Francis Bacon, Lucian Freud, Frank Auerbach

In my infancy I used to say that what Francis Bacon was doing in painting, Samuel Beckett (Comment c´est) was doing in literature and Swans in popular music: Showing that the body/the subject/the individual is constituted by forces/flows/streams (of desire) that are older than the subject, that distort it in its compactness and that trangress it (with or without elevating it to catharsis) and that remain after its demise, i.e. the body/subject as a condensation/force field/way station/relay of forces that come from the outside/primordial chaos/nature/culture, constitute some kind of semi-self-referential loop and then, after demise, fall apart and combine anew – the entity formed by/being a way station for streams of desire crawling through greater streams of mud, decomposing: that´s How It Is. A reading of Lacan (and Schopenhauer) favors such a perspective – and of Deleuze who wrote a cool book investigating how Bacon´s art is about making invisible forces (that stem out of „the virtual“) visible. The subject/body as a force field … Numerous other connotations come to mind with Bacon: A „sinister“ painter (contrasted by the personal appearance of a jovial hedonist) who seems to make existential horror and crucifixation explicit – respectively (as an ultimate mode of being affected) vulnerability / and who establishes „zones of indistiguishability“ between man and animal (suffering, tormented man becomes animal / suffering, tormented animal becomes man) and, possibly, a communion of living creature. The erection of (apparently frail and multidimensional and enigmatic) figure within a historical context dominated by abstraction. A figure ghost-like and robust like the artist himself. References to van Gogh by a similarly intense painter, who solitarily creates out of himself. The idea of the body that wants to get „rid of itself“ (most notably exemplified in the Scream motif) and wants to transform into something else (but, obviously, can´t quite). A novel depiction of contour (in an interplay with occasionally violent brushwork). – David Sylvester complains that the relationship between motif and background is a bit unpleasant with Bacon: But herein Bacon is also some kind of originator: The background is nothing the figure emerges from or whatever: The background isolates and depicts the figure: You can also ruminate whether it is meant to express the neutrality of the many forces of the world with which the figure will never interact – at any rate: What a fabulous background! What beauty of colours! (You have to see the paintings in the original to get adequate idea.) Great Monoliths.

Francis Bacon, Lucian Freund and Frank Auerbach were friends and influenced each other and were dominating figures in the english art scene of their time. Cross out Francis Bacon, and there remains Lucian Freund and Frank Auerbach. – Lucian Freud was a grandchild of Sigmund and, as a chaser of girls, produced numerous offspring of his own. He was described as „electric“, „breathing like an animal“, and „feeling free to do whatever he liked“. As a figurative painter he rose to full maturity when he combined the violent brushwork of Francis Bacon with sharpness of contour and immersion into detail. Freud gets intensely close to his sitters, has an invasive gaze, often portrays them in unusual, and frail, positions. He himself claims that he would like his portraits to actually be the persons portrayed, and that his colour functions as skin – and at any rate, the portraits seem close and the skin seems so thin that you think it could tear apart and the body mass could fall out – while at the same time it is stabilised by the many folds and brushstrokes. However, his paintings seem quite ambivalent, and actually more uncanny than Bacon´s. Freud´s personnel doesn´t exactly deliver a spiritual impression. Their individuality derives from peculiar looks (at the verge of oddity) and unusual gestures. They´re individual but appear relatively empty (and stupid!), they usually look down and seem uncomfortable when confronted with the invasive gaze of the painter at their supposedly innermost secret (note however that they´re captured in the way sitters look like after long sessions – silently annoyed and fatigued). When they´re together in a room there seems to be no true bond between them, respectively that the bond between them seems to be one of shame or guilt or a dirty (though not sensational) secret that has to be hidden behind closed doors. Isolated individuals. – As a child, Lucian liked to be alone, and he preferred animals (horses) over people. He did not treat his first wife good and was a controlling, maybe sadistic husband (who could not, however, dominate his second wife so easily). When painting others he „wanted to see the whole animal“, and he said a lot of his sitters „are girls who have some sort of holes in their lives that is filled by posing for an artist“. He had a difficult relationship with his intrusive mother but could handle her and painted her when after the death of her husband she was a shadow of herself. – Sylvester asked Francis Bacon whether he would provoke feelings of ambiguity in his sitters he did not portray so favorably – but with Freud this seems to be more at hand. Freud´s portrayal of man provokes empathy and  remind us of taking the other as an individual (maybe even in a Levinasian sense), but they´re also humiliating, even if that´s a portrayal of the human condition. When Freud painted the Queen (over a period of 19 months), the Queen was not amused about the product (although it is actually one of the more favorable portraits in Lucian´s oeuvre).

Francis Bacon, Lucian Freund and Frank Auerbach were friends and influenced each other and were dominating figures in the english art scene of their time. Cross out Francis Bacon and Lucian Freud, and there remains Frank Auerbach. Like Lucian Freud, Frank Auerbach was a (German) jew whose family had to flee the Nazis, and they settled to England, where he would study under David Bomberg (who had been a celebrated painter in his younger years but, due to his intellectual and creative versatility, annoyed and overcharged art critics and so became „the most brutally excluded artist in Britian“ – described as the most intelligent man of the academy, Bomberg was „certainly no one who deliberately wanted to impress someone“ but an authentic man). Although Auerbach´s individual works are often highly different from each other, his general style (or: stylistic approach) has not changed much over the decades. His motives are sparse in variety as he mainly paints scenes in London/Camden and portraits. He maintains a small circle of sitters who he may portray over and over again. Although his intention is to get to the „essence“ of the sitter, the portaits of the same sitter are often extremely distinguished from each other – and often he would work on a painting for a very long time, painting layer over layer. Auerbach´s ability to create a comprehensive portrait out of blunt brushwork and colour fields is amazing, yet often the density of layers is what is most striking (making his paintings occasionally very heavy and difficult to exhibit) – through the layers the paintings gain haptic quality, and remind us of the multiple layers of reality/perception as well as the sheer materiality of the physical world. – Bacon rose to fame (relatively) early (in the 1950s), Freud in the last quarter of his life, Auerbach is the least popular of them. His constant investigation of painting and his high versatility seems to have prevented a signature style or his stuff becoming iconic. – I mean, if you have an intelligence for the arts you will understand that in a virtual painting there is a fluctuation and a vibration/vibrating intensity between different layers respectively between the actualised and the virtual. That brings stuff into motion. This is how an artwork „lives“ and is brought to life. And that´s how you have it in Auerbach paintings who takes this eventuality of getting a grasp on art to very extremes. Auerbach eventually/primordially sees the world as chaos, and the task of the painter as to impose order. Auerbach is interested in „raw“ perception, and, so to say, in an immediate dialogue with the audience which forms the image partially on own terms. A „continuum of perception“. He solidifies form which carries the possibility of its dissolution within itself and offers perceptions that include their own variations. – In this radical approach, Auerbach considers himself a loner (within schools and trends in painting) and a workaholic who seemingly never stops adding the next layer.

„When I saw Frank Auerbach´s works for the first time, I thought that there was really happening something new and extraordinary, and that´s what actually happened … Wonderful portraits in dense colour – but he could not sell any of them at that time. I often ask myself how many people have an eye for art at all. They buy when an artist is famous – and probably does not create his best works anymore. But when something wonderful and innovative happens, they don´t see it.“ (Francis Bacon, Interview with Michael Peppiat, 1897; translated from German back to English by me, fuck off)

Winckelmann, Sulzer, Füssli, Mengs

… were artists and/or theorists who had something to say about art and who were important/conductive in intellectually institutionalising a discourse about art and aesthetics – as an autonomous subject – in Germany in the 18th and 19th century, respectively at the time of era-defining genius Goethe. Their writings are largely out of print. What did they say?

Johann Joachim Winckelmann (1717-1768), offspring of a shoemaker who loved art and especially the ancient Greeks, had a difficult life for many years and he had to live in humble circumstances. The hardships he faced as a scholar (shittily equipped libraries which were, in addition to that, accessible only one hour a day) are beyond our imagination: Acknowledge the effort behind his undertakings and bow down! – Notably in his main work Geschichte der Kunst des Altertums he lay the foundation of regarding the ancient Greeks as the most perfect people and their art as the most perfect art – and indeed ancient Egypt or the Etruscans, which he also discussed, weren´t exactly of such caliber. He attributed this to specific climatic and geographic conditions and to the Periclean democracy and, in doing so, tried to understand the emergence of art out of a greater social context. According to Winckelmann the end of art is beauty, and the ancient Greeks were the most harmonious of men. – Winckelmann´s legacy, and his work itself, was ambiguous. On the one hand he said that the ideal of Greek art could never be reached again, on the other hand he lay foundations for classicism which tries to imitate the Greeks. This was to come in a more formal, and anemic, fashion, but also fresh, original and abyssal-ethereal as e.g. in the case of the good Hölderlin. While Winckelmann resented anemic academic pedanticism his writings seem hard going by today´s standards. Originality and genius were, more or less, foreign categories to Winckelmann, but he also lived before the Geniezeit in Germany – his thoughts were more revolving around the collective genius of a people and about conditions under which great art can arise.

Anton Raphael Mengs (1728-1779) was an eminent classicist painter and nicknamed as the „German Raphael“. His Gedanken über die Schönheit und über den Geschmack in der Malerey (1762) was used as a „textbook“ in many academies. Also Mengs says that the end of art is beauty – as beauty is a tangible expression of perfection (which is, in itself, intangible and only to be found in God). Beauty is achieved as the artist tries to imitate nature and as the artist is carefully selective not to display more or less in his paintings than nature would require. By careful selection, he may create art that is even more beautiful than nature! While also affirmative of the notion that the Greeks are the apex (because they had direct access to the ideal whereas all others only can have an indirect access to the ideal), Mengs is discussing three artists in detail: Raphael, Corregio, and Titian, and he announces that, on the whole, Raphael is the greatest of them (while the others may be the leaders in specific areas e.g. Titian concerning colour) because Raphael is the greatest and well-rounded of individuals, including the „downside“ of Raphael only being able to confront also malice and triviality in the human realm with generosity and greatheartedness (i.e. a bit inappropriately). – Mengs himself confronted less criticism than Winckelmann or Sulzer and, as a great artist, also appeared as a somehow more monolithic figure. His notion of the true artist imitating nature is somehow understandable as true creativity appears natural, stemming out of itself, relatively immune to the diktat of culture and the expectations of the audience, and powerful, overflowing and diverse. Therein, it creates its own harmony.

Johann Georg Sulzer (1720-1779) was a theologian, a philosopher and a man of stupendous erudition. His Allgemeine Theorie der Schönen Künste (1771-1774) was designed to be both a theoretical work as well as an encyclopedia about everything related to art and aesthetics, it contains ca. 900 articles and ranges from music and poetry to architecture and garden art. Sulzer says art is about adding beauty to things (stemming out of an aesthetic drive in man) and that the end of art is moral purification and betterment of mankind – he dismisses a cult of pure reason and says that the (educational) power of art lies in its sensuality and the power with which it adresses the senses and the emotions i.e. the whole of man (although Sulzer does not seem to have a well-formulated theory about that). Sulzer speaks of the genius and says the chief characteristic of the genius is enormous sensitivity and ability to be affected by and to get immersed into things. – The most prominent critique directed at Sulzer came from Goethe: Goethe dismissed the notion that art can be a main vehicle for the betterment of mankind – art originates from the „fire within the artist“ i.e. from the artist´s self expression and happens relatively independent from the (self-unconscious) audience. Of course Goethe was not entirely dismissive about the audience, but – in contrast to the democratic Sulzer – he favored the conaisseur of art over the general audience (which may be natural and unspoiled but, in fact, neither very understanding nor commited).

Johann Heinrich Füssli (1741-1825), who called himself Henry Fuseli when he was an emigrant in England, was a painter, poet and professor at the Royal Academy of Arts. His Aphorisms, Chiefly Relative to the Fine Arts are condensations of his lectures. Confronted with the French Revolution and its aftermath, Füssli became dismissive of the notion that art could do a lot about true refinement of humanity. While he was a fan of the ancient Greeks (as the only people who were able/lucky enough to truly authentically relate to ideals), he was also aware that art is also/mainly about reacting to the challenges posed by the contemporary. As a painter Füssli often made reference to nightmares, horror and otherworldly stuff, as a theorist he emphasised the importance of expression in art (Winckelmann said that an artwork is/should be about expressing beauty/ideal but also about expression (Ausdruck) i.e. the emanation of the (beautiful) subject within circumstances – and he somehow favored the „static“ element of beauty/ideal over the „dynamic“ (quasi-contaminative) of expression: Füssli was inclined to think otherwise). The Aphorisms are a cool document, and they´re insightful also concerning the genius whose qualities are discussed at length. Füssli also thought the highest instance is (not a classicist ideal but) nature – in its infinity (i.e. also containing supposedly nasty elements), and that the genius is someone who is able to profoundly understand/imitate certain aspects of nature (where beauty and the ideal is one element but nothing art should be restricted to). Claims about the „death of art“ or cultural decay prominent at, more or less, every time, can be effectively countered by proclaiming that with every great genius art starts anew (and that due to the infinity of nature there is acutally no competition between them, just an ever ongoing growth and illumination of infinite nature). Hahahahaha! That will feel good.

About Art in Ancient Greece, about Modern Art and about Contemporary Art

Winckelmann said, in the mid-1700s, that the highest purpose of art is to display beauty and that art has its apex in ancient Greece (under specific geographic and climatic conditions as well as under the conditions of democracy). Winckelmann was, of course, aware that the concept, and perecption, of beauty, is ambiguous. So he said that beauty emanates in the perfect harmony of a being with its intentions and a harmonious subsumption of its parts under the whole. The highest beauty is to be found in God and the highest beauty in art can be reached when man is approximated to the ideal, rounded off and harmonious, resting in itself, somehow innocently and naive as well as heroic, stemming immediately out of himself. „Edle Einfalt, stille Größe“ – Winckelmann was dismissive of the purely lovely, the enjoyable or that which is overly playful or pompous (characteristic of Baroque or Rococo). With this works Winckelmann was highly influentual at his time, and it is true that he somehow intellectually instituted a discourse of the autonomy of art and what art actually is/should be about. What he says was both fresh and virgin but also carried the seeds of institutionalising an empty, overly formal, anemic classicism. Hölderlin and Nietzsche were very fond of the Greeks in which they say an image of perfect humanity – such a fascination isn´t very easy to imagine today. Marxistic scholars claim that Winckelmann´s ideas and ideals and visions of a heroic, natural man, living free from constraints and under conditions of democracy refer to the (half-conscious) sentiments of the (half-)dormant bourgeoisie at this time and, therefore, stand and fall in history with the bourgeoisie being a revolutionary class (and it would be interesting to know how we could approach this when referring to Piaget´s model of the cognitive development of the infant when we try to look at historical stages that way – I hope I can do this somewhere soon). Winckelmann was also influential concerning cyclical models of looking upon cultures/historical entities (e.g. Spengler) and about viewing peoples as cultural units (both in a „progressive“ and a „reactionary“ sense), more generally we can think about developments in art when we try to look at it from a Winckelmannian perspective. That the end of art is beauty, and beauty is, ideally, to be found in God and in free man – well, looks superseded; that this is so because of decay – well: a more filigree perspective is needed.

There is this book „Verlust der Mitte“ (originally published 1948) by Hans Sedlmayr I read a long time ago and now came to remember on that occasion. Sedlmayr makes up a conservative scholar who sees modern art as a process of cultural degeneration (he mourns loss of unity/harmony/completeness that he thinks existed somewhere back in time). – Sedlmayer was a member of the NSDAP and later in his life reportedly had some affiliations to the Green party; indeed, he was hooked on ideas of Ganzheitlichkeit, (reactionary) spiritism and nostalgia for some kind of ideal of embeddedness of man in the cosmic whole; although he is also kind of a misfit within such partisanship and intellectually trangresses partisan affiliations: At the core Sedlmayr mourns the loss of a relationship between man and God. In the modern era, man is cut off from God and becomes dangerously „autonomous“ and makes a mess, resulting not least in dissolution, fragmentation and atomisation of his modes of self-reflection (including art) and developing a mirror image full of self-loathing. Harmony corruption. Definitely no beauty. – Even if you find this unconvicing, „Verlust der Mitte“ is a worthwhile read, many insights and eruditions it carries, and Sedlmayr has a lot of empathy e.g. for van Gogh or Paul Klee.

That the end of art is beauty seems to be quite superseded – although the quest for beauty is inherent to art and has always been there. Since beauty is actually not definable, visionary artists have been aware that what we perceive as beautiful is, to some degree, malleable; and great, visionary artists have expanded our notion and perception about what is to be considered as beautiful. In an accelerating society, within modernity, the quest for beauty also accelerates, and may become overwhelmed by a larger conquest for meaning – as modern art is, as can be said, foremost about locating meaning. Beauty is but an element within meaning.

Illuminatingly, young contemporary German philosopher Markus Gabriel philosophises that art is about evocation of things in a different context, in a context different from normal. By showing stuff in unusual context, meaning is added and transformed (concerning both motif and background), respectively, within such dislocations, meaning per se emanates. The true artwork shows meaning per se (indeed, objects of contemporary art appear somehow fluctuating between being silent and empty and on the other hand so charged with meaning and so uncanny and talkative). It shows how the meaning of things is dependent on context and on interpretation within contexts and that it is linked to the imaginary i.e. to the great wide open. Remember how Angell de la Sierra from Omega Society says that by showing the many facets of a thing in multiple contexts the true artist shows the existential ontology of a thing, and while maybe not showing the „thing in itself“ in a scientific/kantian sense, art shows the meta-noumenon of a thing (respectively „meaning“ as Gabriel says). – It is true that art is highly about displaying intelligence at divergent thinking i.e. at seeing many associations to a given thing which then establishes context and fixation. It is about sensitivity to nuances and tolerance for ambiguity. And the meaning that is revealed in the artwork usually is ambiguous and ambivalent in nature. That is so because art is an investigation of the (so-called) irrational aspects of existence, about man in the universe. Shades of God.

This diversification of meaning probably has always been prominent in art yet while in more „ancient“ art you have a tendency towards holism and rounding things off, in the most contemporary art the trajectory of production of meaning is permanent evasion and establishment of meta-levels. While the one thing may appear boring and conservative in our time the other one risks losing substance and degenerating into farce and derision. As Francesco Bonami, curator at the Biennale, says: „The great curators had an almost Christian attitude with respect to the exhibition, as though attempting the moral and cultural conquest of the world, while the curator´s attitude today must be more pagan.“ (Likewise, when I read Greenberg or Carl Einstein I sense there is some coolness in the harsh verdicts of semi-ancient art criticism of days bygone, supposedly something that is absent in today´s „anything goes“ tolerance within a degeneration of standards … then, I also probably don´t miss it so much, since lenience and tolerance have some things going for them (if this is a correct idiom at all, I don´t care atm, because I like it right now and people going to understand it anyway).) – „It is – and perhaps always has been – the function of art to take us to the margin of contemporary experience, to try on what seems far-fetched, peculiar, different, and new so as to explore what may be on the verge of becoming essential to know“, it says at the end of „Art since 1940 – Strategies of Being“ by Jonathan Fineberg. – The problem is that, under such a flag, we today seem to be, under the disguise of art, confronted with too many empty peculiarities and „objects that resemble objects of art“ („kunstähnliche Gegenstände“, as the Merowinger says) replacing (true) objects of art. True objects of art are a rare thing however, as you recognise when you gaze back through space and time. Yesteryear´s epochs seem so great and monolithic because only the masterpieces are still around, while we can see a lot of trash and ephemeral stuff of our epoch. Some day we will be equalised along these lines (and e.g. Basquiat or Duncan Wylie will remain).

So, alongside the trajectory of opening, there are the demons of banality. Once, when I was young, I appeared bitter over that, but over time I seem to see it more casually, and I am grateful to live in this fantastic epoch. It is good, and underappreciated, that we are living in great times today! That when we go to the museum there we find the half-inflated rubber raft on the floor, a magnetic tape which displays „Ha Ha“ in an endless loop and a camera which films the scenery supposedly forever, as an artwork called („The Illusion of) Permanence“ or so. Ahh, exciting, ahh, eccentric; the meaning of it rests in a superposition. – Tbh this stuff from ancient Greece is, indeed, harmonious, but also not very exciting. The endless production of meaning (and making it collapse) is cooler. Incipit Zarathustra.

I do not want to throw it under the table that – as it appears to me – this note is not written as good as I would have wanted it to be. It is a bit tattered, I suppose. It was not written as easily as other notes and not in straight line but from accumulation via different spots. Then again, I think it is actually quite okay and nothing to be worried about. Maybe some will think that some of the stuff in here is banal, but it is not; is very deep and I have left out some mental leaps that are probably explicative, but also a nuisance, as I intend to write concise and relatively short notes which are nevertheless very comprehensive; I do not like verbose stuff, I am maybe too lazy to write verbose and I hate long conversations anyway. These notes about art are designed to aesthetically as well as intellectually display compactness – that is the idea.

A conclusive remark about the question of who is right: the Christian priest or the pagan? In art, s/he will be right who carries spiritual truth (and this usually means transcending the supposed pagan/priest opposition and being universal). What spiritual truth is, respectively how it is displayed, cannot be stipulated. You will, however, easily notice it when you finally see it, death to false metal. – The final conclusion of Sedlmayr´s „Verlust der Mitte“ is that there is an „empty throne“ which shall be occupied by the perfect man, the Gottmensch. – I  have also half-erratically ruminated about an Omega Man that will come and will provide a solution to the contemporary art problem and to the contemporary philosophy problem (and that the solution will, likely, come in unexpected fashion and be poorly understood). The ongoing vacany of the throne is probably due to the Gottmensch of today needs to be quite more comprehensive and all-encompassing than even Picasso or Michelangelo – although this may be an erroneous assumption since the times of Michelangelo or Imhotep probably weren´t less complex than ours; and for the Omega Man the complex (e.g. metaphysics, science…) is simple while the simple (e.g. politics or everyday human interactions) seems complex and stuff for endless ruminations to him/her. Apart from that the Gottmensch of today will need, among his powers, extraordinary mental strength, since s/he will have to try to establish connection in a world that is, forever, atomised and very superficial, and old ideas that art or philosophy are going to save us aren´t applicable anymore and the Gottmensch cannot shelter behind such illusions anymore. Technology is the prime mover and, as always, will produce both order and wreckage. History is some form of chaos and will continue to be. In some years I may have a 3D printer and my home will be „smarter“ than me.

About Numbers

A while ago in the intellectual communities on Facebook there was a discussion in which someone came up with the idea that God necessarily needs to exist because only God could read (infinite) irrational numbers like pi. Another one countered that Gödel´s incompleteness theorem would allow that (i.e. that stuff exists that cannot be proven or verified). Somehow both assertions seem inadequate, but make you think about the nature of numbers (and mathematics) which is actually a mysterious and haunting subject. However, upon reflection, numbers simply express how quantifiable properties relate to each other. Out of an r you can construct a circle with pi, an ever more perfect circle with the more digits of pi you know, the perfect circle, constructed with infinite precision, cannot be constructed in a finite universe. Likewise, if you have a basket with two apples and want to have one with three, you can do that, with infinite precision, by adding one apple to the basket. Numbers, in themselves, are neither platonic nor are they real, they are virtualities / virtual entities.

I have thought about the continuum hypothesis, the orders of the infinite, the incompleteness theorem, whether the universe is a mathematical system or a logical syllogism a while ago. Some say that by applying logics they can see it all, and maybe that is true, nevertheless with logics you can construct pretty much anything of your liking (apart from that a logically correct conclusion need not be based on a correct assumption). Lots of stuff, for instance proofs of God, have been constructed with logic – but all of them can also be refuted by using logics (see, comprehensively, John Mackie´s The Miracle of Theism if you´re interested). Usually the philosophers and theologians coming up with their proofs of God were thinking that they did not prove the existence of God by using logic but, literally, that they were proving the necessary existence of God out of logic, although to every neutral observer it was apparent that there was something wrong, wobbly, uncanny in their proofs, although it is not necessarily easy to exactly tell what the problem is. Often it may require an entirely new heuristics, and for instance it took centuries to exactly tell what is wrong with Zeno´s paradoxa. Metaphysical questions may be undecidable, not least because they´re paradoxical in nature.

And then, the incompleteness theorem… Despite its apparent gravity and the mysteriousness it seems to imply the incompleteness theorem hardly affects professional mathematician´s business. I have never read Gödel´s original paper and maybe would not understand it since maths, among other things, is not my speciality, however as far as I can see it is about the „paradox“ of the barber who shaves anyone but himself or the Cretans lying. Despite there is no logical solution to that paradoxes they will somehow be solved in practice without too many trouble (or if we applied „fuzzy logics“ we could formalize stuff or so, idk…). Maybe a kind of solution to it, respectively shedding some light on the mystery the incompleteness theorem seems to imply, comes in a way Cantor „solved“ the mystery of infinite sets – when he made the „paradoxes“ they carry their defining element. There is also this stuff: hyperinfinite sets. They can be constructed, but their existence cannot be proven, and under Occam´s Razor they may seem a nuisance (because they seem to add more orders of the infinite that seems to be needed). Given the incompleteness theorem, the mysterious hyperinfinite sets may either exist or not. However, certain mathematical objects, like knots, can be better conceptualised under the assumption that hyperinfinite sets do exist, be their existence only theoretical (under the assumption of hyperinfinite sets something is possible to construct about the understanding of knots, as an „indirect“ proof that would lead to the possibility of a more direct proof that could eventually do without the assumption of hyperinfinite sets). Apparently, the virtual again. When you think about numbers (and mathematical objects), especially about odd numbers, complex numbers – or negative numbers, or zero, or infinite sets that have puzzled humans for so long, you may become aware that they´re virtual entities.

WIthout the concept of the virtual we´re actually pretty fucked up if we tried to understand the nature of numbers, I guess. It can be argued that numbers are, e.g., platonic, and there are some indications to it, likewise there are other indications that taking them as platonic entitities does not actually apply. With Virtual Reality the notion of the virtual has become somehow more mainstream. Before that it has been prominent within the philosophy of Gilles Deleuze. In thinking and conceptualising about the virtual Deleuze draw on fellow philosopher Henri Bergson – and on Marcel Proust, i.e. neither a philosopher nor a scientist nor a mathematician but a literary genius who, concerning the virtual, was ruminating about how to grasp the qualities of memory. I cannot remember who it was but it was some eminent mathematician who noted that even the most abstract and aloof maths sooner or later is bound to somehow become applicable when trying to get a grasp on something in reality. It is all a gigantic network, hahahahaha.

In his book Infinity and the Mind Rudy Rucker described how it was when he had a personal encounter with Gödel. Despite popular beliefs that he was bizarre the elderly Gödel had, as it seemed to Rucker, the statue of a very wise man who seemed to have thought about everything in life, thoroughly and concise; something that people would also remark about the elderly Wittgenstein. Rucker noted that Gödel had the habit that when completing a sentence or statement he would often exalt his voice and break into a ringing laughter, in an obvious gesture of adding some irony and leaving room for calling into question the things he just stated with such rigid logic and that seemed to be so perfectly concise – bravo, that´s the spirit! Wittgenstein was also so eminent at logics that he used logic for accelerating perplexedness. When the elderly Wittgenstein displayed the profoundly wise man to others the effect was ambiguous, as Wittgenstein on the one hand seemed to have thought about everything, including the more mundane things in life, but would enter a discussion about everything with great intensity, devotion and sternness (including conversations about the more mundane things in life), so that people usually on the one hand felt enriched and that they had received valuable advice but that they sort of had been overrun by a tank on the other hand (conversations with Emily Dickinson seemed to have been of a similar quality). – A while ago I have noticed that Kripke is considered as one of the definitely most important philosophers of the last 200 years. Kripke explained Wittgenstein to a more general population after Wittgenstein´s death. Kripke is an analytical philosopher and so far I have not read much about him. I read however that most of his (more recent) works are lectures and he himself does not seem to care so much about them being published, because his mind is obviously working too fast for caring about such mundane things – bravo, that´s the spirit! Kripke however is silent about many other things a philosopher would be expected to be vocal about. I have read that, in personal encounters, Kripke appears like a very intelligent person, yet something somehow is missing, a certain human element. – I said this about Kripke because as an association it came to my mind, it also somehow fits into this note and it is, apart from that, informative, and I like to inform people about all kind of stuff because I like to get informed about all kind of stuff myself.

This note about numbers may be dilettante, I am not a professional mathematician, I have not thought a lot about it, and I am occupied with doing other things at the moment. But I don´t see an error with conceptualising numbers as virtual entities. So far for now.

Occasional Note about the Overman

Safranski says the overman is “an ideal for anyone who wants to seize power over himself and who wants to fully develop his virtues; who is creatively productive and who masters the whole register of human intellect, creativity and imagination (“und der auf der ganzen Klaviatur des menschlichen Denkvermögens, der Phantasie und der Einbildungskraft zu spielen weiß”)”, actualizing the whole of human potential. Referring to David Lynch´s Inland Empire Die Zeit makes reference to Transcendental Meditation (which Lynch practices) and that in Transcendental Meditation the highest form of consciousness – unity consciousness – enables a person to perceive “all forms of life as manifestations of the same cosmic being, the boundary between internal and external world becomes permeable, the self is mirrored in all manifestations of the world…” and Der Spiegel adds in a respective review of Inland Empire that for someone transgressed to this level “reality and fiction do not exist anymore; space, time, dream and waking state amalgamate into an all-embracive experience” … indeed, when something like this comes in an organic, authentic way you have the consciousness of the overman (and Die Zeit concludes: “When everything is connected and the whole world fits into a single mind, the (artist) is allowed to perform gigantic leaps with his material, become overarching and eject fragments into the orbit – and yet trust his intuition that the inner, and universal, cohesion remains firm, alive and well.”).

Pessoa proclaims: Overman will not be the strongest one but the most comprehensive! Not the toughest one but the most omniferous! Not the freest one but the most harmonious! – as a distinction against Nietzsche´s somehow stressed vitalistic amor fati ideal; erected by Nietzsche against his own (occasionally suicidal) despair about the perception of everlasting existential misery in the world (“eternal recurrence of the same”) and eternal impossibility of authentic communication with mankind for folks like him. Indeed, overman is the hyperset over man. The intellect as well as the psychology of overman is NOT resemblant to those of man. The overman is the intellectual and psychological superconductor.

Kafka said: “I never wish to be easily defined. I´d rather float over the people´s minds as something strictly fluid and non-perceivable, more like a transparent, paradoxically iridescent creature rather than an actual person.” And it is true that personhood will not be a compatible category for the overman and he will not feel comfortable with it. When you look at the overman you rather sense some fluid, malleable aura of white light or so. This is not so because of (some more delicate form of) narcissism but because of transcendence. While sophisticated people will try to “make their life a work of art”, the overman will feel uncomfortable with that and moreover deem that inadequate, since an artwork refers to something pompous, and finalized, and static. The overman will rather be the de/transpersonalised center of art/creativity/intellect, somehow like a naked singularity around which anything can happen. (As I have stated on various occasions now) a woman who knew Kafka said about him that Kafka was the only individual who thought like a human should think and who felt how a human should feel. Being the only one who thinks like a human should think and who feels like a human should feel (apparently) makes you the overman; and bearer of the paradox that, in this position, you are both most eccentric to and most at the center of the human experience (making your perception usually double-faced, always fluctuating, undecidable and irritating; beautiful, frightening, and empty; still you remain in control over it.)

When Wittgenstein as a young student of philosophy met Frege to challenge him he unsentimentally noted afterwards that Frege “swept the floor” with him. There are no indications that that experience affected his ego. When some years later Wittgenstein swept the floor with any philosopher there neither are indications that it went to his head and bloated his ego. In fact Wittgenstein (and people of his kind) did not seem to have much of an ego (in the common understanding). Overman also means transcendence of the ego. Reportedly, schizotypals have a nebulous ego respectively may experience the ego as an instance that is somehow vacant and would need to be filled. Instead, they have a sense for connectivity including transcendent connectivity. So, their self is nebulous and ghost-like, but they are keen at establishing (and transforming) connection with the outside world in an authentic way. Because of lack of integration of ego they are the most integrated persons, and the overman will be hyper-integrated along these lines; likewise the subjectivity of overman is so pronounced that 1) the sense for it evades the notion of personhood 2) their “self” becomes of objective importance. (Unfortunately, when I repeatedly posted about that in the schizotypal group with the hope that people in it could relate, they obviously could not relate much (which triggered a depressive shock in me one more time).)

Kafka said: “Life is merely terrible; I feel it as few others do. Often – and in my innermost self perhaps all the time – I doubt whether I am a human being.” Wittgenstein´s last words on his death-bed were: “Tell them I´ve had a wonderful life”, a statement his doctor and friend considered “enigmatic”. Indeed, because of his intensity and excitability (a feature common of schizotypals) and the sophistication of his mind as well as of his virtues and values the overman may be safe (or hyper-safe) in this world, nevertheless the question of happiness remains as the overman is a misfit in this world and all the joyous sensations of perception, rationalization and legitimization frequently (and, well, ultimately) collide with reality; the intensity of perception of the world on the one hand and the superficiality and emptiness of the world on the other hand. Apart from that schizotypals usually score high at anhedonia, i.e. inability to truly experience joy. Nietzsche says that one has to understand that the world is full of small, beautiful things to which we can stick to nevertheless. And that the world is actually deeper and more profound than the occurrences (Die Welt ist tief / Und tiefer als der Tag gedacht / Weh spricht: Vergeh! / Doch alle Lust will Ewigkeit), therefore we actually are safe in a world like that, regardless of what we might think or experience emotionally.

I want to add that the question of happiness for the overman is a delicate, maybe even an irrelevant one, and Pessoa notes that we actually might not know at all what we feel. When somebody asks me about how I feel I usually respond “um”, “mh” or “hm” (if I say anything at all). That is true because I am neutral most of the time. On the other hand my emotions can be very intense and I wonder how the emotions of people who can make so distinct statements about their emotional states frequently deem as emotionally not actually present (so to say). Kafka, who was overwhelmed by his emotions and at the same time a highly functioning artist and bureaucrat, mourned that while it is easy for him to describe his room, describing his inner state deems him the most difficult. Pessoa´s descriptions of his inner life in the Book of Disquiet are cool paintings. Emily Dickinson´s poems are somehow situated at a plane constructed by the meta-level of emotionality and intellectuality (I see white forms in the sky, deepened and stratified in themselves, when I look at them). As the intellect of the overman permanently creates and then destroys again (so to say) and emotions are fluctuating the same way it is difficult for the overman to find stability in anything. Because of his ghost-like inner life/self the overman may feel forlorn and because of his fluidity undefined. Humor will usually be present but not necessarily (as some people think) a savior since humor just means you´re able to look at things in another, unconventional, off-the-wall way, including your own demise. The overman is rooted with his head in the sky and with his feet deep in the ground, and his interior is the endless hall of mirrors. Because of this he has to stabilize himself in his own complexity.

Wittgenstein´s last words were: “Tell them I`ve had a wonderful life”. Aleister Crowley´s last words reportedly were: “I am perplexed”. Wittgenstein was one of greatest philosophers, respectively as a meta-philosopher above the level of philosophers and he wrote a very precise prose to explain thoughts so radical that almost no one was able to understand. Crowley, as it seems to me, was an intelligent psychopath who said his excrements were sacred and who wrote a convoluted prose to express base ideas. According to legend, the psychopathic ego views people and stuff as highly separated from each other and because of this the psychopath has the ability to flexibly adapt to other people (in order to exploit them), whereas the schizotypal ego views everything as highly connected and is unable to play any role, with the schizotypal just being himself at any given moment to such an extent that not even the ego has a specific function, an actual role or identity (i.e. the schizotypal just being himself). Crowley was quite monolithic and self-assured and knew how to deal with people and influence them, Wittgenstein was relatively estranged among humans and seemingly troubled. Crowley, in his life, never was perplexed (therefore his last words were deemed as “enigmatic” by some), Wittgenstein was professionally perplexed all the time. From the perspective of hyperspace or the “spheres” it was the other way round. I hope I have not done wrong against Aleister Crowley; I may take a closer look at him maybe later in life.

Chaosmos and the White Lodge (Third Note about Robert M. Pirsig)

When something has „quality“ it means it has „the right fit“, and when something is of very supreme quality it means it has even more than the right fit and/or it does so in an unexpected way – it is transcendent.

Based on an investigation of „classicism vs romaticism“ (and somehow mirroring Nietzsche´s Apollonian vs Dionysian principle and other juxtapositional stuff that may come to mind in this respect) Pirsig speaks of „static“ and „dynamic“ quality. Static quality refers to the quasi-conservative principle of form, dynamic quality to the transformation and extension of form. Dynamic quality is „the conceptually unknown“, or, as Pirsig scholar Northrop says, „the undifferentiated aesthetic continuum“. We may also call it ontological potential.

Indeed, everything in the cosmos is about establishing and transformation of forms (at least seen through our humble perspective). At the ultimate level what you will see is the chaosmos, the permanent interplay of form and its aleatoric transformation; the interplay of the static and the dynamic; the classic and the romantic; art, philosophy and science. I have from time to time explained it as having before my inner eye something rotating with many chambers, with one or some of it emerging, destined to give a new sense to the whole; or now many small squares and now suddenly a lightning shooting from the horizontal towards me, etc. It all happens very quickly and is elusive, forms falling apart to give place to new forms. And it is finally the end of vision. The highest artistic vision is to directly gaze into the chaosmos. Ultraintelligent poet Arthur Rimbaud reached such a level of vision, also Lautréamont and Büchner. Taken to this extreme, vision finally might evaporate and art becoming irrelevant (or whatever). Ultraintelligent engineer Nikola Tesla also liked to entertain himself with such visions before his inner eye (as tells Clifford M. Pickover´s Strange Brains and Genius).

Chaosmos is the synthetic vision of everything, of the whole. I have also spoken about the White Lodge. With the White Lodge I was somehow referring to a state in which you experience yourself after you have analytically figured it all out.  You experience that the space of knowledge isn´t anymore made of dialectics, oppositions and the like, it has all dissolved into a white light, or white space, with entitities that instantaneously affect you floating as a kind of a bit grey rippling alongside you. Brecht says intellectual superiority means being able to hold two contradictory concepts in the mind at the same time. I say it is about holding five or so concepts in the mind at the same time, so as that you finally see they may not be contradictory, instead they hold various versimilitudes and truth contents. If you see things that way and have established that kind of vision your mind is free and free to navigate through intellectual space, and your ego has evaporated as it is not tied anymore to any preference to any (ideological) (half-) truths.

Chaosmos and the White Lodge means that you see it all as well as that you permanently sort out things anew. It is not some self-sufficient state of enlightenment. It is progressive. It refers to infinity, and the vision of infinity, being fractal-like, as well as progress of knowledge being fractal-like (or semi/pseudofractal-like). Chaosmos refers to the synthetic, the White Lodge to the analytical; respectively that such distinctions have become superseded in the eye of the respective beholder.

Klara and Perla and an Inquiry into the Metaphysics of Quality (Second Note about Robert M. Pirsig)

When I studied at the University of Basel, in 2004/05, I was lucky to live in a funny house, not in a student living community. The person living next to me was Perla from Slovakia. I swore I shall never forget how at one of my first days in Basel I went home in the evening, after having a beer with a fellow student, and found Perla having a small party in her room. She was very responsive to alcohol, but in a cool way, she was very funny, laughing and joking all the time, dancing, singing, falling down at her room divider; at 2 in the morning she cooked me something to eat, even later I looked after her and found her pseudo-dancing in the staircase with a cool look on her face (I loved her saturated smile and her glassy eyes). She was a cool dancer, both elegant and gracious as well as flamboyant, and inspired me in this respect. Her girlfriend Zlata also was at the initial party, as well as Ian and Dave from upstairs, two roamers from England who earned money as street musicians. Back then, I also used to become somehow bizarre when I was drunk, but Perla topped me in this respect. Perla had quality and especially I liked her Slovakian accent. Should I have two daughters I will name then Klara and Perla (Klara was the name of my artist aunt). Pirsig named his second book Lila (with Lila being an example of dynamic quality, falling prey to insanity however, as she lacks the stabiliser that intellect provides).

Pirsig´s Metaphysics of Quality has not entered mainstream philosophy and many people who read Lila did not „understand“ it, or got a sense what Pirsig is actually up to. This also somehow accounts for me. Pirsig acknowledges that his refusal (or inability) to actually define quality may be the reason for the ignorance. That may be quite right, but the more general problem is that Pirsig´s Metaphysics of Quality can neither be verified not falsified. „Quality“ both refers to the consistency of something as well as to the way we perceive something based on how we resonate to it and therefore attribute a certain value to it, and that double nature (respectively that we don´t know whether „quality“ refers to anything outside our perception) establishes some kind of inner conflict within Pirsig´s metaphysics that is finally irresolvable.

Pirsig dissolves „quality“ into something abstract, somehow resemblant to that what Schopenhauer did with „will“ when he put Will as the ontological foundation of everything. Remember how Nietzsche tried to make Schopenhauer look stupid when he said that there is no „will“ per se, but just a „will to something“ (leading him to think of the „Will to Power“ as the Ding an sich). We may think that Nietzsche´s argument does not destroy Schopenhauer, maybe not even affect him, for there may be an abstract „will“, as well as there may be an abstractum of quality (yet need not be). Schopenhauer´s metaphysics of a will per se, a self-referential strive of self-actualisation as the prime mover of everything (resemblant to Whitehead´s „creativity“), may be quite right, but, from a scientific point of view, deems us as primitive and unexplicative. The same thing may go for Pirsig´s Metaphysics of Quality.

As mentioned above, Pirsig´s Metaphysics of Quality can neither be verified nor falsified. That is not uncommon for metaphysics (and likely eventually necessary since science operates within our epistemological limits whereas metaphysics tries to grasp ontology beyond our epistemological limits), and Pirsig himself notes that the endeavour to construct a perfect metaphysics equals constructing a chess strategy where you always win (i.e. any argument in favor of your metaphysics will eventually get confronted with something that either proves it wrong, undecidable, state-dependent, etc. … therefore we have to hold on to a kind of ad hoc metaphysics (as also Whitehead says)) but Pirsig´s metaphysics seems a bit too elastic in this respect (although we have to take into account that a very potent metaphysics may just be kind of tautological and trivial and, since it operates at a very high level of abstraction, unexplicative).

The problem of Metaphysics of Quality is also that it is not a tautology but self-sufficient (respectively self-serving). Everything may be explained as a quality phenomenon as long as we do not know what „quality“ actually is and how it may affect us. Things that are full of shit may be taken lightly in this paradigm and explained away as that, via the butterfly effect or so, they do something good elsewhere. Pirsig accounts that different quality patterns (inorganic, biological, social, intellectual) may actually be at war with each other, refuting our perceptions of harmony and compensation in the cosmos, but he gives (and cannot give) no outline how they actually interact and what their (scientifically graspable) patterns of interactions are and can be. And while Pirsig is fond of anything of quality, both of his books are full of examples how actual and true quality or creativity is a rare thing in the world, and under constant threat, so that the world may rather not appear as a quality phenomenon but as a lack-of-quality phenomenon.

In his efforts to prove that a „metaphysics of quality“ is the most ancient metaphysics of all and an understanding that is established across times and across cultures Pirsig ruminates about whether quality relates to the Tao – or is the Tao – (he also makes comparisons to the concepts of American Indians as well as the Rig Vedaic wisdom of India), but his metaphysics is not as enigmatic as Taoism and therefore does not produce the same undertow, and although Pirsig´s Metaphysics of Quality may be Taoism at a higher level of clarity there is no actual stuff concerning spiritual transformation involved – as well as no moral code and no actual ethics. Metaphysics of Quality may implicate a higher level of awareness and tenderness we should cultivate in ourselves, but it does not implicate any guidelines of what we should actually do – and it does not rule out that a superintelligent replacement species based on AI will make the human race extinct … because, quality.

Pirsig says that the order of the world is, in itself, a moral order, and the notion that the order that makes the world is a moral order or that there is an inherent link between metaphysics and ethics (respectively that they are about one the same) is common among philosophers, i.e. gentlemen who strive to establish connection and have eminent constructive abilitities. Plato, the initiator of systematic philosophy, substantialised moral. Nietzsche, a kind of revenant of Plato, shattered systematisation and rightfully noted that philosophical buildings erected upon confidence in morals have all collapsed across the centuries and millenia. – It is ok to ground one´s metaphysics in an admiration of constructiveness, nevertheless substantialisation of constructiveness is problematic, and a nihilistic worldview is logically quite consistent as well, or the notion that „deep reality“ actually consists of an evil, malicious god, and that everything constructive, beautiful, ethical or full of quality is just there to fool us in making us strive for it in a vain attempt (as is the credo of sociopathic Iago in Otello or of the anti-heroes of de Sade).

However, it is still a mystery why the cosmos is a fine-tuned as it is, or why life and evolution came into being on our planet. These phenomena are highly unlikely. Of course that could be explained with our universe, and our planet, just being the lucky guys within an infinite amount of possibilities, but the mystery still remains – and maybe there is some kind of quality behind it as the source of selection.

And while Pirsig´s Metaphysics of Quality may be ? for a human, it might be an adequate metaphysics of someone who has achieved cosmic consciousness. In his valuable book Cosmic Consciousness: A Study in the Evolution of the Human Mind (1901) Robert Bucke says that what we commonly refer to as enlightenment or Satori refers to a universal experience across times and cultures: spiritual, intellectual and personal transformation of very advanced individuals to a state of „cosmic“ perception. Someone who has achieved it ceases to view the cosmos as dead and inorganic, but as spiritual and enlivened, with living beings rather being faint dots in a great living ocean; his behaviour is highly ethical; he is aware of his immortality; he is in suberb control of himself and his personality radiates harmony, dignity and grace. Individuals who have achieved cosmic consciousness include, according to Bucke: Buddha, Jesus, Lao Tse, Johannes vom Kreuz, Pascal, Shakespeare, Balzac, Dante, Ramakrishna, Whitman or Thoreau. The ways and fashions these individuals express their inner experience varies through time and through cultures in which they are, after all, embedded. So maybe the Metaphysics of Quality may be the (or: a plausible) metaphysics for someone who has achieved cosmic consiousness.

UPDATE 24/05/2017:

A Theory of Consciousness Can Help Build a Theory of Everything

Design Theory and a Changing Scientific Worldview

Huitzilopochtli and the Art of Motorcycle Maintainance (First Note about Robert M. Pirsig)

Longseller Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintainance was written by Robert M. Pirsig. Equipped with a 170 IQ young Robert enrolled at the university at age 14 only to get expelled a while afterwards as he found the scientist´s mindset inadequate, feeble and incomplete, which also led to mutual personal alienation (respectively animosity) between Pirsig and academia. People of very high IQ think in much larger patterns and especially if they are divergent thinkers they may get very confused since they have little idea what they actually see and envision and then they have to synthesize a lot to come up with a conclusive intellectual framework that works to their satisfaction (usually erected upon vast intellectual experience and life experience which they also intellectualise). As his assumed skyrocketing career as a scientist did not work out Pirsig became a kind of a drifter through life. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintainance was a kind of semi-fictionalised intellectual autobiography, half a novel, half a philosophical work. It got rejected by more than 100 publishers but became a huge, and lasting, success after it came out in 1974. The mixing up of „Eastern“ and „Western“ thought was unorthodox in academic philosophy then but hit a nerve in the later hippie era, respectively Pirsig´s investigation into the possibilities of expansion of the human mind and its possible failures could have been taken as a kind of intellectual resume of the initial spirit of 1968. In ZMM Pirsig voted for a metaphysics that has quality as its central value. In 1992 Pirsig published his second book (of similar fashion concerning genre mix), Lila; An Inquiry into Morals, in which Pirsig tried to solidify his original arguments, and he said that Lila is the more profound book than ZMM. Lila did not become a huge commercial success like ZMM. It is said you should read ZMM before you read Lila. I read Lila before I read ZMM (last year) because I was interested in WJ Sidis and in Lila Pirsig writes a bit about Sidis (I knew about Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintainance before but thought it to be a kind of introduction into Zen Buddhism for Westerners). In 1995 Pirsig gave a lecture Subjects, Objects, Datas and Values in which Pirisg tried to show that his Metaphysics of Quality was a coherent philosophical framework to interpret quantum mechanics. I read this lecture yesterday. Pirsig has long retired, in his (obviously) most recent interview in 2006 he said he does not read much anymore but still likes to sail. Despite the success of his books Pirsig´s Metaphysics of Quality has not entered mainstream philosophy so far.

More recently I also read Laura Ibarra Garcia´s Das Weltbild der Azteken, a book about the worldview and metaphysics of the ancient Aztecs. Marx says „Sein bestimmt das Bewusstsein“ (being determines consciousness) and that when we look at ancient cultures we look into our own past (and infancy, as we might add). Yet sensitivity to psychology is certainly not a strength of Marxism, respectively to the question how and why man creates and manipulates his world exactly the way he does. Jean Piaget on the other hand investigated the cognitive and psychological development and ontogenesis of the infant and how it relates to cultural development (with, on the other hand, being a bit lenient on how cultural norms massively predate the individual´s development). The infant tries to master objects and subjects which he initially views as unstable (with the possibility of neuroses and personality disorders as a cognitive and psychological result when the infant gets permanently frustrated by the outside world). As the infant gains some mastery over the objects and is happy to establish a friendly and constructive relationship to fellow humans he learns that he is able to manipulate and influence them, and vice versa. At this level the cognitive understanding of the infant is subjectivistic (i.e. reflects how he can manipulate the environment and how the environment will react to him is based on individual behaviour). In addition the infant is in a dyadic relationship with the mother, respectively in a relationship with the competent Other and he tends to view objects and his surroundings as enlivened, translating into an animistic worldview in very ancient societies where man cannot dominate nature very effectively (and therefore considers nature and animals and himself as a sort of equals). – The Aztecs were an ancient class society based on agriculture. Their origins were obscure and their original position obviously was very disadvantaged in regard to the culture and civilisation of the Toltecs over which they finally took over however. The Aztecs worshipped Gods, had a foundation myth involving a cultural hero, viewed the world as unstable and finally destined to fall apart again (alongside a kind of cyclical understanding of time), believed in life after death (with the individual´s fate in the afterlife however being largely determined by the circumstances of his death and not by his personal achievements or ethical behaviour) and they tried to master chaos through rites that implicated sophisticated method as well as devotion (so as to adress the Gods/the irrational forces of nature both intellectually as well as emotionally). Surrounded by uncertainty and lack of insight into the world the Aztects had a mythological worldview, which, instead of a logos, was grounded in a (more or less sophisticated) narrative. Although the higher points of Aztecian culture (e.g. architecture) required formal-operational knowledge the worldview of the Aztecs remained at the level of concrete-operational knowledge, i.e. they could manipulate objects but did/could not generate formal abstractions about that knowledge. Inside the horizon of an agrarian society human mindsets use to remain pre-logical and pre-scientific and subjetivistic. The ancient Greeks were the first to operate at the level of formal-operational knowledge and to have a scientific mindset which epistemologically however could not reflect itself at a meta-level. That came about with the Copernican revolutions in science, knowledge and philosophy in the early modern era (note that regardless of level of cultural evolution only the more (or most) intelligent individuals of the respective society carry the most advanced mindset with, for instance, many people still being superstitious or believing in esoterics in the most advanced societies today). As we live in a new axial age today it is likely that we will progress into new stages of cognitive development and metaphysics which may supersede the rationalist subject-object-dichotomy worldview of modernity, i.e. where a very competent subject exercises mastery over a rather dull and helpless object (which, as it turns out in the atomic age and the age of climate change, isn´t so helpless after all).

Pirsig, as a very advanced individual nowadays, somehow eclectically developed a metaphysics designed to supersede the modern rationalist metaphysics that is centered about how (abstract) subjects relate to (abstract) objects. Unhappy with the scientific approach but confused about how to grasp things instead he began to ruminate about how quality is something that would define entities (not as an accident but as substance). Some entities obviously have higher quality than others, and while the perception of quality is to some degree in the eye of the beholder, true quality refers to something that is inherent in the object and independent of subjective perception. Pirsig then says that quality is an event that happens when subject and object interfere and relate to each other, potentially both changing the object as well as the subject. He then says that quality is the more profound reality than both object and subject – without, however, defining what quality, taken at this level of abstraction, actually is (making a virtue out of necessity he stipulates quality as undefineable, which then of course makes his entire framework inherently wobbly). Instead he approaches quality from several perspectives and, for instance, says that interactions between animate as well as inanimate things perform in this and that fashion because they value certain interactions over others. He concludes that the entire physical world is based on morals and that natural law is also an expression of (some) morals (of constructiveness). Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintainance refers to a quality relationship being inherently at work when we do „Western“ „analytic“ shit (perception of quality rather is something synthetic) and the Buddha being present in it all alike – that is to say Pirsig refutes purely „analytical, Western“ approach as it is cutting off many aspects from the relationship under investigation as well as the „Eastern“ quasi-meditative mindset as it remains unprogressive, static and self-sufficient when relying solely on itself. He differentiates between static and dynamic quality with the static giving form and the dynamic providing change and progress (and he often elaborates how both the agents of static quality and dynamic quality need each other but also often are very hostile towards each other (and, as he somehow forgets to mention, may transform into each other with the former dynamics becoming dogmatic and the like)). Likewise, according to Pirsig the world composes of inorganic, biological, social and intellectual quality patterns and they´re an expression of an evolution to ever higher patterns of quality (therefore also often at war with each other). Pirsig´s metaphysics is a kind of processural and evolutionary metaphysics of a universe striving to reach ever higher levels of quality.

As far as I am concerned, when I was 11 or so we used to have fun in a weekly group meeting of friends – yes, those were actually good times! At one occasion we were playing ping pong and I accidentally shot the ball in Helli´s balls. He humoristically dramatized the pain, and I said Scheiß Eierspeise („fucking scrambled eggs“) as a comment to the pseudo-malheur. Helli found this so funny that he nearly fell down. So I used Scheiß Eierspeis as a salutation and a code for our community and further investigated what Scheiß Eierspeis could all be about and what secrets it could contain. I then founded a movement and wrote a manifesto at age 15 or so in which I declared that everything is Scheiß Eierspeise, respectively that Scheiß Eierspeise is the mutual quality all things share and have in common. In doing so I tried to establish some kind of community and collegiality between things and a kind of universal nexus, a premium quality of everything. Although it was intented to be a joke the manifesto also contained serious intellectual/scientific ruminations and later in life it came to my mind that it was actually a kind of „theory of everything“. (Trying to come up with a „theory of everything“ is a common endeavour among hyperintelligent youngsters as I later found out, but I did not know that then, as I did not know much about philosophy and shit back then and was quite stupid in many respects). – Maybe I should look after my manifesto and tell you something about it; maybe I should revitalise the Scheiß Eierspeise movement and elaborate on the framework, it could actually be the thing, yet for the moment mankind does not seem to be ripe and mature enough for this level of analysis and integration, respectively to take the responsibilities involved. While Pirsig called himself Phaidros later I called myself Yorick.

(The abovementioned William James Sidis was the person with probably the highest IQ ever recorded, likely well over 200, but much of his biography and his achievements remains clouded and obscure, triggering speculation about whether the man with the highest IQ on Earth is just doomed to be the ultimate reject on Earth. I want to write a note with reference to Sidis, titled The Transbodhidharma, somewhere in the future.)


Inside the Wire

The Wire is held to be the greatest TV series of all time by some. An approval as ultimate as that would be a matter of taste, nevertheless The Wire depicts the human game at an epic scale and it does so more or less flawlessly. It is a grand achievement and can be compared to a classic novel series, Balzac´s Comédie humaine comes to mind, although The Wire is better than many of Balzac´s works. Revolving around drug trade and drug related crime in the city of Baltimore as the ultimate nexus The Wire depicts different institutions and social realms and their relationship to law enforcement in the five seasons of the series (illegal drug trade in season 1, the seaport system and trade unions in season 2, the city government and bureaucracy in season 3, the school system in season 4 and the media in season 5). It is a police/crime series as well as a social drama as well as it illuminates how things actually work (and is, in this respect, infotainment). The main interest of the series is to depict how individuals are formed by institutions and how individuals try to maneuver themselves through institutions for the better or the worse, for the greater good or for self promotion, for trying to improve their institutions or blow them up (with usually the anonymous institutition being the stronger one, swallowing, eating and digesting the individual – unless the individual is able to make career, which is a main endeavour/obsession of most of the characters). The main message I got is how policies and almost everything that happens in the human realm is the result of a compromise or a countertrade between different endeavours or between different logics in an effectively heterogenous world. Kissinger says that people usually do not understand politics as politics, in reality, means the choice between two evils. That is, somehow, a permanent message of The Wire; that the actual problems are dilemmas in nature, i.e. they cannot actually be solved just managed in a more or less clever and effective way.

Some (like Stephen King) said The Wire depicts human hell. In some instances that is about true, in general the situation is purgatory-like, although personal achievement or endeavour and what people want is frequently out of sync with what people get and how they are rewarded. The intelligence of the series lies, among other things, in depicting how both their endeavours and their rewards may be seen as just and fair from one perspective (e.g. the individual or the ethical perspective) and unjust and unfair from another (e.g. the institutional or the juridical perspective). There are few happy endings and resolutions in the individual storylines (which is uncommon for a TV series or movie), however there usually are organic developments and life trajectories (without much change in personality and character of the individuals however). Truly outstanding (or likeable) characters are few, if any, although most of them have their positive qualities and talents; the series does a great job at displaying the individualities of the characters and one is able to empathise with them, and after all even many of the gangsters don´t even actually seem that bad. The series does a good job at establishing not only various but truly individual perspectives – and it is actually magical how well and organic the performances are by the actors who were to a considerable degree not very prominent: all the characters appear incredibly real and convincing. The nexus, however, is „the game“ and „the corner“ that will „always remain the corner“, with individual humans only populating and being around the corner for a while until they get displaced by other individuals. In one of the more depressing scenes the death of Omar, the most idiosyncratic character of the series, is depicted as to not cause much interest or affection (yet however people trying to excel each other at inventing grotesque fairy tales about the circumstances of his death after a while); likewise as the infidel and unreliable McNulty gets told by his spouse Beadie that family may be the only one who actually cares when you are gone (McNulty, an assumingly terrible husband, is divorced from a wife that often exaggerates and is egoistic and he has two sons who don´t show exaggerated individuality). It is a „cold world“ in which we are living, as is effectively said on more than one occasion. The series starts with a police hunt on the criminal Barksdale organisation which displays a dangerousness and lethality hitherto unknown in Baltimore only to be, after it gets destroyed, replaced by the even more sinister Stanfield organisation (with a probable return to a more casual state of affairs in the Baltimore drug scene after the Stanfield organisation gets blown up). Yet the big wheel keeps on turning and it is almost meditative how the great flow is depicted by The Wire.

The creator of The Wire, David Simon, had a long experience with the drug scene and the law enforcement in Baltimore (and a vast perceptivity) which finally cumilated into the wisdom of the series. Jimmy McNulty, more or less the cental character of the series, is a portrayal of a cop who is not actually out there to help people or to empathise with victims of crime but to be able to feel intellectually superior to the criminals he is chasing (which, according to Simon, is not so uncommon among the personnel of law enforcement). McNulty is the most capable detective, but he is loathed by superiors for frequnently being disloyal and egoistic (although he always has a point (which usually carries a higher truth) in his soloistic maneuvers), and because of his pride and apparant shallowness in other psychological respects he is a failure in private (a notorious womanizer and alcoholic who does not seem to have true friends). Female officer Kima also has a rather wobbly private life, however that is because she likes the (inherently dangerous) occupation and she is a more balanced character (there is an indication that she likes to play the tough cop when she rather needlessly beats a drug dealer in one of the first episodes but such a suggestion of imbalance isn´t prominent later in the series); Kima is also one of the more complex and likeable characters. The elderly Lester Freamon is the most intelligent and wise officer of the team, despite his laid-back demeanour a kind of intellectual alter ego of McNulty who also has frequent trouble with authority. It is satisfactory to watch that he gets hot and sensible Shardenne as a spouse and they obviously live a harmonious relationship. Carver and Hauk are a kind of Laurel & Hardy team with Carver obviously becoming a good officer and Hauk degenerating into becoming an employee for Maurice Levy, the amoral lawyer for Baltimore´s drug kingpins (that Levy is jewish is not an antisemitic stereotype but due to the fact that many of those lawyers for Baltimore´s drug dealers are jewish, says Simon (himself jewish)). When, in an obvious attempt by superiors to sabotage the investigations against the Barksdale organisation, the special unit deliberately consists of especially lazy and incompetent officers at the beginning of the series Pryzbylewski is portrayed as brutal and stupid (and probably racist) but he soon proves his value as a code breaker and puzzle solver as well as a nice and unassuming guy who rather likes to work behind the scenes as he is too nervous (or so) for acting in the streets – which tragically proves true as he accidentally kills a fellow officer and then leaves the police and becomes a devoted maths teacher at the school for Baltimore´s troubled youth. Bunk is the firmest figure of the series as he is morally concerned (but not naive) and seems to be able to connect to everything and all the different realms without losing himself. Daniels also is one of the more ethical as well as effective officers who may be willing to sacrifice some of his career (and also his marriage) but gets overcompensated when he becomes useful for superiors – only to find out that as a police chief he would have to engage in unethical activities to please his political superiors (e.g. manipulating statistics) which causes him to resign and become a lawyer. The cholerical Rawls is depicted quite as devoid of personality as he maneuvers through the ranks and spills down the pressure that is exerted on him by higher ranks – a creature of the hierarchy.

D´Angelo Barksdale calls his subordinate dealer Wallace a good guy who, „unlike the other niggers“, has a heart and since both have some moral sense they prove as to frail as to effectively be gangsters – they meet their tragic end not as they break out of their criminal organisation but as they get liquitated as potentially untrustworthy by the superiors of the organisation. D´Angelo is probably the most tragic example of an individual who had become a gangster not by his own choice or because he is particularly bad and draws satisfaction out of what he is doing but because he was born into a family who runs a criminal organisation as a family enterprise with the individual family member´s worth being reflected in how much he is useful to this organisation. His uncle Avon, the head of the Barksdale organisation, is the offspring of a criminal and his brutally criminal ways rather seem to be a lifestyle to him he is accustomed to and the killings he orders a matter of ruthless professionialism – it is difficult to decipher how much psychopathological pleasure and narcissistic gratification he  may receive from upkeeping his image as a fearsome drug kingpin including a notorious womanizer or whether he just acts as a professional gangster inside a fiece battle of competition. When it is effectively too late and his organisation about to be blown up he however ruminates whether the approach of his partner Stringer Bell (to become businessmen not anymore directly involved with the drug trade on „the corner“) wouldn´t have been the more intelligent one. Stringer Bell is one of the most noteworthy characters of the series, a cerebral gangster who in his spare time studies business administration at the university (and recceives good grades and is obviously well liked by his professors with whom he intellectually conversates) and who wants the Barksdale organisation to finally engage in normal business and to buy political influence. Nevertheless he is as ruthless as Avon, he orders the murder of D´Angelo and finally betrays Avon whose gangster style he increasingly sees as dangerous and so (accidentally) blows the Barksdale organisation up – while at the same time he is betrayed by his „brother“ Avon and gets killed by Omar and Brother Mouzone whom he betrayed before – an almost Shakespearean end to the Barksdale organisation which collapses over itself (the fearsome hitman Brother Mouzone, who obviously belongs to the Muslim brotherhood and reads Harper´s magazine is also one oft he more remarkable characters of the series). Marlo Stanfield who starts a war with the Barksdale organisation is a young gangster who is primarily driven by lust for power and who is quite expressionless in most other respects. All he strives for is „wearing the crown“ and he is even more ruhtless in ordering killings for minor reasons than Avon. Proposition Joe embodies the „reason of state“ among the Baltimore drug dealers. Like most other dealers he simply wants to sell his drugs and refrains from brutality. Nevertheless he is clever at manipulating situations to his own advantage. A friendly fat uncle who officially repairs radios and watches he is almost a highly likeable character. He meets his end as he gets betrayed by his own nephew to Marlo who wants to take over Joe´s drug supply line via the organisation of the Greek and to take revenge for Joe´s accidental collusion with Omar. Omar Little is the most idiosyncratic (and, actually, a bit strange) character of the series. He lives by robbing other drug dealers (and, occasionally, giving away drugs to junkies for free) making him a bit a Robin Hood-like character. He is highly intelligent, fearless and feared by other drug dealers, homosexual and even seems to possess superhuman qualities and pain tolerance. Nevertheless he gets killed by 12 year old Kenard in the end, the probably most sinister and sociopathic character of the series (next to female/tomboy killer Snoop).

You have bad mothers in The Wire, like drug addicted Raylene who lets her husband living with her despite he had been sexually abusive towards his children in the past or De`Londa who becomes furious over her son Namond as he proves incompetent as a drug dealer. You have weak family ties, not only illustrated in the Barksdale family where they (sexually) betray each other but also in the case of McNulty. Chris Partlow, Marlo´s primary enforcer, on the other hand seems to be devoted to his family, despite he has the highest body count of all he cannot stand being spared from his family for a longer time (he gets desperate because of this when he is on the run from Omar) and he also displays geniune care for his subordinates. If he wasn´t a killer Chris also comes in as an example of being a somehow nice guy as well as a ruthless criminal. In the end he goes to prison for life after being assured by Marlo that his family will be taken care of. One of the more astonishing (and uncanny) scenes of the series is to see how little the gangsters seem to care about being thrown into prison for many years or for the rest of their lives, contrasting and effectively destroying their assumed struggle for a good life which made them criminals in the first place. The seaport workers (occasionally or more systematically) engage in petty crime, their trade union, led by Walter Sobotka, is forced to support the criminal activities of the organisation of „the Greek“ as they need to collect money for their political struggle in order to survive as the seaport is under threat from environmental legislation, prestige projects to use the territory for other purposes and, most of all, technological progress rendering more and more traditional jobs obsolete. It is depicted how Sobotka and his trade union (as an epitome for American labour) are alone in their struggle with nobody showing interest or affection for their concerns. The second season sets in as the trade union gets into a struggle for the approval of the church with the police, an actually petty feud which however causes officer Stan Valchek to react furiously on a personal level and, despite that, professional as he tries to investigate obvious criminal activities of the union. The Greek, an unassuming elderly gentleman, heads a criminal organisation which engages in various criminal activities from drug trade and smuggling to human trafficking. According to David Simon the Greek is an embodiement of unfettered capitalism, using and abusing American labour indirectly for the purpose of enrichment. The second ignition for season 2 is 13 young women from Eastern Europe found dead in a container in which they were shipped to become sex workers in America. Tommy Carcetti who is quick to run for major and, then, for governor, is an opaque figure and it is difficult to distinguish whether his actions as a politician are motivated from pushing his career or promoting the common good. As the series continues, Carcetti gets more and more swallowed by career motivations and what originally could be held as emanations of rhetoric talent sounds more and more unbearable as stereotypical and disposable statements of a career politician. One of the most memorable scenes of the series is when it is disussed in the city council about who is responsible for the dire financial situation and no one is willing to accept any responsibility. Dire straits is also the condition for the local newspaper which gets sandwiched between depleting funds and capitalist diktat from above making its editors turning a blind eye on unethical and sensationalist journalism in order to attract attention and secure their position (they finally get the Pulitzer Prize which they hope makes them more immune but it is foreseeable that the obvious flaws will sooner or later be uncovered). The most uncanny season is the fourth which depicts the situation at public schools for the children of the black lower class. The children are brutal, refuse to learn anything that is not of practical use for their future in the streets and, in most cases, obviously don´t even understand content that is more abstract (which is quite common among humans yet in that case comes in a more undisguised fashion). Nevertheless Pryzbylewski becomes a devoted teacher who cares for his pupils. Academics from the university try to set up programs to improve their situation but they eventually fail, not least to lack of funding (with the academics regarded as unworldly and quixotic by the police and Dr. Parenti, the sociologist being a bit a colourless figure who however is at least exited about how the scientific community will applaud his findings after the program got terminated).

Despite being suspenseful and exiting and, at its core, a great crime series, despite being informative, epic and pandemonium-like and despite high critical acclaim The Wire was a moderate success in commercial terms and proved a bit too complex for a larger audience. At the same time The Wire was popular all across the political spectrum as liberals, conservatives, Christians, Marxists, etc. were able to draw out something that seems to confirm their worldview. Simon however strongly opposes ideological dogma, according to him the main endeavour of the series was to show the complexity of the city, demanding a complex and multidimensional understanding of problems in order to effectively cope with them. Despite his strong standing against asocial neoliberal capitalism (Simon says the dimension of collective responsibility has become refuted, even viewed upon as obscene in nowadays America – the question of individual and collective responsibility in the makeup of a good society is something we accidentally just had in the note about Michael Neder) The Wire isn´t so openly and outspokenly critical towards neoliberalism in the end (maybe because the producers did not want to effectively polarise and repel the more conservative audience). The Wire does not tell why Balitmore became such a dangerous place (or why crime rates fell in many American (inner) cities in the later 1990s, excluding Baltimore) or why you have drug abuse in any Western city but usually not such high levels of crime as you have in many American cities. The Wire is, in the end, an overly pessimistic series. – But the big wheel keeps on turning, and as for now good night, po-pos. Good night, fiends. Good night, hoppers. Good night, hustlers. Good night, scammers. Good night to everybody. Good night to one and all.