Thursday, November 15, 2007

Chapter 2: Descent, Ascent, and Time – From The Eternal Return to Fractal Geometry: I. Prologue

Everything takes place in time. Time is fundamental to the world, and a primary concern of this work. Systems theory, including fractals and dissipative structures, information theory, game theory, evolution, action, brain activity or cognition, rhythms and the cognition of patterns – all take place in time, are ways of seeing the world as constantly becoming (the theory of dissipative structures shows us how becoming gives rise to the appearance of being, even if it does not give rise to Being itself, or whatever term you wish to give Being, be it the thing-in-itself, the Will, Forms, etc.). So it should not be surprising that Nietzsche (and, to a lesser extent, Heraclitus) is the philosopher I find to have the most accurate views of the world, as the philosopher of becoming. In many ways, each of the scientific theories listed above has helped to bring the view of the world described by science closer to Nietzsche’s.

J. T. Fraser’s theory of time further brings together these two realms – contemporary scientific theories and Nietzsche’s thoughts. Fraser’s umwelt theory of time and its application to chaos theory can help us better understand Nietzsche’s idea of the eternal return. Fraser suggests this reading when he says the mathematical “route to chaos is an Apollonian recognition of a Dionysian reality” (TOC, 16). The Nietzschean terminology is not quite right – the Apollonian and the Dionysian are artistic approaches to understanding the two aspects of physis as emergent order and underlying disorder; the Socratic (or Alexandrian) is the scientific route to understanding the Apollonian aspect of physis (BT), meaning chaos theory, being scientific, is actually the Socratic recognition of Dionysian reality – but it does suggest a way to read Nietzsche’s eternal return as an intuitive insight into the fractal geometry of physis, i.e., the tragic, agonal mixture of Apollo and Dionysus.
Where Nietzsche seems (particularly in BT) to see only two levels of reality, the Apollonian and the Dionysian, Fraser recognizes several levels (umwelts, recognized as different experiences of time) of emergence within the Apollonian – the noetic, or human level of understanding and experience of physis; the biotemporal, or biological level; the eotemporal, or level of deterministic physics; and a prototemporal level of probablistic quantum physics – and one Dionysian level, the atemporal level of “pure Heraclitean becoming” (TCHV, 31). Nietzsche’s investigation of the eternal return in TSZ shows Nietzsche’s poetic understanding of time was beginning to resemble Fraser’s understanding of time having umwelts, or levels, of time. This poetic understanding began to take philosophical form in WP, as we will later see. We cannot know how far Nietzsche may have taken this idea of the eternal return – but perhaps we can see how Fraser’s theory of time can be seen as a development of this idea.

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