.

Figure 18: Rudin House by Herzog & deMeuron

HdM practice a representationalist anti-symbolism, leaning strongly to architecture as a crystal science, a rather weird attitude to architecture. Probably it is this weirdness that quite unintentionally produces the interest in their architecture through a secondary dynamics in the symbolic. Is it, after all, Hegel’s tricky reason @ work? At least this would explain the strange mismatch of their modernist talking and the interest in their buildings.

6. Conclusions

In this essay we have closed a gap with respect to the theoretical structure of generic differentiation. Generic Differentiation may be displayed by the following diagram (but don’t miss the complete argument).

Figure 19: Generic Differentiation is the key element for solving the binding problem of theory works. This structure is to be conceived not as a closed formula, but rather as a module of a fractal that is created through mutual self-affine mappings of all of the three parts into the respective others.

basic module of the fractal relation between concept/conceptual, generic differentiation/difference and operation/operational comprising logistics and politics that describes the active subject

In earlier essays, we proposed abstract models for probabilistic networks, for associativity and for complexity. These models represent a perspective from the outside onto the differentiating entity. All of these have been set up in a reflective manner by composing certain elements, which in turn can be conceived as framing a particular space of expressibility. Yet, we also proposed the trinity of development, evolution and learning (chp.10 here) for the perspective from the inside of the differentiation process(es), describing different qualities of differentiation.

Well, the concept of growth20 is now joining the group of compound elements for approaching the subject of differentiation from the outside. In some way, using a traditional and actually an inappropriate wording, we could say that this perspective is more analytical than synthetical, more scientific than historiographical. This does not mean, of course, that the complementary perspective is less scientific, or that talking about growth or complexity is less aware of the temporal domain. It is just a matter of weights. As we have pointed out in the previous essay, the meta-theoretical conception (as a structural description of the dynamics of theoretical work) is more like a fractal field than a series of activities.

Anyway, the question is what can we do with the newly re-formulated concept of growth?

First of all, it completes the concept of generic differentiation, as we already mentioned just before. Probably the most salient influence is the enlarged and improved vocabulary to talk about change as far as it concerns the “size” of the form of a something, even if these something is something immaterial. For many reasons, we definitely should resist the tendency to limit the concept of growth to issues of morphology.

Only through this vocabulary we can start to compare the entities in the space of change. Different things from different domains or even different forms of life can be compared to each other, yet not as those things, but rather as media of change. Comparing things that change means to investigate the actualization of different modes of change as this passes through the something. This move is by no means eclecticist. It is even mandatory in order to keep aligned to the primacy of interpretation, the Linguistic Turn, and the general choreostemic constitution.

By means of the new and generalized vocabulary we may overcome the infamous empiricist particularism. Bristle counting, as it is called in biology, particularly entomology. Yes, there are around 450’000 different species of beetles… but… Well, overcoming particularism means that we can spell out new questions: about regulative factors, e.g. for continuity, melting and apoptosis. Guided by the meta-theoretical structure in fig.19 above we may ask: How would a politics of apoptosis look like? What about recycling of space? How could infrastructure foster associativity, learning and creativity of the city, rather than creativity in the city? What is epi/genetics of the growth and differentiation processes in a particular city?

Such questions may appear as elitary, abstract, of only little use. Yet, the contrary is true, as precisely such questions directly concern the productivity of a city, the speed of circulation of capital, whether symbolic or monetary (which anyway is almost the same). Understanding the conditions of growth may lead to cities that are indeed self-sustaining, because the power of life would be a feature deeply built into them. A little, perhaps even homeopathic dose of dedetroitismix, a kind of drug to cure the disease that infected the city of Detroit as well as the planners of Detroit or also all the urbanists that are pseudo-reasoning about Detroit in particular and sustainability in general. Just as Paracelsus mentioned that there is not just one kind of stomach, instead there are hundreds of kinds of stomach, we may recognize how to deal with the thousands of different kinds of cities that all spread across thousands of plateaus, if we understand of how to speak and think about growth.

Notes

1. This might appear a bit arrogant, perhaps, at first sight. Yet, at this point I must insist on it, even as I take into account the most advanced attempts, such as those of Michael Batty [1], Luca D’Acci or Karl Kropf [2]. The proclaimed “science of cities” is in a bad state. Either it is still infected by positivist or modernist myths, or the applied methodological foundations are utterly naive. Batty for instance embraces full-heartedly complexity. But how could one use complexity other as a mere label, if he is going to write such weird mess [3], mixing wildly concepts and subjects?

“Complexity: what does it mean? How do we define it? This is an impossible task because complex systems are systems that defy definition. Our science that attempts to understand such systems is incomplete in the sense that a complex system behaves in ways that are unpredictable. Unpredictability does not mean that these systems are disordered or chaotic but that defy complete definition.

Of course, it is not an impossible task to conceptualize complexity in a sound manner. This is even a mandatory precondition to use it as a concept. It is a bit ridiculous to claim the impossibility and then writing a book about its usage. And this conceptualization, whatsoever it would look like, has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that complex systems may behave unpredictable. Actually, in some way they are better predictable than complete random processes. It remains unclear which kind of unpredictability Batty is referring to? He didn’t disclose anything about this question, which is a quite important one if one is going to apply “complexity science”. And what about the concept of risk, and modeling, then, which actually can’t be separated at all?

His whole book [1] is nothing else than an accumulation of half-baked formalistic particulars. When he talks about networks, he considers only logistic networks. Bringing in fractals, he misses to mention the underlying mechanisms of growth and the formal aspects (self-affine mapping). In his discussion of the possible role of evolutionary theory [4], following Geddes, Batty resorts again to physicalism and defends it. Despite he emphasizes the importance of the concept of “mechanism”, despite he correctly distinguishes development from evolution, despite he demands an “evolutionary thinking”, he fails to get to the point: A proper attitude to theory under conditions of evolution and complexity, a probabilistic formulation, an awareness for self-referentiality, insight to the incommensurability of emergent traits, the dualism of code and corporeality, the space of evo-devo-cogno. In [4], one can find another nonsensical statement about complexity on p.567:

“The essential criterion for a complex system is a collection of elements that act independently of one another but nevertheless manage to act in concert, often through constraints on their actions and through competition and co-evolution. The physical trace of such complexity, which is seen in aggregate patterns that appear ordered, is the hallmark of self-organisation.” (my emphasis).

The whole issue with complex systems is that there is no independence… they do not manage to act in concert… wildly mixing with concepts like evolution or competition… physics definitely can nothing say about the patterns, and the hallmark of self-organizing systems is not surely not just the physical trace: it is the informational re-configuration.

Not by pure chance therefore he is talking about “tricks” ([5], following Hamdi [7]): “The trick for urban planning is to identify key points where small change can lead spontaneously to massive change for the better.” Without a proper vocabulary of differentiation, that is, without a proper concept of differentiation, one inevitably has to invoke wizards…

But the most serious failures are the following: regarding the cultural domain, there is no awareness about the symbolic/semiotic domain, the disrespect of information, and regarding methodology, throughout his writings, Batty mistakes theory for models and vice versa, following the positivist trail. There is not the slightest evidence in his writing that there is even a small trace of reflection. This however is seriously indicated, because cities are about culture.

This insensitivity is shared by talented people like Luca D’Acci, who is still musing about “ideal cities”. His procedural achievements as a craftsman of empirism are impressive, but without reflection it is just threatening, claiming the status of the demiurg.

Despite all these failures, Batty’s approach and direction is of course by far more advanced than the musings of Conzen, Caniggia or Kropf, which are intellectually simply disastrous.There are numerous examples for a highly uncritical use of structural concepts, for mixing of levels of arguments, crude reductionism, a complete neglect of mechanisms and processes etc. For instance, Kropf in [6]

A morphological critique is necessarily a cultural critique. […] Why, for example, despite volumes of urban design guidance promoting permeability, is it so rare to find new development that fully integrates main routes between settlements or roads directly linking main routes (radials and counter-radials)?” (p.17)

The generic structure of urban form is a hierarchy of levels related part to whole. […] More effective and, in the long run, more successful urbanism and urban design will only come from a better understanding of urban form as a material with a range of handling characteristics.” (p.18)

It is really weird to regard form as matter, isn’t it? The materialist final revenge… So, through the work of Batty there is indeed some reasonable hope for improvement. Batty & Marshall are certainly heading to the right direction when they demand (p.572 [4]):

“The crucial step – still to be made convincingly – is to apply the scientifically inspired understanding of urban morphology and evolution to actual workable design tools and planning approaches on the ground.

But it is equally certain that an adoption of evolutionary theory that seriously considers an “elan vital” will not be able to serve as a proper foundation. What is needed instead is a methodologically sound abstraction of evolutionary theory as we have proposed it some time ago, based on a probabilistic formalization and vocabulary. (…end of the longest footnote I have ever produced…)

2. The concept mechanism should not be mistaken as kind of a “machine”. In stark contrast to machines, mechanisms are inherently probabilistic. While machines are synonymic to their plan, mechanisms imply an additional level of abstraction, the population and its dynamics. .

3. Whenever it is tried to proof or implement the opposite, the primacy of logic, characteristic gaps are created, more often than not of a highly pathological character.

4. see also the essay about “Behavior”, where we described the concept of “Behavioral Coating”.

5. Deleuzean understanding of differential [10], for details see “Miracle of Comparison”.

6. As in the preceding essays, we use the capital “U” if we refer to the urban as a particular quality and as a concept, in order to distinguish it from the ordinary adjective that refers to common sense understanding.

7. Only in embryos or in automated industrial production we find “development”.

8. The definition (from Wiki) is: “In animals, metamery is defined as a mesodermal event resulting in serial repetition of unit subdivisions of ectoderm and mesoderm products.”

9. see our essay about Reaction-Diffusion-Systems.

10. To emancipate from constant and pervasive external “environmental” pressures is the main theme of evolution. This is the deep reason that generalists are favored to the costs of specialists (at least on evolutionary time scales).

11. Aristotle’s idea of the four causes is itself a scheme to talk about change. .

12. This principle is not only important for Urban affairs, but also for a rather different class of arrangements, machines that are able to move in epistemic space.

13. Here we meet the potential of symbols to behave according to a quasi-materiality.

14. Heinrich Klotz‘ credo in [21] is „not only function, but also fiction“, without however taking the mandatory step away from the attitude to predefine symbolic value. Such, Klotz himself remains a fully-fledged modernist. see also Wolfgang Welsch in [22], p.22 .

15. There is of course also Robert Venturi with his  “Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture”, or Bernard Tschumi with his disjunction principle summarized in “Architecture and Disjunction.” (1996). Yet, both went as far as necessary, for “complexity” can be elementarized and generalized even further as he have been proposing it (here), which is, I think a necessary move to combine architecture and urbanism regarding space and time. 

16. see footnote 5.

17. ??? .

18. Remember, that the behavior of cities is also determined by the legal setup, the traditions, etc.

19.The ramp is an important element in contemporary architecture, yet, often used as a logistic solution and mostly just for the disabled or the moving staircase. In Koolhaas’ works, it takes completely different role as an element of story-telling. This aspect of temporality we will investigate in more detail in another essay. Significantly, LeCorbusier used the ramp as a solution for a purely spatial problem.

20. Of course, NOT as a phenomenon!

References

  • [1] Michael Batty, Cities and Complexity: Understanding Cities with Cellular Automata, Agent-Based Models, and Fractals. MIT Press, Boston 2007.
  • [2] Karl Kropf (2009). Aspects of urban form. Urban Morphology 13 (2), p.105-120.
  • [3] Michael Batty’s website.
  • [4] Michael Batty and Stephen Marshall (2009). The evolution of cities: Geddes, Abercrombie and the new physicalism. TPR, 80 (6) 2009 doi:10.3828/tpr.2009.12
  • [5] Michael Batty (2012). Urban Regeneration as Self-Organization. Architectural Design, 215, p.54-59.
  • [6] Karl Kropf (2005). The Handling Characteristics of Urban Form. Urban Design 93, p.17-18.
  • [7] Nabeel Hamdi, Small Change: About the Art of Practice and the Limits of Planning, Earthscan, London 2004.
  • [8] Dennis L. Sepper, Descartes’s Imagination Proportion, Images, and the Activity of Thinking. University of California Press, Berkeley 1996. available online.
  • [9] C. Bandt and M. Mesing (2009). Self-affine fractals of finite type. Banach Center Publications 84, 131-148. available online.
  • [9] Gilles Deleuze, Difference & Repetition. [1967].
  • [10] Moussaïd M, Perozo N, Garnier S, Helbing D, Theraulaz G (2010). The Walking Behaviour of Pedestrian Social Groups and Its Impact on Crowd Dynamics. PLoS ONE 5(4): e10047. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0010047.
  • [11] Claire Detrain, Jean-Louis Deneubourg (2006). Self-organized structures in a superorganism: do ants “behave” like molecules? Physics of Life Reviews, 3(3)p.162–187.
  • [12] Dave Mosher, Secret of Annoying Crowds Revealed, Science now, 7 April 2010. available online.
  • [13] Charles Jencks, The Architecture of the Jumping Universe. Wiley 2001.
  • [14] Rem Koolhaas. Delirious New York.
  • [15] Markus Heidingsfelder, Rem Koolhaas – A Kind of Architect. DVD 2007.
  • [16] Rem Koolhaas, Bigness – or the problem of Large. in: Rem Koolhaas, Bruce Mau & OMA, S,M,L,XL. p.495-516. available here (mirrored)
  • [17] Wiki entry (english edition) about Rem Koolhaas, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rem_Koolhaas, last accessed Dec 4th, 2012.
  • [18] Rem Koolhaas (2010?). “On OMA’s Work”. Lecture as part of “The Areen Architecture Series” at the Department of Architecture and Design, American University of Beirut. available online. (the date of the lecture is not clearly identifiable on the Areen AUB website).
  • [19] Hans Ulrich Obrist, Interview with Rem Koolhaas at the Biennale 2010, Venice. Produced by the Institute of the 21st Century with support from ForYourArt, The Kayne Foundation. available online on youtube, last accessed Nov 27th, 2012.
  • [20] Heinrich Klotz, The history of postmodern architecture, 1986.
  • [21] Wolfgang Welsch, Unsere postmoderne Moderne. 6.Auflage, Oldenbourg Akademie Verlag, Berlin 2002 [1986].
  • [22] Vera Bühlmann, inahbiting media. Thesis, University of Basel 2009. (in german, available online)
  • [23] Report in de zeen (2008). available online.
  • [24] Jacques Herzog, Rem Koolhaas, Urs Steiner (2000). Unsere Herzen sind von Nadeln durchbohrt. Ein Gespräch zwischen den Architekten Rem Koolhaas und Jacques Herzog über ihre Zusammenarbeit. Aufgezeichnet von Urs Steiner.in: Marco Meier (Ed.). Tate Modern von Herzog & de Meuron. in: Du. Die Zeitschrift der Kultur. Vol. No. 706, Zurich, TA-Media AG, 05.2000. pp. 62-63. available online.

۞

Urban Reason I

September 15, 2012 § Leave a comment

Rem Koolhaas is not an architect. Neither could he be regarded.

as an urbanist. Well, in some way it is undeniable that he is engaged in architecture or the design and arrangement of urban environments. So it seems that he sometimes behaves as architects or urbanists do. Yet, there is something more about his way.

Koolhaas is a story-teller. As a good story-teller he also is a great listener. Koolhaas is treating builts and buildings in a very special way. Not as built matter, but rather as a story. Story-telling always means, and so also in the case of Koolhaas, to weave a particular fabric. The specialty of the fabric established through the story is the densification of potentiality that appears in the course of telling a story and listening to it. As the fabric, the story starts with a series, a thin thread, recurring to almost the same place after it has been departing to almost the same distant.

A story differs in precise way from a “normal” text. Alike, story-telling is not presenting. By means of the story one does not try to say something particular. One does not try to say.  Quite in contrast, stories play with the potentiality to do some magic with the particulars. Particulars are much like the facts after we have fixed them, after we have stopped talking about and playing with them (The same holds for universals.) The story makes them vanish at some point and re-appear at another point. Even the point here is a deliberate, that is a designed illusion. Magic is best if words and acts amalgamate, denying such the importance they pretend. Think of Shakespeare and his plays.

Stories are not bound to particular media. We can create it as a novel, as a play in the theater, as a “tele novela”, as a movie, but also as the unfolding of possible events in a building or the arrangement of potentiality in urban builts. As a play with potentiality, the story is not even bound to a particular form. We could tell the same story in very different ways, yet, it is impossible to tell the same story as an exact copy a second time. Story-telling results in a deep alignment between the story-teller and the story-listeners. And between the listeners. And between the stories. Stories never come as a single one, as a particular. These alignments remain established only as long as it is not spoken about. If there is any methodology Koolhaas follows at all we may say that he aligns stories and aligns through stories.

Stories don’t actualize a particular function as well, of course. Telling a story means to play with them as magicians do. Letting them appear and vanish, not only at will, but also for one’s delight. It is in this secondary plane of the stories’ immanence where the notion of an object or materiality becomes meaningful at all. Just by the power of the story to let them appear, to make them created, to make them vanish. The story is a transfer of power while there is neither a clear origin nor an identifiable goal of this transfer.

The story tells something that neither can be spoken about nor what could be demonstrated. Story-telling is not explication, but implication. It is not just unfolding. It transcends unfolding by wrapping it into the fabric it creates. The format of the story is the only adequate response to entities that are autonomous. Behaving entities, in other words. We discussed the issue of behavior with regard to text and the urban last time.

Koolhaas the story-teller. Only as a story-teller you can invent. Skyscraper that do not scrape the (physical) skies, for instance, but rather the way of story-telling (CCTV). The skyscraper as a loop. Taken as a particular, that’s just pure craziness, a collapse of categories. Taken as a story, e.g. about the fact that the alignment by a story always comes as loop, it easily appears as a reasonable consequence.

Figure 1: Closing the Loop as story-telling by building a building that is used to produce story-telling (TV).

Figure 2: Approaching the Loop. Rendering for the Science Center Hamburg. The building as metaphor: Science is the story of telling a story about doing it over and over again. Though the loop is not a smooth one.

Without stories there is only habit, and here I mean a blind collective habit, swarms, the fashion of the neurons. Only as a story-teller you can transcend matter, the built, the particular, the structure and the grammar. Only by means of stories new materiality is created, usually first in the realm of the symbolic, as or by new symbols. In the beginning there is the story. Without stories, the world is full of necessities and givens, the world would be even almost synonymical to those. Without them there would be reality only (which fortunately is not possible), but no potential. Stories and necessities are mutually exclusive. I prefer the story. It is the story, and only the story, that opens the future, creates potential relationality that establishes culture as the Conditional II, III, IV …

Koolhaas the cross-medialist, who happens to tell stories by building and buildings. Humans can’t be without stories, of course. Even if not explicitly told, any social alignment brings it to the surface, at least implicitly. Even if there is no story at first place, it will invade the dead claim of the given, like the plants, the animals, small and large, the relations, close and distant, like the succession of an ecosystem on a blanked piece of rock. Stories are invasive. Koolhaas is invasive, patiently.

Of course there are rules, particular structural elements, weights and preferences. Such like the box, the ramp, the script, the surprise, the opening and the closing (e.g. of perspectives and views), the pattern in the fabric, the randolation. These rules are completely irrelevant as particular, despite they are necessary. Stories play also with the rules. Koolhaas developed his use of boxes, boxes in the box, vanishing of the boxed boxes, the block as the ultra-box, the entity of the antithetic box (the ramp), the box as module and as figure, the dematerialization of the box (the script), the re-materialization of the box as behavior, into his way of story-telling and building, just to put all this something into the box again (The Dutch embassy), yet without refraining to demonstrate that the box is a box only if there is something other, the non-box. In one word, story-telling.

Figure 3a: The story about the evolution of the Box: The Box and its Surround. Note that the wall-like surround is a building of the embassy, too, containing flats for the personnel of the embassy. It is an essential pat of the whole arrangement, providing the space for cube to be perceived as a cube. Metaphorically, and such extending the story-telling, Koolhaas refers here to the ex-territorial nature of embassies.

Figure 3b: The Box that denies to be a Box. What you see here is the main functional element of the embassy, the room for diplomatic meetings. Providing a function as the purpose of the building that is outside of it and its boxedness. Of course, this not architecture, but rather story-telling.

Figure 3c: The Box and its incorporated anti-thesis (the ramp). Some years before turning fully into an architectural embryologist (Porto, see figure 4 below), Koolhaas employed the principle of creating space by melting for the first time. At that time, the ramp was already a well-established element in Koolhaas’ toolbox (see the Seattle Public Library for its mastering). The result is a simple external shape and a rich and dynamic interior structure, much like in an animal organism, but quite different from plants or even crystals (see this for different models of growth).

Figure 3d: The script as the Ariadne thread of Architecture. Where others talk about the “program” to be fulfilled by the building and try to optimize it by means of computers (e.g. Kees Christianse in Zurich near the main station), leading almost necessarily, i.e. grammatically to logically “structured” ugliness, Koolhaas refers to scripts and stories, such creating a multi-leveled and above all open coherence and consistency. Which way do you prefer?

Story-telling is weaving of potentiality and weaving with potentiality. Story-telling is aterritorial, non-geological. Nothing could be more different from story-telling than geology. (Just think of Libeskind’s or Eisenman’s titanic geomorphisms, thrown rocks [Aronoff Center, Victoria and Albert Museum], canyons made from concrete [Jewish Museum in Berlin].) As story-telling materializes particular relations it also implies the randolation. Koolhaas the String theorist. He plays a special kind of music on strings without ends. He even manages to organize whole populations of those strings and their tones, sometimes at least. As a musician-urbanist, Koolhaas belongs to the rare species of builders that are completely aware of time. He not only doesn’t try to expel it from the city, to make the city timeless, as all the modernists are trying. As a story-teller he plays with time, he creates Eigen-times, sheafs of times, planes of time, he uses choreographing deriving as a kind of applied embryology (Casa da Musica, Porto), when he melts the space out of the block, as it happens with organisms before their nativity. By that, Koolhaas is aware of time as a tool for building, not just a parameter of a formula addressing change. He also employs a concept of morphological differentiation and growth far ahead of any of his colleagues. Koolhaas, the accoucheur. Or the breeder. The pander. In “Mars attacks” the journalist asked: Do they have two sexes?”

Figure 4: Traces of Time. Koolhaas at the final demonstration of his concept for the Casa da Musica (Porto). You can see his showing of the removal of inner space, reminding strongly to the embryological principle of establishing form and space through melting tissue generating implicitly structured space, rather than by enclosing space through explicit enclosure. This way time is established as the historicity of constraints during development, quite in contrast to the time-inert procedure of enclosing.

Koolhaas is pretty conscious about what he is doing. That’s certainly not true for many other architects. They could not be regarded as story-tellers. They are commas. Like a rule itself. Even if there is pretentious wording around. Else, story-telling is never deconstructivist. Derrida tried to tell a story without telling a story, by denying it. Not quite reasonable, I guess, except if you are addicted to the ancient Egyptian underworld of shadows (as Derrida was). Stories are purely positive, yet without being positivist. Denying story-telling and by the same time pretending to do it causes a downward spiral. It leads you to the point zero on the scale of human affairs, geology, physics, and titans. Consequently, Eisenman and Libeskind, and even Gehry, arrived just there, in praising the titanic geosphere. (With that mind set, they should design oil drilling platforms instead)

Thus, either all those architects are not architects at all (which is a view difficult to hold), or Koolhaas is not an architect. Here we could say, q.e.d., but that’s a different story.

Well, probably that came a bit too strong now. For it is not possible for human activities to separate story from non-story. We are language-beings, down to the last quantum. First, we all take part in the unfolding of culture, which establishes kind of a (big) story and consists of many, many smaller and tiny stories. Second, we can’t step out into a zone free of language. Third, language always triggers what can be conceived as the differential locutionarity that comes with the use of language. The concept of locutionarity has been introduced by Austin with regard to the different perspectives and scopes that we can observe and employ in language. The distinction he made is straightforward: We say something as an almost physical performance, we say what we think is and what we want, we say something for strategic reasons. These three dimensions have been described by Austin in his Speech Act Theory as locutionary, illocutionary and perlocutionary. .Yet, concerning story telling there is a further level. Perhaps we could call it the delocutionary aspect and this aspect is the playing with the other indeed serious levels, playfully challenging their seriousness. It is here, and only here, where culture becomes pleasant.

A similar distinction could be made for architecture. It is quite obvious that any architecture below the delocutionary aspect can easily be reduced to cause and effect, to necessities, amenable to analytic reasoning. Fortunately the world is not like that, neither in language, nor in architecture. Or should I say: hopefully? I can’t follow this trail of the possibility of “architectural acts” further here. Yet, the point should have become a bit more clear.

Koolhaas mingles texting and building, text and built. Like a chef de cuisine Koolhaas knows the procedures for creating a runaway mediatization, a self-sustaining, if not self-accelerating explosion of interpretations. A good story defies the single interpretation, the function, the strategy, the territory. It sweeps away the claim of the apriori necessary. It not only carries you to unknown shores, it even creates new currents in every moment. To be more precise here, it is not the story that causes this. It is more appropriate to say that the story is created anew in each and any moment, in statu nascendi, if the “well-formed” series (requires an author!) and networks of symbols and references invades your mind as an listener and interpreter. Many things happen through such encounters. Even a short list would distrack us here. The point is: Some pieces (stories) evoke more, taking the step into sustained imagination, others less, being kept in a static factualism that could not count as a story, perhaps as a report, at most, and some close to nil, stumbling babbling. Yet, the example of Singapore demonstrates that things are more complicated than it might appear, for the whole culture could be devoted to plans and development instead of imagination and evolution.

Koolhaas created a trilogy of texts that form their own story: The Generic City (the script), Junkspace (the play), and Singapore Songlines (the music). It is often said that The Generic City is about the city. Nothing could be more wrong than that. It would be as if one would say that the movie by Godard is about the movement of the actors, or even of the celluloid. In an interview Godard once said that he is not making movies. He pretended not to be interested in movies as such. His interest is the shaping of time. The Generic City is a story that performatively explores the story that unfolds if we conceive a movie script that could be thought to create a city. Of course, there is something generic about it, yet there is nothing about the generics of cityness, isn’t it? I suppose it is due to the gap established by the different mediality that prevents to take The Generic City as a piece about architecture, at least no more so than Blade Runner is, or Playtime (J.Tati).

It is often said the Junkspace is a (desperate) critique of the outcome of the work of swarm architects. Well, this perspective is not completely out of the world. Though it is probably more reasonable to take it (the written piece) as a staged play. Remember, there are no sentences, no paragraphs, no enumerations, no structure, no analytics. There are just waves of words. Where these waves densify, the junk becomes a medium. In Junkspace, Koolhaas explores—and struggles with—the mediality of concertant activity. Of words, of swarm architects.

Koolhaas is not an architect. And architecture is not about form. To say so, would be much like to conflate literature science as literature. Or to take Shakespeare as a person capable of writing. Or Umberto Eco as funky professor of semiotics. (The trace of semiotics we didn’t explore here, despite we could have done so.)

Of course, there is structure, of course form is important, of course there is a grammatology. But all this is not about what architecture and the urban is about. The question then is, what is the about of the city? One part of the aboutness of the city is clearly performance, and by this I do not refer to the durability of materials, as architects usually are going to interpret this term. Performance is about situating one’s own body, one could add, as part of a delicately urban story.

Figure 4a: Performance as a response to the question of the “Situated Body”, or how to situated the body in the city. Heinrich Lueber near the Paradeplatz, Bahnhofstrasse Zurich, Switzerland (2005?). Space is where bodies can relate. Relations are inevitable, even if bodies get fixed. The categorical borders to buildings blur.

Figure 4b: Yves Klein, Leap into the Void (1960). Space is where nothingness is. Despite being avantgarde, and in contrast to Lueber, Klein remains modernist as he just transposes the claim of modernism for metaphysical independence.

Performance challenges what we have called before the existential resistance of things and (situative) arrangements. Of course, the body and its image, our model about the body are rather significant for the outcome of this challenge. The other part concerns talking about that performance. Understanding this talking about implies to think about the coming along, or a bit more clearly, to think about the conditions of this talking about. This will be the subject of the second part about Urban Reason (and the story behind it).

In his more recent works Koolhaas undeniably is approaching the field of differentiation. Unlike other architects, he employs a strictly non-analytical way of creating structure, one that strongly reminds to the differentiation processes in embryos. The resulting emphasis of rich internal structure, where each of the contained sites and locations is unique, results in a much more animal-like characteristics than it is the case for any other  architectural designer. This introduces behavior as an important immaterial component of buildings, and explicitly so. it is of a major significance that this creates the context for Koolhaas’ story telling. In, or by, a crystalline building, from Seagram to Eastern Berlin, even in a fractal one, you can’t tell any story, simply because the immaterial make-up does not allow to do so in these cases. As a matter of fact, Koolhaas has been fascinated by internal differentiation and the resulting structures even before he’d built any building at all, as everyone can read in his Delirious New York.

Recently, this tendency to explore the issue of differentiation strengthened again when he published his “Project Japan” [2] together with Hans-Ulrich Obrist. This book is a collection of interviews with all the still alive propagators of the Metabolism movement. Metabolism deliberately turned away from the machine perspective, stressing the adaptivity of buildings (and partially also of cities), which should be achieved through an imitation of animal life cycles, i.e. through adaptation of the principles of birth and growth. Here, we just want to note that Metabolism took a rather simple stance towards the issue of differentiation. It does not satisfy any advanced theoretical intentions. Nevertheless it represents an important starting point. And as we just mentioned, it is highly significant, and supportive for our perspective here, that Koolhaas brought these ideas to the fore, and with it the topic of differentiation.

Koolhaas certainly and confidently departed from those positions he explored (and criticized so much) in his trilogy of the mid-1990ies (Generic City, Junkspace, Singapore Songlines). In some way he practically demonstrated the future directions of theory in architecture (and urbanism, if you still want to separate those). Yet, it would be a mistake to conceive his answer to the above mentioned theoretical explorations, particularly given by Casa da Musica and the Dutch Embassy, as inconsistent or contradictory. Those texts remain fully valid, quite in contrast to the suggestions of Jacques Herzog in his “How Do Cities Differ?” [1] Herzog eagerly writes:

The Ideal City abdicated ages ago, as have Aldo Rossi’s Rational City, Rem Koolhaas’s Generic City and Venturi’s Strip. Not to mention Le Corbusier’s Ville Radieuse. All of these attempts to describe the city, to comprehend and reinvent it, were both necessary and useful. But today they leave us cold. Like water under the bridge, they no longer concern us. We cannot relate to them because they refer to a world that is no longer ours. The time has come to relinquish our longing for labels, to abandon manifestos and theories. They don’ t hit the mark; they simply brand the author for life. There are no theories of cities; there are only cities.

In this text, Herzog and his partner deMeuron stress the point that cities have a body, a corporeality. Cities can be, after, all vulnerated, injured or even destroyed. HdM do not follow the infamous (ridiculous?) approach of so-called emergency design. Yet, HdM are nevertheless wrong in several aspects, particularly in his overt dismissal of theory. Theory is inevitable, even for amoebas. In a previous essay we spent some space on the role of theory. Astonishingly, shortly after this dismissal the office run by Herzog and deMeuron published a space atlas for Switzerland, depicting their suggestions for a better planning in the whole country. How would one do that without theory? In the same way as in Singapore? Not so astonishingly thus is the almost dictatorial attitude they employ in this atlas.

Both, Koolhaas and Herzog & deMeuron discover the importance of corporeality, the individual materiality of the city, bundling, comprising and compressing all the historical contingency and continuity. The answers, however, that they gave could not be more different. HdM got deeply stuck in a pseudo-paradoxon:

Urban development today does not begin with Barthes’ punctum and it does not seek the most worthwhile targets; it occurs wherever a plot of land happens to be or become available. Yet the Twin Towers affect every city and their destruction affects urban dwellers everywhere. Terrorists see in them the destruction of a symbol; urban dwellers see in them a massive attack on their neighborhoods and their homes. The specific, the unique, that which distinguishes us from others, the indestructible: all these have become vulnerable, and so we have to protect ourselves. Time and again. But how? The best protection would be to aspire to “indistinguishability,” the “Indistinguishable City.” And that is the greatest illusion of all.

I just would like to remember that the “indistinguishability” may be conceived as the holy grail of modernists. Without theory, one inevitably gets drowned in factuality, one get totally disabled to see any immaterial effect of design, the associativity of material arrangements, where we find upstream and downstream effects. No wonder he denies the importance of Barthes and his semiotics. Herzog even moves the symbolic from everyday life to the side of the aggressor, which is almost a scandalous denunciation. The poor guy seems to think that neighborhoods and homes are without symbols, without symbolicity. Indeed a poor guy. A complaining modernist. Condemned to blind actions, sticking to the arbitrariness of the physical (“…wherever a plot of land happens become available.”). Obviously, HdM do not know about Immanuel Kant’s insight: “Thoughts without content are empty, intuitions without concepts are blind” [3]

Well, as we mentioned before, the contrast to the animate building(s) of Koolhaas could not be greater. With his theoretical and practical explorations of the topos of differentiation Koolhaas left them far behind. We will return to this topos of differentiation in the next pieces, since it is by no means a trivial one. Above all, it is a crucial yet so far completely neglected element for any concept of sustainability of urban environments. Honestly, how could sustainability be thought of at all without a proper concept of differentiation? Hence, Koolhaas’ contribution to this problematic area is drastically undervalued as well.

References

  • [1] Jacques Herzog, How do Cities differ? Introductory text to the course of study on the cities of Naples – Paris – The Canary Islands – Nairobi at the ETH Studio Basel – Contemporary City Institute. In: Gerhard Mack (Ed.). Herzog & de Meuron 1997-2001. The Complete Works. Volume 4. Basel / Boston / Berlin, Birkhäuser, 2008. Vol. No. 4. pp. 241-244.First published in: Jacques Herzog: Terror sin Teoría. Ante la ‘Ciudad indiferente’. In: Luis Fernández-Galiano (Ed.). Arquitectura Viva. Herzog & de Meuron, del Natural. Vol. No. 91, Madrid, Arquitectura Viva, 07.2003. p. 128. available online.
  • [2] Rem Koolhaas & Hans Ulrich Obrist. Project Japan: Metabolism Talks. Taschen, Berlin 2011.
  • [3] Immanuel Kant, Kritik der reinen Vernunft (KrV B75, A51)

۞

Modernism, revisited (and chunked)

July 19, 2012 § Leave a comment

There can be no doubt that nowadays “modernism”,

due to a series of intensive waves of adoption and criticism, returning as echoes from unexpected grounds, is used as a label, as a symbol. It allows to induce, to claim or to disapprove conformity in previously unprecedented ways, it helps to create subjects, targets and borders. Nevertheless, it is still an unusual symbol, as it points to a complex history, in other words to a putative “bag” of culture(s). As a symbol, or label, “modernity” does not point to a distinct object, process or action. It invokes a concept that emerged through history and is still doing so. Even as a concept, it is a chimaera. Still unfolding from practice, it did not yet move completely into the realm of the transcendental, to join other concepts in the fields most distant from any objecthood.

This Essay

Here, we continue the investigation of the issues raised by Koolhaas’ “Junkspace”. Our suggestion upon the first encounter has been that Koolhaas struggles himself with his attitude to modernism, despite he openly blames it for creating Junkspace. (Software as it is currently practiced is definitely part of it.) His writing bearing the same title thus gives just a proper list of effects and historical coincidences—nothing less, but also nothing more. Particularly, he provides no suggestions about how to find or construct a different entry point into the problematic field of “building urban environments”.

In this essay we will try to outline how a possible—and constructive—archaeology of modernism could look like, with a particular application to urbanism and/or architecture. The decisions about where to dig and what to build have been, of course, subjective. Of course, our equipment is, as almost always in archaeology, rather small, suitable for details, not for surface mining or the like. That is, our attempts are not directed towards any kind of completeness.

We will start by applying a structural perspective, which will yield the basic set of presuppositions that characterizes modernism. This will be followed by a discussion of four significant aspects, for which we will hopefully be able to demonstrate the way of modernist thinking. These four areas concern patterns and coherence, meaning, empiricism and machines. The third major section will deal with some aspects of contemporary “urbanism” and how Koolhaas relates to that, particularly with respect to his “Junkspace”. Note, however, that we will not perform a literary study of Koolhaas’ piece, as most of his subjects there can be easily deciphered on the basis of the arguments as we will show them in the first two sections.

The final section then comprises a (very) brief note about a possible future of urbanism, which actually, perhaps, already has been lifting off. We will provide just some very brief suggestions in order to not appear as (too) presumptuous.

Table of Content (active links)

1. A structural Perspective

According to its heterogeneity, the usage of that symbol “modernity” is fuzzy as well. While the journal Modernism/modernity, published by John Hopkins University Press, concentrates „on the period extending roughly from 1860 to the mid-twentieth century,“ while galleries for “Modern Art” around the world consider the historical period since post-Renaissance (conceived as the period between 1400 to roughly 1900) up today, usually not distinguishing modernism from post-modernism.

In order to understand modernism we have to take the risk of proposing a structure behind the mere symbolical. Additionally, and accordingly, we should resist the abundant attempt to define a particular origin of it. Foucault called those historians who were addicted to the calendar and the idea of the origin, the originator, or more abstract the “cause”, “historians in short trousers” (meaning a particular intellectual infantilism, probably a certain disability to think abstractly enough) [1]. History does not realize a final goal either, and similarly it is bare nonsense to claim that history came to an end. As in any other evolutionary process historical novelty builds on the leftover of preceding times.

After all, the usage of symbols and labels is a language game. It is precisely a modernist misunderstanding to dissect history into phases. Historical phases are not out there, or haven’t been  there. It is by far more appropriate to conceive it as waves, yet not of objects or ideas, but of probabilities. So, the question is what happened in the 19th century that it became possible to objectify a particular wave? Is it possible to give any reasonable answer here?

Following Foucault, we may try to reconstruct the sediments that fell out from these waves like the cripples of sand in the shallow water on the beach. Foucault’s main invention put forward then in his “Archaeology” [1] is the concept of the “field of proposals”. This field is not 2-dimensional, it is high-dimensional, yet not of a stable dimensionality. In many respects, we could conceive it as a historian’s extension of the Form of Life as Wittgenstein used to call it. Later, Foucault would include the structure of power, its exertion and objectifications, the governmentality into this concept.

Starting with the question of power, we can see an assemblage that is typical for the 19th century and the latest phase of the 18th. The invention of popular rights, even the invention of the population as a conscious and a practiced idea, itself an outcome of the French revolution, is certainly key for any development since then. We may even say that its shockwaves and the only little less shocking echoes of these waves haunted us till the end of the 20th century. Underneath the French Revolution we find the claim of independence that traces back to the Renaissance, formed into philosophical arguments by Leibniz and Descartes. First, however, it brought the Bourgeois, a strange configuration of tradition and the claim of independence, bringing forth the idea of societal control as a transfer from the then emerging intensification of the idea of the machine. Still exhibiting class-consciousness, it was at the roots of the modernists rejection of tradition. Yet, even the Bourgeois builds on the French Revolution (of course) and the assignment of a strictly positive value to the concept of densification.

Without the political idea of the population, the positive value of densification, the counter-intuitive and prevailing co-existence of the ideas of independence and control neither the direction nor the success of the sciences and their utilization in the field of engineering could have been emerging as it actually did. Consequently, right to the end of the hot phase of French Revolution, it was argued by Foucroy in 1794 that it would be necessary to found a „Ecole Polytechnique“1. Densification, liberalism and engineering brought another novelty of this amazing century: the first spread of mass media, newspapers in that case, which have been theorized only approx. 100 years later.

The rejection of tradition as part of the answer to the question “What’s next?” is perhaps one of the strongest feelings for the modernist in the 19th century. It even led to considerable divergence of attitudes across domains within modernism. For instance, while the arts rejected realism as a style building on “true representation,” technoscience embraced it. Yet, despite the rejection of immediate visual representations in the arts, the strong emphasis on objecthood and apriori objectivity remained fully in charge. Think of Kandinsky’s “Punkt und Linie zu Fläche“ (1926), or the strong emphasis of pure color (Malevich), even of the idea of purity itself, then somewhat paradoxically called abstractness, or the ideas of the Bauhaus movement about the possibility and necessity to objectify rules of design based on dot, line, area, form, color, contrast etc.. The proponents of Bauhaus, even their contemporary successors in Weimar (and elsewhere) never understood that the claim for objectivity particularly in design is impossible to be satisfied, it is a categorical fault. Just to avoid a misunderstanding that itself would be a fault of the same category: I personally find Kandinsky’s work mostly quite appealing, as well as some of the work by the Bauhaus guys, yet for completely different reasons that he (they) might have been dreaming of.

Large parts of the arts rejected linearity, while technoscience took it as their core. Yet, such divergences are clearly the minority. In all domains, the rejection of tradition was based on an esteem of the idea of independence and resulted predominantly in the emphasis of finding new technical methods to produce unseen results. While the emphasis of the method definitely enhances the practice of engineering, it is not innocent either. Deleuze sharply rejects the saliency of methods [10]:

Method is the means of that knowledge which regulates the collaboration of all the faculties. It is therefore the manifestation of a common sense or the realisation of a Cogitatio natura, […] (p.165)

Here, Deleuze does not condemn methods as such. Undeniably, it is helpful to explicate them, to erect a methodology, to symbolize them. Yet, culture should not be subordinated to methods, not even sub-cultures.

The leading technoscience of these days had been physics, closely followed by chemistry, if it is at all reasonable to separate the two. It brought the combustion engine (from Carnot to Daimler), electricity (from Faraday to Edison, Westinghouse and Tesla), the control of temperature (Kelvin, Boltzmann), the elevator, and consequently the first high-rise buildings along with a food industry. In the second half of 19th century it was fashionable for newspapers to maintain a section showing up the greatest advances and success of technoscience of the last week.

In my opinion it is eminently important to understand the linkage between the abstract ideas, growing from a social practice as their soil-like precursory condition, and the success of a particular kind of science. Independence, control, population on the one side, the molecule and its systematics, the steam and the combustion engine, electricity and the fridge on the other side. It was not energy (in the form of wood and coals) that could be distributed, electricity meant an open potential for an any  of potential [2]. Together they established a new Form of Life which nowadays could be called “modern,” despite the fact that its borders blur, if we could assume their existence at all. Together, combined into a cultural “brown bag,” these ingredients led to an acceleration, not to the least also due to the mere physical densification, an increase of the mere size of the population, produced (literally so) by advances in the physical and biomedical sciences.

At this point we should remind ourselves that factual success does neither legitimize to expect sustainable success nor to reason about any kind of universal legitimacy of the whole setup. The first figure would represent simply naivety, the second the natural fallacy, which seduces us to conclude from the actual (“what is”) to the deontical and the normative (“what should be”).

As a practice, the modern condition is itself dependent on a set of beliefs. These can neither be questioned nor discussed at all from within the “modern attitude,” of course. Precisely this circumstance makes it so difficult to talk with modernists about their beliefs. They are not only structurally invisible, something like a belief is almost categorically excluded qua their set of conditioning beliefs. Once accepted, these conditions can’t be accessed anymore, they are transcendental to any further argument put forward within the area claimed by these conditions. For philosophers, this figure of thought, the transcendental condition, takes the role of a basic technique. Other people like urbanists and architects might well be much less familiar with it, which could explain their struggling with theory.

What are these beliefs to which a proper modernist adheres to? My list would look like as that given below. The list itself is, of course, neither a valuation nor an evaluation.

  • – independence, ultimately taken as a metaphysical principle;
  • – belief in the primacy of identity against the difference, leading to the primacy of objects against the relation;
  • – linearity, additivity and reduction as the method of choice;
  • – analyticity and “lawfulness” for descriptions of the external world;
  • – belief in positively definable universals, hence, the rejection of belief as a sustaining mental figure;
  • – the belief in the possibility of a finally undeniable justification;
  • – belief that the structure of the world follows a bi-valent logic2, represented by the principle of objective causality, hence also a “logification” and “physicalization” of the concept of information as well as meaning; consequently, meaning is conceived as being attached to objects;
  • – the claim of a primacy of ontology and existential claims—as highlighted by the question “What is …?”—over instances of pragmatics that respect Forms of Life—characterized by the question “How to use …?”;
  • – logical “flatness” and the denial of creativity of material arrangements; representation
  • – belief in the universal arbitrariness of evolution;
  • – belief in the divine creator or some replacement, like the independent existence of ideas (here the circle closes).

It now becomes even more clear that is not quite reasonable to assign a birth date to modernism. Some of those ideas and beliefs haven been around for centuries before their assembly into the 19th century habit. Such, modernism is nothing more, yet also nothing less than a name for the evolutionary history of a particular arrangement of attitudes, believes and arguments.

From this perspective it also becomes clear why it is somewhat difficult to separate so-called post-modernism from modernism. Post-modernism takes a yet undecided position to the issue of abstract metaphysical independence. Independence and the awareness for the relations did not amalgamate yet, both are still, well, independent in post-modernism. It makes a huge, if not to say cosmogonic difference to set the relation as the primary metaphysical element. Of course, Foucault was completely right in rejecting the label of being a post-modernist. Foucault dropped the central element of modernism—independence—completely, and very early in his career as author, thinking about the human world as horizontal (actual) and vertical (differential) embeddings. The same is obviously true for Deleuze, or Serres. Less for Lyotard and Latour, and definitely not for Derrida, who practices a schizo-modernism, undulating between independence and relation. Deleuze and Foucault never have been modern, in order to paraphrase Latour, and it would be a serious misunderstanding to attach the label of post-modernism to their oeuvre.

As a historical fact we may summarize modernism by two main achievements: first, the professionalization of engineering and its rhizomatically pervasive implementation, and second the mediatization of society, first through the utilization of mass media, then by means of the world wide web. Another issue is that many people confess to follow it as if they would follow a program, turning it into a movement. And it is here where difficulties start.

2. Problems with Modernism

We are now going to deal with some of the problems that are necessarily associated to the belief set that is so typical for modernism. In some way or another, any basic belief is burdened by its own specific difficulties. There is no universal or absolute way out of that. Yet, modernism is not just an attitude, up to now it also has turned into a large-scale societal experiment. Hence, there are not only some empirical facts, we also meet impacts onto the life of human beings (before any considerations of moral aspects). Actually, Koolhaas provided precisely a description of them in his “Junkspace” [3]. Perhaps, modernism is also more prone to the strong polarity of positive and negative outcomes, as its underlying set of believes is also particularly strong. But this is, of course, only a quite weak suggestion.

In this section we will investigate four significant aspects. Together they hopefully provide kind of a fingerprint of “typical” modernist thinking—and its failure. These four areas concern patterns and coherence, empiricism, meaning and machines.

Before we start with that I would like to visit briefly the issue raised by the role of objects in modernism. The metaphysics of objects in modernism is closely related to the metaphysical belief of independence as a general principle. If you start to think “independence” you necessarily end up with separated objects. “Things” as negotiated entities do barely exist in modernism, and if so, then only as kind of a error-prone social and preliminary approximation to the physical setup. It is else not possible, to balance objects and relations as concepts. One of them must take the primary role.

Setting objects as primary against the relation has a range of problematic consequences. In my opinion, these consequences are inevitable. It is important that neither the underlying beliefs nor their consequences can’t be separated from each other. For a modernist, it is impossible, to drop one of these and to keep the other ones without stepping into the tomb of internal inconsistency!

The idea of independence, whether in its implicit or its explicit version, can be traced back at least to scholastics, probably even to the classic where it appeared as Platonic idealism (albeit this would be an oversimplification). To its full extent it unfolded through the first golden age of the dogma of the machine in the early 17th century, e.g. in the work of Harvey or the philosophy of Descartes. Leibniz recognized its difficulties. For him perception is an activity. If objects would be conceived as purely passive, they would not be able to perceive and not to build any relation at all. Thus, the world can’t be made of objects, since there is a world external to the human mind. He remained, however, being caught by theism, which brought him to the concept of monads as well as to the concept of the infinitesimal numbers. The concept of the monads should not be underestimated, though. Ultimately, they serve the purpose of immaterial elements that bear the ability to perceive and to transfer them to actual bodies, whether stuffed with a mind or not.

The following centuries brought just a tremendous technical refinement of Cartesian philosophy, despite there have been phases where people resisted its ideas, as for instance many people in the Baroque.

Setting objects as primary against the relation is at the core of phenomenology as well, and also, though in a more abstract version, of idealism. Husserl came up with the idea of the “phenomenon”, that impresses us, notably directly, or intuitively, without any interpretation. Similarly, the Kantian “Erhabenheit”, then tapered by Romanticism, is out there as an independent instance, before any reason or perception may start to work.

So, what is the significance of setting objects as primary constituents of the world? Where do we have to expect which effects?

2.1. Dust, Coherence, Patterns

When interpreted as a natural principle, or as a principle of nature, the idea of independence provokes and supports physical sciences. Independence matches perfectly with physics, yet it is also an almost perfect mismatch for biological sciences as far as they are not reducible to physics. The same is true for social sciences. Far from being able to recognize their own conditionability, most sociologist just practice methods taken more or less directly from physics. Just recall their strange addiction to statistics, which is nothing else than methodology of independence. Instead of asking for the abstract and factual genealogy of the difference between independence and coherence, between the molecule and harmony, they dropped any primacy of the relation, even its mere possibility.

The effects in architecture are well-known. On the one hand, modernism led to an industrialization, which is reaching its final heights in the parametrism of Schumacher and Hadid, among others. Yet, by no means there is any necessity that industrialization leads to parametrism! On the other hand, if in the realm of concepts there is no such thing as a primacy of relation, only dust, then there is also no form, only function, or at least a maximized reduction of any form, as it has been presented first by Mies von der Rohe. The modularity in this ideology of the absence of form is not that of living organisms, it is that of crystals. Not only the Seagram building is looking exactly like the structural model of sodium chloride. Of course, it represents a certain radicality. Note that it doesn’t matter whether the elementary cells of the crystal follows straight lines, or whether there is some curvature in their arrangements. Strange enough, for a modernist there is never a particular intention in producing such stuff. Intentions are not needed at all, if the objects bear the meaning. The modernists expectation is that everything the human mind can accomplish under such conditions is just uncovering the truth. Crystals just happen to be there, whether in modernist architecture or in the physico-chemistry of minerals.

Strictly spoken, it is deeply non-modern, perhaps ex-modern, to investigate the question why even modernists feel something like the following structures or processes mysteriously (not: mystical!) beautiful, or at least interesting. Well, I do not know, of course, whether they indeed felt like that, or whether they just pretended to do so. At least they said so… Here are the artefacts3:

Figure 1: a (left): Michael Hansmeyer column [4] ,b (right): Turing-McCabe-pattern (for details see this);

.

These structures are neither natural nor geometrical. Their common structural trait is the local instantiation of a mechanism, that is, a strong dependence on the temporal and spatial local context: Subdivision in case (a), and a probabilistically instantiated set of “chemical” reactions in the case of (b). For the modernist mindset they are simply annoying. They are there, but there is no analytical tool available to describe them as “object” or to describe their genesis. Yet, both examples do not show “objects” with perceivable properties that would be well-defined for the whole entity. Rather, they represent a particular temporal cut in the history of a process. Without considering their history—which includes the contingent unfolding of their deep structure—they remain completely incomprehensible, despite the fact that on the microscopical level they are well-defined, even deterministic.

From the perspective of primary objects they are separated from comprehensibility by the chasm of idealism, or should we say hyper-idealistic conditioning? Yet, for both there exists a set of precise mathematical rules. The difference to machines is just that these rules describe mechanisms, but not anything like the shape or on the level of the entirety. The effect of these mechanism on the level of the collective, however, can’t be described by those rules for the mechanism. They can’t be described at all by any kind of analytical approach, as it possible for instance in many areas in physics and, consequently in engineering, which so far is by definition always engaged in building and maintaining fully determinate machines. This notion of the mechanism, including the fact that only the concept of mechanism allows for a thinking that is capable to comprehend emergence and complexity—and philosophically potential—, is maybe one of the strongest differences between modernist thinking and “organicist” thinking (which has absolutely nothing to do with bubble architecture), as we may call it in a preliminarily.

Here it is probably appropriate to cite the largely undervalued work of Charles Jencks, who proposed as one of the first in the domain of architecture/urbanism the turn to complexity. Yet, since he had not a well-explicated formulation (based on an appropriate elementarization) at his disposal, we had neither been able to bring his theory “down to earth” nor to connect it to more abstract concepts. People like Jencks, Venturi, “parts of” Koolhaas (and me:)—or Deleuze or Foucault in philosophy—never have been modernist. Except the historical fact that they live(d) in a period that followed the blossoming of modernism, there is not any other justification to call them or their thinking “post-modern”. It is not the use of clear arguments that those reject, it is the underlying set of beliefs.

In modernism, that is, in the practice of the belief set as shown above, collective effects are excluded apriori, metaphysically as well as methodologically, as we will see. Statistics is by definition not able to detect “patterns”. It is an analytic technique, of which people believe that its application excludes any construction. This is of course a misbelief, the constructive steps are just shifted into the side-conditions of the formulas, resulting in a deep methodological subjectivity concerning the choice of a particular technique, or formula respectively.

This affects the perspective onto society as well as individual perception and thought. Slightly metaphorically spoken, everything is believed to be (conceptual) dust, and to remain dust. The belief in independence, fired perhaps by a latent skepticism since Descartes, has invaded the methods and the practices. At most, such the belief, one could find different kinds of dust, or different sizes of the hives of dust, governed by a time-inert, universal law. In turn, wherever laws are imposed to “nature”, the subject matter turns into conceptual dust.

Something like a Language Game, let it even be in combination with transcendental conditionability, must almost be incomprehensible for a modernist. I think they even do not see there possibility. While analytic philosophy is largely the philosophy that developed within modernism (one might say that it is thus not philosophy at all), the philosophical stances of Wittgenstein, Heidegger or Deleuze are outside of it. The instances of misunderstanding Wittgenstein as a positivist are countless! Closely related to the neglect of collective effects is the dismissal of the inherent value of the comparative approach. Again, that’s not an accusation. Its just the description of an effect that emerges as soon as the above belief set turns into a practice.

The problem with modernism is indeed tricky. On the one hand it blossomed engineering. Engineering, as it has been conceived since then, is a strictly modernist endeavor. With regard to the physical aspects of the world it works quite well, of course. In any other area, it is doomed to fail, for the very same reasons, unfortunately. Engineering of informational aspects is thus impossible as it is the engineering of architecture or the engineering of machine-based episteme, not to mention the attempt to enable machines to deal with language. Or to deal with the challenges emerging in the urban culture. Just to avoid misunderstandings: Engineering is helpful to find technical realizations for putative solutions, but it never can deliver any kind of solution itself, except the effect that people assimilate and re-shape the produces of urban engineering through their usage, turning them into something different than intended.

2.2. Meaning

The most problematic effects of the idea  of “primary objects” are probably the following:

  • – the rejection of creational power of unconscious or even purely material entities;
  • – the idea that meaning can be attached to objects;
  • – the idea that objects can be represented and must be represented by ideas.

These strong consequences do not concern just epistemological issues. In modernism, “objectivity” has nothing to do with the realm of the social. It can be justified universally and on purely formal grounds. We already mentioned that this may work in large parts of physics—it is challenged in quantum physics—but certainly not in most biological or social domains.

In his investigation of thought, Deleuze identifies representationalism ([9], p.167) as one of the eight major presuppositions of large parts of philosophy, especially idealism in the line from Platon, Hegel, and Frege up to Carnap.

(1) the postulate of the principle, or the Cogitatio natura universalis (good will of the thinker and good nature of thought); (2) the postulate of the ideal, or common sense (common sense as the concordia facultatum and good sense as the distribution which guarantees this concord); (3) the postulate of the model, or of recognition (recognition inviting all the faculties to exercise themselves upon an object supposedly the same, and the consequent possibility of error in the distribution when one faculty confuses one of its objects with a different object of another faculty); (4) the postulate of the element, or of representation (when difference is subordinated to the complementary dimensions of the Same and the Similar, the Analogous and the Opposed); (5) the postulate of the negative, or of error (in which error expresses everything which can go wrong in thought, but only as the product of external mechanisms); (6) the postulate of logical function, or the proposition (designation is taken to be the locus of truth, sense being no more than the neutralised double or the infinite doubling of the proposition); (7) the postulate of modality, or solutions (problems being materially traced from propositions or, indeed, formally defined by the possibility of their being solved); (8) the postulate of the end, or result, the postulate of knowledge (the subordination of learning to knowledge, and of culture to method). Together they form the dogmatic image of thought.

Deleuze by no means attacks the utility of these elements in principle. His point is just that these elements work together and should not be taken as primary principles. The effect of these presuppositions are disastrous.

They crush thought under an image which is that of the Same and the Similar in representation, but profoundly betrays what it means to think and alienates the two powers of difference and repetition, of philosophical commencement and recommence­ment. The thought which is born in thought, the act of thinking which is neither given by innateness nor presupposed by reminiscence but engendered in its genitality, is a thought without image.

As engineer, you may probably have been noticing issue (5). Elsewhere in our essay we already dealt with the fundamental misconception to start from an expected norm, instead from an open scale without imposed values. Only the latter attitude will allow for inherent adaptivity. Adaptive systems never will fail, because failure is conceptually impossible. Instead, they will cease to exist.

The rejection of the negative, which includes the rejection of the opposite as well as dialectics, the norm, or the exception, is particularly important if we think about foundations of whatsoever (think about Hegel, Marx, attac, etc.) or about political implications. We already discussed the case of Agamben.

Deleuze finally will arrive at this “new imageless image of thought” by understanding difference as a transcendental category. The great advantage of this move is that it does not imply a necessity of symbols and operators as primary, as it is the case if we would take identity as primary. The primary identical is either empty (a=a), that is, without any significance for the relation between entities, or it needs symbolification and at least one operator. In practice, however, a whole battery of models, classifications and the assumptions underlying them is required to support the claim of identity. As these assumptions are not justifiable within the claim of identity itself, they must be set, which results in the attempt to define the world. Obviously, attempting so would be quite problematic. It is even self-contradicting if contrasted with the modernists claim of objectivity. Setting the difference as primary, Deleuze not only avoids the trap of identity and pre-established harmony in the hive of objects, but also subordinates the object to the relation. Here he meets with Wittgenstein and Heidegger.

Together, the presupposition of identity and objecthood is necessarily and in a bidirectional manner accompanied with another quite abundant misunderstanding, according to which logic should be directly applicable to the world. World here is of course “everything” except logic, that is (claimed) objects, their relations, measurement, ideas, concepts and so on. Analytic philosophy, positivism, external realism and the larger movement of modernism all apply the concept of bi-valent logic to empirical entities. It is not really a surprise that this leads to serious problems and paradoxa, which however are pseudo-paradoxa. For instance, universal justification requires knowledge. Without logical truity in knowledge universal justification can’t be achieved. The attempt to define knowledge as consisting of positive content failed, though. Next, the formula of “knowledge as justified belief” was proposed. In order not to fall prey to the Gettier-problem, belief itself would have to be objectified. Precisely this happened in analytic philosophy, when Alchourron et al. (1985) published their dramatically (and overly) reduced operationalization of “belief”. Logic is a condition, it is transcendental to its usage. Hence, it is inevitable to instantiate it. By means of instantiation, however, semantics invades equally inevitable.

Ultimately due to the presupposed primacy of identity, modernists are faced with a particular difficulty in dealing with relations. Objects and their role should not be dependent on their interpretation. As a necessary consequence, meaning—and information—must be attached to objects as quasi-physical properties. There is but one single consequence: tyranny. Again, it is not surprising that at the heights of modernism the bureaucratic tyranny was established several times.

Some modernists would probably allow for interpretation. Yet, only as a means, not as a condition, not as a primacy. Concerning their implications, the difference between the stances is a huge one. If you take it simply as a means, keeping the belief into the primacy of objects, you still would adhere to the idea of “absolute truth” within the physical world. Ultimately, interpretation would be degraded into an error-prone “method”, which ideally should have no influence onto the recognition of truth, of course. The world, at least the world that goes beyond the mere physical aspects, appears as a completely different one if relations, and thus interpretation is set as primary. Obviously, this implies also a categorical difference regarding the way one approaches that world, e.g. in science, or the way one conceives of the possible role of design. Is a nothing else than myth that a designer, architect, or urbanist designs objects. The practitioners in these professions design potentials, namely that for the construction of meaning by the future users and inhabitants (cf. [5]). There is nothing a designer can do to prevent a particular interpretation or usage. Koolhaas concludes that regarding Junkspace this may lead to a trap, or kind of a betrayal [3]:

Narrative reflexes that have enabled us from the beginning of time to connect dots, fill in blanks, are now turned against us: we cannot stop noticing—no sequence is too absurd, trivial, meaningless, insulting… Through our ancient evolutionary equipment, our irrepressible attention span, we helplessly register, provide insight, squeeze meaning, read intention; we cannot stop making sense out of the utterly senseless… (p.188)

I think that on the one hand Koolhaas here accepts the role of interpretation, yet, and somewhat contradictory, he is not able to recognize that it is precisely the primacy of interpretation that enables for an transformation through assimilation, hence the way out of Junkspace. Here he remains modernist to the full extent.

The deep reason being that for the object-based attitude there is no possibility at all to recognize non-representational coherence. (Thus, a certain type of illiteracy regarding complex texts is prevailing among “true” modernists…)

2.3. Shades of Empiricism

Science, as we understand it today—yet at least partially also as we practice it—is based on the so-called hypothetico-deductive approach of empiricism (cf. [6]). Science is still taken as a synonym for physics by many, even in philosophy of science, with only very few exceptions. There, the practice and the theory of Life sciences are not only severely underrepresented, quite frequently biology is still reduced to physics. Physicists, and their philosophical co-workers, often claim that the whole world can be reduced to a description in terms of quantum mechanics (among many others cf. [7]). A closely related reduction, only slightly less problematic, is given by the materialist’s claim that mental phenomena should be explained completely in biological terms, that is, using only biological concepts.

The belief in empiricism is implemented into the methodological framework that is called “statistics”. The vast majority of the statistical tests rest on the assumption that observations and variables are independent from each other. Some tests are devised to test for independence, or dependence, but this alone does not help much. Usually, if dependency is detected, then the subsequent tests are rearranged as to fit again the independence assumption. In other words, any possibly actual coherence is first assumed to be nonexistent. By means of the method itself, the coherence is indeed destroyed. Yet, once it is destroyed, you never will get it back. It is quite simple: The criteria for any such construction are just missing.

From this perspective, statistics is not scientific according to science’s own measures; due to its declared non-critical and  non-experimental stance it actually looks more like ideology. For a scientific method would perform an experiment for testing whether something could be assumed or not. As Nobel laureate Konrad Lorenz said: I never needed statistics to do my work. What would be needed instead is indeed a method that is structurally independent of any independence assumption regarding the observed data. Such a method would propose patterns if there are sufficiently dense hints, and not , otherwise. Without proposing one or the other apriori. From that perspective, it is more the representationalism in modernism that brings the problem.

This framework of statistics is far from being homogeneous, though. Several “interpretations” are fiercely discussed: frequentism, bayesianism, uncertainty, or propensity. Yet, any of them faces serious internal inconsistencies, as Alan Hajek convincingly demonstrated [8]. To make a long story short (the long version you can find over here), it is not possible to build a model without symbols, without concepts that require interpretation and further models, and outside a social practice, or without an embedding into such. Modernists usually reject such basics and eagerly claim even universal objectivity for their data (hives of dust). More than 50 years ago, Quine proofed that believing otherwise should be taken just as nothing else than a dogma [9]. This dogma can be conceived as a consequence of the belief that objects that are the primary constituents of the world.

Of course, the social embedding is especially important in the case of social affairs such like urbanism. The claim that any measurement of data then treated by statistical modeling (they call it wrongly “analysis”) could convey any insight per se is nothing but pretentious.

Dealing with data always results in some kind of construction, base don some methods. Methods, however, respond differentially to data, they filter. In other words, even applying “analytical” methods involves interpretation, often even a strong one. Unfortunately for the modernist, he excluded the possibility of the primacy of interpretation at all, because there are only objects out there. This hurdle is quickly solved, of course, by the belief that the meaning is outside of interpretation. As result, they believe, that there is a necessary progress towards the truth. For modernists: Here you may jump back to subsection 3.2. …

2.4. Machines

For le Corbusier a house is much like a “machine for living in”. According to him, a building has clear functions, that could be ascribed apriori, governed by universal relations, or even laws. Recently, people engaged in the building economy recognized that it may turn problematic to assign a function apriori, as it simply limits the sales arguments. As a result, any function from the building as well as from the architecture itself tends to be stripped away. The “solution” is a more general one. Yet, in contrast to an algebraic equation that will be instantiated before used, the building actually exists after building it. It is there. And up today, not in a reconfigurable form.

Actually, the problem is created not by the tendency for more general, or even pre-specific solutions. It turns critical if it generality amalgamates with the modernist attitude. The category of machines, which is synonymic to ascribing or assigning a function (understood as usage) apriori, doesn’t accept any reference to luxury. A machine that would contain properties or elements that don’t bear any function, at least temporarily, other than pleasure (which does not exist in a world that consists only of objects) would be badly built. Minimalism is not just a duty, it even belongs to the grammar of modernism. Minimalism is the actualization and representation of mathematical rigidity, which is also a necessity as it is the only way to use signs without interpretation. At least, that is the belief of modernists.

The problem with minimalism is that it effectively excludes evolution. Either the produce fits perfectly or not at all. Perfectness of the match can be expected only, if the user behaves exactly as expected, which represents nothing else than dogmatism, if not worse. Minimalism in form excludes alternative interpretations and usages, deliberately so, it even has  to exclude the possibility for the alternative. How else to get rid of alternatives? Koolhaas rightly got it: by nothingness (minimalism), or by chaos.

3. Urbanism, and Koolhaas.

First, we have of course to make clear that we will be able to provide only a glimpse to the field invoked by this header. Else, our attempts here should not be understood as a proposal to separate architecture from urbanism. Both, regarding theory and implementation they more and more overlap. When Koolhaas explains the special situation of the Casa do Musica in Porto, he refers to processes like continuation of certain properties and impressions from the surround to be continued inside of the building. Inversely, any building, even any persistent object in a city shifts the qualities of its urban surround.

Rem Koolhaas, once journalist, then architect, now for more than a decade additionally someone doing comparative studies on cities has performatively demonstrated—by means of his writings such as “S,M,L,XL”, “Generic City” or “Junkspace”—that a serious engagement about the city can’t be practiced as a disciplinary endeavor. Human culture moved irrevocably into a phase where culture largely means urban culture. Urbanists may be seen as a vanishing species that became impossible due to the generality of the field. “Culturalist” is neither a proper domain nor a suitable label. Or perhaps they moult into organizers of research in urban contexts, similarly as architects are largely organizers for creating buildings. Yet, there is an important difference: Architects may still believe that they externalize something. Such a belief is impossible for urbanists, because they are part of the culture. It is thus questionable, if a project like the “Future Cities Laboratory” should indeed be called such. It is perhaps only possible to do so in Singapore, but that’s the subject of one of the next essays.

Rem Koolhaas wrote “Delirious New York” before turning to architecture and urbanism as a practitioner. There, he praised its diversity and manifoldness that, in or by means of his dreams, added up to the deliriousness of Manhattan, and probably also of his own.

Without any doubt, the particular quality of Manhattan is its empowering density, which is not actualizing as the identical, but rather as heterotopia, as divergence. In some way, Manhattan may be conceived as the urban precursor of the internet [11], built first in steel, glass and concrete. Vera Bühlmann writes:

Manhattan space is, if not yet everywhere, so at least in the internet potentially everywhere, and additionally not limited to three, probably even spatial dimensions.4

Urbanism is in urgent demand of an advanced theory that refers to the power of networks. It was perhaps this “network process” that brought Koolhaas to explore the anti-thesis of the wall and the plane, the absolute horizontal and vertical separation. I say anti-thesis, because Delirious New York itself behaves quite ambiguously, half-way between the Hegelian, (post-)structuralist dialectics and utopia on the one side and an affirmation of heterotopias on the other hand as a more advanced level of conceptualization alienating processes, which always are also processes of selection and individuation into both directions, the medium and the “individual”. Earlier scholars like Aldo Rossi have been too early to go into that direction as networks weren’t recognizable as part of the Form of Life. Even Shane is only implicitly referring to their associative power (he does not refer to complexity as well). And Koolhaas was not either, and probably is still not aware of this problematics.

Recently, I have been proposing one of the possible approaches to build such a theory, the according concepts, terms and practices (for more details see [12]). It is rather important, to distinguish two very basic forms of networks, logistic and associative networks. Logistic networks are used everywhere in modernist reasoning about cities and culture. Yet, they exclusively refer to the network as a machine, suitable to optimize the transport of anything. Associative networks are completely different. They do not transfer anything, they swallow, assimilate, rearrange, associate and, above all, they learn. Any associative network can learn anything. The challenge is, particularly for modernist attitudes, that it can’t be controlled what exactly an associative network is going to learn. The interesting thing about it is that the concept of associative networks provides a bridge to the area of advanced “machine”-learning and to the Actor-Network-Theory (ANTH) of Bruno Latour. The main contribution of ANTH is its emphasis of agency, even of those mostly mineral material arrangements that are usually believed to have no mental capacity.

It is clear, that an associative network may not be perceived at all under the strictly practiced presupposition of independence, as it is typical for modernism. Upon its implementation, the  belief set of modernism tends to destroy the associativity, hence also the almost inevitable associations between the more or less mentally equipped actors in urban environments.

When applied to cities, it breaks up relations, deliberately. Any interaction of high-rise buildings, so typical for Manhattan, is precluded intentionally. Any transfer is optimized just along one single parameter: time, and secondarily, space as a resource. Note that optimization always requires the apriori definition of a single function. As soon as would allow for multiple goals, you would be faced with the necessity of weighting and assigning subjective expectations, which are subjective precisely due to the necessity of interpretation. In order to exclude even the possibility for it, modernists agree hastily to optimize time (as a resource under the assignment of scarcity and physicality), once being understood as a transcendental condition.

As Aldo Rossi remarked already in the 1960ies [13], the modernist tries to evacuate any presence of time from the city. It is not just that history is cut off and buried, largely under false premises and wrong conclusions, reducing history just to institutional traditions (remember, there is no interpretation for a modernist!). In some way, it would have been even easy to predict Koolhaas’ Junkspace already in the end of the 19th century. Well, the Futurologists did it, semi-paradoxically, though. Quite stringent, Futurism was only a short phase within modernism. This neglect of time in modernism is by no means a “value” or an intention. It is a direct logical consequence of the presupposed belief set, particularly independence, logification and the implied neglect of context.

Dis-assembling the associative networks of a city results inevitably in the modernist urban conceptual dust, ruled by the paradigm of scarce time and the blindness against interpretation, patterns and non-representational coherence. This is in a nutshell, what I would like to propose as the deep grammar of the Junkspace, as it has been described by Koolhaas. Modernism did nothing else than to build and to actualize it conceptual dust. We may call it tertiary chaos, which has been—in its primary form—equal to the initial state of indiscernability concerning the cosmos as a whole. Yet, this time it has been dictated by modernists. Tertiary chaos thus can be set equal to the attempt to make any condition for the possibility of discernability vanishing.

Modernists may not be aware that there is not only already a theory of discernability, which equals to the Peircean theory of the sign, there is also an adaptation and application to urbanism and architecture. Urbanists probably may know about the name “Venturi”, but I seriously doubt that semiotics is on their radar. If modernists talk about semiotics at all, they usually refer to the structuralist caricature of it, as it has been put forward by de Saussure, establishing a closed version of the sign as a “triangle”. Peircean signs—and these have been used by Venturi—establish as an interpretive situation. They do not refer to objects, but just to other signs. Their reference to the world is provided through instances of abstract models and a process of symbolification, which includes learning as an ability that precedes knowledge. (more detail here in this earlier essay) Unfortunately, Venturi’s concept have scarcely been updated, except perhaps in the context of media facades [14]. Yet, media facades are mostly and often vastly misunderstood as the possibility to display adverts. There are good arguments supporting the view that there is more about them [15].

Modernists, including Koolhaas employ a strange image of evolution. For him (them), evolution is pure arbitrariness, both regarding the observable entities and processes as well as regarding the future development. He supposes to detect “zero loyalty-and zero tolerance-toward configuration“ ([3] p.182). In the same passage he simultaneously and contradictory misses the „”original” condition“ and blames history for its corruptive influence: „History corrupts, absolute history corrupts absolutely.“ All of that is put into the context of a supposedly “”permanent evolution.”“ (his quot. marks). Most remarkably, even biologists as S.J. Gould, pretending to be evolutionary biologist, claims that evolution is absolutely arbitrary. Well, the only way out of the contrasting fact that there is life in the form we know about it is to assume some active divine involvement. Precisely this was the stance of Gould. People like Gould(and perhaps Koolhaas) commit the representationalist fault, which excludes them from recognizing (i) the structural tendency of any evolution towards more general solutions, and (ii) the there is an evolution of evolutionarity. The modernist attitude towards evolution can again be traced back to the belief into metaphysical independence of objects, but our interest here is different.

Understanding evolution as a concept has only little to do with biology and the biological model that is called “natural evolution”. Natural evolution is just an instance of evolution into physico-chemical and then biological matter. Bergson has been the first who addressed evolution as a concept [16], notably in the context of abstract memory. In a previous essay we formalized that approach and related it to biology and machine-learning. At its basics, it requires a strict non-representational approach. Species and organisms are expressed in terms of probability. Our conclusion was that in a physical world evolution inevitably takes place if there at least two different kinds or scales of memory. Only on that abstract level we can adopt the concept of evolution into urbanism, that is, into any cultural context.

Memory can’t be equated to tradition, institutions or even the concrete left-overs of history, of course. They are just instances of memory. It is of utmost importance here, not to contaminate the concept of memory again with representationalism. This memory is constructive. Memory that is not constructive, is not memory, but a stock, a warehouse (although these are also kinds of storage and contribute as such to memory). Memory is inherently active and associative. Such memory is the basic, non-representative element of a generally applicable evolutionary theory.

Memory can not be “deposited” into almost geological layers of sediments, quite in contrast to the suggestions of Eisenman, whom Rajchman follows closely in his “Constructions”.

The claim of “storable memory” is even more disastrous than the the claim that information could be stored. These are not objects and items that are independent of an interpretation, they are the processes of constructive of guided interpretation. Both “storages” would only become equal to the respective immaterial processes under the condition of a strictly deterministic set of commands. Even the concept of the “rule” is already too open to serve the modernist claim of storable memory.

It is immediately clear that the dynamic concept of memory is highly relevant for any theory about urban conditions. It provides a general language to derive particular models and instances of association, stocks and flows, that are not reducible to storage or transfers. We may even expect that whenever we meet kind of material storage in an urban context, we also should expect association. The only condition for that just being that there are no modernists around… Yet, storage without memory, that is, without activity remains dead, much like but even less than a crystal. Cripples in the sand. The real relevance of stocks and flows is visible only in the realm of the non-representational, the non-material, if we conceive it as waves in abstract density, that is as media, conveying the potential for activity as a differential. Physicalists and modernists like Christianse or Hillier will never understand that. Just think of the naïve empirics, calling it cartography, they are performing around the world.

This includes deconstructivism as well. Derrida’s deconstructivism can be read as a defense war against the symbolification of the new, the emerging, the complex, the paradox of sense. His main weapon is the “trail”, of which he explicitly states that it could not be interpreted at all. Such, Derrida as master of logical flatness and modernist dust is the real enemy of progress. Peter Sloterdijk, the prominent contemporary German “philosopher”5, once called Derrida the “Old Egyptian”. Nothing would fit better to Derrida, who lives in the realm of shadows and for whom life is just a short transitory phase, hopefully “survived” without too much injuries. The only metaphor being possible on that basis is titanic geology. Think of some of Eisenman’s or Libeskind’s works.

Figure 2: Geologic-titanic shifts induced by the logical flatness of deconstructivism

a: Peter Eisenman, Aronoff Center for Design and Art in Cincinnati (Ohio) (taken from [11]); the parts of building are treated blocks, whose dislocation reminds to that of geological sediments (or the work of titans).

b: Daniel Libeskind, Victoria and Albert Museum Boilerhouse Extension. Secondary chaos, inducing Junkspace through its isolationist “originality”, conveying “defunct myths” (Koolhaas in [3], p.189).

Here we finish our exploration of generic aspects of the structure of modernist thinking. Hopefully, the sections so far are sufficiently suited to provide some insights about modernism in general, and the struggles Koolhaas is fighting with in “Junkspace”.

4. Redesigning Urbanism

Redesigning urbanism, that is to unlock it from modernist phantasms is probably much more simple than it may look at first sight. Well, not exactly simple, at least for modernists. Everything is about the presuppositions. Dropping the metaphysical believe of independence without getting trapped by esotericism or mysticism might well be the cure.Of course, metaphysical independence need to be removed from any level and any aspect in urbanism, starting from the necessary empirical work, which of course is already an important part of the construction work. We already mentioned that the notion of “empirical analysis” pretends neutrality, objectivity (as independence from the author) and validity. Yet, this is pure illusion. Independence should be abandoned also in its form of searching for originality or uniqueness, trying to set an unconditional mark in the cityscape. By that we don’t refer to morphing software, of course.

The antidote against isolationism, analyticity and logic is already well-known. To provide coherence you have to defy splintering and abjure the believe in (conceptual) dust. The candidate tool for it is story-telling, albeit in a non-representational manner, respecting the difference and heterotopias from the beginning. In turn this also means to abandon utopias and a-topias, but to embrace complexity and a deep concept of prevailing differentiation (in a subsequent essay we will deal with that). As citizens, we are not interested in non-places and deserts of spasmodic uniqueness (anymore) or the mere “solution of problems” either (see Deleuze about the dogmatic image of thought as cited above). Changing the perspective from the primacy of analysis to the primacy story-telling immediately reveals the full complexity of the respective Form of Life, to which we refer here as a respectful philosophical concept.

It is probably pretentious to speak such about urbanism as a totality. There are of course, and always have been, people who engaged in the urban condition based on a completely different set of believes, righteous non-modern. Those people start with the pattern and never tear them apart. Those people are able to distinguish structure, genesis and appearance. In biology, this distinction has been instantiated into the perspectives of the genotype, the phenotype, and, in bio-slang, evo-devo, the compound made from development, growth and evolution. These are tied together (necessarily) by complexity. In philosophy, the respective concepts are immanence, the differential, and the virtual.

For urbanism, take for instance the work of David Shane (“Recombinant Urbanism“). Shane’s work, which draws much on Kelly’s, is a (very) good starting point not only for any further theoretical work, but also for practical work.

As a practitioner, one has to defy the seduction for the totality of a master plan, as the renowned parametricists actualize in Istanbul, Christianse and his office did recently in Zürich at the main station. Both are producing pure awfulness, castles of functional uniformity, because they express the totality of the approach even visually. Even in Singapore’s URA (Urban Development Authority), the master plan has been relativised in favor of a (slightly) more open conceptualization. Designer’s have to learn that not less is more, but rather that partial nothingness is more. Deliberately non-planning, as Koolhaas has repeatedly emphasized. This should not be taken representationally, of course. It does not make any sense to grow “raw nature”, jungles within the city, neither for the city, nor for the “jungle”. Before a crystal can provide soil for real life, it must decay, precisely because it is a closed system (see next figure 3). Adaptive systems replace parts, melt holes to build structures, without decaying at all. We will return to this aspect of differentiation in a later article.

Figure 3: Pruitt-Igoe (St.Louis), getting blasted in 1972. Charles Jencks called this event “one of the deaths of modernism”. This had not been the only tear-down there. Laclede, a neighborhood nearby Pruitt-Igoe, made from small, single-flat houses failed as well, the main reasons being an unfortunate structure of the financial model and political issues, namely separation of “classes” and apartheid. (see this article).

The main question for finding a practicable process therefore is: How to ask, which questions should we address in order to build an analytics under the umbrella of story-telling, that avoids the shortfalls of modernism?

We might again take a look to biology (as a science). As urbanism, biology is also confronted with a totality. We call it life. How to address reasonable, that is fruitful questions to that totality? Biology already found a set of answer, which nevertheless are not respected by the modernist version of this science, mainly expressed as genetics. The first insight was, that “nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution.”[17] Which would be the respective question for urbanism? I can’t give an answer here, but it is certainly not independence. This we can know through the lesson told by “Junkspace”. Another, almost ridiculous anti-candidate is sustainability, as far as it is conceived in terms of scarcity of mainly physical resources instead of social complexity. Perhaps we should remember the history of the city beyond its “functionality”. Yet, that would mean to first develop an understanding of (abstract) evolution, to instantiate that, and then to derive a practicable model for urban societies. What does it mean to be social, what does it mean to think, both taken as practice in a context of freedom? Biology then developed a small set of basic contexts along to which any research should be aligned to, without loosing the awareness (hopefully) that there are indeed four of such contexts. These have been clearly stated by Nobel laureate Tinbergen [18]. According to him research in biology is suitably structured by four major per­spectives: phylogeny, ontogeny, physiology and behavior. Are there similarly salient dimensions for structuring thought in urbanism, particularly in a putative non-modernist (neither modernist, not post-modernist) version? Particularly interesting are, imho, especially the intersections of such sub-domains.

Perhaps differentiation (as a concept) is indeed a (the) proper candidate for the grand perspective. We will discuss some aspects of this in the next essay: it includes growth and its modes, removal, replacement, deterioration, the problem of the generic, the difference between development and evolution, and a usable concept of complexity. to name but a few. In the philosophy of Gilles Deleuze, particularly the Thousand Plateaus, Difference and Repetition and the Fold, we already can find a good deal of theoretical work about he conceptual issues around differentiation. Differentiation includes learning, individually and collectively (I do NOT refer to swarm ideology here, nor to collectivist mysticism either!!!), which in turn would bring in the (abstract) mental into any consideration of urbanism. Yet, wasn’t mankind differentiating and learning all the time? The challenge will be to find a non-materialist interpretation of those in these materialist times.

Notes

1. Cited after [11]

2. Its core principles are the principle of excluded middle (PEM) and the  principle of non-contradictivity (PNC). Both principles are equivalent to the concept of macroscopic objects, albeit only in a realist perspective, i.e. under the presupposition that objects are primary against relations. This is, of course, quite problematic, as it excludes an appropriate conceptualisation of information.

Both, the PEM and PNC allow for the construction of paradoxes like the Taylor Paradox. Such paradoxes may be conceived as “Language Game Colliders”, that is as conceptual devices which commit a mistake concerning the application of the grammar of language games. Usually, the bring countability and the sign for non-countability into conflict. First, it is a fault to compare a claim with a sign, second, it is stupid to claim contradicting proposals. Note, that here we are allowed to speak of “contradiction”, because we are following the PNC as it is suggested by the PNC claim. The Taylor-Paradox is of course, like any other paradox, a pseudo-problem. It appears only due to an inappropriate choice or handling of the conceptual embedding, or due to the dismissal of the concept of the “Language Game”, which mostly results in the implicit claim of the existence of a “Private Language”.

3. Vera Bühlmann, “Articulating quantities, if things depend on whatever can be the case“, lecture held at The Art of Concept, 3rd Conference: CONJUNCTURE — A Series of Symposia on 21st Century Philosophy, Politics, and Aesthetics, organized by Nathan Brown and Petar Milat, Multimedia Institute MAMA in Zagreb, Kroatia, June 15-17 2012.

4. German orig.: “Manhattan Space ist, wenn schon nicht überall, so doch im Internet potentiell überall, und zudem nicht mehr auf drei vielleicht gar noch räumliche Dimensionen beschränkt.”

5. Peter Sloterdjik does not like to be called a philosopher

References

  • [1] Michel Foucault, Archaeology of Knowledge. Routledge 2002 [1969].
  • [2] Vera Bühlmann, Printed Physics, de Gruyter, forthcoming.
  • [3] Rem Koolhaas (2002). Junkspace. October, Vol. 100, “Obsolescence”, pp. 175-190. MIT Press
  • [4] Michael Hansmeyer, his website about these columns.
  • [5] “Pseudopodia. Prolegomena to a Discourse of Design”. In: Vera Bühlmann and Martin Wiedmer . pre-specifics. Some Comparatistic Investigations on Research in Art and Design. JRP| Ringier Press, Zurich 2008. p. 21-80 (English edition). available online;
  • [6] Wesley C. Salmon, Causality and Explanation. Oxford University Press, Oxford 1998.
  • [7] Michael Epperson (2009). Quantum Mechanics and Relational Realism: Logical Causality and Wave Function Collapse. Process Studies, 38(2): 339-366.
  • [8] Alan Hájek (2007). The Reference Class Problem is Your Problem Too. Synthese 156 (3):563-585.
  • [9] W.v.O. Quine (1951), Two Dogmas of Empiricism. The Philosophical Review 60: 20-43.
  • [10] Gilles Deleuze, Difference and Repetition. Columbia University Press, New York 1994 [1968].
  • [11] Vera Bühlmann, inhabiting media. Thesis, University of Basel (CH), 2009.
  • [12] Klaus Wassermann (2010). SOMcity: Networks, Probability, the City, and its Context. eCAADe 2010, Zürich. September 15-18, 2010. (pdf)
  • [13] Aldo Rossi, The Architecture of the City. MIT Press, Cambridge (Mass.) 1982 [1966].
  • [14] Christoph Kronhagel (ed.), Mediatecture, Springer, Wien 2010. pp.334-345.
  • [15] Klaus Wassermann, Vera Bühlmann, Streaming Spaces – A short expedition into the space of media-active façades. in: Christoph Kronhagel (ed.), Mediatecture, Springer, Wien 2010. pp.334-345. available here. available here
  • [16] Henri Bergson, Matter and Memory. (Matière et Mémoire 1896) transl. N.M. Paul & W.S. Palmer. Zone Books 1990.
  • [17] Theodore Dobzhansky, Genetics and the Origin of Species, Columbia University Press, New York 1951 (3rd ed.) [1937].
  • [18] Niko Tinbergen (1963). On Aims and Methods in Ethology, Z. Tierpsych., (20): 410–433.

۞

Junkspace, extracted.

July 16, 2012 § Leave a comment

Some years after “The Generic City” Koolhaas published

a further essay on the problematic field of identity: “Junkspace” (JS).[1] I think it is a good idea to introduce both of them and to relate them before discussing the issues of this field by ourselves.

Unlike “The Generic City” (TGC), which was constructed as kind of a report about a film script, JS is more like a “documentary manifesto,” certainly provocative (for thought?), but also not a theory. “Junkspace” throws a concept in/out, according to its message, one could say. As in TGC, Koolhaas tries to densify and to enhance contrasts in order to render the invisible visible. Its language thus should not be misunderstood as “apocalyptic” or the like, or as a reference to actual “facts”. We else must consider that even documentations are inevitably equipped with theories and models, intentions and expectations. The biggest difference between the two essays is probably the fact that in JS Koolhaas does not try to keep distance through the formal construction of the writing. Hence, it may be legitimate to read his essay indeed as kind of a seriously taken diagnosis.

In many ways, JS reads as a critique of modernism and of post-modernism, not just as attitudes in architecture, but rather concerning the whole culture, ending in a state where the “cosmetic is the new cosmic.” Albeit critique is not made (too) explicit, trying to avoid bringing in explicit value statements, the tone of JS appears negative. Yet, it does so only upon the reader’s interpretation. “Junkspace is a low-grade purgatory.” In Christian mythology, everybody had to pass it, the good ones and the evil ones, except the bravest saints, perhaps. Failure is expressed, but by referring to a certain otherworldliness: “We do not leave pyramids.”

The style of JS is ambiguous itself, presumably intentionally so. On the one hand, it reminds to mathematical, formal series of sentences. Sections often start with existential proposals: “Junkspace is …”. Together, as a series, or a hive, these imply  unspoken axioms. On the other hand it seems as if Koolhaas hesitates to use the figure of logic, or accordingly of cause and effect, with regard to the Junkspace itself. Such, Koolhaas exhibits performatively a clear-cut non-modern, or should we say “meta-modern”, attitude. By no means this should be taken as kind of some irrationality, though. We just find lines of historical developments, often even only historizing contrasts. This formal structure is anything but a self-righteous rhetoric game, it’s more like a necessary means to maintain some distance to modernism. The style of JS could be considered as (empty) rhetoric only from within  a modernist attitude.

Before we deal further with modernism (below, and more extensively here), I first want to list my selection of core passages. The sections in Koolhaas’ text are neither enumerated nor divided by headlines (no hierarchies! many “…”! a Junkspace…), so I provide the page numbers in order to facilitate reference. Additionally, I enumerated the pieces for referencing them from within our own writing.

Here is the extract from Junkspace; it is of  course hard to do such a selection—even if we allow for a total of 59 passages—, as JS is rather densely written. Koolhaas begins with some definitions before turning to its properties, readings and implications:

Précis of “Junkspace”

(p.175)

1. “Identity” is the new junk food for the dispossessed, globalization’s fodder for the disenfranchised … […] Junk-Space is the residue mankind leaves on the planet. The built […] product of modernization is not modern architecture but Junkspace. Junkspace is what remains after modernization has run its course, or, more precisely, what coagulates while modernization is in progress, its fallout. Modernization had a rational program: to share the blessings of science, universally. Junkspace is its apotheosis, or meltdown.

2. Junkspace is the sum total of our current achievement;

3. It was a mistake to invent modern architecture for the twentieth century. Architecture disappeared in the twentieth century; we have been reading a footnote under a microscope hoping it would turn into a novel;

4. […] our concern for the masses has blinded us to People’s Architecture. Junkspace seems an aberration, but it is the essence, the main thing. the product of an encounter between escalator and air-conditioning.

5. Continuity is the essence of Junkspace.

(p.176)

6. Junkspace is sealed, held together not by structure but by skin, like a bubble.

7. Junkspace is a Bermuda Triangle of concepts, an abandoned petri dish: it cancels distinctions, undermines resolve, confuses intention with realization. It replaces hierarchy with accumulation, composition with addition. […] A fuzzy empire of blur, it […] offer[s] a seamless patchwork of the permanently disjointed. […] Junkspace is additive, layered, and lightweight, not articulated in different parts but subdivided, […].

8. Junkspace’s iconography is 13 percent Roman, 8 percent Bauhaus and 7 percent Disney (neck and neck), 3 percent Art Nouveau, followed closely by Mayan.

(p.177)

9. Junkspace is beyond measure, beyond code … Because it cannot be grasped, Junks pace cannot be remembered. It is flamboyant yet unmemorable, like a screen saver;

10. Junkspace’s modules are dimensioned to carry brands;

11. Junkspace performs the same role as black holes in the universe: they are essences through which meaning disappears.

12. Junkspace is best enjoyed in a state of post-revolutionary gawking. Polarities have merged.

13. Modern architecture […] exposes what previous generations kept under wraps: structures emerge like springs from a mattress.

14. Junkspace thrives on design, but design dies in Junkspace […] Regurgitation is the new  creativity.

15. Superstrings of graphics, […] LEDs, and video describe an authorless world beyond anyone’s claim, always unique, utterly unpredictable, yet intensely familiar.

(p.178)

16. Junkspace sheds architectures like a reptile sheds skins, is reborn every Monday morning.

17. Architects thought of Junkspace first and named it Megastructure, the final solution to transcend their huge impasse.

18. In Junkspace, the tables are turned: it is subsystem only, without superstructure, orphaned particles in search of a framework or pattern.

19. Each element performs its task in negotiated isolation.

20. Instead of development, it offers entropy.

21. Change has been divorced from the idea of improvement. There is no progress; like a crab on LSD, culture staggers endlessly sideways …

22. Everywhere in Junkspace there are seating arrangements, ranges of modular chairs, even couches, as if the experience Junkspace offers its consumers is significantly more exhausting than any previous spatial sensation;

(p.179)

23. Junkspace is fanatically maintained, the night shift undoing the damage of the day shift in an endless Sisyphean replay. As you recover from Junkspace, Junkspace recovers from you.

24. Traditionally, typology implies demarcation, the definition of a singular model that excludes other arrangements. Junkspace represents a reverse typology of cumulative, approximative identity, less about kind than about quantity. But formlessness is still form, the formless also a typology.

25. Junkspace can either be absolutely chaotic or frighteningly aseptic-like a best-seller-overdetermined and indeterminate at the same time.

26. Junkspace is often described as a space of flows, but that is a misnomer; flows depend on disciplined movement, bodies that cohere. Junkspace is a web without a spider; […] It is a space of collision, a container of atoms, busy, not dense …

(p.180)

27. Junkspace features the tyranny of the oblivious: sometimes an entire Junkspace comes unstuck through the nonconformity of one of its members; a single citizen of an another culture-a refugee, a mother-can destabilize an entire Junkspace, […]

28. Flows in Junkspace lead to disaster: department stores at the beginning of sales; the stampedes triggered by warring compartments of soccer fans;

29. Traffic is Junkspace, from airspace to the subway; the entire highway system is Junkspace […]

30. Aging in Junkspace is nonexistent or catastrophic; sometimes an entire Junkspace—a department store, a nightclub, a bachelor pad-turns into a slum overnight without warning.

(p.181)

31. Corridors no longer simply link A to B, but have become “destinations.” Their tenant life tends to be short: the most stagnant windows, the most perfunctory dresses, the most implausible flowers. All perspective is gone, as in a rainforest (itself disappearing, they keep saying … ).

32. Trajectories are launched as ramp, turn horizontal without any warning, intersect, fold down, suddenly emerge on a vertiginous balcony above a large void. Fascism minus dictator.

(p.182)

33. There is zero loyalty—and zero tolerance—toward configuration, no “original” condition; architecture has turned into a time-lapse sequence to reveal a “permanent evolution.” … The only certainty is conversion-continuous-followed, in rare cases, by “restoration,” the process that claims ever new sections of history as extensions of Junkspace.

34. History corrupts, absolute history corrupts absolutely. Color and matter are eliminated from these bloodless grafts.

35. Sometimes not overload but its opposite, an absolute absence of detail, generates Junkspace. A voided condition of frightening sparseness, shocking proof that so much can be organized by so little.

36. The curse of public space: latent fascism safely smothered in signage, stools, sympathy … Junkspace is postexistential; it makes you uncertain where you are, obscures where you go, undoes where you were. Who do you think you are? Who do you want to be? (Note to architects: You thought that you could ignore Junkspace, visit it surreptitiously, treat it with condescending contempt or enjoy it vicariously … because you could not understand it, you’ve thrown away the keys … But now your own architecture is infected, has become equally smooth, all-inclusive, continuous, warped, busy, atrium-ridden …)

(p.183)

37. Restore, rearrange, reassemble, revamp, renovate, revise, recover, redesign, return-the Parthenon marbles-redo, respect, rent: verbs that start with re-produce Junkspace …

38. Junkspace will be our tomb.

39. Junkspace is political: It depends on the central removal of the critical faculty in the name of comfort and pleasure.

40. Not exactly “anything goes”; in fact, the secret of Junkspace is that it is both promiscuous and repressive: as the formless proliferates, the formal withers, and with it all rules, regulations, recourse …

41. Junkspace […] is the interior of Big Brother’s belly. It preempts people’s sensations. […] it blatantly proclaims how it wants to be read. Junkspace pretends to unite, but it actually splinters. It creates communities not out of shared interest or free association, but out of identical statistics and unavoidable demographics, an opportunistic weave of vested interests.

(p.184)

42. God is dead, the author is dead, history is dead, only the architect is left standing … an insulting evolutionary joke … A shortage of masters has not stopped a proliferation of masterpieces. “Masterpiece” has become a definitive sanction, a semantic space that saves the object from criticism, leaves its qualities unproven, its performance untested, its motives unquestioned.

43. Junkspace reduces what is urban to urbanity. Instead of public life, Public SpaceTM: what remains of the city once the unpredictable has been removed …

44. Inevitably, the death of God (and the author) has spawned orphaned space; Junkspace is authorless, yet surprisingly authoritarian … At the moment of its greatest emancipation, humankind is subjected to the most dictatorial scripts.: […] The chosen theater of megalomania—the dictatorial—is no longer politics, but entertainment.

45. Why can’t we tolerate stronger sensations? Dissonance? Awkwardness? Genius? Anarchy? … Junkspace heals, or at least that is the assumption of many hospitals.

(p.185)

46. Often heroic in size, planned with the last adrenaline of modernism’s grand inspiration, we have made them (too) human;

47. Junkspace is space as vacation;

(p.186)

48. Junkspace features the office as the urban home, a meeting-boudoir. […] Espace becomes E-space.

49. Globalization turns language into Junkspace. […] Through the retrofitting of language, there are too few plausible words left; our most creative hypotheses will never be formulated, discoveries will remain unmade, concepts unlaunched, philosophies muffled, nuances miscarried … We inhabit sumptuous Potemkin suburbs of weasel terminologies. Aberrant linguistic ecologies sustain virtual subjects in their claim to legitimacy, help them survive … Language is no longer used to explore, define, express, or to confront but to fudge, blur, obfuscate, apologize, and comfort … it stakes claims, assigns victimhood, preempts debate, admits guilt, fosters consensus. […] a Satanic orchestration of the meaningless …

50. Intended for the interior, Junkspace can easily engulf a whole city.

(p.187)

51. Seemingly at the opposite end of Junkspace, the golf course is, in fact, its conceptual double: empty, serene, free of commercial debris. The relative evacuation of the golf course is achieved by the further charging of Junkspace. The methods of their design and realization are similar: erasure, tabula rasa, reconfiguration. Junkspace turns into biojunk; ecology turns into ecospace. Ecology and economy have bonded in Junkspace as ecolomy.

52. Junkspace can be airborne, bring malaria to Sussex;

(p.188)

53. Deprivation can be caused by overdose or shortage; both conditions happen in Junkspace (often at the same time). Minimum is the ultimate ornament, a self-righteous crime, the contemporary Baroque.

54. It does not signify beauty, but guilt.

55. Outside, in the real world, the “art planner” spreads Junkspace’s fundamental incoherence by assigning defunct mythologies to residual surfaces and plotting three-dimensional works in leftover emptiness. Scouting for authenticity, his or her touch seals the fate of what was real, taps it for incorporation in Junkspace.

56. The only legitimate discourse is loss; art replenishes Junkspace in direct proportion to its own morbidity.

(p.189)

57. […] maybe the origins of Junkspace go back to the kindergarten …

58. Will Junkspace invade the body? Through the vibes of the cell phone? Has it already? Through Botox injections? […] Is each of us a mini-construction site? […]

(p.190)

59. Is it [m: mankind] a repertoire of reconfiguration that facilitates the intromission of a new species into its self-made Junksphere? The cosmetic is the new cosmic… ◊

Modernism

JS is about the consequences of modernism for architecture and for urbanism. Koolhaas does not hesitate to explicate it: Modernization, modernism ends in a “meltdown”. As an alternative he offers the “apotheosis”, a particular quality as a Golden Calf of modernization. Within the context of urban life and architectural activities, this outcome shows up as “Junkspace”. The essence of it is emptiness, isolation, splintering, arbitrariness. Its “victory” is named by its offer, entropy, and its essence is continuity. Probably it is meant as kind of a tertiary chaos, vanishing any condition for the possibility of discernability, unfortunately as the final point attractor. We will see.

Koolhaas describes Junkspace as an unintended outcome of a global collective activity. Obviously, Koolhaas is struggling with that, or with the unintendedness of the effect, in other words with emergence and self-organization. Emergence and self-organization can be understood exclusively in the wider context of complexity as we have outlined it previously (see this piece). The concept of complexity as we have constructed it is by no means anti-scientific in a fundamental sense. Yet, it is a severe challenge to scientism as it is practiced today, as our concept explicitly refers to a reflected conceptual embedding, something that is still excluded from natural science today. Anyway, complexity as an explicated concept must be considered as a necessary part of architectural theory, if we take Koolhaas and his writings such as “Junkspace” serious. Without it, we could not make sense of the difference between standardization and homogenization, between uniqueness and singularity, between history and identity, between development and evolution, or between randomness and heterotopia.

Modernism and its effects is the not so hidden agenda of JS. We have to be clear about this concept—at least concerning its foundations, albeit we will not find space enough here for discussing or even just listing its branches that reach not only till Marcuse’s office in Frankfurt—if we want to understand neo-leftist interpretations of JS as that by Jameson (“Future City” [2]), and the not so hidden irony expressed by the resonating label “Future Cities Lab” that denotes the urbanism project of the Department of Architecture (one of the biggest in Europe) of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETHZ). It is also the name of a joint venture between National University of Singapore (NUS) and ETHZ. Yes, they indeed call it Lab(oratory), a place usually producing hives of “petri dishes,” either abandoned (see 7. above) or “containing” the city itself (see section 8.1. of “The Generic City”), and at the same time still, and partially contradictory to its practices, an oratory of modernism. Perhaps. (more about that later).

Latest here we have to address the question:
What is the problem with modernism?

This will be the topic of the next post.

References
  • [1] Rem Koolhaas (2002). Junkspace. October, Vol. 100, “Obsolescence”, pp. 175-190. MIT Press. available here
  • [2] Fredric Jameson, Future City, New Left Review NLR 21, May-June 2003, pp. 65-79. available here

۞

A Deleuzean Move

June 24, 2012 § Leave a comment

It is probably one of the main surprises in the course of

growing up as a human that in the experience of consciousness we may meet things like unresolvable contradictions, thoughts that are incommensurable, thoughts that lead into contradictions or paradoxes, or thoughts that point to something which is outside of the possibility of empirical, so to speak “direct” experience. All these experiences form a particular class of experience. For one or the other reason, these issues are issues of mental itself. We definitely have to investigate them, if we are going to talk about things like machine-based episteme, or the urban condition, which will be the topic of the next few essays.

There have been only very few philosophers1 who have been embracing paradoxicality without getting caught by antinomies and paradoxes in one or another way.2 Just to be clear: Getting caught by paradoxes is quite easy. For instance, by violating the validity of the language game you have been choosing. Or by neglecting virtuality. The first of these avenues into persistent states of worries can be observed in sciences and mathematics3, while the second one is more abundant in philosophy. Fortunately, playing with paradoxicality without getting trapped by paradoxes is not too difficult either. There is even an incentive to do so.

Without paradoxicality it is not possible to think about beginnings, as opposed to origins. Origins­­—understood as points of {conceptual, historical, factual} departure—are set for theological, religious or mystical reasons, which by definition are always considered as bearer of sufficient reason. To phrase it more accurately, the particular difficulty consists in talking about beginnings as part of an open evolution without universal absoluteness, hence also without the need for justification at any time.

Yet, paradoxicality, the differential of actual paradoxes, could form stable paradoxes only if possibility is mixed up with potentiality, as it is for instance the case for perspectives that could be characterised as reductionist or positivist. Paradoxes exist strictly only within that conflation of possibility and potentiality. Hence, if a paradox or antinomy seems to be stable, one always can find an implied primacy of negativity in lieu of the problematic field spawned and spanned by the differential. We thus can observe the pouring of paradoxes also if the differential is rejected or neglected, as in Derrida’s approach, or the related functionalist-formalist ethics of the Frankfurt School, namely that proposed by Habermas [4]. Paradoxes are like knots that always can be untangled in higher dimensions. Yet, this does NOT mean that everything could be smoothly tiled without frictions, gaps or contradictions.

Embracing the paradoxical thus means to deny the linear, to reject the origin and the absolute, the centre points [6] and the universal. We may perceive remote greetings from Nietzsche here4. Perhaps, you already may have classified the contextual roots of these hints: It is Gilles Deleuze to whom we refer here and who may well be regarded as the first philosopher of open evolution, the first one who rejected idealism without sacrificing the Idea.5

In the hands of Deleuze—or should we say minds?—paradoxicality does neither actualize into paradoxes nor into idealistic dichotomic dialectics. A structural(ist) and genetic dynamism first synthesizes the Idea, and by virtue of the Idea as well as the space and time immanent to the Idea paradoxicality turns productive.7

Philosophy is revealed not by good sense but by paradox. Paradox is the pathos or the passion of philosophy. There are several kinds of paradox, all of which are opposed to the complementary forms of orthodoxy – namely, good sense and common sense. […] paradox displays the element which cannot be totalised within a common element, along with the difference which cannot be equalised or cancelled at the direction of a good sense. (DR227)

As our title already indicates, we not only presuppose and start with some main positions and concepts of Deleuzean philosophy, particularly those he once developed in Difference and Repetition (D&R)8. There will be more details later9. We10 also attempt to contribute some “genuine” aspects to it. In some way, our attempt could be conceived as a development being an alternative to part V in D&R, entitled “Asymmetrical Synthesis of the Sensible”.

This Essay

Throughout the collection of essays about the “Putnam Program” on this site we expressed our conviction that future information technology demands for an assimilation of philosophy by the domain of computer sciences (e.g. see the superb book by David Blair “Wittgenstein, Language and Information” [47]). There are a number of areas—of both technical as well as societal or philosophical relevance—which give rise to questions that already started to become graspable, not just in the computer sciences. How to organize the revision of beliefs?11 What is the structure of the “symbol grounding problem”? How to address it? Or how to avoid the fallacy of symbolism?12 Obviously we can’t tackle such questions without the literacy about concepts like belief or symbol, which of course can’t be reduced to a merely technical notion. Beliefs, for instance, can’t be reduced to uncertainty or its treatment, despite there is already some tradition in analytical philosophy, computer sciences or statistics to do so. Else, with the advent of emergent mental capabilities in machines ethical challenges appear. These challenges are on both sides of the coin. They relate to the engineers who are creating such instances as well as to lawyers who—on the other side of the spectrum—have to deal with the effects and the properties of such entities, and even “users” that have to build some “theory of mind” about them, some kind of folk psychology.

And last but not least, just the externalization of informational habits into machinal contexts triggers often pseudo-problems and “deep” confusion.13 Examples for such confusion are the question about the borders of humanity, i.e. as kind of a defense war fought by anthropology, or the issue of artificiality. Where does the machine end and where does the domain of the human start? How can we speak reasonably about “artificiality”, if our brain/mind remains still dramatically non-understood and thus implicitly is conceived by many as kind of a bewildering nature? And finally, how to deal with technological progress: When will computer scientists need self-imposed guidelines similar to those geneticists ratified for their community in 1974 during the Asimolar Conferences? Or are such guidelines illusionary or misplaced, because we are weaving ourselves so intensively into our new informational carpets—made from multi- or even meta-purpose devices—that are righteous flying carpets?

There is also a clearly recognizable methodological reason  for bringing the inventioneering of advanced informational “machines” and philosophy closer together. The domain of machines with advanced mental capabilities—I deliberately avoid the traditional term of “artificial intelligence”—, let us abbreviate it MMC, acquires ethical weight in itself. MMC establishes a subjective Lebenswelt (life form) that is strikingly different from ours and which we can’t understand analytically any more (if at all)14. The challenge then is how to talk about this domain? We should not repeat the same fallacy as anthropology and anthropological philosophy have been committing since Kant, where human measures have been applied (and still are up today) to “nature”. If we are going to compare two different entities we need a differential position from which both can be instantiated. Note that no resemblance can be expected between the instances, nor between the instances and the differential. That differential is a concept, or an idea, and as such it can’t be addressed by any kind of technical perspective. Hence, questions of mode of speaking can’t be conceived as a technical problem, especially not for the domain of MMC, also due to the implied self-referentiality of the mental itself.

Taken together, we may say that our motivation follows two lines. Firstly, the concern is about the problematic field, the problem space itself, about the possibility that problems could become visible at all. Secondly, there is a methodological position characterisable as a differential that is necessary to talk about the subject of incommensurable that are equipped entities with mental capacities.15

Both directions and all related problems can be addressed in the same single move, so at least is our proposal. The goal of this essay is the introduction and a brief discussion of a still emerging conceptual structure that may be used as an image of thought, or likewise as a tool in the sense of an almost formal mental procedure, helping to avoid worries about the diagnosis—or supporting it—of the challenges opened by the new technologies. Of course, it will turn out that the result is not just applicable to the domain of philosophy of technology.

In the following we will introduce a unique structure that has been inspired not only from heterogeneous philosophical sources. Those stretch from Aristotle to Peirce, from Spinoza to Wittgenstein, and from Nietzsche to Deleuze, to name but a few, just to give you an impression what mindset you could expect. Another important source is mathematics, yet not used as a ready-made system for formal reasoning, but rather as a source for a certain way of thinking. Last, but not least, biology is contributing as the home of the organon, of complexity, of evolution, and, more formally, on self-referentiality. The structure we will propose as a starting point that appears merely technical, thus arbitrary, and at the same time it draws upon the primary amalgamate of the virtual and the immanent. Its paradoxicality consists in its potential to describe the “pure” any, the Idea that comprises any beginning. Its particular quality as opposed to any other paradoxicality is caused by a profound self-referentiality that simultaneously leads to its vanishing, its genesis and its own actualization. In this way, the proposed structure solves a challenge that is considered by many throughout the history of philosophy to be one of the most serious one. The challenge in question is that of sufficient reason, justification and conditionability. To be more precise, that challenge is not solved, it is more correct to say that it is dissolved, made disappear. In the end, the problem of sufficient reason will be marked as a pseudo-problem.

Here, a small remark is necessary to be made to the reader. Finally, after some weeks of putting this down, it turned out as a matter of fact that any (more or less) intelligible way of describing the issues exceeds the classical size of a blog entry. After all, now it comprises approx. 150’000 characters (incl white space), which would amount to 42+ pages on paper. So, it is more like a monograph. Still, I feel that there are many important aspects left out. Nevertheless I hope that you enjoy reading it.

The following provides you a table of content (active links) for the remainder of this essay:

2. Brief Methodological Remark

As we already noted, the proposed structure is self-referential. Self-referentiality also means that all concepts and structures needed for an initial description will be justified by the working of the structure, in other words, by its immanence. Actually, similarly to the concept of the Idea in D&R, virtuality and immanence come very close to each other, they are set to be co-generative. As an Idea, the proposed structure is complete. As any other idea, it needs to be instantiated into performative contexts, thus it is to be conceived as an entirety, yet neither as a completeness nor as a totality. Yet, its self-referentiality allows for and actually also generates a “self-containment” that results in a fractal mirroring of itself, in a self-affine mapping. Metaphorically, it is a concept that develops like the leaf of a fern. Superficially, it could look like a complete and determinate entirety, but it is not, similar to area-covering curves in mathematics. Those fill a 2-dimensional area infinitesimally, yet, with regard to their production system they remain truly 1-dimensional. They are a fractal, an entity to which we can’t apply ordinal dimensionality. Such, our concept also develops into instances of fractal entirety.

For these reasons, it would be also wrong to think that the structure we will describe in a moment is “analytical”, despite it is possible to describe its “frozen” form by means of references to mathematical concepts. Our structure must be understood as an entity that is not only not neutral or invariant against time. It forms its own sheafs of time (as I. Prigogine described it) Analytics is always blind against its generative milieu. Analytics can’t tell anything about the world, contrary to a widely exercised opinion. It is not really a surprise that Putnam recommended to reduce the concept of “analytic” to “an inexplicable noise”. Very basically it is a linear endeavor that necessarily excludes self-referentiality. Its starting point is always based on an explicit reference to kind of apparentness, or even revelation. Analytics not only presupposes a particular logic, but also conflates transcendental logic and practiced quasi-logic. Else, the pragmatics of analysis claims that it is free from constructive elements. All these characteristics do not apply to out proposal, which is as less “analytical” as the philosophy of Deleuze, where it starts to grow itself on the notion of the mathematical differential.

3. The Formal Structure

For the initial description of the structure we first need a space of expressibility. This space then will be equipped with some properties. And right at the beginning I would like to emphasize that the proposed structure does not “explain” by itself anything, just like a (philosophical) grammar. Rather, through its usage, that is, its unfolding in time, it shows itself and provides a stable as well as a generative ground.

The space of the structure is not a Cartesian space, where some concepts are mapped onto the orthogonal dimensions, or where concepts are thought to be represented by such dimensions. In a Cartesian space, the dimensions are independent from each other.16 Objects are represented by the linear and additive combination of values along those dimensions and thus their entirety gets broken up. We loose the object as a coherent object and there would be no way to regain it later, regardless the means and the tools we would apply. Hence the Cartesian space is not useful for our purposes. Unfortunately, all the current mathematics is based on the cartesian, analytic conception. Currently, mathematics is a science of control, or more precisely, a science about the arrangement of signs as far as it concerns linear, trivial machines that can be described analytically. There is not yet a mathematics of the organon. Probably category theory is a first step into its direction.

Instead, we conceive our space as an aspectional space, as we introduced it in a previous chapter. In an aspectional space concepts are represented by “aspections” instead of “dimensions”. In contrast to the values in a dimensional space, values in an aspectional can not be changed independently from each other. More precisely, we always can keep only at most 1 aspection constant, while the values along all the others change simultaneously. (So-called ternary diagrams provide a distantly related example for this in a 2-dimensional space.) In other words, within the N-manifolds of the aspectional space always all values are dependent on each other.

This aspectional space is stuffed with a hyperbolic topological structure. The space of our structure is not flat. You may take M.C. Escher’s plates as a visualization of such a space. Yet, our space is different from such a fixed space; it is a relativistic space that is built from overlapping hyperbolic spaces. At each point in the space you will find a point of reference (“origin”) for a single hyperbolic reference system. Our hyperbolic space is locally centred. A mathematical field about comparable structures would be differential topology.

So far, the space is still quite easy and intuitively to understand. At least there is still a visualization possible for it. This changes probably with the next property. Points in this aspectional space are not “points”, or expressed in a better, less obscure way, our space does not contain points at all. In a Cartesian space, points are defined by one or more scales and their properties. For instance, in a x-y-coordinate system we could have real numbers on both dimensions, i.e. scales, or we could have integers on the first, and reals on the second one. The interaction of the number systems used to create a scale along a dimension determines the expressibility of the space. This way, a point is given as a fixed instance of a set of points as soon as the scale is given. Points themselves are thus said to be 0-dimensional.

Our “points”, i.e. the content of our space is quite different from that. It is not “made up” from inert and passive points but the second differential, i.e. ultimately a procedure that invokes an instantiation. Our aspectional space thus is made from infinitesimal procedural sites, or “situs” as Leibniz probably would have said. If we would represent the physical space by a Cartesian dimensional system, then the second derivative would represent an acceleration. Take this as a metaphor for the behavior of our space. Yet, our space is not a space that is passive. The second-order differential makes it an active space and a space that demands for an activity. Without activity it is “not there”.

We also could describe it as the mapping of the intensity of the dynamics of transformation. If you would try to point to a particular location, or situs, in that space, which is of course excluded by its formal definition, you would instantaneously “transported” or transformed, such that you would find yourself elsewhere instantaneously. Yet, this “elsewhere” can not be determined in Cartesian ways. First, because that other point does not exist, second, because it depends on the interaction of the subject’s contribution to the instantiation of the situs and the local properties of the space. Finally, we can say that our aspectional space thus is not representational, as the Cartesian space is.

So, let us sum the elemental17 properties of our space of expressibility:

  • 1. The space is aspectional.
  • 2. The topology of the space is locally hyperbolic.
  • 3. The substance of the space is a second-order differential.

4. Mapping the Semantics

We now are going to map four concepts onto this space. These concepts are themselves Ideas in the Deleuzean sense, but they are also transcendental. They are indeterminate and real, just as virtual entities. As those, we take the chosen concepts as inexplicable, yet also as instantiationable.

These four concepts have been chosen initially in a hypothetical gesture, such that they satisfy two basic requirements. First, it should not be possible to reduce them to one another. Second, together they should allow to build a space of expressibility that would contain as much philosophical issues of mentality as possible. For instance, it should contain any aspect of epistemology or of languagability, but it does not aim to contribute to the theory of morality, i.e. ethics, despite the fact that there is, of course, significant overlapping. For instance, one of the possible goals could be to provide a space that allows to express the relation between semiotics and any logic, or between concepts and models.

So, here are the four transcendental concepts that form the aspections of our space as described above:

  • – virtuality
  • – mediality
  • – model
  • – concept

Inscribing four concepts into a flat, i.e. Euclidean aspectional space would result in a tetraedic space. In such a space, there would be “corners,” or points of inflections, which would represent the determinateness of the concepts mapped to the aspections. As we have emphasized above, our space is not flat, though. There is no static visualization possible for it, since our space can’t be mapped to the flat Euclidean space of a drawing, or of the space of our physical experience.

So, let us proceed to the next level by resorting to the hyperbolic disc. If we take any two points inside the disc, their distance is determinate. Yet, if we take any two points at the border of the disc, the distance between those points is infinite from the inside perspective, i.e. for any perspective associated to a point within the disc. Also the distance from any point inside the disc to the border is infinite. This provides a good impression how transcendental concepts that by definition can’t be accessed “as such”, or as a thing, can be operationalized by the hyperbolic structure of a space. Our space is more complicated, though, as the space is not structured by a fixed hyperbolic topology that is, so to speak, global for the entire disc. The consequence is that our space does not have a border, but at the same time it remains an aspectional space. Turning the perspective around, we could say that the aspections are implied into this space.

Let us now briefly visit these four concepts.

4.1. Virtuality

Virtuality describes the property of “being virtual”. Saying that something is virtual does not mean that this something does not exist, despite the property “existing” can’t be applied to it either. It is fully real, but not actual. Virtuality is the condition of potentiality, and as such it is a transcendental concept. Deleuze repeatedly emphasises that virtuality does not refer to a possibility. In the context of information technologies it is often said that this or that is “virtual”, e.g. virtualized servers, or virtual worlds. This usage is not the same as in philosophy, since, quite obviously, we use the virtual server as a server, and the world dubbed “virtual“ indeed does exist in an actualized form. Yet, in both examples there is also some resonance to the philosophical concept of virtuality. But this virtuality is not exclusive to the simulated worlds, the informationally defined server instances or the WWW. Virtualization is, as we will see in a moment, implied by any kind of instance of mediality.

As just said, virtuality and thus also potentiality must be strictly distinguished from possibility. Possible things, even if not yet present or existent, can be thought of in a quasi-material way, as if they would exist in their material form. We even can say that possible things and the possibilities of things are completely determined in any given moment. It is not possible to say so about potentiality. Yet, without the concept of potentiality we could not speak about open evolutionary processes. Neglecting virtuality thus is necessarily equivalent to the apriori claim of determinateness, which is methodologically and ethically highly problematic.

The philosophical concept of virtuality is known since Aristotle. Recently, Bühlmann18 brought it to the vicinity of semiotics and the question of reference19 in her work about mediality. There would be much, much more to say about virtuality here, just, the space is missing…

4.2. Mediality

Mediality, that is the medial aspects of things, facts and processes belongs to the most undervalued concepts nowadays, even as we get some exercise by means of so-called “social media”. That term perfectly puts this blind spot to stage through its emphasis: Neither is there any mediality without sociality, nor is there any sociality without mediality. Mediality is the concept that has been “discovered” as the last one of our small group. There is a growing body of publications, but many are—astonishingly—deeply infected by romanticism or positivism20, with only a few exceptions.21 Mediality comprises issues like context, density, or transformation qua transfer. Mediality is a concept that helps to focus the appropriate level of integration in populations or flows when talking about semantics or meaning and their dynamics. Any thing, whether material or immaterial, that occurs in a sufficient density in its manifoldness may develop a mediality within a sociality. Mediality as a “layer of transport” is co-generative to sociality. Media are never neutral with respect to the transported, albeit one can often find counteracting forces here.

Signs and symbols could not exist as such without mediality. (Yet, this proposal is based on the primacy of interpretation, which is rejected by modernist set of beliefs. The costs for this are, however, tremendous, as we are going to argue here) The same is true for words and language as a whole. In real contexts, we usually find several, if not many medial layers. Of course, signs and symbols are not exhaustively described by mediality. They need reference, which is a compound that comprises modeling.

4.3. Model

Models and modeling need not be explicated too much any more, as it is one of the main issues throughout our essays. We just would like to remember to the obvious fact that a “pure” model is not possible. We need symbols and rules, e.g. about their creation or usage, and necessarily both are not subject of the model itself. Most significantly, models need a purpose, a concept to which they refer. In fact, any model presupposes an environment, an embedding that is given by concepts and a particular social embedding. Additionally, models would not be models without virtuality. On the one hand, virtuality is implied by the fact that models are incarnations of specific modes of interpretation, and on the other hand they imply virtuality themselves, since they are, well, just models.

We frequently mentioned that it is only through models that we can build up references to the external world. Of course, models are not sufficient to describe that referencing. There is also the contingency of the manifold of populations and the implied relations as quasi-material arrangements that contribute to the reference of the individual to the common. Yet, only modeling allows for anticipation and purposeful activity. It is only though models that behavior is possible, insofar any behavior is already differentiated behavior. Models are thus the major site where information is created. It is not just by chance that the 20th century experienced the abundance of models and of information as concepts.

In mathematical terms, models can be conceived as second-order categories. More profane, but equivalent to that, we can say that models are arrangement of rules for transformation. This implies the whole issue of rule-following as it has been investigated and formulated by Wittgenstein. Note that rule-following itself is a site of paradoxicality. As there is no private language, there is also no private model. Philosophically, and a bit more abstract, we could describe them as the compound of providing the possibility for reference (they are one of the conditions for such) and the institutionalized site for creating (f)actual differences.

4.4. Concepts

Concept is probably one of the most abused, or at least misunderstood concepts, at least in modern times. So-called Analytical Philosophy is claiming over and over again that concepts could be explicated unambiguously, that concepts could be clarified or defined. This way, the concept and its definition are equaled. Yet, a definition is just a definition, not a concept. The language game of the definition makes sense only in a tree of analytical proofs that started with axioms. Definitions need not to be interpreted. They are fully given by themselves. Such, the idea of clarifying a concept is nothing but an illusion. Deleuze writes (DR228)

It is not surprising that, strictly speaking, difference should be ‘inexplicable’. Difference is explicated, but in systems in which it tends to be cancelled; this means only that difference is essentially implicated, that its being is implication. For difference, to be explicated is to be cancelled or to dispel the inequality which constitutes it. The formula according to which ‘to explicate is to identify’ is a tautology.

Deleuze points to the particular “mechanism” of eradication by explication, which is equal to its transformation into the sayable. There is a difference between 5 and 7, but the arithmetic difference does not cover all aspects of difference. Yet, by explicating the difference using some rules, all the other differences except the arithmetic one vanish. Such, this inexplicability is not limited to the concept of difference. In some important way, these other aspects are much more interesting and important than the arithmetic operation itself or the result of it. Actually, we can understand differencing only as far we are aware of these other aspects.

Elsewhere, we already cited Augustine and his remark about time:22 “What, then, is time? If no one ask of me, I know; if I wish to explain to him who asks, I know not.” Here, we can observe at least two things. Firstly, this observation may well be the interpreted as the earliest rejection of “knowledge as justified belief”, a perspective which became popular in modernism. Meanwhile it has been proofed to be inadequate by the so-called Gettier problem. The consequences for the theory of data bases, or machine-based processing of data, can’t be underestimated. It clearly shows, that knowledge can’t be reduced to confirmed hypotheses qua validated models, and belief can’t be reduced to kind of a pre-knowledge. Belief must be something quite different.

The second thing to observe by those two example concerns the status of interpretation. While Augustine seems to be somewhat desperate, at least for a moment23, analytical philosophy tries to abolish the annoyance of indeterminateness by killing the freedom inherent to interpretation, which always and inevitably happens, if the primacy of interpretation is denied.

Of course, the observed indeterminateness is equally not limited to time either. Whenever you try to explicate a concept, whether you describe it or define it, you find the unsurmountable difficulty to pick one of many interpretations. Again: There is no private language; meaning, references and signs exist only within social situations of interpretation. In other words, we again find the necessity of invoking the other conceptual aspects from which we build our space. Without models and mediality there is no concept. And even more profound than models, concepts imply virtuality.

In the opposite direction we can understand now that these four concepts are not only not reducible to each other. They are dependent on each other and—somewhat paradoxically—they are even competitively counteracting. From this we can expect an abstract dynamics that reminds somewhat to the patterns evolving in Reaction-Diffusion-Systems. These four concepts imply the possibility for a basic creativity in the realm of the Idea, in the indeterminate zone of actualisation that will result in a “concrete” thought, or at least the experience of thinking.

Before we proceed we would like to introduce a notation that should be helpful in avoiding misunderstandings. Whenever we refer to the transcendental aspects between which the aspections of our space stretch out, we use capital letters and mark it additionally by a bar, such as “_Concept”,or “_Model”.The whole set of aspects we denote by “_A”,while its unspecified items are indicated by “_a”.

5. Anti-Ontology: The T-Bar-Theory

The four conceptual aspects _Aplay different roles. They differ in the way they get activated. This becomes visible as soon as we use our space as a tool for comparing various kinds of mental concepts or activities, such as believing, referring, explicating or understanding. These we will inspect later in detail.

Above we described the impossibility to explicate a concept without departing from the “conceptness”. Well, such a description is actually not appropriate according to our aspectional space. The four basic aspections are built by transcendental concepts. There is a subjective, imaginary yet pre-specific scale along those aspections. Hence, in our space “conceptness” is not a quality, but an intensity, or almost a degree, a quantity. The key point then is that a mental concept or activity relates always to all four transcendental aspections in such a way that the relative location of the mental activity can’t be changed along just a single aspect alone.

We also can recognize another significant step that is provided by our space of expressibility. Traditionally, concepts are used as existential signifiers, in philosophy often called qualia. Such existential signifiers are only capable to indicate presence or absence, which thus is also confined to naive ontology of Hamletian style (to be or not to be). It is almost impossible to build a theory or a model from existential signifiers. From the modeling or the measurement theory point of view, concepts are on the binary scale. Despite concepts collect a multitude of such binary usages, appropriate modeling remains impossible due the binary scale, unless we would probabilize all potential dual pairs.

Similarly to the case of logic we also have to distinguish the transcendental aspect _a,that is, the _Model,_Mediality,_Concept,and _Virtualityfrom the respective entity that we find in applications. Those practiced instances of a are just that: instances. That is: instances produced by orthoregulated habits. Yet, the instances of a that could be gained through the former’s actualization do not form singularities, or even qualia. Any a can be instantiated into an infinite diversity of concrete, i.e. definable and sayable abstract entities. That’s the reason for the kinship between probabilistic entities and transcendental perspectives. We could operationalize the latter by the former, even if we have to distinguish sharply between possibility and potentiality. Additionally we have to keep in mind that the concrete instances do not live independently from their transcendental ancestry24.

Deleuze provides us a nice example of this dynamics in the beginning of part V in D&R. For him, “divergence” is an instance of the transcendental entity “Difference”.

Difference is not diversity. Diversity is given, but difference is that by which the given is given, that by which the given is given as diverse. Difference is not phenomenon but the noumenon closest to the phenomenon.

What he calls “phenomenon” we dubbed “instance”, which is probably more appropriate in order to avoid the reference to phenomenology and the related difficulties. Calling it “phenomenon” pretends—typically for any kind of phenomenology or ontology—sort of a deeply unjustified independence of mentality and its underlying physicality.

This step from existential signifiers to the situs in a space for expressibility, made possible by our aspectional space, can’t be underestimated. Take for instance the infamous question that attracted so many misplaced answers: “How do words or concepts acquire reference?” This question appears to be especially troubling because signs do refer only to signs.25 In existential terms, and all the terms in that question are existential ones, this question can’t be answered, even not addressed at all. As a consequence, deep mystical chasms unnecessarily keep separating the world from the concepts. Any resulting puzzle is based on a misconception. Think of Platons chorismos (greek for “separation”) of explanation and description, which recently has been taken up, refreshed and declared being a “chasm” by Epperson [31] (a theist realist, according to his own positioning; we will meet him later again). The various misunderstandings are well-known, ranging from nominalism to externalist realism to scientific constructivism.

They all vanish in a space that overcomes the existentiality embedded in the terms. Mathematically spoken, we have to represent words, concepts and references as probabilized entities, as quasi-species as Manfred Eigen called it in a different context, in order to avoid naive mysticism regarding our relations to the world.

It seems that our space provides the possibility for measuring and comparing different ways of instantiation for _A,kind of a stable scale. We may use it to access concepts differentially, that is, we now are able to transform concepts in a space of quantitability (a term coined by Vera Bühlmann). The aspectional space as we have constructed it is thus necessary even in order to talk just about modeling. It would provide the possibility for theories about any transition between any mental entities one could think of. For instance, if we conceive “reference” as the virtue of purposeful activity and anticipation, we could explore and describe the conditions for the explication of the path between the _Modelon the one side and the _Concept on the other.On this path—which is open on both sides—we could, for instance, first meet different kinds of symbols near the Model, started by idealization and naming of models, followed by the mathematical attitude concerning the invention and treatment of signs, _Logicand all of its instances, semiosis and signs, words, and finally concepts, not forgetting above all that this path necessarily implies a particular dynamics regarding _Medialityand _Virtuality.

Such an embedding of transformations into co-referential transcendental entities is anything we can expect to “know” reliably. That was the whole point of Kant. Well, here we can be more radical than Kant dared to. The choreostemic space is a rejection of the idea of “pure thought”, or pure reason, since such knowledge needs to undergo a double instantiation, and this brings subjectivity back. It is just a phantasm to believe that propositions could be secured up to “truth”. This is even true for least possible common denominator, existence.

I think that we cannot know whether something exists or not (here, I pretend to understand the term exist), that it is meaningless to ask this. In this case, our analysis of the legitimacy of uses has to rest on something else. (David Blair [49])

Note that Blair is very careful in his wording here. He is not about any universality regarding the justification, or legitimization. His proposal is simply that any reference to “Being” or “Existence” is useless apriori. Claiming seriousness of ontology as an aspect of or even as an external reality immediately instantiates the claim of an external reality as such, which would be such-and-such irrespective to its interpretation. This, in turn, would consequently amount to a stance that would set the proof of irrelevance of interpretation and of interpretive relativism as a goal. Any familiar associations about that? Not to the least do physicists, but only physicists, speak of “laws” in nature. All of this is, of course, unholy nonsense, propaganda and ideology at least.

As a matter of fact, even in a quite strict naturalist perspective, we need concepts and models. Those are obviously not part of the “external” nature. Ontology is an illusion, completely and in any of its references, leading to pseudo-problems that are indeed  “very difficult” to “solve”. Even if we manage to believe in “existence”, it remains a formless existence, or more precisely, it has to remain formless. Any ascription of form immediately would beat back as a denial of the primacy of interpretation, hence in a naturalist determinism.

Before addressing the issue of the topological structure of our space, let us trace some other figures in our space.

6. Figures and Forms

Whenever we explicate a concept we imply or refer to a model. In a more general perspective, this applies to virtuality and mediality as well. To give an example: Describing a belief does not mean to belief, but to apply a model. The question now is, how to revert the accretion of mental activities towards the _Model._Virtuality can’t be created deliberately, since in this case we would refer again to the concept of model. Speaking about something, that is, saying in the Wittgensteinian sense, intensifies the _Model.

It is not too difficult, though, to find some candidate mechanics that turns the vector of mental activity away from the _Concept.It is through performance, mere action without explicable purpose, that we introduce new possibilities for interpretation and thus also enriched potential as the (still abstract) instance of _Virtuality.

In contrast to that, the _Concept is implied.The _Conceptcan only be demonstrated. Even by modeling. Traveling on some path that is heading towards the _Model,the need for interpretation continuously grows, hence, the more we try to approach the “pure” _Model,the stronger is the force that will flip us back towards the _Concept.

_Mediality,finally, the fourth of our aspects, binds its immaterial colleagues to matter, or quasi-matter, in processes that are based on the multiplicity of populations. It is through _Medialityand its instances that chunks of information start to behave as device, as quasi-material arrangement. The whole dynamics between _Conceptsand _Modelsrequires a symbol system, which can evolve only through the reference to _Mediality,which in turn is implied by populations of processes.

Above we said that the motivation for this structure is to provide a space of expressibility for mental phenomena in their entirety. Mental activity does not consist of isolated, rare events. It is an multitude of flows integrated into various organizational levels, even if we would consider only the language part. Mapping these flows into our space rises the question whether we could distinguish different attractors, different forms of recurrence.

Addressing this question establishes an interesting configuration, since we are talking about the form of mental activities. Perhaps it is also appropriate to call these forms “mental style”. In any case, we may take our space as a tool to formalize the question about potential classes of mental styles. In order to render out space more accessible, we take the tetraedic body as a (crude) approximating metaphor for it.

Above we stressed the point that any explication intensifies the _Model aspect. Transposed into a Cartesian geometry we would have said—metaphori- cally—that explication moves us towards the corner of the model. Let us stick to this primitive representation for a moment and in favour of a more intuitive understanding. Now imagine constructing a vector that points away from the model corner, right to the middle of the area spanned by virtuality, mediality and concept. It is pretty clear, that mental activity that leaves the model behind, and quite literally so, in this way will be some form of basic belief, or revelation. Religiosity (as a mental activity) may be well described as the attempt to balance virtuality, mediality and concept without resorting to any kind of explication, i.e. models. Of course, this is not possible in an absolute manner, since it is not possible to move in the aspectional space without any explication. This in turn then yields a residual that again points towards the model corner.

Inversely, it is not possible to move only in the direction of the _Model.Nevertheless, there are still many people proposing such, think for instance about (abundant as well as overdone) scientism. What we can see here are particular forms of mental activity. What about other forms? For instance, the fixed-point attractor?

As we have seen, our aspectional space does not allow for points as singularities. Both the semantics of the aspections as well as the structure of the space as a second-order differential prevents them. Yet, somebody could attempt to realize an orbit around a singularity that is as narrow as possible. Despite such points of absolute stability are completely illusionary, the idea of the absoluteness of ideas—idealism—represents just such an attempt. Yet, the claim of absoluteness brings mental activity to rest. It is not by accident therefore that it was the logician Frege who championed kind of a rather strange hyperplatonism.

At this point we can recognize the possibility to describe different forms of mental activity using our space. Mental activity draws specific trails into our space. Moreover, our suggestion is that people prefer particular figures for whatever reasons, e.g. due to their cultural embedding, their mental capabilities, their knowledge, or even due to their basic physical constraints. Our space allows to compare, and perhaps even to construct or evolve particular figures. Such figures could be conceived as the orthoregulative instance for the conditions to know. Epistemology thus looses its claim of universality.

It seems obvious to call our space a “choreostemic” space, a term which refers to choreography. Choreography means to “draw a dance”, or “drawing by dancing”, derived from Greek choreia (χορεύω) for „dancing, (round) dance”. Vera Bühlmann [19] described that particular quality as “referring to an unfixed point loosely moving within an occurring choreography, but without being orchestrated prior to and independently of such occurrence.”

The notion of the choreosteme also refers to the chorus of the ancient theatre, with all its connotations, particularly the drama. Serving as an announcement for part V of D&R, Deleuze writes:

However, what carries out the third aspect of sufficient reason—namely, the element of potentiality in the Idea? No doubt the pre-quantitative and pre-qualitative dramatisation. It is this, in effect, which determines or unleashes, which differenciates the differenciation of the actual in its correspondence with the differentiation of the Idea. Where, however, does this power of dramatisation come from? (DR221)

It is right here, where the choreostemic space links in. The choreostemic space does not abolish the dramatic in the transition from the conditionability of Ideas into concrete thoughts, but it allows to trace and to draw, to explicate and negotiate the dramatic. In other words, it opens the possibility for a completely new game: dealing with mental attitudes. Without the choreostemic space this game is not even visible, which itself has rather unfortunate consequences.

The choreostemic space is not an epistemic space either. Epistemology is concerned about the conditions that are influencing the possibility to know. Literally, episteme means “to stand near”, or “to stand over”. It draws upon a fixed perspective that is necessary to evaluate something. Yet, in the last 150 years or so, philosophy definitely has experienced the difficulties implied by epistemology as an endeavour that has been expected to contribute finally to the stabilization of knowledge. I think, the choreostemic space could be conceived as a tool that allows to reframe the whole endeavour. In other words, the problematic field of the episteme, and the related research programme “epistemology” are following an architecture (or intention), that has been set up far too narrow. That reframing, though, has become accessible only through the “results” of—or the tools provided by — the work of Wittgenstein and Deleuze. Without the recognition of the role of language and without a renewal of the notion of the virtual, including the invention of the concept of the differential, that reframing would not have been possible at all.

Before we are going to discuss further the scope of the choreostemic space and the purposes it can serve, we have to correct the Cartesian view that slipped in through our metaphorical references. The Cartesian flavour keeps not only a certain arbitrariness alive, as the four conceptual aspects _Aare given just by some subjective empirical observations. It also keeps us stick completely within the analytical space, hence with a closed approach that again would need a mystical external instance for its beginning. This we have to correct now.

7. Reason and Sufficiency

Our choreostemic space is built as an aspectional space that is spanned by transcendental entities. As such, they reflect the implied conditionability of concrete entities like definitions, models or media. The _Conceptcomprises any potential concrete concept, the _Modelcomprises any actual model of whatsoever kind and expressed in whatsoever symbolic system, the _Medialitycontains the potential for any kind of media, whether more material or more immaterial in character. The transcendental status of these aspects also means that we never can “access” them in their “pure” form. Yet, due to these properties our space allows to map any mental activity, not just of the human brain. In a more general perspective, our space is the space where the _Comparison takes place.

The choreostemic space is of course itself a model. Given the transcendentality of the four conceptual aspects _A,we can grasp the self-referentiality. Yet, this neither does result in an infinite regress, nor in circularity. This would be the case only if the space would be Cartesian and the topological structure would be flat (Euclidean) and global.

First, we have to consider that the choreostemic space is not only model, precisely due to its self-referentiality. Second, it is a tool, and as such it is not time-inert as a physical law. Its relevance unfolds only if it is used. This, however, invokes time and activity. Thus the choreostemic space could be conceived also as a means to intensify the virtual aspects of thought. Furthermore, and third, it is of course a concept, that is, it is an instance of the _Concept.As such, it should be constructed in a way that abolishes any possibility for a Cartesio-Euclidean regression. All these aspects are covered by the topological structure of the choreostemic space: It is meant to be a second-order differential.

A space made by the second-order differential does not contain items. It spawns procedures. In such a space it is impossible to stay at a fixed point. Whenever one would try to determine a point, one would be accelerated away. The whole space causes divergence of mental activities. Here we find the philosophical reason for the impossibility to catch a thought as a single entity.

We just mentioned that the choreostemic space does not contain items. Due to the second-order differential it is not made up as a set of coordinates, or, if we’d consider real scaled dimensions, as potential sets of coordinates. Quite to the opposite, there is nothing determinable in it. Yet, in rear-view, or hindsight, respectively, we can reconstruct figures in a probabilistic manner. The subject of this probabilism is again not determinable coordinates, but rather clouds of probabilities, quite similar to the way things are described in quantum physics by the Schrödinger equation. Unlike the completely structureless and formless clouds of probability which are used in the description of electrons, the figures in our space can take various, more or less stable forms. This means that we can try to evolve certain choreostemic figures and even anticipate them, but only to a certain degree. The attractor of a chaotic system provides a good metaphor for that: We clearly can see the traces in parameter space as drawn by the system, yet, the system’s path as described by a sequence of coordinates remains unpredictable. Nevertheless, the attractor is probabilistically confined to a particular, yet cloudy “figure,” that is, an unsharp region in parameter space. Transitions are far from arbitrary.

Hence, we would propose to conceive the choreostemic space as being made up from probabilistic situs (pl.). Transitions between situs are at the same time also transformations. The choreostemic space is embedded in its own mediality without excluding roots in external media.

Above we stuffed the space with a hyperbolic topology in order to align to the transcendentality of the conceptual aspects. It is quite important to understand that the choreostemic space does not implement a single, i.e. global hyperbolic relation. In contrast, each situs serves as point of reference. Without this relativity, the choreostemic space would be centred again, and in consequence it would turn again to the analytic and totalising side. This relativity can be regarded as the completed and subjectivising Cartesian delocalization of the “origin”. It is clear that the distance measures of any two such relative hyperbolic spaces do not coincide any more. There is neither apriori objectivity nor could we expect a general mapping function. Approximate agreement about distance measures may be achievable only for reference systems that are rather close to each other.

The choreostemic space comprises any condition of any mental attitude or thought. We already mentioned it above: The corollary of that is that the choreostemic space is the space of _Comparisonas a transcendental category.

It comprises the conditions for the whole universe of Ideas, it is an entirety. Here, it is again the topological structure of the space that saves us from mental dictatorship. We have to perform a double instantiation in order to arrive at a concrete thought. It is somewhat important to understand that these instantiations are orthoregulated.

It is clear that the choreostemic space destroys the idea of a uniform rationality. Rationality can’t be tied to truth, justice or utility in an objective manner, even if we would soften objectivity as a kind of relaxed intersubjectivity. Rationality depends completely on the preferred or practiced figures in the choreostemic space. Two persons, or more generally, two entities with some mental capacity, could completely agree on the facts, that is on the percepts, the way of their construction, and the relations between them, but nevertheless assign them completely different virtues and values, simply for the fact that the two entities inhabit different choreostemic attractors. Rationality is global within a specific choreostemic figure, but local and relative with regard to that figure. The language game of rationality therefore does not refer to a particular attitude towards argumentation, but quite in contrast, it includes and displays the will to establish, if not to enforce uniformity. Rationality is the label for the will to power under the auspices of logic and reductionism. It serves as the display for certain, quite critical moral values.

Thus, the notion of sufficient reason looses its frightening character as well. As any other principle of practice it gets transformed into a strictly local principle, retaining some significance only with regard to situational instrumentality. Since the choreostemic space is a generative space, locality comprises temporal locality as well. According to the choreostemic space, sufficient reasons can’t even be transported between subsequent situations. In terms of the choreostemic space notions like rationality or sufficient reason are relative to a particular attractor. In different attractors their significance could be very different, they may bear very different meanings. Viewed from the opposite direction, we also can see that a more or less stable attractor in the choreostemic has first to form, or: to be formed, before there is even the possibility for sufficient reasons. This goes straightly parallel to Wittgenstein’s conception of logic as a transcendental apriori that possibly becomes instantiated only within the process of an unfolding Lebensform. As a contribution to political reason, the choreostemic space it enables persons inhabiting different attractors, following different mental styles. Later, we will return to this aspect.

In D&R, Deleuze explicated the concept of the “Image of Thought”, as part III of D&R is titled. There he first discusses what he calls the dogmatic image of thought, comprised according to him from eight elements that together lead to the concept of the idea as an representation (DR167). Following that we insists that the idea is bound to repetition and difference (as differenciation and differentiation), where repetition introduces the possibility of the new, as it is not the repetition of the same. Nevertheless, Deleuze didn’t develop this Image into a multiplicity, as it could have been expected from a more practical perspective, i.e. the perspective of language games. These games are different from his notion emphasizing at several instances that language is a rich play.

For me it seems that Deleuze didn’t (want to) get rid of ontology, hence he did not conceive of his great concept of the “differential” as a language game, and in turn he missed to detect the opportunity for self-referentiality or even to apply it in a self-referential manner. We certainly do therefore not agree with his attempt to ground the idea of sufficient reason as a global principle. Since “sufficient reason” is a practice I think it is not possible or not sufficient to conceive of it as a transcendental guideline.

8. Elective Kinships

It is pretty clear that the choreostemic space is applicable to many problematic fields concerning mental attitudes, and hence concerning cultural issues at large, reaching far beyond the specificity of individual domains.

As we will see, the choreostemic space may serve as a treatment for several kinds of troublesome aberrances, in philosophy itself as well as in its various applications. Predominantly, the choreostemic space provides the evolutionary perspective towards the self-containing theoretical foundation of plurality and manifoldness.26 Comparing that with Hegel’s slogans of “the synthesis of the nation’s reason“ (“Synthese des Volksgeistes“) or „The Whole is the Truth“ („Das Ganze ist das Wahre“) shows the difference regarding its level and scope.

Before we go into the details of the dynamics that unfolds in the choreostemic space, we would like to pick up on two areas, the philosophy of the episteme and the relationship between anthropology and philosophy.

8.1. Philosophy of the Episteme

The choreostemic space is not about a further variety of some epistemological argument. It is thought as a reframing of the concerns that have been addressed traditionally by epistemology. (Here, we already would like to warn of the misunderstanding that the choreostemic space exhausts as epistemology.) Hence, it should be able to serve (as) the theoretical frame for the sociology of science or the philosophy of science as well. Think about the work of Bruno Latour [9], Karin Knorr Cetina [10] or Günther Ropohl [11] for the sociology of science or the work of van Fraassen [12] of Giere [13] for the field of philosophy of science. Sociology and philosophy, and quite likely any of the disciplines in human sciences, should indeed establish references to the mental in some way, but rather not to the neurological level, and—since we have to avoid anthropological references—to cognition as it is currently understood in psychology as well.

Giere, for instance, brings the “cognitive approach” and hence the issue of practical context close to the understanding of science, criticizing the idealising projection of unspecified rationality:

Philosophers’ theories of science are generally theories of scientific rationality. The scientist of philosophical theory is an ideal type, the ideally rational scientist. The actions of real scientists, when they are considered at all, are measured and evaluated by how well they fulfill the ideal. The context of science, whether personal, social or more broadly cultural, is typically regarded as irrelevant to a proper philosophical understanding of science” (p.3).

The “cognitive approach” that Giere proposes as a means to understand science is, however, threatened seriously by the fact that there is no consensus about the mental. This clearly conflicts with the claim of trans-cultural objectivity of contemporary science. Concerning cognition, there are still many simplistic paradigms around, recently seriously renewed by the machine learning community. Aaron Ben Ze’ev [14] writes critically:

In the schema paradigm [of the mind, m.], which I advocate, the mind is not an internal container but a dynamic system of capacities and states. Mental properties are states of a whole system, not internal entities within a particular system. […] Novel information is not stored in a separate warehouse, but is ingrained in the constitution of the cognitive system in the form of certain cognitive structures (or schemas). […] The attraction of the mechanistic paradigm is its simplicity; this, however, is an inadequate paradigm, because it fails to explain various relevant phenomena. Although the complex schema paradigm does not offer clear-cut solutions, it offers more adequate explanations.

How problematic even such critiques are can be traced as soon as we remember Wittgenstein’s mark on “mental states” (Brown Book, p.143):

There is a kind of general disease of thinking which always looks for (and  finds) what would be called a mental state from which all our acts spring as from a reservoir.

In the more general field of epistemology there is still no sign for any agreement about the concept of knowledge. From our position, this is little surprising. First, concepts can’t be defined at all. All we can find are local instances of the transcendental entity. Second, knowledge and even its choreostemic structure is dependent on the embedding culture while at the same time it is forming the culture. The figures in the choreostemic space are attractors: They do not prescribe the next transformation, but they constrain the possibility for it. How ever to “define” knowledge in an explicit, positively representationalist manner? For instance, knowledge can’t be reduced to confirmed hypotheses qua validated models. It is just impossible in principle to say “knowledge is…”, since this implies inevitably the demand for an objective justification. At most, we can take it as a language game. (Thus the choreosteme, that is, the potential of building figures in the choreostemic space, should not be mixed with the episteme! We will return to this issue later again.)

Yet, just to point to the category of the mental as a language game does not feel satisfying at all. Of course, Wittgenstein’s work sheds bright light on many aspects of mentality. Nevertheless, we can’t use Wittgenstein’s work as a structure; it is itself to be conceived as a result of a certain structuredness. On the other hand, it is equally disappointing to rely on the scientific approach to the mental. In some way, we need a balanced view, which additionally should provide the possibility for a differential experimentation with mechanisms of the mental.

Just that is offered by the choreostemic space. We may relate disciplinary reductionist models to concepts as they live in language games without any loss and without getting into troubles as well.

Let us now see what is possible by means of the choreostemic space and the anti-ontological T-Bar-Theory for the terms believing, referring, explicating, understanding and knowing. It might be relevant to keep in mind that by “mental activities” we do not refer to any physical or biochemical process. We distinguish the mental from the low-level affairs in the brain. Beliefs, or believing, are thus considered to be language games. From that perspective our choreostemic space just serves as a tool to externalize language in order to step outside of it, or likewise, to get able to render important aspects of playing the language game visible.

Believing

The category of beliefs, or likewise the activity of believing27, we already met above. We characterised it as a mental activity that leaves the model behind. We sharply refute the quite abundant conceptualisation of beliefs as kind of uncertainty in models. Since there is no certainty at all, not even with regard to transcendental issues, such would make little sense. Actually, the language game of believing shows its richness even on behalf of a short investigation like this one.

Before we go into details here let us see how others conceive of it. PMS Hacker [27] gave the following summary:

Over the last two and a half centuries three main strands of opinion can be discerned in philosophers’ investigations of believing. One is the view that believing that p is a special kind of feeling associated with the idea that p or the proposition that p. The second view is that to believe that p is to be in a certain kind of mental state. The third is that to believe that p is to have a certain sort of disposition.

Right to the beginning of his investigation, Hacker marks the technical, reductionist perspective onto believe as a misconception. This technical reductionism, which took form as so-called AGM-theory in the paper by Alchourron, Gärdenfors and Makinson [28] we will discuss below. Hacker writes about it:

Before commencing analysis, one misconception should be mentioned and put aside. It is commonly suggested that to believe that p is a propositional attitude.That is patently misconceived, if it means that believing is an attitude towards a proposition. […] I shall argue that to believe that p is neither a feeling, nor a mental state, nor yet a disposition to do or feel anything.

Obviously, believing has several aspects. First, it is certainly kind of a mental activity. It seems that I need not to tell anybody that I believe in order to be able to believe. Second, it is a language game, and a rich one, indeed. It seems almost to be omnipresent. As a language game, it links “I believe that” with, “I believe A” and “I believe in A”. We should not overlook, however, that these utterances are spoken towards someone else (even in inner speech), hence the whole wealth of processes and relations of interpersonal affairs have to be regarded, all those mutual ascriptions of roles, assertions, maintained and demonstrated expectations, displays of self-perception, attempts to induce a certain co-perception, and so on. We frequently cited Robert Brandom who analysed that in great detail in his “Making it Explicit”.

Yet, can we really say that believing is just a mental activity? For the one, above we did not mention that believing is something like a “pure” mental activity. We clearly would reject such a claim. First, we clearly can not set the mental as such into a transcendental status, as this would lead straight to a system like Hegel’s philosophy, with all its difficulties, untenable claims and disastrous consequences. Second, it is impossible to explicate “purity”, as this would deny the fact that models are impossible without concepts. So, is it possible that a non-conscious being or entity can believe? Not quite, I would like to propose. Such an entity will of course be able to build models, even quite advanced ones, though probably not about reflective subjects as concepts or ideas. It could experience that it could not get rid of uncertainty and its closely related companion, risk. Such we can say that these models are not propositions “about” the world, they comprise uncertainty and allow to deal with uncertainty through actions in the world. Yet, the ability to deal with uncertainty is certainly not the same as believing. We would not need the language game at all. Saying “I believe that A” does not mean to have a certain model with a particular predictive power available. As models are explications, expressing a belief or experiencing the compound mental category “believing” is just the demonstration that any explication is impossible for the person.

Note that we conceive of “belief “as completely free of values and also without any reference to mysticism. Indeed, the choreostemic space allows to distinguish different aspects of the “compound experience” that we call “belief”, which otherwise are not even visible as separate aspects of it. As a language game we thus may specify it as the indication that the speaker assigns—or the listener is expected to assign—a considerable portion of the subject matter to that part of the choreostemic figure that points away from the _Model.It is immediately clear from the choreostemic space that mental activity without belief is not possible. There is always a significant “rest” that could not be covered by any kind of explication. This is true for engineering and of course for any kind of social interaction, as soon as mutual expectations appear on the stage. By means of the choreostemic space we also can understand the significance of trust in any interaction with the external world. In communicative situations, this quickly may lead to a game of mutual deontic ascriptions, as Robert Brandom [15] has been arguing for in his “Making it Explicit”.

Interestingly enough, belief (in its choreostemically founded version) is implied by any transition away from the _Model,for instance also in case of the transition path that ultimately is heading towards the _Concept.Even more surprising—at first sight—and particularly relevant is the “inflection dynamics” in the choreostemic space. The more one tries to explicate something the larger the necessary imports (e.g. through orthoregulations) from the other _a,and hence the larger is the propensity for an inflecting flip.28

As an example, take for instance the historical development of theories in particle physics. There, people started with rather simple experimental observations, which then have been assimilated by formal mathematical models. Those in turn led to new experiments, and so forth, until physics has been reaching a level of sophistication where “observations” are based on several, if not many layers of derived concepts. On the way, structural constants and heuristic side conditions are implied. Finally, then, the system of the physical model turns into an architectonics, a branched compound of theory-models, that sounds as trivial as it is conceptual. In case of physics, it is the so-called grand unified theory. There are several important things here. First, due to large amounts of heuristic settings and orthoregulations, such concepts can’t be proved or disproved anymore, the least by empirical observations. Second, on the achieved level of abstraction, the whole subject could be formulated in a completely different manner. Note that such a dynamic between experiment, model, theory29 and concept never has been described in a convincing manner before.30

Now that we have a differentiated picture about belief at our disposal we can briefly visit the field of so-called belief revision. Belief revision has been widely adopted in artificial intelligence and machine learning as the theory for updating a data base. Quite unfortunately, the whole theory is, well, simply crap, if we would go to apply it according to its intention. I think that we can raw some significance of the choreostemic space from this mismatch for a more appropriate treatment of beliefs in information technology.

The theory of belief revision was put forward by a branch of analytical philosophy in a paper by Alchourron, Gärdenfors and Makinson (1985) [29], often abbr. as “AGM-theory.” Hansson [30] writes:

A striking feature of the framework employed there [monnoo: AGM] is its simplicity. In the AGM framework, belief states are represented by deductively closed sets of sentences, called belief sets. Operations of change take the form of either adding or removing a specified sentence.

Sets of beliefs are held by an agent, who establishes or maintains purely logical relations between the items of those beliefs. Hansson correctly observes that:

The selection mechanism used for contraction and revision encodes information about the belief state not represented by the belief set.

Obviously, such “belief sets” have nothing to do with beliefs as we know it from language game, besides the fact that is a misdone caricature. As with Pearl [23], the interesting stuff is left out: How to achieve those logical sentences at all, notably by a non-symbolic path of derivation?  (There are no symbols out there in the world.) By means of the choreostemic space we easily derive the answer: By an orthoregulated instantiation of a particular choreostemic performance in an unbounded (open) aspectional space that spans between transcendental entities. Since the AGM framework starts with or presupposes logic, it simply got stuck in symbolistic fallacy or illusion. Accordingly, Pollock & Gillies [30] demonstrate that “postulational approaches” such as the AGM-theory can’t work within a fully developed “standard” epistemology. Both are simply incompatible to each other.

Explicating

Closely related to believing is explicating, the latter being just the inverse of the former, pointing to the “opposite direction”. Explicating is almost identical to describing a model. The language game of “explication” means to transform, to translate and to project choreostemic figures into lists of rules that could be followed, or in other words, into the sayable. Of course, this transformation and projection is neither analytic nor neutral. We must be aware of the fact that even a model can’t be explicated completely. Else, this rule-following itself implies the necessity of believes and trust, and it requires a common understanding about the usage or the influence of orthoregulations. In other words, without an embedding into a choreostemic figure, we can’t accomplish an explication.

Understanding, Explaining, Describing

Outside of the perspective of the language game “understanding” can’t be understood. Understanding emerges as a result of relating the items of a population of interpretive acts. This population and the relations imposed on them are closely akin to Heidegger’s scaffold (“Gestell”). Mostly, understanding something is just extending an existent scaffold. About these relations we can’t speak clearly or in an explicit manner any more, since these relations are constitutive parts of the understanding. As all language games this too unfolds in social situations, which need not be syntemporal. Understanding is a confirming report about beliefs and expectations into certain capabilities of one’s own.

Saying “I understand” may convey different meanings. More precisely, understanding may come along in different shades that are placed between two configurations. Either it signals that one believes to be able to extend just the own scaffold, one’s own future “Gestelltheit”. Alternatively it is used to indicate the belief that the extension of the scaffold is shared between individuals in such a way as to be able to reproduce the same effect as anyone else could have produced understanding the same thing. This effect could be merely instrumental or, more significantly, it could refer to the teaching of further pupils. In this case, two people understand something if they can teach another person to the same ends.

Beside the performative and social aspects of understanding there are of course the mental aspects of the concept of “understanding” something. These can be translated into choreostemic terms. Understanding is less a particular “figure” in the CS than it is a deliberate visiting of the outer regions of the figure and the intentional exploration of those outposts. We understand something only in case we are aware of the conditions of that something and of our personal involvements. These includes cognitive aspects, but also the consequences of the performative parts of acts that contribute to an intensifying of the aspect of virtuality. A scientist who builds a strong model without considering his and its conditionability does not understand anything. He just would practice a serious sort of dogma (see Quine about the dogmas of empiricism here!). Such a scientist’s modeling could be replaced by that of a machine.

A similar account could be given to the application of a grammar, irrespective the abstractness of that grammar. Referring to a grammar without considering its conditionability could be performed by a mindless machine as well. It would indeed remain a machine: mindless, and forever determined. Such is most, if not all of the computer software dealing with language today.

We again would like to emphasize that understanding does not exhaust in the ability to write down a model. Understanding means to relate the model to concepts, that is, to trace a possible path that would point towards the concept. A deep understanding refers to the ability to extend a figure towards the other transcendental aspects in a conscious manner. Hence, within idealism and (any sort of) representationalism understanding is actually excluded. They mistake the transcendental for the empirical and vice versa, ending in a strict determinism and dogmatism.

Explaining, in turn, indicates the intention to make somebody else to understand a certain subject. The infamous existential “Why?” does not make any sense. It is not just questionable why this language game should by performed at all, as the why of absolute existence can’t be answered at all. Actually, it seems to be quite different from that. As a matter of fact, we indeed play this game in a well comprehensible way and in many social situations. Conceiving “explanation” of nature as to account for its existence (as Epperson does it, see [31] p.357) presupposes that everything could turned into the sayable. It would result in the conflation of logic and factual world, something Epperson indeed proposes. Some pages later in his proposal about quantum physics he seems to loosen that strict tie when referring to Whitehead he links “understanding” to coherence and empirical adequacy. ([31] p.361)

I offer this argument in the same speculative philosophical spirit in which Whitehead argued for the fitness of his metaphysical scheme to the task of understanding (though not “explaining”) nature—not by the “provability” of his first principles via deduction or demonstration, but by their evaluation against the metrics of coherence and empirical adequacy.

Yet, this presents us an almost a perfect phenomenological stance, separating objects from objects and subjects. Neither coherence nor empirical adequacy can be separated from concepts, models and the embedding Lebenswelt. It expresses thus the believe of “absolute” understanding and final reason. Such ideas that are at least highly problematic, even and especially if we take into account the role Whitehead gives the “value” as an cosmological apriori. It is quite clear, that this attitude to understanding is sharply different from anything that is related to semiotics, the primacy of interpretation, to the role of language or a relational philosophy, in short, to anything what resembles even remotely to what we proposed about understanding of understanding a few lines above.

The intention to make somebody else to understand a certain subject necessarily implies a theory, where theory here is understood (as we always do) as a milieu for deriving or inventing models. The “explaining game” comprises the practice of providing a general perspective to the recipient such that she or he could become able to invent such a model, precisely because a “direct” implant of an idea into someone else is quite impossible. This milieu involves orthoregulation and a grammar (in the philosophical sense). The theory and the grammar associated or embedded with it does nothing else than providing support to find a possibility for the invention or extension of a model. It is a matter of persistent exchange of models from a properly grown population of models that allow to develop a common understanding about something. In the end we then may say “yes, I can follow you!”

Describing is often not distinguished (properly) from explaining. Yet, in our context of choreostemically embedded language games it is neither mysterious nor difficult to do so. We may conceive of describing just as explicating something into the sayable, the element of cross-individual alignment is not part of it, at least in a much less explicit way. Hence, usually the respective declaration will not be made. The element of social embedding is much less present.

Describing pretends more or less that all the three aspects accompanying the model aspect could be neglected, particularly however the aspects of mediality and virtuality. The mathematical proof can be taken as an extreme example for that. Yet, even there it is not possible, since at least a working system of symbols is needed, which in turn is rooted in a dynamics unfolding as choreostemic figure, the mental aspect of Forms of Life. Basically, this impossibility for fixing a “position” in the choreostemic space is responsible for the so-called foundational crisis in mathematics. This crisis prevails even today in philosophy, where many people naively enough still search for absolute  justification, or truth, or at least regard such as a reasonable concept.

All this should not be understood as an attempt to deny description or describing as a useful category. Yet, we should be aware that the difference to explaining is just one of (choreostemic) form. More explicitly, said difference is an affair of of culturally negotiated portions of the transcendental aspects that make up mental life.

I hope this sheds some light on Wittgenstein’s claim that philosophy should just describe, but not explain anything. Well, the possibly perceived mysteriousness may vanish as well, if we remember is characterisation of grammar

Both, understanding and explaining are quite complicated socially mediated processes, hence they unfold upon layers of milieus of mediality. Both not only relate to models and concepts that need to exist in advance and thus to a particular dynamics between them, they require also a working system of symbols. Models and concepts relate to each other only as instances of _Models and _Concepts,that is in a space as it is provided by the choreostemic space. Talking about understanding as a practice is not possible without it.

Referring

Referring to something means to point to the expectation that the referred entity could point to the issue at hand. Referring is not “pointing to” and hence does not consist of a single move. It is “getting pointed to”. Said expectation is based on at least one model. Hence, if we refer to something, we put our issue as well as ourselves into the context of a chain of signifiers. If we refer to somebody, or to a named entity, then this chain of interpretive relations transforms in one of two ways.

Either the named entity is used, that is, put into a functional context, or more precisely, by assigning it a sayable function. The functionalized entity does not (need to) interpret any more, all activity gets centralized, which could be used as the starting point for totalizing control. This applies to any entity, whether it is just material or living, social.

The second way how referencing is affected by names concerns the reference to another person, or a group of persons. If it is not a functional relationship, e.g. taking the other as a “social tool”, it is less the expected chaining as signifier by the other person. Persons could not be interpreted as we interpret things or build signs from signals. Referring to a person means to accept the social game that comprises (i) mutual deontic assignments that develop into “roles”, including deontic credits and their balancing (as first explicated by Brandom [15]), (ii) the acceptance of the limit of the sayable, which results in a use of language that is more or less non-functional, always metaphorical and sometimes even poetic, as well as (iii) the declared persistence for repeated exchanges. The fact that we interpret the utterances of our partner within the orthoregulative milieu of a theory of mind (which builds up through this interpretations) means that we mediatize our partner at least partially.

The limit of the sayable is a direct consequence of the choreostemic constitution of performing thinking. The social is based on communication, which means “to put something into common”; hence, we can regard “communication” as the driving, extending and public part of using sign systems. As a proposed language game, “functional communication” is nonsense, much like the utterance “soft stone”.

By means of the choreostemic space we also can see that any referencing is equal to a more or less extensive figure, as models, concepts, performance and mediality is involved.

Knowing

At first hand, we could suspect that before any instantiation qua choreostemic performance we can not know something positively for sure in a global manner, i.e. objectively, as it is often meant to be expressed by the substantive “knowledge”. Due to that performance we have to interpret before we could know positively and objectively. The result is that we never can know anything for sure in a global manner. This holds even for transcendental items, that is, what Kant dubbed “pure reason”. Nevertheless, the language game “knowledge” has a well-defined significance.

“Knowledge” is a reasonable category only with respect to performing, interpreting (performance in thought) and acting (organized performance). It is bound to a structured population of interpretive situations, to Peircean signs. We thus find a gradation of privacy vs. publicness with respect to knowledge. We just have to keep in mind that neither of these qualities could be thought of as being “pure”. Pure privacy is not possible, because there is nothing like a private language (meaning qua usage and shared reference). Pure publicness is not possible because there is the necessity of a bodily rooted interpreting mechanism (associative structure). Things like “public space” as a purely exterior or externalized thing do not exist. The relevant issue for our topic of a machine-based episteme is that functionalism always ends in a denial of the private language argument.

We now can see easily why knowledge could not be conceived as a positively definable entity that could be stored or transferred as such. First, it is of course a language game. Second, and more important, “knowing {of, about, that}” always relates to instances of transcendental entities, and necessarily so. Third, even if we could agree on some specific way of instantiating the transcendental entities, it always invokes a particular figure unfolding in an aspectional space. This figure can’t be transferred, since this would mean that we could speak about it outside of itself. Yet, that’s not possible, since it is in turn impossible to just pretend to follow a rule.

Given this impossibility we should stay for a moment at the apparent gap opened by it towards teaching. How to teach somebody something if knowledge can’t be transferred? The answer is furnished by the equipment that is shared among the members of a community of speakers or co-inhabitants of the choreostemic space. We need this equipment for matching the orthoregulation of our rule-following. The parts, tools and devices of this equipment are made from palpable traditions, cultural rhythms, institutions, individual and legal preferences regarding the weighting of individuals versus the various societal clusters, the large story of the respective culture and the “templates” provided by it, the consciously accessible time horizon, both to the past and the future31, and so on. Common sense wrongly labels the resulting “setup” as “body of values”. More appropriately, we could call it grammatical dynamics. Teaching, then, is in some way more about the reconstruction of the equipment than about the agreement of facts, albeit the arrangement of the facts may tell us a lot about the grammar.

Saying ‘I know’ means that one wants to indicate that she or he is able to perform choreostemically with regard to the subject at hand. In other words, it is a label for a pointer (say reference) to a particular image of thought and its use. This includes the capability of teaching and explaining, which probably are the only way to check if somebody really knows. We can, however, not claim that we are aligned to a particular choreostemic dynamics. We only can believe that our choreostemic moves are part of a supposed attractor in the choreostemic space. From that also follows that knowledge is not just about facts, even if we would conceive of facts as a compound of fixed relations and fixed things.

The traditional concerns of epistemology as the discipline that asks about the conditions of knowing and knowledge must be regarded as a misplaced problem. Usually, epistemology does not refer to virtuality or mediality. Else, in epistemology knowledge is often sharply separated from belief, yet for the wrong reasons. The formula of “knowledge as justified belief” puts them both onto the same stage. It then would have to be clarified what “justified” should mean, which is not possible in turn. Explicating “justifying” would need reference to concepts and models, or rather the confinement to a particular one: logic. Yet, knowledge and belief are completely different with regard to their role in choreostemic dynamics. While belief is an indispensable element of any choreostemic figure, knowledge is the capability to behave choreostemically.

8.2. Anthropological Mirrors

Philosophy suffers even more from a surprising strangeness. As Marc Rölli recently mentioned [34] in his large work about the relations between anthropology and philosophy (KAV),

Since more than 200 years philosophy is anthropologically determined. Yet, philosophy didn’t investigate the relevance of this fact to any significant extent. (KAV15)32

Rölli agrees with Nietzsche regarding his critique of idealism.

“Nietzsche’s critique of idealism, which is available in many nuances, always targeting the philosophical self-misunderstanding of the pure reason or pure concepts, is also directed against a certain conception of nature.” (KAV439)33.

…where this rejected certain conception of nature is purposefulness. In nature there is no forward directed purpose, no plan. Such ideas are either due to religious romanticism or due to a serious misunderstanding of the Darwinian theory of natural evolution. In biological nature, there is only blind tendency towards the preference of intensified capability for generalization34. Since Kant, and inclusively him, and in some way already Descartes, philosophy has been influenced by scientific, technological or anthropological conceptions about nature in general, or the nature of the human mind.

Such is (at least) problematic for three reasons. First, it constitutes a misunderstanding of the role of philosophy to rely on scientific insights. Of course, this perspective is becoming (again) visible only today, notably after the Linguistic Turn as far as it regards non-analytical philosophy. Secondly, however, it is clear that the said influence implies, if it remains unreflected, a normative tie to empiric observations. This clearly represents a methodological shortfall. Thirdly, even if one would accept a certain link between anthropology and philosophy, the foundations taken from a “philosophy of nature”35 are so simplistic, that they hardly could be regarded as viable.

This almost primitive image about the purposeful nature finally flowed into the functionalism of our days, whether in philosophy (Habermas) or so-called neuro-philosophy, by which many feel inclined to establish a variety of determinism that is even proto-Hegelian.

In the same passage that invokes Nietzsche’s critique, Rölli cites Friedrich Albert Lange [39]

“The topic that we actually refer to can be denoted explicitly. It is quasi the apple in the logical lapse of German philosophy subsequent to Kant: the relation between subject and object within knowledge.” (KAV443)36

Lange deliberately attests Kant—in contrast to the philosophers of the German idealism— to be clear about that relationship. For Kant subject and object constitute only as an amalgamate, the pure whatsoever has been claimed by Hegel, Schelling and their epigones and inheritors. The intention behind introducing pureness, according to Lange, is to support absolute reason or absolute understanding, in other words, eternally justified reason and undeniability of certain concepts. Note that German Idealism was born before the foundational crisis in mathematics, that started with Russell’s remark on Frege’s “Begriffsschrift” and his “all” quantor, that found its continuation in the Hilbert programme and that finally has been inscribed to the roots of mathematics by Goedel. Philosophies of “pureness” are not items of the past, though. Think about materialism, or about Agamben’s “aesthetics of pure means”, as Benjamin Morgan [39] correctly identified the metaphysical scaffold of Agamben’s recent work.

Marc Rölli dedicates all of the 512 pages to the endeavor to destroy the extra-philosophical foundations of idealism. As the proposed alternative we find pragmatism, that is a conceptual foundation of philosophy that is based on language and Life form (Lebenswelt in the Wittgensteinian sense). He concludes his work accordingly:

After all it may have become more clear that this pragmatism is not about a simple, naive pragmatism, but rather about a pragmatism of difference37 that has been constructed with great subtlety. (KAV512)38

Rölli’s main target is German Idealism. Yet, undeniably Hegelian philosophy is not only abundant on the European continent, where it is the Frankfurt School from Adorno to Habermas and even K.-O. Apel, followed by the ill-fated ideas of Luhmann that are infected by Hegel as well. Significant traces of it can be found in Germany’s society also in contemporary legal positivism and the oligarchy of political parties.

During the last 20 years or so, Hegelian positions spread considerably also in anglo-american philosophy and political theory. Think about Hard and Negri, or even the recent works of Brian Massumi. Hegelian philosophy, however, can’t be taken in portions. It is totalitarian all through, because its main postulates such as “absolute reason” are totalizing by themselves. Hegelian philosophy is a relic, and a quite dangerous one, regardless whether you interpret it in a leftist (Lenin) or in a rightist (Carl Schmitt) manner. With its built-in claim for absoluteness the explicit denial of context-specificity, of the necessary relativity of interpretation, of the openness of future evolution, of the freedom inscribed deeply even into the basic operation of comparison, all of these positions turn into transcendental aprioris. The same holds for the claim that things, facts, or even norms can be justified absolutely. No further comment should be necessary about that.

The choreostemic space itself can not result in a totalising or even totalitarian attitude. We met this point already earlier when we discussed the topological structure of the space and its a-locational “substance” (Reason and Sufficiency). As Deleuze emphasized, there is a significant difference between entirety and completeness, which just mirrors the difference between the virtual and the actual. We’d like to add that the choreostemic space also disproves the possibility for universality of any kind of conception. In some way, yet implicitly, the choreostemic space defends humanity against materiality and any related attitude. Even if we would be determined completely on the material level, which we are surely not39, the choreostemic space proofs the indeterminateness and openness of our mental life.

You already may have got the feeling that we are going to slip into political theory. Indeed, the choreostemic space not only forms a space indeterminateness and applicable pre-specificity, it provides also a kind of a space of “Swiss neutrality”. Its capability to allow for a comparison of collective mental setups, without resorting to physicalist concepts like swarms or mysticistic concepts like “collective intelligence”, provides a fruitful ground for any construction of transitions between choreostemic attractors.

Despite the fact that the choreostemic space concerns any kind of mentality, whether seen as hosted more by identifiable individuals or by collectives, the concept should not be taken as an actual philosophy of reason (“Philosophie des Geistes”). It transcends it as it does regarding any particular philosophical stance. It would be wrong as well to confine it into an anthropology or an anthropological architecture of philosophy, as it is the case not only in Hegel (Rölli, KAV137). In some way, it presents a generative zone for a-human philosophies, without falling prey to the necessity to define what human or a-human should mean. For sure, here we do not refer to transhumanism as it is known today, which just follows the traditional anthropological imperative of growth (“Steigerungslogik”), as Rölli correctly remarks (KAV459).

A-Human simply means that as a conception it is neither dependent nor confined to the human Lebenswelt. (We again would like to stress the point that it does neither represent a positively sayable universalism not even kind of a universal procedural principle, and as well that this “a-” should also not be understood as “anti” or “opposed”, simply as “being free of”). It is this position that is mandatory to draw comparisons40 and, subsequently, conclusions (in the form of introduced irreversibilities) about entities that belong to strikingly different Lebenswelten (forms of life). Any particular philosophical position immediately would be guilty in applying human scales to non-human entities. That was already a central cornerstone of Nietzsche’s critique not only of German philosophy of the 19th century, but also of natural sciences.

8.3. Simplicissimi

Rölli criticizes the uncritical adoption of items taken from the scientific world view by philosophy in the 19th century. Today, philosophy is still not secured against simplistic conceptions, uncritically assimilated from certain scientific styles, despite the fact that nowadays we could know about the (non-analytic) Linguistic Turn, or the dogmatics in empiricism. What I mean here comprises two conceptual ideas, the reduction of living or social system to states and the notion of exception or that of normality respectively.

There are myriads of references in the philosophy of mind invoking so-called mental states. Yet, not only in the philosophy of mind one can find the state as a concept, but also in political theory, namely in Giorgio Agamben’s recent work, which also builds heavily on the notion of the “state of exception”. The concept of a mental state is utter nonsense, though, and mainly so for three very different reasons. The first one can be derived from the theory of complex systems, the second one from language philosophy, and the third one from the choreostemic space.

In complex systems, the notion of a state is empty. What we can observe subsequent to the application of some empiric modeling is that complex systems exhibit meta-stability. It looks as if they are stable and trivial. Yet, what we could have learned mainly from biological sciences, but also from their formal consideration as complex systems, is that they aren’t trivial. There is no simple rule that could describe the flow of things in a particular period of time. The reason is precisely that they are creative. They build patterns, hence the build a further “phenomenal” level, where the various levels of integration can’t be reduced to one another. They exhibit points of bifurcation, which can be determined only in hindsight. Hence, from the empirical perspective we only can estimate the probability for stability. This, however, is clearly to weak as to support the claim of “states”.

In philosophy, Deleuze and Guattari in their “Thousand Plateaus” (p.48) have been among the first who recognized the important abstract contribution of Darwin by means of his theory. He opened the possibility to replace types and species by population, degrees by differential relations. Darwin himself, however, has not been able to complete this move. It took another 100 years until Manfred Eigen coined the term quasi-species as an increased density in a probability distribution. Talking about mental states is noting than a fallback into Linnean times when science was the endeavor to organize lists according to uncritical use of concepts.

Actually, from the perspective of language-oriented philosophy, the notion of a state is even empty for any dynamical system that is subject to open evolution (but probably even for trivial dynamic systems). A real system does not build “states”. There are only flows and memories. “State” is a concept, in particular, an idealistic—or at least an idealizing—concept that are only present in the interpreting entity. The fact that one first has to apply a model before it is possible to assign states is deliberately peculated whenever it is invoked by an argument that relates to philosophy or to any (other) kind of normativity. Therefore, the concept of “state” can’t be applied analytically, or as a condition in a linearly arranged argument. Saying that we do not claim that the concept of state is meaningless at large. In natural science, especially throughout the process of hypothesis building, the notion of state can be helpful (sometimes, at least).

Yet, if one would use it in philosophy in a recurrent manner, one would quickly arrive at the choreostemic space (or something very similar), where states are neither necessary nor even possible. Despite that a “state” is only assigned, i.e. as a concept, philosophers of mind41 and philosophers of political theory alike (as Agamben [37] among other materialists) use it as a phenomenal reference. It is indeed somewhat astonishing to observe this relapse into naive realism within the community of otherwise trained philosophers. One of the reasons for this may well be met in the missing training in mathematics.42

The third argument against the reasonability of the notion of “state” in philosophy can be derived from the choreostemic space. A cultural body comprises individual mentality as well as a collective mentality based on externalized symbolic systems like language, to make a long story short. Both together provide the possibility for meaning. It is absolutely impossible to assign a “state” to a cultural body without loosing the subject of culture itself. It would be much like a grammatical mistake. That “subject” is nothing else than a figurable trace in the choreostemic space. If one would do such an assignment instead, any finding would be relevant only within the reduced view. Hence, it would be completely irrelevant, as it could not support the self-imposed pragmatics. Continuing to argue about such finding then establishes a petitio principii: One would find only what you originally assumed. The whole argument would be empty and irrelevant.

Similar arguments can be put forward regarding the notion of the exceptional, if it is applied in contexts that are governed by concepts and their interpretation, as opposed to trivial causal relationships. Yet, Giorgio Agamben indeed started to built a political theory around the notion of exception [37], which—at first sight strange enough—already triggered an aesthetics of emergency. Elena Bellina [38] cites Agamben:

The state of exception “is neither external nor internal to the juridical order, and the problem of defining it concerns a threshold, or a zone of indifference, where inside and outside do not exclude each other but rather blur with each other.” In this sense, the state of exception is both a structured or rule-governed and an anomic phenomenon: “The state of exception separates the norm from its application in order to make its application possible. It introduces a zone of anomie into the law in order to make the effective regulation of the real possible.”

It results in nothing else than disastrous consequences if the notion of the exception would be applied to areas where normativity is relevant, e.g. in political theory. Throughout history there are many, many terrible examples for that. It is even problematic in engineering. We may even call it fully legitimized “negativity engineering”, as it establishes completely unnecessary the opposite of the normal and the deviant as an apriori. The notion of the exception presumes total control as an apriori. As such, it is opposed to the notion of openness, hence it also denies the primacy of interpretation. Machines that degenerate and that would produce disasters on any malfunctioning can’t be considered as being built smartly. In a setup that embraces indeterminateness, there is even no possibility for disastrous fault. Instead, deviances are defined only with respect to the expectable, not against an apriori set, hence obscure, normality. If the deviance is taken as the usual (not the normal, though!), fault-tolerance and even self-healing could be built in as a core property, not as an “exception handling”.

Exception is the negative category to the normal. It requires models to define normality, models to quantify the deviation and finally also arbitrary thresholds to label it. All of the three steps can be applied in linear domains only, where the whole is dependent on just very few parameters. For social mega-systems as societies it is nothing else than a methodological categorical illusion to apply the concept of the exception.

9. Critique of Paradoxically Conditioned Reason

Nothing could be more different to that than pragmatism, for which the choreostemic space can serve as the ultimate theory. Pragmatism always suffered from—or at least has been violable against—the reproach of relativism, because within pragmatism it is impossible to argue against it. With the choreostemic space we have constructed a self-sufficient, self-containing and a necessary model that not only supports pragmatism, but also destroys any possibility of universal normative position or normativity. Probably even more significant, it also abolishes relativism through the implied concept of the concrete choreostemic figure, which can be taken as the differential of the institution or the of tradition43. Choreostemic figures are quite stable since they relate to mentality qua population, which means that they are formed as a population of mental acts or as mental acts of the members of a population. Even for individuals it is quite hard to change the attractor inhabited in choreostemic space, to change into another attractor or even to build up a new one.

In this section we will check out the structure of the way we can use the choreostemic space. Naively spoken we could ask for instance, how can we derive a guideline to improve actions? How can we use it to analyse a philosophical attitude or a political writing? Where are the limits of the choreostemic space?

The structure behind such questions concerns a choice on a quite fundamental level. The issue is whether to argue strictly in positive terms, to allow negative terms, or even to define anything starting from negative terms only. In fact, there are quite a few of different possibilities to arrange any melange of positivity or negativity. For instance, one could ontologically insist first on contingency as a positivity, upon then constraints would act as a negativity. Such traces we will not follow here. We regard them either as not focused enough or, most of them, as being infected by realist ontology.

In more practical terms this issue of positivity and negativity regards the way of how to deal with justifications and conditions. Deleuze argues for strict positivity; in that he follows Spinoza and Nietzsche. Common sense, in contrast, is given only as far as it is defined against the non-common. In this respect, any of the existential philosophical attitudes, whether Christian religion, phenomenology or existentialism, are quite similar to each other. Even Levinas’ Other is infected by it.

Admittedly, at first hand it seems quite difficult, if not impossible, to arrive at an appropriate valuation of other persons, the stranger, the strange, in short, the Other, but also the alienated. Or likewise, how to derive or develop a stance to the world that does not start from existence. Isn’t existence the only thing we can be sure about? And isn’t the external, the experience the only stable positivity we can think about? Here, we shout a loud No! Nevertheless we definitely do not deny the external either.

We just mentioned that the issue of justification is invoked by our interests here. This gives rise to ask about the relation of the choreostemic space to epistemology. We will return to this in the second half of this section.

Positivity. Negativity.

Obviously, the problem of the positive is not the positive, but how we are going to approach it. If we set it primary, we first run into problems of justification, then into ethical problems. Setting the external, the existence, or the factual positive as primary we neglect the primacy of interpretation. Hence, we can’t think about the positive as an instance. We have to think of it as a Differential.

The Differential is defined as an entirety, yet not instantiated. Its factuality is potential, hence its formal being is neither exhaustive nor limiting its factuality, or positivity. Its givenness demands for action, that is for a decision (which is sayable regarding its immediacy) bundled with a performance (which is open and just demonstrable as a matter of fact).

The concept of choreosteme follows closely Deleuze’s idea of the Differential: It is built into the possibility of expressibility that spans as the space between the _Directionsas they are indicated by the transcendental aspects _A.The choreostemic space does not constitute a positively definable stance, since the space for it, the choreostemic space is not made from elements that could be defined apriori to any moment in time. Nevertheless it is well-defined. In order to provide an example which requires a similar approach we may refer to the space of patterns as they are potentially generated by Turing-systems. The mechanics of Turing-patterns, its mechanism, is well-defined as well, it is given in its entirety, but the space of the patterns can’t be defined positively. Without deep interpretation there is nothing like a Turing-pattern. Maybe, that’s one of the reasons that hard sciences still have difficulties to deal adequately with complexity.

Besides the formal description of structure and mechanism of our space there is nothing left about one could speak or think any further. We just could proceed by practicing it. This mechanism establishes a paradoxicality insofar as it does not contain determinable locations. This indeterminateness is even much stronger than the principle of uncertainty as it is known from quantum physics, which so far is not constructed in a self-referential manner (at least if we follow the received views). Without any determinate location, there seems to be no determinable figure either, at least none of which we could say that we could grasp them “directly”, or intuitively. Yet, figures may indeed appear in the choreostemic space, though only by applying orthoregulative scaffolds, such as traditions, institutions, or communities that form cultural fields of proposals/propositions (“Aussagefeld”), as Foucault named it [40].

The choreostemic space is not a negativity, though. It does not impose apriori determinable factual limits to a real situation, whether internal or external. It even doesn’t provide the possibility for an opposite. Due to its self-referentiality it can be instantiated into positivity OR negativity, dependent on the “vector”—actually, it is more a moving cloud of probabilities—one currently belongs to or that one is currently establishing by one’s own  performances.

It is the necessity of choice itself, appearing in the course of instantiation of the twofold Differential, that introduces the positive and the negative. In turn, whenever we meet an opposite we can conclude that there has been a preceding choice within an instantiation. Think about de Saussure structuralist theory of language, which is full of opposites. Deleuze argues (DR205) that the starting point of opposites betrays language:

In other words, are we not on the lesser side of language rather than the side of the one who speaks and assigns meaning? Have we not already betrayed the nature of the play of language – in other words, the sense of that combinatory, of those imperatives or linguistic throws of the dice which, like Artaud’s cries, can be understood only by the one who speaks in the transcendent exercise of language? In short, the translation of difference into opposition seems to us to concern not a simple question of terminology or convention, but rather the essence of language and the linguistic Idea.

In more traditional terms one could say it is dependent on the “perspective”. Yet, the concept of “perspective” is fallacious here, at least so, since it assumes a determinable stand point. By means of the choreostemic space, we may replace the notion of perspectives by the choreostemic figure, which reflects both the underlying dynamics and the problematic field much more adequately. In contrast to the “perspective”, or even of such, a choreostemic figure spans across time. Another difference is that a perspective needs to be taken, which does not allow for continuity, while a choreostemic figure evolves continually. The possibility for negativity is determined along the instantiation from choreosteme to thought, while the positivity is built into the choreostemic space as a potential. (Negative potentials are not possible.)

Such, the choreostemic space is immune to any attempt—should we say poison pill?—to apply a dialectic of the negative, whether we consider single, double, or absurdly enough multiply repeated ones. Think about Hegel’s negativity, Marx’s rejection and proposal for a double negativity, or the dropback by Marcuse, all of which must be counted simply as stupidity. Negativity as the main structural element of thinking did not vanish, though, as we can see in the global movement of anti-capitalism or the global movement of anti-globalization. They all got—or still get—victimized by the failure to leave behind the duality of concepts and to turn them into a frame of quantitability. A recent example for that ominous fault is given by the work of Giorgio Agamben; Morgan writes:

Given that suspending law only increases its violent activity, Agamben proposes that ‘deactivating’ law, rather erasing it, is the only way to undermine its unleashed force. (p.60)

The first question, of course, is, why the heck does Agamben think that law, that is: any lawfulness, must be abolished. Such a claim includes the denial of any organization and any institution, above all, as practical structures, as immaterial infrastructures and grounding for any kind of negotiation. As Rölli noted in accordance to Nietzsche, there is quite an unholy alliance between romanticism and modernism. Agamben, completely incapable of getting aware of the virtual and of the differential alike, thus completely stuck in a luxurating system of “anti” attitudes, finds himself faced with quite a difficulty. In his mono-(zero) dimensional modernist conception of world he claims:

“What is found after the law is not a more proper and original use value that precedes law, but a new use that is born only after it. And use, which has been contaminated by law, must also be freed from its value. This liberation is the task of study, or of play.”

Is it really reasonable to demand for a world where uses, i.e. actions, are not “contaminated” by law? Morgan continues:

In proposing this playful relation Agamben makes the move that Benjamin avoids: explicitly describing what would remain after the violent destruction of normativity itself. ‘Play’ names the unknowable end of ‘divine violence’.

Obviously, Agamben never realized any paradox concerning rule-following. Instead, he runs amok against his own prejudices. “Divine violence” is the violence of ignorance. Yet, abolishing knowledge does not help either, nor is it an admirable goal in itself. As Derrida (another master of negativity) before him, in the end he demands for stopping interpretation, any and completely. Agamben provides us nothing else than just another modernist flavour of a philosophy of negativity that results in nihilistic in-humanism (quite contrary to Nietzsche, by the way). It is somewhat terrifying that Agamben receives not jut little attention currently.

In the last statement we are going to cite from Morgan, we can see in which eminent way Agamben is a thinker of the early 19th century, incapable to contribute any reasonable suggestion to current political theory:

But it is not only the negative structure of the argument but also the kind of negativity that is continuous between Agamben’s analyses of aesthetic and legal judgement. In other words, ‘normality without a norm’, which paradoxically articulates the subtraction of normativity from the normal, is simply another way of saying ‘law without force or application’.

This Kantian formulation is not only fully packed with uncritical aprioris, such like normality or the normal, which marks Agamben as an epigonic utterer of common sense. As this ancient form of idealism demonstrates, Agamben obviously never heard anything of the linguistic turn as well. The unfortunate issue with Agamben’s writing is that it is considered both as influential and pace-making.

So, should we reject negativity and turn to positivity? Rejecting negativity turns problematic only if it is taken as an attitude that stretches out from the principle down to the activity. Notably, the same is true for positivity. We need not to get rid of it, which only would send us into the abyss of totalised mysticism. Instead, we have to transcend them into the Differential that “precedes” both. While the former could be reframed into the conditionability of processes (but not into constraints!), the latter finds its non-representational roots in the potential and the virtual. If the positive is taken as a totalizing metaphysics, we soon end in overdone specialization, uncritical neo-liberalism or even dictatorship, or in idealism as an ideology. The turn to a metaphysics of (representational) positivity is incurably caught in the necessity of justification, which—unfortunately enough for positivists—can’t be grounded within a positive metaphysics. To justify, that is to give “good reasons”, is a contradictio in adiecto, if it is understood in its logic or idealistic form.

Both, negativity and positivity (in their representational instances) could work only if there is a preceding and more or less concrete subject, which of course could not presupposed when we are talking about “first reasons” or “justification”. This does not only apply to political theory or practice, it even holds for logic as a positively given structure. Abstractly, we can rewrite the concreteness into countability. Turning the whole thing around we see that as long as something is countable we will be confined by negativity and positivity on the representational level. Herein lies the limitation of the Universal Turing Machine. Herein lies also the inherent limitation of any materialism, whether in its profane or it theistic form. By means of the choreostemic space we can see various ways out of this confined space. We may, for instance, remove the countability from numbers by mediatizing it into probabilities. Alternatively, we may introduce a concept like infinity to indicate the conceptualness of numbers and countability. It is somewhat interesting that it is the concept of the infinite that challenges the empiric character of numbers. Else, we could deny representationalism in numbers while trying to keep countability. This creates the strange category of infinitesimals. Or we create multi-dimensional number spaces like the imaginary numbers. There are, of course, many, many ways to transcend the countability of numbers, which we can’t even list here. Yet, it is of utmost importance to understand that the infinite, as any other instance of departure from countability, is not a number any more. It is not countable either in the way Cantor proposed, that is, thinking of a smooth space of countability that stretches between empiric numbers and the infinite. We may count just the symbols, but the reference has inevitably changed. The empirics is targeting the number of the symbols, not the their content, which has been defined as “incountability”. Only by this misunderstanding one could get struck by the illusion that there is something like the countability of the infinite. In some ways, even real numbers do not refer to the language game of countability, and all the more irrational numbers don’t either. It is much more appropriate to conceive of them as potential numbers; it may well be that precisely this is the major reason for the success of mathematics.

The choreostemic space is the condition for separating the positive and the negative. It is structure and tool, principle and measure. Its topology implies the necessity for instantiation and renders the representationalist fallacy impossible; nevertheless, it allows to map mental attitudes and cultural habits for comparative purposes. Yet, this mapping can’t be used for modeling or anticipation. In some way it is the basis for subjectivity as pre-specific property, that is for a _Subjectivity,of course without objectivity. Therefore, the choreostemic space also allows to overcome the naïve and unholy separation of subjects and objects, without denying the practical dimension of this separation. Of course, it does so by rejecting even the tiniest trace of idealism, or apriorisms respectively.

The choreostemic space does not separate apriori the individual or the collective forms of mentality. In describing mentality it is not limited to the sayable, hence it can’t be attacked or even swallowed by positivism. Since it provides the means to map those habitual _Mentalfigures, people could talk about transitions between different attractors, which we could call “choreostemic galaxies”. The critical issue of values, those typical representatives of uncritical aprioris, is completely turned into a practical concern. Obviously, we can talk about “form” regarding politics without the need to invoke aesthetics. As Benjamin Morgan recently demonstrated (in the already cited [41]), aesthetics in politics necessarily refers to idealism.

Rejecting representational positivity, that is, any positivity that we could speak of in a formal manner, is equivalent to the rejection of first reason as an aprioric instance. As we already proposed for representational positivity, the claim of a first reason as a point of departure that is never revisited again results as well in a motionless endpoint, somewhere in the triangle built from materialism, idealism or realism. Attempts to soften this outcome by proposing a playful, or hypothetical, if not pragmatic, “fixation of first principles” are not convincing, mainly because this does not allow for any coherence between games, which results in a strong relativity of principles. We just could not talk about the relationships between those “firstness games”. In other words, we would not gain anything. An example for such a move is provided by Epperson [42].  Though he refers to the Aristotelian potential, he sticks with representational first principles, in his case logic in the form of the principle of the excluded middle and the principle of non-contradiction. Epperson does not get aware of the problems regarding the use of symbols in doing this. Once Wittgenstein critized the very same point in the Principia by Russell and Whitehead. Additionally, representational first principles are always transporters for ontological claims. As long as we recognize that the world is NOT made from objects, but of relations organized, selected and projected by each individual through interpretation, we would face severe difficulties. Only naive realism allows for a frictionless use of first principles. Yet, for a price that is definitely too high.

We think that the way we dissolved the problem of first reason has several advantages as compared to Deleuze’s proposal of the absolute plane of immanence. First, we do not need the notion of absoluteness, which appears at several instances in Deleuze’s main works “What is Philosophy?” [35] (WIP), “Empiricism and Subjectivity [43], and his “Pure Immanence” [44]. The second problem with the plane of immanence concerns the relation between immanence and transcendence. Deleuze refers to two different kinds of transcendence. While in WIP he denounces transcendence as inappropriate due to its heading towards identity, the whole concept of transcendental empiricism is built on the Kantian invention. This two-fold measure can’t be resolved. Transcendence should not be described by its target. Third, Deleuze’s distinction between the absolute plane of immanence and the “personal” one, instantiated by each new philosophical work, leaves a major problem: Deleuze leaves completely opaque how to relate the two kinds of immanence to each other. Additionally, there is a potentially infinite number of “immanences,” implying a classification, a differential and an abstract kind of immanence, all of which is highly corrosive for the idea of immanence itself. At least, as long one conceives immanence not as an entity that could be naturalized. This way, Deleuze splits the problem of grounding into two parts: (1) a pure, hence “transcendent” immanence, and (2) the gap between absolute and personal immanence. While the first part could be accepted, the second one is left completely untouched by Deleuze. The problem of grounding has just been moved into a layer cake. Presumably, these problems are caused by the fact that Deleuze just considers concepts, or _Concepts, if we’d like to consider the transcendental version as well. Several of those imply the plane of immanence, which can’t be described, which has no structure, and which just is implied by the factuality of concepts. Our choreostemic space moves this indeterminacy and openness into a “form” aspect in a non-representational, non-expressive space with the topology of a double-differential. But more important is that we not only have a topology at our disposal which allows to speak about it without imposing any limitation, we else use three other foundational and irreducibly elements to think that space, the choreostemic space. The CS thus also brings immanence and transcendence into the same single structure.

In this section we have discussed a change of perspective towards negativity and positivity. This change did become accessible by the differential structure of the choreostemic space. The problematic field represented by them and all the respective pseudo-solutions has been dissolved. This abandonment we achieved through the “Lagrangean principle”, that is, we replaced the constants—positivity and negativity respectively—by a procedure—instantiation of the Differential—plus a different constant. Yet, this constant is itself not a not a finite replacement, i.e. a “constant” as an invariance. The “constant” is only a relative one: the orthoregulation, comprising habits, traditions and institutions.

Reason—or as we would like to propose for its less anthropological character and better scalability­, mentality—has been reconstructed as a kind of omnipresent reflection on the conditionability of proceedings in the choreostemic space. The conditionability can’t be determined in advance to the performed mental proceedings (acts), which for many could appear as somewhat paradoxical. Yet, it is not. The situation is quite similar to Wittgenstein’s transcendental logic that also gets instantiated just by doing something, while the possibility for performance precedes that of logic.

Finally, there is of course the question, whether there is any condition that we impose onto the choreostemic itself, a condition that would not be resolved by its self-referentiality. Well, there is indeed one: The only unjustified apriori of the choreostemic space seems to be the primacy of interpretation (POI). This apriori, however, is only a weak one, and above all, a practicable one, or one that derives from the openness of the world. Ultimately, the POI in turn is a direct consequence of the time-being. Any other aspect of interpretation is indeed absorbed by the choreostemic space and its self-referentiality, hence requiring no further external axioms or the like. In other words, the starting point of the choreostemic space, or the philosophical attitude of the choreosteme, is openness, the insight that the world is far to generative as to comprehend all of it.

The fact that it is almost without any apriori renders the choreostemic space suitable for those practical purposes where the openness and its sibling, ignorance, calls for dedicated activity, e.g. in all questions of cross-disciplinarity or trans-culturality. As far as different persons establish different forms of life, the choreostemic space even is highly relevant for any aspect of cross-personality. This in turn gives rise to a completely new approach to ethics, which we can’t follow here, though.

<h5>Mentality without Knowledge</h5>

Two of the transcendental aspects of the choreostemic space are _Model,and _Concept. The concepts of model and concept, that is, instantiations of our aspects, are key terms in philosophy of science and epistemology. Else, we proposed that our approach brings with it a new image of thought. We also said that mental activities inscribe figures or attractors into that space. Since we are additionally interested in the issue of justification—we are trying to get rid of them—the question of the relation between the choreostemic space and epistemology is being triggered.

The traditional primary topic of epistemology is knowledge, how we acquire it, particularly however the questions of first how to separate it from beliefs (in the common sense) on the one hand, and second how to secure it in a way that we possibly could speak about truth. In a general account, epistemology is also about the conditions of knowledge.

Our position is pretty clear: the choreostemic space is something that is categorically different from episteme or epistemology. Which are the reasons?

We reject the view that truth in its usual version is a reasonable category for talking about reasoning. Truth as a property of a proposition can’t be a part of the world. We can’t know anything for sure, neither regarding the local context, nor globally. Truth is an element of logic, and the only truth we can know of is empty: a=a. Yet, knowledge is supposed to be about empirical facts (arrangements of relations). Wittgenstein thus set logic as transcendental. Only the transcendental logic can be free of semantics and thus only within transcendental logic we can speak of truth conditions. The consequence is that we can observe either of two effects. First, any actual logic contains some semantic references, because of which it could be regarded as “logic” only approximately. Second, insisting on the application of logical truth values to actual contexts instead results in a categorical fault. The conclusion is that knowledge can’t be secured neither locally from a small given set of sentences about empirical facts, nor globally. We even can’t measure the reliability of knowledge, since this would mean to have more knowledge about the fact than it is given by the local observations provide. As a result, paradoxes and antinomies occur. The only thing we can do is try to build networks of stable models for a negotiable anticipation with negotiable purposes. In other words, facts are not given by relation between objects, but rather as a system of relations between models, which as a whole is both accepted by a community of co-modelers and which provides satisfying anticipatory power. Compared to that the notion of partial truth (Newton da Costa & Steven French) is still misconceived. It keeps sticking to the wrong basic idea and as such it is inferior to our concept of the abstract model. After all, any account of truth violates the fact that it is itself a language game.

Dropping the idea of truth we could already conclude that the choreostemic space is not about epistemology.

Well, one might say, ok, then it is an improved epistemology. Yet, this we would reject as well. The reason for that is a grammatical one. Knowledge in the meaning of epistemology is either about sayable or demonstrable facts. If someone says “I know”, or if someone ascribes to another person “he knows”, or if a person performs well and in hindsight her performance is qualified as “based on intricate knowledge” or the like, we postulate an object or entity called knowledge, almost in an ontological fashion. This perspective has been rejected by Isabelle Peschard [45]. According to her, knowledge can’t be separated from activity, or “enaction”, and knowledge must be conceived as a social embedded practice, not as a stateful outcome. For her, knowledge is not about representation at all. This includes the rejection of the truth conditions as a reasonable part of a concept of knowledge. Else, it will be impossible to give a complete or analytical description of this enaction, because it is impossible to describe (=to explicate) the Form of Life in a self containing manner.

In any case, however, knowledge is always, at least partially, about how to do something, even if it is about highly abstract issues. That means that a partial description of knowledge is possible. Yet, as a second grammatical reason, the choreostemic space does not allow for any representations at all, due to its structure, which is strictly local and made up from the second-order differential.

There are further differences. The CS is a tool for the expression of mental attractors, to which we can assign distinct yet open forms. To do so we need the concepts of mediality and virtuality, which are not mentioned anywhere in epistemology. Mental attractors, or figures, will always “comprise” beliefs, models, ideas, concepts as instances of transcendental entities, and these instances are local instances, which are even individually constrained. It is not possible to explicate these attractors other than by “living” it.

In some way, the choreostemic space is intimately related to the philosophy of C.S. Peirce, which is called “semiotics”. As he did, we propose a primacy of interpretation. We fully embrace his emphasis that signs only refer to signs. We agree with his attempt for discerning different kinds of signs. And we think that his firstness, secondness and thirdness could be related to the mechanisms of the choreostemic space. In some way, the CS could be conceived as a generalization of semiotics. Saying this, we also may point to the fact that Peirce’s philosophy is not  regarded as epistemology either.

Rejecting the characterization of the choreostemic space as an epistemological subject we can now even better understand the contours of the notion of mentality. The “mental” can’t be considered as a set of things like beliefs, wishes, experiences, expectations, thought experiments, etc. These are just practices, or likewise practices of speaking about the relation between private and public aspects of thinking. Any of these items belong to the same mentality, to the same choreostemic figures.

In contrast to Wittgenstein, however, we propose to discard completely the distinction between internal and external aspects of the mental.

And nothing is more wrong-headed than calling meaning a mental activity! Unless, that is, one is setting out to produce confusion.” [PI §693]

One of the transcendental aspects in the CS is concept, another is model. Both together are providing the aspects of use, idea and reference, that is, there is nothing internal and external any more. It simply depends on the purpose of the description, or the kind of report we want to create about the mental, whether we talk about the mental in an internalist or in externalist way, whether we talk about acts, concepts, signs, or models. Regardless, what we do as humans, it will always be predominantly a mental act, irrespective the change of material reconfigurations.

10. Conclusion

It is probably not an exaggeration to say that in the last two decades the diversity of mentality has been discovered. A whole range of developments and shifts in public life may have been contributing to that, concerning several domains, namely from politics, technology, social life, behavioural science and, last but not least, brain research. We saw the end of the Cold War, which has been signalling an unrooting of functionalism far beyond the domain of politics, and simultaneously the growth and discovery of the WWW and its accompanied “scopic44 media” [46, 47]. The “scopics” spurred the so-called globalization that worked much more in favour of the recognition of diversity than it levelled that diversity, at least so far. While we are still in the midst of the popularization and increasingly abundant usage of so-called machine learning, we already witness an intensified mutual penetration and amalgamation of technological and social issues. In the behavioural sciences, probably also supported by the deepening of mediatization, an unforeseen interest in the mental and social capabilities of animals manifested, pushing back the merely positivist and dissecting description of behavior. As one of the most salient examples may serve the confirmation of cultural traditions in dolphins and orcas, concerning communication as well as highly complex collaborative hunting.  The unfolding of collaboration requires the mutual and temporal assignment of functional roles for a given task. This not only prerequisites a true understanding of causality, but even its reflected use as a game in probabilistic spaces.

Let us distil three modes or forms here, (i) the animal culture, (ii) the machine-becoming and of course (iii) the human life forms in the age of intensified mediatization. All three modes must be considered as “novel” ones, for one reason or another. We won’t go in any further detail here, yet it is pretty clear that the triad of these three modes render any monolithic or anthropologically imprinted form of philosophy of mind impossible. In turn, any philosophy of mind that is limited to just the human brains relation to the world, or even worse, which imposes analytical, logical or functional perspectives onto it, must be considered as seriously defect. This applies still to large parts of the mainstream in philosophy of mind (and even ethics).

In this essay we argued for a new Image of Thought that is independent from the experience of or by a particular form of life, form of informational45 organization or cultural setting, respectively. This new Image of Thought is represented through the choreostemic space. This space is dynamic and active and can be described formally only if it is “frozen” into an analytical reduction. Yet, its self-referentiality and self-directed generativity is a major ingredient. This self-referentiality is takes a salient role in the space’s capability to  leave its conditions behind.

One of the main points of the choreostemic space (CS) probably is that we can not talk about “thought”—regardless its quasi-material and informational foundations—without referring to the choreostemic space. It is a (very) strong argument against Rylean concepts about the mind that claim the irrelevance of the concept of the mental by proposing that looking at the behavior is sufficient to talk about the “mind”. Of course, the CS does not support “the dogma of the ghost in the machine“ either. The choreostemic space defies (and helps to defy) any empirical and so also anthropological myopias through its triple-feature of transcendental framing, differential operation and immanent rooting. Such it is immune against naturalist fallacies such as Cartesian dualism as well as against arbitrariness or relativism. Neither it could be infected by any kind of preoccupation such like idealism or universalism. Despite one could regard it in some way as “pure Thought”, or consider it as the expressive situs of it, its purity is not an idealistic one. It dissolves either into the metaphysical transcendentality of the four conceptual aspects _a,that is, the _Model, _Mediality,_Concept,and _Virtuality.Or it takes the form of the Differential that could be considered as being kind of a practical transcendentality46 [48].  There, as one of her starting points Bühlmann writes:

Deleuze’s fundamental critique in Difference and Repetition is that throughout the history of philosophy, these conditions have always been considered as »already confined« in one way or another: Either within »a formless, entirely undifferentiated underground« or »abyss« even, or within the »highly personalized form« of an »autocratically individuated Being«

Our choreostemic space provides also the answer to the problematics of conditions.47  As Deleuze, we suggest to regard conditions only as secondary, that is as relevant entities only after any actualization. This avoids negativity as a metaphysical principle. Yet, in order to get completely rid of any condition while at the same time retain conditionability as a transcendental entity we have to resort to self-referentiality as a generic principle. Hence, our proposal goes beyond Deleuze’s framework as he developed it from “Difference and Repetition” until “What is Philosophy?”, since he never made this move.

Basically, the CS supports Wittgenstein’s rejection of materialism, which experienced a completely unjustified revival in the various shades of neuro-isms. Malcolm cites him [49]:

It makes as little sense to ascribe experiences, wishes, thoughts, beliefs, to  a brain as to a mushroom. (p.186)

This support should not surprise, since the CS was deliberately constructed to be compatible with the concept of language game. Despite the CS also supports his famous remark about meaning:

And nothing is more wrong-headed than calling meaning a mental activity! Unless, that is, one is setting out to produce confusion.” [PI §693]

it is also clear that the CS may be taken as a means to overcome the debate about external or internal primacies or foundations of meaning. The duality of internal vs. external is neutralized in the CS. While modeling and such the abstract model always requires some kind of material body, hence representing the route into some interiority, the CS is also spanned by the Concept and by Mediality. Both concepts are explicit ties between any kind of interiority and and any kind of exteriority, without preferring a direction at all. The proposal that any mental activity inscribes attractors into that space just means that interiority and exteriority can’t be separated at all, regardless the actual conceptualisation of mind or mentality. Yet, in accordance with PI 693 we also admit that the choreostemic space is not equal to the mental. Any particular mentality unfolds as an actual performance in the CS. Of course, the CS does not describe material reconfigurations, environmental contingency etc. and the performance taking place “there”. In other words, it does not cover any aspect of use. On the other hand, material reconfiguration are simply not “there” as long as they do not get interpreted by applying some kind of model.

The CS clearly shows that we should regard questions like “Where is the mind?” as kind of a grammatical mistake, as Blair lucidly demonstrates [50]. Such a usage of the word “mind” not only implies irrevocably that it is a localizable entity. It also claims its conceptual separatedness. Such a conceptualization of the mind is illusionary. The consequences for any attempt to render “machines” “more intelligent” are obviously quite dramatic. As for the brain, it is likewise impossible to “localize” mental capacities in the case of epistemic machines. This fundamental de-territorialization is not a consequence of scale, as in quantum physics. It is a consequence of the verticality of the differential, the related necessity of forms of construction and the fact, that a non-formal, open language, implying randolations to the community, is mandatory to deal with concepts.

One important question about a story like the “choreostemic space” with its divergent, but nevertheless intimately tied four-fold transcendentality is about the status of that space. What “is” it? How could it affect actual thought? Since we have been starting even with  mathematical concepts like space, mappings, topology, or differential, and since our arguments frequently invokes the concept of mechanism,one could suspect that it is a piece of analytical philosophy. This ascription we can clearly reject.

Peter Hacker convincingly argues that “analytical philosophy” can’t be specified by a set of properties of such assumed philosophy. He proposes to consider it as a historical phase of philosophy, with several episodes, beginning around 1890 [53]. Nevertheless, during the 1970ies a a set of believes formed kind of a basic setup. Hacker writes:

But there was broad consensus on three points. First, no advance in philosophical understanding can be expected without the propaedeutic of investigating the use of the words relevant to the problem at hand. Second, metaphysics, understood as the philosophical investigation into the objective, language-independent, nature of the world, is an illusion. Third, philosophy, contrary to what Russell had thought, is not continuous with, but altogether distinct from science. Its task, contrary to what the Vienna Circle averred, is not the clarification or ‘improvement’ of the language of science.

Where we definitely disagree is at the point about metaphysics. Not only do we refute the view that metaphysics is about the objective, language-independent, nature of the world. As such we indeed would reject metaphysics. An example for this kind of thinking is provided by the writing of Whitehead. It should have become clear throughout our writing that we stick to the primacy of interpretation, and accordingly we do regard the believe in an objective reality as deeply misconceived. Thereby we do neither claim that our mental life is independent from the environment—as radical constructivism (Varela & Co) does—nor do we claim that there is no external world around us that is independent from our perception and constructions. Such is just belief in metaphysical independence, which plays an important tole in modernism. The idea of objective reality is also infected by this belief, resulting in a self-contradiction. For “objective” makes sense only as an index to some kind of sociality, and hence to a group sharing a language, and further to the use of language. The claim of “objective reality is thus childish.

More important, however, we have seen that the self-referentiality of terms like concept (we called those “strongly singular terms“) enforces us to acknowledge that Concept, much like logic, is a transcendental category. Obviously we refer strongly to transcendental, that is metaphysical categories. At the same time we also propose, however, that there are manifolds of instances of those transcendental categories.

The choreostemic space describes a mechanism. In that it resembles to the science of biology, where the concept of mechanism is an important epistemological tool. As such, we try to defend against mysticism, against the threat that is proposed by any all too quick reference to the “Lebenswelt”, the form of life and the ways of living. But is it really an “analysis”?

Putnam called “analysis” an “inexplicable noise”[54]. His critique was precisely that semantics can’t be found by any kind of formalization, that is outside of the use of language. In this sense we certainly are not doing analytic philosophy. As a final point we again want to emphasize that it is not possible to describe the choreostemic space completely, that is, all the conditions and effects, etc., due to its self-referentiality. It is a generative space that confirms its structure by itself. Nevertheless it is neither useless nor does it support solipsism. In a fully conscious act it can be used to describe the entirety of mental activity, and only as a fully conscious act, while this description is a fully non-representational description. In this way it overcomes not only the Cartesian dualism about consciousness. In fact, it is another way to criticise the distinction between interiority and exteriority.

For one part we agree with Wittgenstein’s critique (see also the work of PMS Hacker about that), which identifies the “mystery” of consciousness as an illusion. The concept of the language game, which is for one part certainly an empiric concept, is substantial for the choreostemic space. Yet, the CS provides several routes between the private and the communal, without actually representing one or the other. The CS does no distinguish between the interior and the exterior at all, just recall that mediality is one of the transcendental aspects. Along with Wittgenstein’s “solipsistic realism” we consequently reject also the idea that ontology can be about the external world, as this again would introduce such a separation. Quite to the contrast, the CS vanishes the need for the naive conception of ontology. Ontology makes sense only within the choreostemic space.

Yet, we certainly embrace the idea that mental processes are ultimately “based” on physical matter, but unfolded into and by their immaterial external surrounds, yielding an inextricable compound. Referring to any “neuro” stuff regarding the mental does neither “explain” anything nor is it helpful to any regard, whether one considers it as neuro-science or as neuro-phenomenology.

Summarizing the issue we may say that the choreostemic space opens a completely new level for any philosophy of the mental, not just what is being called the human “mind”. It also allows to address scientific questions about the mental in a different way, as well as it clarifies the route to machines that could draw their own traces and figures into that space. It makes irrepealable clear that any kind of functionalism or materialism is once and for all falsified.

Let us now finally inspect our initial question that we put forward in the editorial essay. Is there a limit for the mental capacity of machines? If yes, which kind of limit and where could we draw it? The question about the limit of machines directly triggers the question about the image of humanity („Bild des Menschen“), which is fuelled from the opposite direction. So, does this imply kind of a demarcation line between the domain of the machines and the realm of the human? Definitely not, of course. To opt for such a separation would not only follow idealist-romanticist line of critizising technology, but also instantiate a primary negativity.

Based on the choreostemic space, our proposal is a fundamentally different one. It can be argue that this space can contains any condition of any thought as an population of unfolding thoughts. These unfoldings inscribe different successions into the space, appearing as attractors and figures. The key point of this is that different figures, representing different Lebensformen (Forms of Life) that are probably even incommensurable to each other, can be related to each other without reducing any of them. The choreostemic space is a space of mental co-habitation.

Let us for instance start with the functionalist perspective that is so abundant in modernism since the times of Descartes. A purely functionalist stance is just a particular figure in that space, as it applies to any other style of thinking. Using the dictum of the choreosteme as a guideline, it is relatively easy to widen the perspective into a more appropriate one. Several developmental paths into a different choreostemic attractor are possible. For instance, mediatization through social embedding [52], opening through autonomous associative mechanisms as we have described it, or the adhoc recombination of conceptual principles as it has been demonstrated by Douglas Hofstadter. Letting a robot range freely around also provokes the first tiny steps away from functionalism, albeit the behavioral Bauplan of the insects (arthropoda) demonstrates that this does not install a necessity for the evolutionary path to advanced mental capabilities.

The choreostemic space can serve as such a guideline because it is not infected by anthropology in any regard. Nevertheless it allows to speak clearly about concepts like belief and knowledge, of course, without reducing these concepts to positive definite or functionalist definitions. It also remains completely compatible with Wittgenstein’s concept of the language game. For instance, we reconstructed the language game “knowing” as a label for a pointer (say reference) to a particular image of thought and its use. Of course, this figure should not be conceived as a fixed point attractor, as the various shades of materialism, idealism and functionalism actually would do (if they would argue along the choreosteme). It is somewhat interesting that here, by means of the choreostemic space, Wittgenstein and Deleuze approach each other quite closely, something they themselves would not have been supported, probably.

Where is the limit of machines, then?

I guess, any answer must refer to the capability to leave a well-formed trace in the choreostemic space. As such, the limits of machines are to be found in the same way as they are found for us humans: To feel and to act as an entity that is able to contribute to culture and to assimilate it in its mental activity.

We started the choreostemic space as a framework to talk about thinking, or more general: about mentality, in a non-anthropological and non.-reductionist manner. In the course of our investigation, we found a tool that actualizes itself into real social and cognitive situations. We also found the infinite space of choreostemic galaxies as attractors for eternal returns without repetition of the identical. Choreosteme keeps the any alive, without subjugating individuality, it provides a new and extended level of sayability without falling into representationalism. Taken together, as a new Image of Thought it allows to develop thinking deliberately and as part of a multitudinous variety.

Notes

1. This piece is thought of as a close relative to Deleuze’s Difference & Repetition (D&R)[1]. Think of it as a satellite of it, whose point of nearest approach is at the end of part IV of D&R, and thus also as a kind of extension of D&R.

2. Deleuze of course, belongs to them, but of course also Ludwig Wittgenstein (see §201 of PI [2], “paradox” of rule following), and Wilhelm Vossenkuhl [3], who presented three mutually paradoxical maxims as a new kind of a theory of morality (ethics), that resists the reference to monolithically set first principles, such as for instance in John Rawls’ “Theory of Justice”. The work of those philosophers also provides examples of how to turn paradoxicality productive, without creating paradoxes at all, the main trick being to overcome their fixation by a process. Many others, including Derrida, just recognize paradoxes, but are neither able to conceive of paradoxicality nor to distinguish them from paradoxes, hence they take paradoxes just as unfortunate ontological knots. In such works, one can usually find one or the other way to prohibit interpretation (think about the trail, grm. “Spur” in Derrida)

3. Paradoxes and antinomies like those described by Taylor, Banach-Tarski, Russell or of course Zenon are all defect, i.e. pseudo-paradoxes, because they violate their own “gaming pragmatics”. They are not paradoxical at all, but rather either simply false or arbitrarily fixed within the state of such violation. The same fault is committed by the Sorites paradox and its relatives. They are all mixing up—or colliding—the language game of countability or counting with the language game of denoting non-countability, as represented by the infinite or the infinitesimal. Instead of saying that they violate the apriori self-declared “gaming pragmatics” we also could say that they change the most basic reference system on the fly, without any indication of doing so. This may happen through an inadequate use of the concept of infiniteness.

4. DR 242 eternal return: it is not the same and the identical that returns, but the virtual structuredness (not even a “principle”), without which metamorphosis can’t be conceived.

5. In „Difference and Repetition“, Deleuze chose to spell “Idea” with a capital letter, in order to distinguish his concept from the ordinary word.

7. Here we find interesting possibilities for a transition to Alan Turing‘s formal foundation of creativity [5].

8. This includes the usage of concepts like virtuality, differential, problematic field, the rejection of the primacy of identity and closely related to that, the rejection of negativity, the rejection of the notion of representation, etc. Rejecting the negative opens an interesting parallel to Wittgenstein’s insisting on the transcendentality of logics and the subordination of any practical logic to performance. Since the negative is a purely symbolic entity, it is also purely aposteriori to any genesis, that is self-referential performance.

9. I would like to recommend to take a look to the second part of part IV in D&R, and maybe, also to the concluding chapter therein (download it here).

10. Saying „we“ here is not just due to some hyperbolic politeness. The targeted concept of this essay, the choreosteme, has been developed by Vera Bühlmann and the author of this essay (Klaus Wassermann) in close collaboration over a number of years. Finally the idea proofed to be so strong that now there is some dissent about the role and the usage of the concept.

11. For belief revision as described by others, overview @ Stanford, a critique by Pollock, who clarified that belief revision as comprised and founded by the AGM theory (see below) is incompatible to  standard epistemology.

12. By symbolism we mean the belief that symbols are the primary and apriori existent entities for any description of any problematic field. In machine-based epistemology for instance, we can not start with data organized in tables because this pre-supposes a completed process of “ensymbolization”. Yet, in the external world there are no symbols, because symbols only exist subsequent to interpretation. We can see that symbolism creates the egg-chick-problem.

13. Miriam Meckel, communication researcher at the university of Zürich, is quite active in drawing dark-grey pictures. Recently, she coined “Googlem” as a resemblance to Google and Golem. Meckel commits several faults in that: She does not understand the technology(accusing Google to use averages), and she forgets about the people (programmers) behind “the computer”, and the people using the software as well. She follows exactly the pseudo-romantic separation between nature and the artificial.

Miriam Meckel, Next. Erinnerungen an eine Zukunft ohne uns,  Rowohlt 2011.

14. Here we find a resemblance to Wittgenstein’s denial to attribute philosophy the role of an enabler of understanding. According to Wittgenstein, philosophy even does not and can not describe. It just can show.

15. This also concerns the issue of cross-culturality.

16. Due to some kind of cultural imprinting, a frequently and solitary exercised habit, people almost exclusively think of Cartesian spaces as soon as a “space” is needed. Yet, there is no necessary implication between the need for a space and the Cartesian type of space. Even Deleuze did not recognize the difficulties implied by the reference to the Cartesian space, not only in D&R, but throughout his work. Nevertheless, there are indeed passages (in What is philosophy? with “planes of immanence”, or in the “Fold”) where it seems that he could have smelled into a different conception of space.

17. For the role of „elements“ please see the article about „Elementarization“.

18. Vera Bühlmann [8]: „Insbesondere wird eine Neu-Bestimmung des aristotelischen Verhältnisses von Virtualität und Aktualität entwickelt, unter dem Gesichtspunkt, dass im Konzept des Virtuellen – in aller Kürze formuliert – das Problem struktureller Unendlichkeit auf das Problem der zeichentheoretischen Referenz trifft.“

19. which is also a leading topic of our collection of essays here.

20. e.g. Gerhard Gamm, Sybille Krämer, Friedrich Kittler

21. cf. G.C. Tholen [7], V.Bühlmann [8].

22. see the chapter about machinic platonism.

23. Actually, Augustine instrumentalises the discovered difficulty to propose the impossibility to understand God’s creation.

24. It is an „ancestry“ only with respect to the course in time, as the result of a process, not however in terms of structure, morphology etc.

25. cf. C.S. Peirce [16], Umberto Eco [17], Helmut Pape [18];

26. Note that in terms of abstract evolutionary theory rugged fitness landscapes enforce specialisation, but also bring along an increased risk for vanishing of the whole species. Flat fitness landscapes, on the other hand, allow for great diversity. Of course the fitness landscape is not a stable parameter space, neither locally not globally. IN some sense, it is even not a determinable space. Much like the choreostemic space, it would be adequate to conceive of the fitness landscape as a space built from 2-set of transformatory power and the power to remain stability. Both can be determined only in hindsight. This paradoxality is not by chance, yet it has not been discovered as an issue in evolutionary theory.

27. Of course I know that there are important differences between verbs and substantives, which we may level out in our context without loosing too much.

28. In many societies, believing has been thought to be tied to religion, the rituals around the belief in God(s). Since the renaissance, with upcoming scientism and profanisation of societies religion and science established sort of a replacement competition. Michel Serres described how scientists took over the positions and the funds previously held by the cleric. The impression of a competition is well-understandable, of course, if we consider the “opposite direction” of the respective vectors in the choreostemic space. Yet, it is also quite mistaken, maybe itself provoked by overly idealisation, since neither the clerk can make his day without models nor the scientist his one without beliefs.

29. The concept of “theory” referred to here is oriented towards a conceptualisation based on language game and orthoregulation. Theories need to be conceived as orthoregulative milieus of models in order to be able to distinguish between models and theories, something which can’t be accomplished by analytic concepts. See the essay about theory of theory.

30. Of course, we do not claim to cover completely the relation between experiments, experience, observation on the one side and their theoretical account on the other by that. We just would like to emphasize the inextricable dynamic relation between modeling and concepts in scientific activities, whether in professional or “everyday-type” of science. For instance, much could be said in this regard about the path of decoherence from information and causality. Both aspects, the decoherence and the flip from intensifying modeling over to a conceptual form has not been conceptualized before. The reason is simple enough: There was no appropriate theory about concepts.

When, for instance, Radder [28] contends that the essential step from experiment to theory is to disconnect theoretical concepts from the particular experimental processes in which they have been realized [p.157], then he not only misconceives the status and role of theories, he also does not realize that experiments are essentially material actualisations of models. Abstracting regularities from observations into models and shaping the milieu for such a model in order to find similar ones, thereby achieving generalization is anything but to disconnect them. It seems that he overshoot a bit in his critique of scientific constructivism. Additionally, his perspective does not provide any possibility to speak about the relation between concepts and models. Though Radder obviously had the feeling of a strong change in the way from putting observations into scene towards concepts, he fails to provide a fruitful picture about it. He can’t surpass that feeling towards insight, as he muses about “… ‘unintended consequences’ that might arise from the potential use of theoretical concepts in novel situations.” Such descriptions are close to scientific mysticism.

Radder’s account is a quite recent one, but others are not really helpful about the relation between experiment, model and concept either. Kuhn’s praised concept of paradigmatic changes [24] can be rated at most as a phenomenological or historizing description. Sure, his approach brought a fresh perspective in times of overdone reductionism, but he never provided any kind of abstract mechanism. Other philosophers of science stuck to concepts like prediction (cf. Reichenbach [20], Salmon [21]) and causality (cf. Bunge [22], Pearl [23]), which of course can’t say anything about the relation to the category of concepts. Finally, Nancy Cartwright [25], Isabelle Stengers [26], Bruno Latour [9] or Karin Knorr Cetina [10] are representatives for the various shades of constructivism, whether individually shaped or as a phenomenon embedded into a community, which also can’t say anything about concepts as categories. A screen through the Journal of Applied Measurement did not reveal any significantly different items.

Thus, so far philosophy of science, sociology and history of science have been unable to understand the particular dynamics between models and concepts as abstract categories, i.e. as _Modelsor _Concepts.

31. If the members of a community, or even the participants in random interactions within it, agree on the persistence of their relations, then they will tend to exhibit a stronger propensity towards collaboration. Robert Axelrod demonstrated that on the formal level by means of a computer experiment [33]. He has been the first one, who proposed game theory as a means to explain the choice of strategies between interactees.

32. Orig.: „Seit über 200 Jahren ist die Philosophie anthropologisch bestimmt. Was das genauer bedeutet, hat sie dagegen kaum erforscht.“

33. Orig.: „Nietzsches Idealismuskritik, die in vielen Schattierungen vorliegt und immer auf das philosophische Selbstmissverständnis eines reinen Geistes und reiner Begriffe zielt, richtet sich auch gegen ein bestimmtes Naturverständnis.“ (KAV439)

34. More precisely, in evolutionary processes the capability for generalization is selected under conditions of scarcity. Scarcity, however, is inevitably induced under the condition of growth or consumption. It is important to understand that newly emerging levels of generalization do not replace former levels of integration. Those undergo a transformation with regard to their relations and their functional embedding, i.e. with regard to their factuality. In morphology of biological specimens this is well-known as “Überformung”. For more details about evolution and generalization please see this.

35. The notions of “philosophy of nature” or even “natural philosophy” are strictly inappropriate. Both “kinds” of philosophy are not possible at all. They have to be regarded as a strange mixture of contemporarily available concepts from science (physics, chemistry, biology), mysticism or theism and the mistaken attempt to transfer topics as such from there to philosophy. Usually, the result is simply a naturalist fallacy with serious gaps regarding the technique of reflection. Think about Kant’s physicalistic tendencies throughout his philosophy, the unholy adaptation of Darwinian theory, analytic philosophy, which is deeply influenced by cybernetics, or the comeback of determinism and functionalism due to almost ridiculous misunderstandings of the brain.

Nowadays it must be clear that philosophy before the reflection of the role of language, or more general, before the role of languagability—which includes processes of symbolization and naming—can’t be regarded as serious philosophy. Results from sciences can be imported into philosophy only as formalized structural constraints. Evolutionary theory, for instance, first have to be formalized appropriately (as we did here), before it could be of any relevance to philosophy. Yet, what is philosophy? Besides Deleuze’s answer [35], we may conceive philosophy as a technique of asking about the conditionability of the possibility to reflect. Hence, Wittgenstein said that philosophy should be regarded as a cure. Thus philosophy includes fields like ethics as a theory of morality or epistemology, which we developed here into a “choreostemology”.

36. Orig.: „Der Punkt, um den es sich namentlich handelt, lässt sich ganz bestimmt angeben. Es ist gleichsam der Apfel in dem logischen Sündenfall der deutschen Philosophie nach Kant: das Verhältnis zwischen Subjekt und Objekt in der Erkenntnis.“

37. Despite Rölli usually esteems Deleuze’s philosophy of the differential, here he refers to the difference though. I think it should be read as “divergence and differential”.

38. Orig.: „Nach allem wird klarer geworden sein, dass es sich bei diesem Pragmatismus nicht um einen einfachen Pragmatismus handelt, sondern um einen mit aller philosophischen Raffinesse konstruierten Pragmatismus der Differenz.“

39. As scientific facts, Quantum physics, the probabilistic structure of the brain and the non-representationalist working of the brain falsify determinism as well as finiteness of natural processes, even if there should be something like “natural laws”.

40. See the article about the structure of comparison.

41. Even Putnam does so, not only in his early functionalist phase, but still in Representation and Reality [36].

42. Usually, philosophers are trained only in logics, which does not help much, since logic is not a process. Of course, being trained in mathematical structures does not imply that the resulting philosophy is reasonable at all. Take Alain Badiou as an example, who just blows up materialism.

43. A complete new theory of governmentality and sovereignty would be possible here.

44. The notion of “scopic” media as coined by Knorr Cetina means that modern media substantially change the point of view (“scopein”, looking, viewing). Today, we are not just immersed into them, but we deliberately choose them and search for them. The change of perspective is thought to be a multitude and contracting space and time. This however, is not quite typical for the new media.

45. Here we refer to our extended view onto “information” that goes far beyond the technical reduced perspective that is forming the main stream today. Information is a category that can’t be limited to the immaterial. See the chapter about “Information and Causality”.

46. Vera Bühlmann described certain aspects of Deleuze’s philosophy as an attempt to naturalize transcendentality in the context of emergence, as it occurs in complex systems. Deleuze described the respective setting in “Logic of Sense” [49] as the 14th series of paradoxes.

47. …which is not quite surprising, since we developed the choreostemic space together.

References
  • [1] Gilles Deleuze, Difference and Repetition. Translated by Paul Patton, Athlon Press, 1994 [1968].
  • [2] Ludwig Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations.
  • [3] Wilhelm Vossenkuhl. Die Möglichkeit des Guten. Beck, München 2006.
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  • [5] Alan Turing. Chemical Basis of Morphogenesis.
  • [6] K. Wassermann, That Centre-Point Thing. The Theory Model in Model Theory. In: Vera Bühlmann, Printed Physics, Springer New York 2012, forthcoming.
  • [7] Georg Christoph Tholen. Die Zäsur der Medien. Kulturphilosophische Konturen. Suhrkamp, Frankfurt 2002.
  • [8] Vera Bühlmann. Inhabiting media : Annäherungen an Herkünfte und Topoi medialer Architektonik. Thesis, University of Basel 2011. available online, summary (in German language) here.
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۞

Analogical Thinking, revisited. (II)

March 20, 2012 § Leave a comment

In this second part of the essay about a fresh perspective on

(II/II)

analogical thinking—more precise: on models about it—we will try to bring two concepts together that at first sight represent quite different approaches: Copycat and SOM.

Why engaging in such an endeavor? Firstly, we are quite convinced that FARG’s Copycat demonstrates an important and outstanding architecture. It provides a well-founded proposal about the way we humans apply ideas and abstract concepts to real situations. Secondly, however, it is also clear that Copycat suffers from a few serious flaws in its architecture, particularly the built-in idealism. This renders any adaptation to more realistic domains, or even to completely domain-independent conditions very, very difficult, if not impossible, since this drawback also prohibits structural learning. So far, Copycat is just able to adapt some predefined internal parameters. In other words, the Copycat mechanism just adapts a predefined structure, though a quite abstract one, to a given empiric situation.

Well, basically there seem to be two different, “opposite” strategies to merge these approaches. Either we integrate the SOM into Copycat, or we try to transfer the relevant yet to be identified parts from Copycat to a SOM-based environment. Yet, at the end of day we will see that and how the two alternatives converge.

In order to accomplish our goal of establishing a fruitful combination between SOM and Copycat we have to take mainly three steps. First, we briefly recapitulate the basic elements of Copycat and the proper instance of a SOM-based system. We also will describe the extended SOM system in some detail, albeit there will be a dedicated chapter on it. Finally, we have to transfer and presumably adapt those elements of the Copycat approach that are missing in the SOM paradigm.

Crossing over

The particular power of (natural) evolutionary processes derives from the fact that it is based on symbols. “Adaptation” or “optimization” are not processes that change just the numerical values of parameters of formulas. Quite to the opposite, adaptational processes that span across generations parts of the DNA-based story is being rewritten, with potential consequences for the whole of the story. This effect of recombination in the symbolic space is particularly present in the so-called “crossing over” during the production of gamete cells in the context of sexual reproduction in eukaryotes. Crossing over is a “technique” to dramatically speed up the exploration of the space of potential changes. (In some way, this space is also greatly enlarged by symbolic recombination.)

What we will try here in our attempt to merge the two concepts of Copycat and SOM is exactly this: a symbolic recombination. The difference to its natural template is that in our case we do not transfer DNA-snippets between homologous locations in chromosomes, we transfer whole “genes,” which are represented by elements.

Elementarizations I: C.o.p.y.c.a.t.

In part 1 we identified two top-level (non-atomic) elements of Copycat

Since the first element, covering evolutionary aspects such as randomness, population and a particular memory dynamics, is pretty clear and a whole range of possible ways to implement it are available, any attempt for improving the Copycat approach has to target the static, strongly idealistic characteristics of the the structure that is called “Slipnet” by the FARG’s. The Slipnet has to be enabled for structural changes and autonomous adaptation of its parameters. This could be accomplished in many ways, e.g. by representing the items in the Slipnet as primitive artificial genes. Yet, we will take a different road here, since the SOM paradigm already provides the means to achieve idealizations.

At that point we have to elementarize Copycat’s Slipnet in a way that renders it compatible with the SOM principles. Hofstadter emphasizes the following properties of the Slipnet and the items contained therein (pp.212).

  • (1) Conceptual depth allows for a dynamic and continuous scaling of “abstractness” and resistance against “slipping” to another concept;
  • (2) Nodes and links between nodes both represent active abstract properties;
  • (3) Nodes acquire, spread and lose activation, which knows an switch-on threshold < 1;
  • (4) The length of links represents conceptual proximity or degree of association between the nodes.

As a whole, and viewed from the network perspective, the Slipnet behaves much like a spring system, or a network built from rubber bands, where the springs or the rubber bands are regulated in their strength. Note that our concept of SomFluid also exhibits the feature of local regulation of the bonds between nodes, a property that is not present in the idealized standard SOM paradigm.

Yet, the most interesting properties in the list above are (1) and (2), while (3) and (4) are known in the classic SOM paradigm as well. The first item is great because it represents an elegant instance of creating the possibility for measurability that goes far beyond the nominal scale. As a consequence, “abstractness” ceases to be nominal none-or-all property, as it is present in hierarchies of abstraction. Such hierarchies now can be recognized as mere projections or selections, both introducing a severe limitation of expressibility. The conceptual depth opens a new space.

The second item is also very interesting since it blurs the distinction between items and their relations to some extent. That distinction is also a consequence of relying too readily on the nominal scale of description. It introduces a certain moment of self-reference, though this is not fully developed in the Slipnet. Nevertheless, a result of this move is that concepts can’t be thought without their embedding into other a neighborhood of other concepts. Hofstadter clearly introduces a non-positivistic and non-idealistic notion here, as it establishes a non-totalizing meta-concept of wholeness.

Yet, the blurring between “concepts” and “relations” could be and must be driven far beyond the level Hofstadter achieved, if the Slipnet should become extensible. Namely, all the parts and processes of the Slipnet need to follow the paradigm of probabilization, since this offers the only way to evade the demons of cybernetic idealism and control apriori. Hofstadter himself relies much on probabilization concerning the other two architectural parts of Copycat. Its beyond me why he didn’t apply it to the Slipnet too.

Taken together, we may derive (or: impose) the following important elements for an abstract description of the Slipnet.

  • (1) Smooth scaling of abstractness (“conceptual depth”);
  • (2) Items and links of a network of sub-conceptual abstract properties are instances of the same category of “abstract property”;
  • (3) Activation of abstract properties represents a non-linear flow of energy;
  • (4) The distance between abstract properties represents their conceptual proximity.

A note should be added regarding the last (fourth) point. In Copycat, this proximity is a static number. In Hofstadter’s framework, it does not express something like similarity, since the abstract properties are not conceived as compounds. That is, the abstract properties are themselves on the nominal level. And indeed, it might appear as rather difficult to conceive of concepts as “right of”, “left of”, or “group” as compounds. Yet, I think that it is well possible by referring to mathematical group theory, the theory of algebra and the framework of mathematical categories. All of those may be subsumed into the same operationalization: symmetry operations. Of course, there are different ways to conceive of symmetries and to implement the respective operationalizations. We will discuss this issue in a forthcoming essay that is part of the series “The Formal and the Creative“.

The next step is now to distill the elements of the SOM paradigm in a way that enables a common differential for the SOM and for Copycat..

Elementarizations II: S.O.M.

The self-organizing map is a structure that associates comparable items—usually records of values that represent observations—according to their similarity. Hence, it makes two strong and important assumptions.

  • (1) The basic assumption of the SOM paradigm is that items can be rendered comparable;
  • (2) The items are conceived as tokens that are created by repeated measurement;

The first assumption means, that the structure of the items can be described (i) apriori to their comparison and (ii) independent from the final result of the SOM process. Of course, this assumption is not unique to SOMs, any algorithmic approach to the treatment of data is committed to it. The particular status of SOM is given by the fact—and in stark contrast to almost any other method for the treatment of data—that this is the only strong assumption. All other parameters can be handled in a dynamic manner. In other words, there is no particular zone of the internal parametrization of a SOM that would be inaccessible apriori. Compare this with ANN or statistical methods, and you feel the difference…  Usually, methods are rather opaque with respect to their internal parameters. For instance, the similarity functional is usually not accessible, which renders all these nice looking, so-called analytic methods into some kind of subjective gambling. In PCA and its relatives, for instance, the similarity is buried in the covariance matrix, which in turn is only defined within the assumption of normality of correlations. If not a rank correlation is used, this assumption is extended even to the data itself. In both cases it is impossible to introduce a different notion of similarity. Else, and also as a consequence of that, it is impossible to investigate the particular dependency of the results proposed by the method from the structural properties and (opaque) assumptions. In contrast to such unfavorable epistemo-mythical practices, the particular transparency of the SOM paradigm allows for critical structural learning of the SOM instances. “Critical” here means that the influence of internal parameters of the method onto the results or conclusions can be investigated, changed, and accordingly adapted.

The second assumption is implied by its purpose to be a learning mechanism. It simply needs some observations as results of the same type of measurement. The number of observations (the number of repeats) has to  exceed a certain lower threshold, which, dependent on the data and the purpose, is at least 8, typically however (much) more than 100 observations of the same kind are needed. Any result will be within the space delimited by the assignates (properties), and thus any result is a possibility (if we take just the SOM itself).

The particular accomplishment of a SOM process is the transition from the extensional to the intensional description, i.e. the SOM may be used as a tool to perform the step from tokens to types.

From this we may derive the following elements of the SOM:1

  • (1) a multitude of items that can be described within a common structure, though not necessarily an identical one;
  • (2) a dense network where the links between nodes are probabilistic relations;
  • (3) a bottom-up mechanism which results in the transition from an extensional to an intensional level of description;

As a consequence of this structure the SOM process avoids the necessity to compare all items (N) to all other items (N-1). This property, together with the probabilistic neighborhoods establishes the main difference to other clustering procedures.

It is quite important to understand that the SOM mechanism as such is not a modeling procedure. Several extensions have to be added and properly integrated, such as

  • – operationalization of the target into a target variable;
  • – validation by separate samples;
  • – feature selection, preferably by an instance of  a generalized evolutionary process (though not by a genetic algorithm);
  • – detecting strong functional and/or non-linear coupling between variables;
  • – description of the dependency of the results from internal parameters by means of data experiments.

We already described the generalized architecture of modeling as well as the elements of the generalized model in previous chapters.

Yet, as we explained in part 1 of this essay, analogy making is conceptually incompatible to any kind of modeling, as long as the target of the model points to some external entity. Thus, we have to choose a non-modeling instance of a SOM as the starting point. However, clustering is also an instance of those processes that provide the transition from extensions to intensions, whether this clustering is embedded into full modeling or not. In other words, both the classic SOM as well as the modeling SOM are not suitable as candidates for a merger with Copycat.

SOM-based Abstraction

Fortunately, there is already a proposal, and even a well-known one, that indeed may be taken as such a candidate: the two-layer SOM (TL-SOM) as it has been demonstrated as essential part of the so-called WebSom [1,2].

Actually, the description as being “two layered” is a very minimalistic, if not inappropriate description what is going on in the WebSom. We already discussed many aspects of its architecture here and here.

Concerning our interests here, the multi-layered arrangement itself is not a significant feature. Any system doing complicated things needs a functional compartmentalization; we have met a multi-part, multi-compartment and multi-layered structure in the case of Copycat too. Else, the SOM mechanism itself remains perfectly identical across the layers.

The real interesting features of the approach realized in the TL-SOM are

  • – the preparation of the observations into probabilistic contexts;
  • – the utilization of the primary SOM as a measurement device (the actual trick).

The domain of application of the TL-SOM is the comparison and classification of texts. Texts belong to unstructured data and the comparison of texts is exposed to the same problematics as the making of analogies: there is no apriori structure that could serve as a basis for modeling. Also, as the analogies investigated by the FARG the text is a locational phenomenon, i.e. it takes place in a space.

Let us briefly recapitulate the dynamics in a TL-SOM. In order to create a TL-SOM the text is first dissolved into overlapping, probabilistic contexts. Note that the locational arrangement is captured by these random contexts. No explicit apriori rules are necessary to separate patterns. The resulting collection of  contexts then gets “somified”. Each node then contains similar random contexts that have been derived from various positions in different texts. Now the decisive step will be taken, which consists in turning the perspective by “90 degrees”: We can use the SOM as the basis for creating a histogram for each of the texts. The nodes are interpreted as properties of the texts, i.e. each node represents a bin of the histogram. The values of the individual bins measure the frequency of the text as it is represented by the respective random context. The secondary SOM then creates a clustering across these histograms, which represent the texts in an abstract manner.

This way the primary lattice of the TL-SOM is used to impose a structure on the unstructured entity “text.”

Figure 1: A schematic representation of a two-layered SOM with built-in self-referential abstraction. The input for the secondary SOM (foreground) is derived as a collection of histograms that are defined as a density across the nodes of the primary SOM (background). The input for the primary SOM are random contexts.

To put it clearly: the secondary SOM builds an intensional description of entities that results from the interaction of a SOM with a probabilistic description of the empirical observations. Quite obviously, intensions built this way about intensions are not only quite abstract, the mechanism could even be stacked. It could be described as “high-level perception” as justified as Hofstadter uses the term for Copycat. The TL-SOM turns representational intensions into abstract, structural ones.

The two aspects from above thus interact, they are elements of the TL-SOM. Despite the fact that there are still transitions from extensions to intensions, we also can see that the targeted units of the analysis, the texts get probabilistically distributed across an area, the lattice of the primary SOM. Since the SOM maps the high-dimensional input data onto its map in a way that preserves their topological properties, it is easy to recognize that the TL-SOM creates conceptual halos as an intermediate.

So let us summarize the possibilities provided by the SOM.

  • (1) SOMs are able to create non-empiric, or better: de-empirified idealizations of intensions that are based on “quasi-empiric” input data;
  • (2) TL-SOMs can be used to create conceptual halos.

In the next section we will focus on this spatial, better: primarily spatial effect.

The Extended SOM

Kohonen and co-workers [1,2] proposed to build histograms that reflect the probability density of a text across the SOM. Those histograms represent the original units (e.g. texts) in a quite static manner, using a kind of summary statistics.

Yet, texts are definitely not a static phenomenon. At first sight there is at least a series, while more appropriately texts are even described as dynamic networks of own associative power [3]. Returning to the SOM we see that additionally to the densities scattered across the nodes of the SOM we also can observe a sequence of invoked nodes, according to the sequence of random contexts in the text (or the serial observations)

The not so difficult question then is: How to deal with that sequence? Obviously, it is again and best conceived as a random process (though with a strong structure), and random processes are best described using Markov models, either as hidden (HMM) or as transitional models. Note that the Markov model is not a model about the raw observational data, it describes the sequence of activation events of SOM nodes.

The Markov model can be used as a further means to produce conceptual halos in the sequence domain. The differential properties of a particular sequence as compared to the Markov model then could be used as further properties to describe the observational sequence.

(The full version of the extended SOM comprises targeted modeling as a further level. Yet, this targeted modeling does not refer to raw data. Instead, its input is provided completely by the primary SOM, which is based on probabilistic contexts, while the target of such modeling is just internal consistency of a context-dependent degree.)

The Transfer

Just to avoid misunderstanding: it does not make sense to try representing Copycat completely by a SOM-based system. The particular dynamics and phenomenologically behavior depends a lot on Copycat’s tripartite morphology as represented by the Coderack (agents), the Workspace and the Slipnet. We are “just” in search for a possibility to remove the deep idealism from the Slipnet in order to enable it for structural learning.

Basically, there are two possible routes. Either we re-interpret the extended SOM in a way that allows us to represent the elements of the Slipnet as properties of the SOM, or we try to replace the all items in the Slipnet by SOM lattices.

So, let us take a look which structures we have (Copycat) or what we could have (SOM) on both sides.

Table 1: Comparing elements from Copycat’s Slipnet to the (possible) mechanisms in a SOM-based system.

Copycat extended SOM
 1. smoothly scaled abstraction Conceptual depth (dynamic parameter) distance of abstract intensions in an integrated lattice of a n-layered SOM
 2.  Links as concepts structure by implementation reflecting conceptual proximity as an assignate property for a higher-level
 3. Activation featuring non-linear switching behavior structure by implementation x
 4. Conceptual proximity link length (dynamic parameter) distance in map (dynamic parameter)
 5.  Kind of concepts locational, positional symmetries, any

From this comparison it is clear that the single most challenging part of this route is the possibility for the emergence of abstract intensions in the SOM based on empirical data. From the perspective of the SOM, relations between observational items such as “left-most,” “group” or “right of”, and even such as “sameness group” or “predecessor group”, are just probabilities of a pattern. Such patterns are identified by functions or dynamic combinations thereof. Combinations ot topological primitives remain mappable by analytic functions. Such concepts we could call “primitive concepts” and we can map these to the process of data transformation and the set of assignates as potential properties.2 It is then the job of the SOM to assign a relevancy to the assignates.

Yet, Copycat’s Slipnet comprises also rather abstract concepts such as “opposite”. Further more, the most abstract concepts often act as links between more primitive concepts, or, in Hofstadter terms, conceptual items of lower “conceptual depth”.

My feeling here is that it is a fundamental mistake to implement concepts like “opposite” directly. What is opposite of something else is a deeply semantic concept in itself, thus strongly dependent on the domain. I think that most of the interesting concepts, i.e. the most abstract ones are domain-specific. Concepts like “opposite” could be considered as something “simple” only in case of geometric or spatial domains.

Yet, that’s not a weakness. We should use this as a design feature. Take the following rather simple case as shown in the next figure as an example. Here we mapped simply triplets of uniformly distributed random values onto a SOM. The three values can be readily interpreted as parts of a RGB value, which renders the interpretation more intuitive. The special thing here is that the map has been a really large one: We defined approximately 700’000 nodes and fed approx. 6 million observations into it.

Figure 2: A SOM-based color map showing emergence of abstract features. Note that the topology of the map is a borderless toroid: Left and right borders touch each other (distance=0), and the same applies to the upper and lower borders.

We can observe several interesting things. The SOM didn’t come up with just any arbitrary sorting of the colors. Instead, a very particular one emerged.

First, the map is not perfectly homogeneous anymore. Very large maps tend to develop “anisotropies”, symmetry breaks if you like, simply due to the fact the the signal horizon becomes an important issue. This should not be regarded as a deficiency though. Symmetry breaks are essential for the possibility of the emergence of symbols. Second, we can see that two “color models” emerged, the RGB model around the dark spot in the lower left, and the YMC model around the bright spot in the upper right. Third, the distance between the bright, almost white spot and the dark, almost black one is maximized.

In other words, and not quite surprising, the conceptual distance is reflected as a geometrical distance in the SOM. As it is the case in the TL-SOM, we now could use the SOM as a measurement device that transforms an unknown structure into an internal property, simply by using the locational property in the SOM as an assignate for a secondary SOM. In this way we not only can represent “opposite”, but we even have a model procedure for “generalized oppositeness” at out disposal.

It is crucial to understand this step of “observing the SOM”, thereby conceiving the SOM as a filter, or more precisely as a measurement device. Of course, at this point it becomes clear that a large variety of such transposing and internal-virtual measurement devices may be thought of. Methodologically, this opens an orthogonal dimension to the representation of data, resembling strongly to the concept of orthoregulation.

The map shown above even allows to create completely different color models, for instance one around yellow and another one around magenta. Our color psychology is strongly determined by the sun’s radiated spectrum and hence it reflects a particular Lebenswelt; yet, there is no necessity about it. Some insects like bees are able to perceive ultraviolet radiation, i.e. their colors may have 4 components, yielding a completely different color psychology, while the capability to distinguish colors remains perfectly.3

“Oppositeness” is just a “simple” example for an abstract concept and its operationalization using a SOM. We already mentioned the “serial” coherence of texts (and thus of general arguments) that can be operationalized as sort of virtual movement across a SOM of a particular level of integration.

It is crucial to understand that there is no other model besides the SOM that combines the ability to learn from empirical data and the possibility for emergent abstraction.

There is yet another lesson that we can take home from the simple example above. Well, the example doesn’t not remain that simple. High-level abstraction, items of considerable conceptual depth, so to speak, requires rather short assignate vectors. In the process of learning qua abstraction it appears to be essential that the masses of possible assignates derived from or imposed by measurement of raw data will be reduced. On the one hand, empiric contexts from very different domains should be abstracted, i.e. quite literally “reduced”, into the same perspective. On the other hand, any given empiric context should be abstracted into (much) more than just one abstract perspective. The consequence of that is that we need a lot of SOMs, all separated “sufficiently” from each other. In other words, we need a dynamic population of Self-organizing maps in order to represent the capability of abstraction in real-life. “Dynamic population” here means that there are developmental mechanisms that result in a proliferation, almost a breeding of new SOM instances in a seamless manner. Of course, the SOM instances themselves have to be able to grow and to differentiate, as we have described it here and here.

In a population of SOM the conceptual depth of a concept may be represented by the efforts to arrive at a particular abstract “intension.” This not only comprises the ordinary SOM lattices, but also processes like Markov models, simulations, idealizations qua SOMs, targeted modeling, transition into symbolic space, synchronous or potential activations of other SOM compartments etc. This effort may be represented finally as a “number.”

Conclusions

The structure of multi-layered system of Self-organizing Maps as it has been proposed by Kohonen and co-workers is a powerful model to represent emerging abstraction in response to empiric impressions. The Copycat model demonstrates how abstraction could be brought back to the level of application in order to become able to make analogies and to deal with “first-time-exposures”.

Here we tried to outline a potential path to bring these models together. We regard this combination in the way we proposed it (or a quite similar one) as crucial for any advance in the field of machine-based episteme at large, but also for the rather confined area of machine learning. Attempts like that of Blank [4] appear to suffer seriously from categorical mis-attributions. Analogical thinking does not take place on the level of single neurons.

We didn’t discuss alternative models here (so far, a small extension is planned). The main reasons are that first it would be an almost endless job, and second that Hofstadter already did it and as a result of his investigation he dismissed all the alternative approaches (from authors like Gentner, Holyoak, Thagard). For an overview Runco [5] about recent models on creativity, analogical thinking, or problem solving provides a good starting point. Of course, many authors point to roughly the same direction as we did here, but mostly, the proposals are circular, not helpful because the problematic is just replaced by another one (e.g. the infamous and completely unusable “divergent thinking”), or can’t be implemented for other reasons. Thagard [6] for instance, claim that a “parallel satisfaction of the constraints of similarity, structure and purpose” is key in analogical thinking. Given our analysis, such statements are nothing but a great mess, mixing modeling, theory, vagueness and fluidity.

For instance, in cognitive psychology and in the field of artificial intelligence as well, the hypothesis of Structural Mapping (STM) finds a lot of supporters [7]. Hofstadter discusses similar approaches in his book. The STM hypothesis is highly implausible and obviously a left-over of the symbolic approach to Artificial Intelligence, just transposed into more structural regions. The STM hypothesis has not only to be implemented as a whole, it also has to be implemented for each domain specifically. There is no emergence of that capability.

The combination of the extended SOM—interpreted as a dynamic population of growing SOM instances—with the Copycat mechanism indeed appears as a self-sustaining approach into proliferating abstraction and—quite significant—back from it into application. It will be able to make analogies on any field already in its first encounter with it, even regarding itself, since both the extended SOM as well as the Copycat comprise several mechanisms that may count as precursors of high-level reflexivity.

After this proposal little remains to be said on the technical level. One of those issues which remain to be discussed is the conditions for the possibility of binding internal processes to external references. Here our favorite candidate principle is multi-modality, that is the joint and inextricable “processing” (in the sense of “getting affected”) of words, images and physical signals alike. In other words, I feel that we have come close to the fulfillment of the ariadnic question this blog:”Where is the Limit?” …even in its multi-faceted aspects.

A lot of implementation work has now to be performed, eventually commented by some philosophical musings about “cognition”, or more appropriate the “epistemic condition.” I just would like to invite you to stay tuned for the software publications to come (hopefully in the near future).

Notes

1. see also the other chapters about the SOM, SOM-based modeling, and generalized modeling.

2. It is somehow interesting that in the brain of many animals we can find very small groups of neurons, if not even single neurons, that respond to primitive features such as verticality of lines, or the direction of the movement of objects in the visual field.

3. Ludwig Wittgenstein insisted all the time that we can’t know anything about the “inner” representation of “concepts.” It is thus free of any sense and meaning to claim knowledge about the inner state of oneself as well as of that of others. Wilhelm Vossenkuhl introduces and explains the Wittgensteinian “grammatical” solipsism carefully and in a very nice way.[8]  The only thing we can know about inner states is that we use certain labels for it, and the only meaning of emotions is that we do report them in certain ways. In other terms, the only thing that is important is the ability to distinguish ones feelings. This, however, is easy to accomplish for SOM-based systems, as we have been demonstrating here and elsewhere in this collection of essays.

4. Don’t miss Timo Honkela’s webpage where one can find a lot of gems related to SOMs! The only puzzling issue about all the work done in Helsinki is that the people there constantly and pervasively misunderstand the SOM per se as a modeling tool. Despite their ingenuity they completely neglect the issues of data transformation, feature selection, validation and data experimentation, which all have to be integrated to achieve a model (see our discussion here), for a recent example see here, or the cited papers about the Websom project.

  • [1] Timo Honkela, Samuel Kaski, Krista Lagus, Teuvo Kohonen (1997). WEBSOM – Self-Organizing Maps of Document Collections. Neurocomputing, 21: 101-117.4
  • [2] Krista Lagus, Samuel Kaski, Teuvo Kohonen in Information Sciences (2004)
    Mining massive document collections by the WEBSOM method. Information Sciences, 163(1-3): 135-156. DOI: 10.1016/j.ins.2003.03.017
  • [3] Klaus Wassermann (2010). Nodes, Streams and Symbionts: Working with the Associativity of Virtual Textures. The 6th European Meeting of the Society for Literature, Science, and the Arts, Riga, 15-19 June, 2010. available online.
  • [4 ]Douglas S. Blank, Implicit Analogy-Making: A Connectionist Exploration.Indiana University Computer Science Department. available online.
  • [5] Mark A. Runco, Creativity-Research, Development, and Practice Elsevier 2007.
  • [6] Keith J. Holyoak and Paul Thagard, Mental Leaps: Analogy in Creative Thought.
    MIT Press, Cambridge 1995.
  • [7] John F. Sowa, Arun K. Majumdar (2003), Analogical Reasoning.  in: A. Aldo, W. Lex, & B. Ganter (eds.), “Conceptual Structures for Knowledge Creation and Communication,” Proc.Intl.Conf.Conceptual Structures, Dresden, Germany, July 2003.  LNAI 2746, Springer New York 2003. pp. 16-36. available online.
  • [8] Wilhelm Vossenkuhl. Solipsismus und Sprachkritik. Beiträge zu Wittgenstein. Parerga, Berlin 2009.

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