[ExI] [Soc]Complex Adaptive Systems - Tending Always to 50/50 split

Jef Allbright jef at jefallbright.net
Sat Oct 11 21:14:57 UTC 2008

On Sat, Oct 11, 2008 at 1:08 PM, Damien Broderick <thespike at satx.rr.com> wrote:
> At 12:32 PM 10/11/2008 -0700, Jef wrote:

> 50% of them, anyway.


> [sorry]
> Unmasking routine "binary oppositions" or "binary contrasts" is, of course,
> a stock in trade of critical theorists.

Of course.  My attack vector highlights that my home ground is in the
Sciences and Engineering, and therefore my expectation of greater
rigor and depth of analysis applied (unreasonably, it appears) to the
social sciences.

> Binarization seems to be a default
> setting of the human mind.

Easily explained in terms of the lower cost of processing information
in simple terms, easily justified in terms of efficiently exploiting
the "wisdom" of heuristics well-adapted to a relatively static
physical and cultural environment.

> This was analyzed interestingly in Anthony
> Wilden's books, e.g. System and Structure, 1984; The Rules are No Game,
> 1987.

Thanks for these (new to me) references.

> 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 analytics, fwiw:
> ========
> 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.

Attempting to restrain my distaste for the "literary paradigm",
reframing in terms of the emergent logic of abstract systems
interacting in many modes, including the mode of "discourse", but not
as foundational, I continue to read...

>        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,

Ah, the promise of engineering relief appears to be within sight...

> 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 other'
> (ibid.).
>            Difference is, of course, the hallmark of contemporary
> applications of deconstruction to such fields of contest as feminist and gay
> sexual politics:

How typically characteristic of most everything coming out of Literary
Criticism!  Seems one must proudly present "the feminist" or "the
queer" in order to establish one's bona fides.

[Sorry for the appearance of bashing, but I think it's relevant to the
context of my question in search of engineering rigor.  I do thank you
for providing this perspective on the problem, and I acknowledge on my
part some unknown degree of ignorance of the Humanities.]

> 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.

Interesting, the ever-present entanglement of moral assessments while
my inner engineer seeks the clarity of an effective instrumental
model.  [I'm aware that this makes me appear morally naïve from the
(binarily) contrasting perspective.]

>            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!').
>        Opposites Contract
> 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 cast." (ibid.)
>            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.)

Thanks Damien for the Literary Critical perspective.  Sadly, as with
much "analysis" in the Humanities, I find that its "depth" corresponds
to a complexity mainly of its own making.

Sorry for my appearing to be so critical of literary criticism.
Please understand that to the extent my criticism appears negative, it
is because my question originates in the context of expectation of
increasingly rigorous instrumental effectiveness.

[Hmm, maybe I could write (effective?) post-modernist prose.  I recall
posting a parody of Derida to this list one time, and a few here did
take it seriously.]

- Jef

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