Before I continue, I need to define many of the terms I will be using throughout this work.
Chaos theory. Harriett Hawkins calls the chaos of chaos theory “deterministic chaos,” which most clearly captures what this theory says about the world. Since the time of Newton and Laplace, we have understood the universe as being deterministic. Laplace in particular pointed out that with enough information, the future was completely calculable. The Romantic artists and thinkers, including the Existentialists and postmodernists, rebelled against this notion, seeing it as an affront to freedom. They replaced the idea of determinism with the idea of a random-chaotic universe. Others, particularly the Existentialists, recommended performing gratuitous acts in rebellion against the deterministic universe (though if the universe were determined, would not these “gratuitous acts” themselves have been predetermined?). This is particularly ironic considering Heidegger in his essay “The Origin of the Work of Art” recognized the power of structures we would later recognize as fractal:
if form is correlated with the rational and matter [content] with the irrational; if the rational is taken to be the logical and the irrational the alogical; if in addition the subject-object relation is coupled with the conceptual pair form-matter; then representation has at its command a conceptual machinery that nothing is capable of withstanding. (PLT, 27)
Nietzsche rebelled against both Newtonian-Laplacian determinism and Romantic notions of freedom by proposing instead the eternal return. In the second half of the 20th Century, chaos theory solved this problem by showing the universe is both determined and random-chaotic, simultaneously. Everything in the universe is simultaneously ordered and disordered. It is determined-chaotic. This is particularly clear in the images of fractal geometry (these are geometrical forms which have fractional dimensions – and thus more accurately model nature), which includes the Fibonacci spiral and the Mandelbrot and Julia sets. The latter two are both examples of finite volumes contained by infinitely-long borders. These borders are infinite because they fold in on themselves, creating repetitions of the same structures, regardless of scale. Magnify any portion of a fractal’s border, and it will eventually show similar images, including images of the larger form. The borders of the Mandelbrot and Julia sets fold in on themselves because fractals are created by strange attractors which, unlike simple attractors like gravity, which only attract, have the property of both attracting and repulsing, depending on the proximity of the border to the strange attractor(s) of the system at any given moment in time. Time truly is the essence of chaos theory and fractals. In discussing fractals, we must keep in mind (to avoid the mistake Wolfram makes regarding fractal geometry in A New Kind of Science in understanding fractal self-similarity) that, “Self-similarity comes in two flavors: exact and statistical.” Exact “displays an exact repetition of patterns at different magnifications.” In statistical, “the patterns don’t repeat exactly; instead the statistical qualities of the patterns relate. Most of nature’s patterns obey statistical self-similarity, and so do Pollock’s paintings” (Richard Taylor, “Order in Pollock’s Chaos” SciAm, December 2002, 118). And so does each and every great work of art and literature.
Strange attractors. Gravity is a regular attractor. If we swing a pendulum, it will settle down to a point, attracted to it by gravity. A strange attractor is one that pulls an object toward it, but then pushes it away, only to attract it again, etc., creating a system (objects moving in time). The attractor is strange in that it is unpredictable. One cannot predict when the push or pull will occur, making the system chaotic. But pushing and pulling (bifurcation) will occur, making it also predictable as a system, meaning it will resemble (but not be identical to) former states of the system. This is what makes it “deterministic chaos.” In chapter 2, I will discuss in much greater detail what, exactly, strange attractors are/could be.
Dissipative structures, self-organization, and complex systems. Dissipative structures are how real-world (as opposed to mathematically modeled) deterministic-chaotic systems realize themselves. A dissipative structure is a system organized through, from, because of entropy. In a closed system, entropy increases over time, and order becomes disorder. But in an open, complex system, certain elements can actually make use of entropy increase to create local decreases in entropy. Entropy increase in one place is transformed into a structure in another place, which itself releases energy, as entropy. A system produces the most work by being in a Maximum Entropy Production (MEP) state (Ralph Lorenz, Science 7 Feb. 2003, 837), or dissipative structure. So long as there is an energy source to produce work, the system retains its structure, as it transforms the energy into other forms. For example, the sun, as it engages in fusion, increases in entropy, releasing energy in the form of radiation and light. This light is absorbed by chlorophyll in plants and is used to turn water and carbon dioxide into complex chemicals (sugars) and oxygen by photosynthesis. The plant uses these complex chemicals to create energy to run other systems and cycles in the plant, to grow and maintain itself, and loses energy as carbon dioxide, oxygen, water, and heat. Energy is taken in, transformed, and released. In the transformation, structure is created. These structures have emergent properties unpredictable from their constituent parts, and are capable of creating themselves from their constituent parts. The parts co-operate to create an emergent structure. A simple example of this has recently been explained in a 17 Jan 2003 article in Science – rock rings in arctic areas. If one were to look at these rock rings, the first thing one would ask is, “Who came out here and organized these rocks into rings?” In this case, the answer is, “Nobody.” Rocks in barren arctic and antarctic regions actually organize themselves into interconnected rings through the simple interaction of the different-sized rocks with freezing and thawing water. To get rings of rocks on a landscape, all that is needed is water, rocks, and varying temperatures – enough to allow water to freeze and thaw. If rocks can organize themselves into rings, imagine what molecules with complex chemical and physical interactions could organize themselves into. But we do not have to imagine: life is precisely the self-organization of certain molecules into dissipative structures. Every cell is a self-organized, self-generated structure made up of different parts interacting with each other. Simple physics will give you rock rings. Organic chemistry will give you life. This understanding of nature as self-organizing is related to the Greek word physis, “that which generates itself,” from phyein “to produce.” We have thus returned to the Heraclitean view of physis in understanding the cosmos as self-creating, self-organizing. Another component of complex systems is their composition of components. Each of those components, I will argue, are themselves dissipative systems, meaning each level of complexity is scalarly invariant to every other level of complexity to the extent that each level is a complex system, while at the same time the complex interactions of complex systems – that continue to act as individual parts – give rise to emergent properties of the new system. Each new complex system is a magnitude more complex than its parts would suggest. This is due to the co-operative aspects of the system. “Co-operation is considered in a broad sense as a phenomenon that can be found in all complex, self-organizing systems” (Fuchs, 2). And not only is each system more complex as one goes up the hierarchy, but “Co-operation is itself an evolving phenomenon, during the course of its evolution new higher emergent qualities and levels of co-operation arise that can’t be reduced to lower levels or qualities” (2). This will be discussed and developed in much greater detail throughout this work.
Evolution. When one thinks of evolution, one generally thinks of evolutionary biology, and of Darwin’s theory of natural selection. But evolution can be applied to complex systems in general, not just biology. An ordered system can become increasingly random until it finds itself on the borderlands of order and random-chaos. Dissipative structures are of a kind that achieve higher levels of order by moving into and past this borderland – while at the same time retaining some random-chaos in their new, more complex order. Ilya Prigogine applies this idea to cultural evolution too – societies remain ordered over long periods of time, then go through a random-chaotic period leading to a new order. Examples include the move from the archaic pre-Socratic Greeks, through the Tragic Era, to the median Platonists and Aristotleans, and the move from Medieval Europe, through the Renaissance, to the Modern Era. This kind of evolution also occurs in the evolutionary theory of punctuated equilibrium. Stuart Kauffman points out that species tend to be evolutionarily stable over tens of thousands to millions of years, then suddenly change into (a) different species. Mutations accumulate at a steady rate without affecting the population, until a critical number of mutations accumulate, and the species rapidly changes into a new one, or ones. The rapidity of human evolution is a good example of this. I discuss biological evolution in particular because we must look to our distant genetic ancestors to understand how we became what we are. “All the genetic instructions for today’s living species are built upon the modified instructions for ancestral species” (Gribbin & Cherfas, 152), and this includes humans. A similar kind of evolution can also be applied to the experience of time, as we will see in discussing J. T. Fraser’s umwelt theory of time, which he also calls the evolutionary and the hierarchical theory of time (since I will be discussing Fraser’s theory of time in extensive detail in the second chapter, I will not be summarizing his ideas here). I will be discussing each of these aspects of evolution and their relation to art and literature. Now, while I have mentioned evolution in relation to dissipative structures, I should point out that one thing evolution is not is an explanation of how one can get more complexity. Evolution is simply change, and the theories of evolution explain how those changes get selected for and against. There is no such thing as “progress” in a teleological sense in evolution. If one wants an explanation of how one gets increased complexity – the definition of progress I am going to be using – one has to look instead to dissipative structures theory and to game theory.
Game theory. Game theory uncovers the rules of complex systems. It shows that complex systems – particularly complex social systems, including all systems above the sociobiological level, as well as biological systems in general, as John Maynard Smith has shown – are games (or forms of play, which is the same thing, though with games we are typically more conscious of the rules than we are with play, which does not alter this discussion in the least; thus, I will use the words interchangeably, particularly when discussing Huizinga), meaning they have rules. In postulating that games have rules, game theory goes against certain anarchist views that insist on opposing the very concept of rules. They see rules as limiting, as preventing freedom. They do not understand that it is the very presence of rules that give us “degrees of freedom.” Nietzsche points out in Beyond Good and Evil that rules are absolutely necessary for every form of morality and art form has used and needed rules. “What is essential and inestimable in every morality is that it constitutes a long compulsion: to understand Stoicism or Port-Royal or Puritanism, one should recall the compulsion under which every language so far has achieved strength and freedom—the metrical compulsion of rhyme and rhythm” (188). He then goes so far as to say that “all there is or has been on earth of freedom, subtlety, boldness, dance, and masterly sureness, whether in thought itself or in government, or in rhetoric and persuasion, in the arts just as in ethics” developed only because of rules – and that the use of rules lies in nature itself, that rules are natural. It is through living by rules that we make it “worth while to live on earth; for example, virtue, art, music, dance, reason, spirituality.” Nietzsche rejects living without rules. But which rules? The tacit question asked by game theory is: “what rules make for the best games?” But it also asks: “what rules would evolve to ensure survival of the game?” – whether that game is a species or a ritual, an economic system or a work of literature. Further, “Game theory shows how people make decisions about what to purchase and when and the rationale for seeing goals or rewards” (Richmond, et al, Science 11 July 2003, 179). That is, “Our sense of which behavior to choose to reach a goal or obtain a reward is based on the perceived value of the reward, the effort needed to obtain it, and our previous experience about the likelihood of success” (179). Which raises the questions of what is the “goal” of a work of art, and what “reward” that work of art gives us, since behavior’s existence suggests there is a goal and/or reward to be achieved/received that must have been important enough for us to have been pursuing it from prehistory to the present day. We will not act if we do not perceive that the reward we will receive is sufficient.
Action is always directed toward the future; it is essentially and necessarily always a planning and acting for a better future. Its aim is always to render future conditions more satisfactory than they would be without the interference of action. The uneasiness that impels a man to act is caused by a dissatisfaction with expected future conditions as they would probably develop if nothing were done to alter them. In any case action can influence only the future, never the present moment that with every infinitesimal faction of a second sinks down into the past. Man becomes conscious of time when he plans to convert a less satisfactory present state into a more satisfactory future state. (Mises, 100)
We would not create works of art of literature or participate in viewing/reading/listening to art/literature/music if it did not reward us. That is why l’art pour l’art is neither achievable nor desirable. But each of the questions raised by game theory are really the same question. Formulating it the first way makes it clearer regarding how it can be applied to art and literature. It helps us to see the critic as the uncoverer of the rules the artist used (consciously or not) to create their work of art or literature. Formulating it the second way helps us understand how game theory can help us understand the source of rules, from the Laws of Physics to the rules of grammar. It shows that more rules are needed for more complex games. Only a few are needed at the quantum level, but with each movement up in complexity, more rules emerge – and are needed – until one gets to complex human social systems, which need thousands, if not millions, of rules. And it shows how necessary rules are if one is going to have any sort of game at all. It is the existence of rules that give us freedom – making us more creative, often far more creative than we are otherwise. Many good rules (note the word “good” here – it is not the number of rules so much as the kind, those that generate more moves, not less) give us many more degrees of freedom. Chess is a better, more complex game, with many more degrees of freedom, than checkers, though both are played on the same board. It is better because more complex. Complexity gives us more freedom. So game theory too fits into the theory I am proposing – no matter the scale, rules are necessary, but the more complex the system, the more and more complex the rules that are necessary.
Rhythms and Patterns. This may at first seem an odd addition to this list of terms, but rhythm and pattern are fundamental to understanding and finding meaning in the world. Rhythms and patterns are examples of a particular rule found at every scale, and they are the very essence of fractal geometry. Patterns are spatially organized. They are arrangements of forms and/or colors, which is to say, they are designs. In literature, they create the motif. They are imitations or copies, which comes from the etymology of “pattern,” derived from the Old French, patron, since a client would copy his patron, since the patron provided a model for the client to follow – the patron would act as the ideal, example, exemplar. Thus there a connection between patterns and ethics, and between beauty and ethics, since patterns are part of beauty. Rhythms, from the Greek rhein, to flow, are temporally organized. Rhythms are regular repetitions over time, typically of sound. Nonetheless, there is a connection to pattern: in a work of art a rhythm holds the parts together to create a harmonious whole through the repetition of form and/or color. Since rhyme come from the Greek rhythmós, we see that rhyme is a kind of rhythm. There is also an ethical component to rhythm, since a rhythm in biology is a pattern of involuntary behavior or action that occurs regularly and periodically. In the realm of behavior, rhythms are involuntary actions, whereas patterns are consciously followed. A rhythm is meant to carry us along, to help our actions flow, while patterns help create meaning by making us more conscious. In this formulation, one could see rhythm as Dionysian, or (to use Kundera’s terms) Demonic, while patterns would be Apollonian, or Angelic. A tragic work of art, using Nietzsche’s formulation, would be one that contains both rhythm and pattern.
Cognitive or evolutionary psychology. Art and literature are created by human brains, interacting in their social environments, through the human body. If we want to understand art and literature, we need to understand how our brains work, the relationship of the brain to the “mind” and the body, and how and why our brains create the behaviors in humans they do. This is why we need to investigate the relationship between the behaviors of humans and of our nearest relatives, chimpanzees and bonobos (pygmy chimpanzees). If the humanities are concerned with what make us human, we need to know what make us not-human, so we can know the difference, and know what we need to be talking about. As it turns out, simply subtracting chimpanzee behavior from human behavior will not tell us what makes us uniquely human. The connection between humans and chimpanzees is far more complex. There are scalar similarities, as well as hierarchical increases in complexity. This is due to the way human brains are structured, compared to chimpanzee brains. What circumstances were needed to create an ape brain that made its owner act in complex cultural ways, use grammatical language, and become technologically and artistically creative? We are talking here about another increase in complexity with the creation of the human brain, with any one human brain more complex in possibilities than is all of (non-human) biology (which is itself more complex in possibilities than is all of chemistry, which is more complex in possibilities than is all of physics). Since humans (our brains and our actions) are the components of human cultures, our economies, and our art and literature, each of these things are themselves more complex than any one human brain. Any work of great literature has a variety of meanings, though those meanings are kept in check by the rules of the work of literature itself. So the differences in meaning between people can be quite subtle. A work of art or literature cannot mean just anything. At the same time, within the unity of meaning that is a work of art or literature, there are as many meanings as there are brains and brain states – the latter since one can find more and new meaning in a work at different times, with new readings. It may seem as though I have gotten somewhat off track, but how can one really discuss the human brain without discussing the products of the human brain? The two are tightly interwoven, since the product of the neural actions within the human brain are precisely human behaviors. By understanding our brains, by understanding who we are on every level, both in a reductionist and in an emergent, complex, expansionist sense, we can begin in new ways to follow the dictum at the oracle at Delphi, to know ourselves.
Information Theory. For all of these systems to work, they have to have communication among the parts. To communicate, one must have a sender, who encodes, and a receiver, who decodes the information. There must be information transfer among the components.
Etymologically the term information is a noun formed from the verb “to inform,” which was borrowed in the 15th century from the Latin word “informare,” which means ‘to give form to,’ ‘to shape,’ or ‘to form.’ During the Renaissance the word ‘to inform’ was synonymous to the word ‘to instruct’. (Mark Burgin 54)
Information creates form; we get construction through instruction. “Complex behaviors can emerge in systems in which many “atoms” – such as real atoms, economic agents, logical variables, or neurons – locally exchange messages” (Marc Mézard “Passing Messages Between Disciplines” Science 19 Sept. 2003, 1685). Information is transmitted from one component to another through the transfer of energy. The word “energy” comes from the Greek, en, for “in”, and érgon, for “work” or “deed,” implying action, or doing. Energy is the amount of work, deeds, or actions that can be done, and the energy content of the universe is the potential work, deeds, or actions that can be done by the universe – to make such things as matter, molecules, life, and human intelligence. What we call forces are also a kind of work, an ability to do work. Since matter is densified energy, matter can be seen as densified work, deeds, or actions. In the same way that matter contains/is energy, knowledge/data/signs/text contain/carries information. Matter is similar to knowledge/data as energy is similar to information (Burgin, 62-3). In Nonzero Robert Wright shows that density leads to complexity (he is talking about density of human population leading to greater complexity, but this also applies on all scales – such as when Bonner points out that “The first major step toward culture is the centralization of the nervous system and the formation of a brain” (The Evolution of Culture in Animals, 38), which allows for a densification of neurons), so we can see how more dense energy (work) leads to the more complex product matter. For Wright, “information is what synchronizes the parts of the whole and keeps them in touch with each other as they collectively resist disruption and decay”; that is, “Information is a structured form of matter or energy whose generic function is to sustain and protect structure” (250). Information theory says information is a kind of entropy – and entropy is the loss of energy from a system. If a system loses energy, it is giving off information about that system. We, and all other systems in the universe, pick up that energy as information, which tells us something about the state and nature of those other systems. Energy taken in is first stored in memory, then turned into work. Energy given off is given off as information, which itself can be turned into work by another system. In regards to energy and its connection to a system’s rules (connecting information to game theory), Heidegger points out that
The boundary in the Greek sense does not block off; rather, being itself brought forth, it first brings to its radiance what is present. Boundary sets free into the unconcealed; by its contour in the Greek light the mountain stands in its towering and repose. The boundary that fixes and consolidates is in this repose – repose in the fullness of motion – all this holds of the work in the Greek sense of ergon; this work’s “being” is energeia. (PLT, 83)
These boundaries are rules that give energy to a system (including art and literature) to create its work. These boundaries (rules) are therefore creative, not restrictive. Heidegger also connects energy to truth when he says “Art is truth setting itself to work” (PLT, 39). And Heraclitus recognized that physis/logos, as exemplified by Apollo, “neither declares nor conceals, but gives a sign” (K. XXXIII). Physis as logos gives signs (information) about itself, neither hiding nor uncovering itself. This is why all physis and logos needs interpretation. This interpretation of the logos is independent of and prior to the existence of human beings. Physis carries on a discourse with itself – one way of which is through human interpretation. By understanding physis as logos, and vice versa, the way Heraclitus did, we can see how understanding comes about through the interpretation of signs given off. We get a connection between community and communication both in the obvious roots of both words, and in the fact that logos itself is both communication, and means “collection,” a collection or gathering together of people being a community, from legein for “to collect”, “to gather.” When we read a book, we take in the contents of that book as information. As we read, our brains convert that information into work, putting various elements of the work into conceptual slots, organizing the information in various ways and storing it, changing the way we think, conceive, and organize. As one continues accumulating information, the brain continues to convert it in various ways until one feels the compulsion to create. The information is put to work in the brain, and the brain puts it out as new information. This particular work you are reading is the information product of the work done by my brain in transforming the information I took in from the works in my bibliography (and many more not in my bibliography that have affected the way I think, but are not as directly responsible for the contents of this work as are the works in my bibliography). But this information is not “pure” information – nor would we want it to be, as the equations of information theory (which is the same equation as that for entropy: S = k log W where S = entropy, k = Boltzmann’s constant, and W = number of ways the system can be arranged; low W = low S; as W approaches infinity, so does S) show that if it were pure (zero noise; S = 0), information would equal randomness (W = 0; or, system can be arranged zero ways). To have information, one must have noise, or ambiguity. Ambiguity in a text does not prevent one from getting meaning from the text; it helps give a text more meaning, particularly in the use of redundancy, or repetition, to reduce noise. One of the jobs of theorists and philosophers is to uncover the meaning(s) of a work, including the various works of physis, logos, nomos, etc. For art to best communicate information, one must not only have a good encoder, but also a good decoder. It is the job of the art and literary theorist to be our best decoders, so others can have better access to the encoded information. We can also apply information theory to every other scale of the complex nested hierarchy that is the universe, though the complexity and kind of information, as we can see by seeing texts and matter both as sources of information, increases with the complexity of the systems.
Knowledge, facts, and truth. I want to make it quite clear what I mean when I talk about knowledge. I particularly want to make a distinction between facts and truth. In his essay “On Truth and Lies in a Nonmoral Sense,” Nietzsche discusses the statement that a camel is a mammal, saying that this is a truth of a sort, but one of limited value. These truths of “limited value” are what I would like to call “facts.” Facts are in the realm of knowledge, and are in many ways defined by the language. It is a fact that a camel is a mammal. A mammal is defined as an animal which is warm-blooded, has hair, and feeds milk to its young. Since a camel does/has all of these things, we classify camels as mammals. It fits into this arbitrary conceptual category we have created so we can better study, understand, and talk about them. For all things we could talk about in this manner, I prefer using the word “fact” to discuss them, since these are knowledge-statements. To use another example, let us say I filled my car with gas. One would typically say it is true that I filled my car with gas. I would rather say it is a fact that I filled my car with gas. This use of the word “fact” is supported by its etymology: “fact” comes from the Latin factum, for “done,” the neuter past participle of facere, “to do.” An action of some sort is needed for something to be a fact. That action is our hierarchical categorizing of objects. “All knowledge originates from separation, delimitation, and restriction; there is no absolute knowledge of the whole” (Nietzsche, PT, 109, pg. 39). So “all explaining and knowing is nothing but categorizing” (PT, 141, pg. 47). With facts, we end up with a plurality made up of pluralities. To be reductionist or deconstructionist is to be concerned only with the facts. On the other hand, those against knowledge, who believe we cannot know anything, are those who cannot find fulfillment in knowledge alone. What they seek is wisdom. Knowledge is indeed not enough. But that is hardly reason enough to abandon knowledge any more than the connection of wisdom to religion was sufficient reason, despite the decline of religion in the West, to abandon wisdom. If we abandon knowledge, we will only find ourselves doubly absent – of knowledge and of wisdom. Instead, we need to return to wisdom, to replace what is truly missing.
Wisdom and truth. In the same essay referred to above, Nietzsche says that art “speaks the truth quite generally in the form of lies” (TL, 96). Nietzsche is here talking about truth as facts. Art does not need facts, it gives us everything as illusion. One can have art that is blatantly non-factual, yet still have wisdom-truth in this sense. So works of art and literature act as one of the primary sources of wisdom, as the source of truth in this sense. “The term sophos, which means ‘wise (man)’, originally referred to skill in any part, and particularly in the art of poetry” (Charles Kahn, 9). The artist is the wise man. But this wisdom may or may not even be connected to facts as such. Gabriel Garcia Marquez does not really believe someone can be so beautiful they can literally contradict the law of gravity and shoot up into the air. With magical realism we have “fact-statements” coming into conflict with “truth-statements.” One way of creating meaning is through repetition. Another way is to create an image so amazing one cannot forget it. This latter approach is the soul of magical realism and of such surrealist painters as Dali and Magritte. How can one forget the scene in One Hundred Years of Solitude where Remedios the Beauty she shot into the heavens because was so beautiful? Or when José Arcadio shot himself and
A trickle of blood came out under the door, crossed the living room, went out into the street, continued on in a straight line across the uneven terraces, went down steps and climbed over curbs, passed along the Street of the Turks, turned a corner to the right and another to the left, made a right angle at the Buendía house, went in under the closed door, crossed through the parlor, hugging the walls so as not to stain the rugs, went on to the other living room, made a wide curve to avoid the dining-room table, went along the porch with the begonias, and passed without being seen under Amaranta's chair as she gave an arithmetic lesson to Aureliano José, and went through the pantry and came out in the kitchen, where Úrsula was getting ready to crack thirty-six eggs to make bread.
"Holy Mother of God!" Úrsula shouted. (129-130)
This blood is going places and doing things blood should not be able to do, but that does not matter here. What matters is the truth uncovered by this scene, and that, because it is so strange, we remember it. Meaning is tied to memory (and Memory, in Greek mythology, is the mother of the Muses). We remember things that are repeated (patterned repetition is doubly repetitious, and thus more meaningful to us), and we remember things that are as amazing as these images – the “shock of the new” the Modernists were so enamored with. It is evolutionarily important to be surprised at, shocked by, and thus remember new things, since new, unknown things could potentially be dangerous – and it is good to remember surprising things so we are not continually surprised at the new thing with each subsequent encounter with it. We give meaning to those things we remember. We see this connection too in the Greek word for truth, aletheia. Lethe is the river of forgetting, the river dead souls must drink from before rebirth. Letheia is thus forgetting. A-letheia is not- or un-forgetting. Thus truth, aletheia, is unforgetting, remembering. Art speaks the truth precisely because it, as Kundera says, uncovers aspects of existence we have forgotten. Great art speaks aletheia what we are continually letheia, even after we have experienced the work of art. Art does this through lies precisely because every uncovering of physis/logos is a covering, as “physis kryptesthai philei” (Heraclitus, K. X), “Nature loves to hide.” This is how we understand, if not on a completely logical, rational level of explanation, what Marquez means about a woman being that beautiful, or a murdered man’s blood returning home. We understand these a-rational truths, a-rational because they are true without being factual. Marquez manages to highlight and make beautiful this element, of the potential separation between truth and fact – a separation which is the soul of religious mythology.
Gyorgy Doczi says wisdom is seeing the world as one, unified. This is a legitimate definition of wisdom and of truth. The words truth and betrothed are related, through the Old English treowth, meaning “good faith,” which gives us the words “truth” and “troth.” To betroth is to marry, meaning truth can be seen as a betrothal of facts, the unifying or marrying of facts. “Men who love wisdom must be good inquirers into many things indeed” (Heraclitus, K. IX). Truth as wisdom is unifying.
Wisdom is a generalization tending towards the universal codified into a proverb. The process of cognition begins with noting, observing the particular and then working out what is general from the particular. From the general, a regulating principle, a law, emerges which can take the form of the universal. The universal, the law, and the general are then tested against the ground of particularity in practice. Practice is both the starting point and the testing ground of our conceptualization of the world. What is needed is not so much the recovery of practical philosophy as the recovery of the philosophy of practice. (Ngg Wa Thiong’o 26)
Since to practice is both to learn to do something, and to do something (as in to practice medicine), we can see that wisdom needs practice, or doing, for it to be valid. We have already seen that “fact” comes from “to do.” Ngg Wa Thiong’o is calling for a unification similar to what I am suggesting. One could see wisdom as understanding the scalar nature of the world, seeing the world as a fractal whole, and knowledge as seeing the world in its constituent parts. As we will see in more detail later, in discussing Nietzsche’s Thus Spoke Zarathustra and The Will to Power, truth(s) would act as the strange attractors pulling the world-system together. By combining knowledge and wisdom, we get a more knowledgeable wisdom, or a wiser knowledge, that sees the world as scalar with emergent properties derived from its constituent parts. Since bringing together knowledge and wisdom creates variety in unity, it would show the world as beautiful. Knowledge alone is not enough; nor is wisdom alone. “Graspings: wholes and not wholes, convergent divergent, consonant dissonant, from all things one, and from one thing all” (Heraclitus, K. CXXIV). The unity of knowledge and wisdom is beauty.
Dialogics. I will not be talking about dialogic writing throughout, but I do mention it here because it is important to understand my writing style. My method of exposition could be termed what Milan Kundera called “novelistic.” It is a way of writing that is often unsystematic (in ways both similar to and different from Nietzsche’s unsystematic style), a style used by novelists, a style I choose because this work is necessarily interdisciplinary, and therefore requires dialogic writing. Both unsystematic and dialogic writing are typical of novelistic thought and writing. Dialogic writing is writing “through the logics,” or “through the different ways of speaking, writing, understanding.” If I were writing straight science or history or literary theory or philosophical scholarship, I would use monologic writing, as each of these disciplines have their own rhetorical styles, and are all systematic. Since I am bringing together several different fields, attempting to unify variety, I believe I should use a style that by its very nature unifies a plurality of voices, that uses each topic, style, etc. as strange attractors that bring the work together in a (un)systematic way. Dialogics is necessary for interdisciplinary writing. And it allows one to write about topics the way one would investigate an unknown continent – by setting out, uncertain where you are going until you get there, or what you will find until you found it. I do not set out to prove what I have already decided, and it makes little sense to discuss things I have not yet properly developed. For example, as I wrote chapter 2, I had no idea Nietzsche’s eternal return could suggest to me how strange attractors could be working. That was a discovery uncovered by investigating what J.T. Fraser said about time, and seeing what would happen when I applied it to what Nietzsche said about the eternal return, time, and the will to power. To do otherwise, to argue for what one has already concluded, is like claiming to have discovered the small town you grew up in.