metaphysical & metaphorical musings : art, architecture, and arithmetic

Friday, February 11, 2011


The myth shows itself in the incompatibility of formal with informal (irrational) systems.  The human mind, in dealing with pure formal logic, will break down; and the machine, when grappling with self-reference, will do the same.  The search for absolute truth in mathematics will break the human mind, and it will also break mathematics.

Dangerous Knowledge, or, the prehistory of π.  The myth is not a new one.

Metamythics: a step outside of the myth, the level-jumping of self-awareness so important to the constitution of the math-myth.  Mise en abyme – the story within the story; here, the inner is also the outer.  The figure is also its own ground—math en abyme.  Turtles all the way down.

The figure of the accident is self-reference, the point where logic is pushed into convulsion and refraction, overflows its bounds into a new logic.  The problem of infinite repeatability, the figure of the grid; there’s only space for metastatic extension, not for overflow past limit at the point of logical hemorrhage.

The figure of self-reference doesn’t directly present itself at Pruitt-Igoe.  This is appropriate, since the problem here is the formalism of mathematics; it shouldn’t be expected to supply a solution, especially since it’s a key component of disaster in the myth.  Pruitt-Igoe was a disaster of formalism and mathematics, but applied formalism and mathematics; self-reference, in π and Gödel incompleteness, arises out of more abstract mathematical endeavors.  Nonetheless, disaster arises from the application of mathematics to problems of human beings.  I feel like this will probably be useful in approaching the myth-logic as a contrast.

As seen in Mythematics III, the human and the technology are intertwined at Pruitt-Igoe; the mathematical architecture requires human agency to achieve its self-destruction.  We can see this also in Max’s relationship with Euclid.  In pure mathematics, we’re seduced into thinking that the problem is inherently there; but it took incredible acts of human creativity to set the conditions and bring the accident about.  Technology’s entelechy progresses toward disaster, with our help it finds its limit.

Focusing on the object’s circulation is too ego-centric; rather, shouldn’t we be paying more attention to how things circulate around the object?  Does Max’s number circulate amongst the characters, or do the characters circulate through the number?  Isn’t the Pruitt-Igoe disaster defined, not by the circulation of objects, but the circulation of the social relative to the object, supplying the all-important speed?  Didn’t Gödel allow mathematics to circulate within itself, and leave us to figure it out?

The voice of the object: “You’re all egotistical—that’s ok, I can work with that.  Here’s something shiny.  Isn’t that nice?  Life can be shiny too—you can live in the future, just stick with me.  Say, have you ever heard of Plato?”

The accident shows us ourselves.  (Achtung, baby: spoilers.)  A preference for applied research over pure research, practicality over creativity for creativity’s sake.  The humanistic study is self-destructing.  Cultural studies, theory, aims at elucidating and improving the cultural clusterfuck in which we find ourselves.  But here, we fall back on infinite repeatability—let’s apply Marx the same way we apply Newton—turtles all the way down, stripped of qualitative novelty, ready to slip quietly into the archive’s grid. 

Plato and Play-Doh: the persistence of consistency versus the fun of essential mutability.  Wouldn’t you rather sculpt than use a mold?

No comments:

Post a Comment