Category Archives: Physics

The logical ballerinas: “Machine”.

 

 

At Christmas 2009 I went to London with my daughter Lucía. There I took the first notes for a future essay on the metaphysics of machines. My quest was, and still is, to visualize, and to lay out, the model of totality implicit in the very fact that we speak of “machines”.

I believe that we need a new Logos regarding what is now presented as man/machine (and also nature/machine) dualisms. We need new Logos (new spells, new logical ballerinas) in the service of illusion and life, no matter under which forms, no matter within which artificial cosmos.

London. The city of Francis Bacon, who dreamed a technological Eden for human beings. It is a eighteen-year-old Francis Bacon who appears in the sky of this text.

That winter London was almost completely white. Serene. Extremely beautiful. So was my dear thirteen-year-old daughter, who did not stop taking pictures in rusty corners of the subway, or in medieval dark frozen walls where the artificial moss of truly talented graffiti dazzled like if they were new metaphysical essences created inside the Baconian Eden, by Baconian human beings: Scientists creating new essences, new machines. Together. The perfect human society.

We entered the Royal Academy of Arts in London. There was an exhibition of sculptures by Epsein. We contemplated the “Tripod” for a long time: an anthropomorphic machine gun that triggered fascinated horror in our minds.

That night, in the house of some friends, we witnessed a display of interactive techno-magic delivered by the Apple-wizards: kind, gentle artefacts, all of them capable of coordinating with each other in order to offer us almost infinite contents of “artificial” consciousness: music, pictures, movies… It seemed as if any conceivable reality could appear on a huge screen that, surprisingly, also reflected the London buildings at night. Nothing to do with Epsein’s tripod. Nothing to do with the hostile machines of the “Matrix” trilogy.

“Machine”. I find particularly interesting and accurate the first definition that the Royal Spanish Academy gives to this word (in Spanish “Máquina”):

“Machine (from lat. Machĭna, and this from doric gr μαχανά).”

“1. f. Artefact to take advantage of, direct or regulate the action of a force”.

Some years ago I taught some Philosophy courses based on the “Matrix” trilogy. I think that in those courses we could feel that the very idea of “machine” trembled pathetically, in the same way as all my logical ballerinas do. In the Matrix movie Morpheo tells Neo: “Free your mind”. Free your mind from machines?

I suggest to take into consideration the following authors (the first of them is the one who governs in the sky of this text):

1.- Francis Bacon. New Atlantis. The human being, grouped in scientific societies, liberated from false mental-idols, can create a brand (artificial) new world. A world of machines in the service of human beings.

2.- Heidegger [See here still in Spanish]. The question Concerning Technology. The technician does not really do anything. It is the Being which operates through him. The erroneous metaphysical dualism would reduce nature to “object”, to “rex extensa”, to something there, dead indeed, ready to be invaded and used by an “external” human being.

3.- Nishitani. Religion and Nothingness. Effects of the materialistic-Cartesian dualism implicit in the modern scientific vision of technology: objectivization of human beings and of nature as a whole. Alienation, nihilism, isolation, solitude.

4.- Juan David García Bacca. This philosopher wrote a work whose title is Elogio a la Técnica [Praise the Technology]. García Bacca was in fact a lover of technology. And of Poetry. Maybe because a master work of Poetry is also a machine, something able of channeling forces in order to trigger calculated effects. The works of García Bacca should be translated into English to widen their scope, their influence. This is the link of his foundation: http://fundaciongarciabacca.com/, which is located in Caracas (Venezuela).

I offer now my thoughts in a more orderly way:

1.- According to current Physics [See “Physics” still in Spanish] everything moves, orderly, mechanically, obediently to immutable natural laws. The entire universe might be a huge machine, actually the only one: a machine of machines, a machine that might have already coded, inside itself, any possible future “artificial” machine, because in fact the human brain (the alleged origen of the “artificial” machines) might be a machine: also coded, enslaved, subjected to the “big-universe-machine”. But such model does not seem to grasp the possibility that this total-machine could be modified, as if by magic. Actually, by whom? By what? What could have that mighty, unthinkable power of radical transformation of physical laws? In case those laws could change according to eternal laws of modification of laws, then we could not speak of real change (of metaphysical freedom) but of a huge enslaved solitary-God/robot.  

2.- It can also be said that we live in a grammar machine. Vak -the Vedic goddess of the Word- would be the commanding voice of that prodigious machine we call cosmos, or universe, or world. Is she free? Is she coded? Is indeed that goddess just another huge, prodigious machine?

3.- The entire universe, and any universe (any cosmos dancing any ideological music), may be machines in the free hands of something that vedanta might call Brahman: the great dreamer: the great builder of Maya/machines. Every world would be the artificial (lets say even “poetical”) channeling of a love. The love of God if you legitimate this word, this concept [See “Concept”]. It is said that God made the world out of love.

4.- There is a type of machine that fascinates me especially. It is a kind of human exo-skeleton (even exo-soul) that we call “cars”. I use to visit many cars-websites. Many. What subjugates me mostly is the aesthetic struggle, effort, that takes place in the car industry: that huge work focused on achieving the perfect design in order to trigger an unstoppable desire of owning such machines, as if some sort of “evolution of species” were taking place. It is remarkable that such meta-biological evolution does not stop.

5.- Other machines that fascinate me are the so-called “computers”, the big ones, and the very small ones, like those we still call “mobile phones” even tough they actually are small, portable super-computers and super-cameras and super-cinemas and super-universities and many other magical/prodigious things (of course also dangerous things). Many people are worried about those machines, I mean the so-called “smart mobile-phones”. It seems as if somebody looking at them while waiting the bus might be mentally kidnapped, because he is supposed to be watching or “consuming” stupid contents. Few people take into consideration that one person might be reading Kant or Francis Bacon on his “phone” and another one reading truly stupid things on a book. Paper-pages are sacralized simply because they are old, because they have history.  New materials (like the ones used to make the so called “screens”) are waiting for that sacralization. Its a question of time. I truly love paper pages (specially their smell, and their silence): I have spent some of the best moments of my life watching them, utterly fascinated, but I do also love the cold/crystal screen of the computer I am using now to write this text, the computer that makes possible that you (a likely reader living thousands of kilometres away from me) can read it. First time I saw one of my sentences taking existence on the screen of a computer, expanding its length, changing, emerging or disappearing in a mysterious white dimension, I felt I had entered a brand new, delicious world. And I felt deeply moved. We need a new concept, a new word (a new logical ballerina) to honour that what we still call “computers” or “mobile phones” or even “the internet”. Lets work on that.

6.- We should consider the possibility of thinking, and feeling, all our “machines” as changeable, non essential, parts of our biological dimension, in the same way as we think the wings of a butterfly or our legs (we can live without legs). We seem to exist in a poly-morphic physical structure. And it can be said that a car is as biological as the wings of a dragonfly or the heart of a dolphin. But cars (those exo-bodies) are extremely transitory, subdued to extremely cruel laws of survival of the fittest: the fittest for the human being, whatever that might be [See “Human being”].

7.- The portrait of Francis Bacon (the machines-world prophet) I have chosen for this text is surrounded by an inscription that reads: “Si tabula daretur digna animum mallem”. In English: “If one could but paint his mind”. I think we should not paint our mind. The oil might eventually dry it, kill it. The challenge is to transform our mind into a sacred, crystal-transparent machine. And I consider that the best way of building, carving, such prodigious machine is just to clean (to polish) its windows, and to make them as big as possible: as big as the very mind: no wall without windows.

8.- We should transform, elevate (sublimate) our mind into an attentive and thoughtful diamond-machine, a prodigious machine capable of channeling any force (no matter how dark, frustrating or poisoned) in the service of love and beauty: in the service of the core of reality. Of the pure truth. In fact, the more you study and know any reality (cockroaches included), the more you love it, and the more you find beauty in it, even though no reality has reachable bottom: it can infinitely be deeper studied and known.

9.- A huge diamond with an inner dancing room, lets say a stage big enough for the dance of the logical ballerinas: they represent no ultimate reality, but they are beautiful, and necessary. We need them as temporary bewitching models of the prodigious immensity that surrounds and compounds us. We need them to go on loving the world which we take as real. And the bigger and cleaner the diamond walls of our mind, the more beautiful the logical ballerinas that will enter, and dance, inside it. And, from time to time, we should politely, affectionally ask the logical ballerinas (no mater how beautiful they are) to be quiet, and we should just look though the windows of our mind, without models or ideas.

Our mind: our most powerful machine. 

David López

The logical ballerinas: “Matter”.

 


 

“Matter”.

Another logical ballerina. Just a word. “Matter” is only -only?- a word.

And that word comes from the Greek hyle: a symbol that allows us to transmit a model of mind, a concept: something like the one we feel with the symbol “cut wood” or, also, “raw material with which to do anything”. In Latin the symbol is materia, and the concept associated with it would be something like “wood for any type of construction”.

And what is built with matter? The world? The whole reality? Can the matter itself be constructed with something even more esencial? Is the world a sum of material bodies (molecules, atoms, electrons, quarks…) that are enslaved to some eternal, never changing physical laws?

What is a dream made of? I mean, for example, a kiss on the lips of a beloved woman, a kiss wanted, desired, dreamt years ago. Is that kiss – and the hearts and fantasies in it intertwined – constituted by dead atoms subjected to physical laws as implacable and dead as numbers written with chalk on a blackboard?

Why do most models of reality feel dread towards freedom and creativity? Well, some of them do only consider possible the freedom and the creativity of human beings.

What is the matter of our dreams made of?

Some years ago I had this dream: I was walking down the staircase of the apartment building where  I lived until I was nine years old. On that staircase there was a window from which a garden could be seen. Suddenly I knew that I was actually dreaming, that I was inside my own artificial reality and that, therefore, I could build whatever I wanted within the unlimited matter of my mind.

I just wanted to fly. And, flying, I was able to reach the branches of one of the trees. Once there I spent a good while touching with my irreal fingers the dreamlike surface of that vegetable/dreamed entity that was being softly moved by a very real and mysterious  breeze.

The point is that I was able to touch the matter of dreams. It was one of the most extreme and sublime experiences I can remember from this level of consciousness. The matter of dreams/the matter of the real universe. Is there a difference? Shakespeare wrote what follows in the first scene of the fourth act of The Tempest:

Our revels now are ended. These our actors,

As I foretold you, were all spirits and

Are melted into air, into thin air:

And, like the baseless fabric of this vision,

The cloud-capp’d towers, the gorgeous palaces,

The solemn temples, the great globe itself,

Yea all which it inherit, shall dissolve

And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,

Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff

As dreams are made on, and our little life

Is rounded with a sleep.

One may ask: Who -or What- sleeps in that sleep that envelops all lives? And, above all, is that dreamer a creator? Are dreams outcomes of a conscious creative effort?  Is it possible to freely configure matter or is it eternally subject to unconscious, but also omnipotent laws that determine all possible configurations of matter?

“Matter”. Before presenting my ideas / sensations, I would like to suggest the study of the following subjects:

1.- The Arche in ancient Greek Philosophy: What is everything made of? Hylozoism: Thales of Miletus (matter is alive; and all is full of gods).

2.- Matter in Aristotle: that out of which something is made.

3.- Neoplatonist philosophers (Plotinus, Proclus, Simplicius of Cilicia and Iamblichus): matter as pure receptacle without qualities or measure. I recommend once again the Philosophy Dictionary of José Ferrater Mora, now specifically his article “Materia”. It is written in Spanish, and, unfortunately,  not yet translated into English.

4.- Matter according to scientist thinking and to magical thinking (enslaved matter versus free matter).

5.- Dualists. Matter is Evil. Matter in Samkya metaphysics: suffering and slavery derive from identifying with the psychic-mental experience (prakriti or matter).The Charvakas of ancient India: matter is the only reality; and its great. Descartes´ dualism: body and mind as different realities.

6.- Matter in current Physics. The definition of Matter by CERN (Conseil Européen pour la Recherche Nucléaire): “All ordinary matter in today’s universe is made up of atoms. Each atom contains a nucleus composed of protons and neutrons (except hydrogen, which has no neutrons), surrounded by a cloud of electrons. Protons and neutrons are in turn made of quarks bound together by other particles called gluons. No quark has ever been observed in isolation: the quarks, as well as the gluons, seem to be bound permanently together and confined inside composite particles, such as protons and neutrons”. The quark-gluon plasma. A.L.I.C.E.

I proceed now to share some personal philosophical sketches caused by the dance in my mind of the logical ballerina “Matter”:

1 .- First of all I think it might be useful to differentiate between matter as formless “mass” with potential to adopt any form (something that for the Neoplatonists was a receptacle without measures or qualities) and matter as “what fills the space”, or “set of physical bodies” , or “density variations in a unified field”, etc. The first conception of “matter” suggests a kind of “nothing” able, and ready, to be anything. The second is a legalized, enslaved something. I see more life (more truth) in the first concept of matter.

2.- If matter is such in-formable mass, we could imagine a prodigious “mass” that might had, at the same time, infinite potentiality (infinite capacity to adopt forms, to be a natura naturata) and infinite creative power (natura naturans). That prodigious “mass” may be called “God” (the metalogical God: being essentially formless) because it might be able to build any world (any form) with and within  Himself.

3.- I believe that the terms Matter, Maya and Magic might share the same ontological meaning: they name the essence of the show that is presented before our consciousness. And in that show our thoughts and our own psychical and optical self (what appears on the mirrors, what we see in the photos, the parts of our body we can see from the position of our eyes…) should be included. I agree with Schopenhauer that we are the secret directors of the theatre plays of our lives.

4.- According to the above I consider myself a materialist. Why not? I love the matter. A lot. I love the texture -sometimes fierce, terrible- of this prodigious dream. My rejection of materialism, let’s say, dualist materialism (the one that distinguishes between matter and spirit) derives from its contempt for the worlds and, over, for its contempt for the real, “imperfect” human beings.

5.- In a meditative state we can experience something that I would like to call “pure matter”. In such state, the experienced “nothing” [See “Nothing” still in Spanish] seems to be able of configuring itself in any imagined world: any Creation might occur in such prodigious Nothingness.

I return now to that dream in which I could touch the branches of a, lets say metaphysical, tree. What did I really feel while caressing that dreamlike vegetable, while breathing the air and light of “my” own imagination?

I felt astounded and amazed: feelings that -very powerfully- trigger Philosophy.

David López