[ExI] [Soc]Complex Adaptive Systems - Tending Always to 50/50 split
thespike at satx.rr.com
Sat Oct 11 20:08:03 UTC 2008
At 12:32 PM 10/11/2008 -0700, Jef wrote:
>I recognize also that
>many (most?) people are by nature predisposed by nature or training to
>be unequipped or uncomfortable with multiple layers of abstraction.
50% of them, anyway.
Unmasking routine "binary oppositions" or "binary contrasts" is, of
course, a stock in trade of critical theorists. Binarization seems to
be a default setting of the human mind. This was analyzed
interestingly in Anthony Wilden's books, e.g. System and Structure,
1984; The Rules are No Game, 1987.
The following is child's play, I know, and does not invoke
hyperplanes, but it's my attempt at a sketch of some of Wilden's
A logic is a normative set of transformation procedures on an agreed
set of discursive primitives. The deconstructive intervention in
philosophy and criticism--at least as it is commonly understood by
its workaday interpreters and practitioners--is just the latest in a
series of questions raised about the probity of applying strict
logics to human discourse.
Since logics are themselves a form of human discourse, this
interrogation (which in turn is bound to be discursive and logical)
is deeply self-reflexive. Put baldly, deconstruction's narrowest
objection is to what it sees as the binarisation of discursive
constructs and evaluations--though, as we shall see, this important
objection is pitched in terms quite different from those of an
informational or cybernetic theorist such as Anthony Wilden, who
painstakingly distinguishes such connective expressions as
`difference', `distinction', opposition' and `contradiction' (1987a,
p. 22 et seq.). `The commonest examples,' as he playfully puts it,
`are "opposed to", on the one hand, and "on the other hand", on the
Difference is, of course, the hallmark of contemporary
applications of deconstruction to such fields of contest as feminist
and gay sexual politics: significantly, two of deconstructor Barbara
Johnson's book titles include the word. Wilden specifies it thus: `a
continuous or analog relation, e.g.... the real number system.' That
is, numbers such as 0.67359, 1.25, 18.95539, 10^41, etc, the gaps
between each number infinitely divisible.
Distinction is a `discontinuous or digital relation,
e.g.... the alphabet'. That is, alternatives that are rigidly
`chunked', with no slippage between them.
Opposites denote entities such as north and south poles,
mutually obliterative electric charges, positive and negative
integers (where [+1] + [-1] = 0). These are real opposites. Imaginary
opposites include, importantly, `imaginary symmetrization of a
two-term hierarchy', where `upper' and `lower' terms are construed in
a mystified fashion as equally important even though the upper term
always holds the trump card.
Contradiction obtains between a proposition (at one
level) and its denial (at another) by the use of the word `not'. `In
the social context, "contradiction" signifies social, economic, and
political conflicts between levels in an illegitimate hierarchy'
(ibid., p. 24). It is not to be confounded with refusal (as in `don't
contradict me, child, just go and clean your damned teeth now!').
A notable tendency in poststructural theory has been to collapse
these varieties of contrast into a single concept such as `binary
opposition', and then denounce it as dire evidence of logocentric
bigotry. A binary structure, the philosopher Elizabeth Gross (now
Grosz) has suggested, `constructs an other for the privileged term,
against which the latter can distinguish itself' (Gross, 1986, p.
27). Nor is this logocentric ploy innocent:
"The polarised structure of binary pairing establishes
one term out of a given field or system of terms as a positive value,
which, by negative definition, constructs an `other' in which it can
cast all that it is incapable of accepting or desiring in itself. "(ibid.)
This is surely a rather oddly mystified account. Is it the privileged
term in the dichotomy which does the `casting out', or the human
person who makes that choice (perhaps under the overwhelming
influence of her informing culture) in specifying a given dichotomy?
Gross offers a Kristevan `abjective' reading:
"In expelling as `waste', `residue', or `corruption'
those elements it cannot bear to remain in contiguity with, the
primary terms draws a border around itself, beyond which its other is
We shall need to turn our attention briefly to some
basics of logic. In one form or another for thousands of years,
Western philosophy has agonised over the appropriateness of applying
analytic protocols (deriving formal results strictly from arbitrary
axioms) to synthetic propositions (those that hang upon states of
affairs in the non-discursive universe.)
[etc etc--from THEORY AND ITS DISCONTENTS]
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