Archive for civilization

Dilemma Tale

Posted in Revolution, Sustainable farming with tags , , , , on October 30, 2017 by rgwallace

Puerto Rico 1Perses, lay up these things in your heart, and do not let that Strife who delights in mischief hold your heart back from work, while you peep and peer and listen to the wrangles of the court-house. –Hesiod (700 BC)

Perhaps we suffer a neoliberal hangover believing victory to be found in choosing which ecological catastrophe will annihilate civilization.

Will it be the metabolic rifts disconnecting human health and food from the quasi-equilibria of a variety of ecosystemic cycles spooling apart? Will it be the metabolic shifts in the new pathogens and pollutions capitalism selects for but we payless cannot survive for long? Or is the bourgeois episteme unraveling across multiple domains, producing monsters of omission and commission alike?

Do we play the Tannhäuser, our fates at momenta beyond men and gods alike, finding solace in a death drive proving our rival priests wrong? Will there be relief in an epitaph that reads, “I…was…right!” Or, the golden age in us, will we find the path out the grand trap in the faces of our children?

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Auld Lang Sine

Posted in Ecological resilience, Evolution, Revolution with tags , , , , , , on December 24, 2012 by rgwallace

Wittgenstein Rabbit DuckIn the acceptance of depravity the sense of the past is most fully captured. What is a ruin but Time easing itself of endurance? Corruption is the Age of Time. –Dujan Barnes (1936)

In 1939 Ludwig Wittgenstein gave a series of lectures on mathematics in his Cambridge rooms. Alan Turing was among a small cadre of students who attended. David Leavitt, Turing’s biographer, writes of the lectures as if Turing got the better of Wittgenstein. Read the class transcripts, compiled from the students’ notes, and you might conclude otherwise.

The conflict centered about the Platonic nature of mathematics. Are the descriptions mathematicians derive embodiments of the natural phenomena they address? The details matter, of course, but in some sense the argument appears moot at this point. Turing’s invention, one on every desk and lap and palm—flying planes, guiding surgery, reconstructing evolution—appears to refute Wittgenstein the world over.

Wittgenstein would likely beg to differ, thank you very much. Useful things, however ubiquitous, can be contingent or even ludicrous. We could even go so far as to ask whether computers are false—or antibiotics or any one of civilization’s intrinsics—however mission-critical to our (historically passing) way of being. Like ritual sacrifice or birds of omen or, sadly for some still among us, the antebellum South.

However deductive modernity might be, the beginning is ever fucking nigh.