Generations I

(Douglas Duff) #1
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Generations I

[download audio]

In Attendance:

TJ WIlliams
Johnny Davis
Barrett Avner
Davor Löffler

John, Barrett, Davor and TJ meet for a smaller arc of a conversation based around larger circles. Davor’s Generative Realities helped to frame the conversation as these four philosophers took an outside stance while circumnavigating the global malaise and various planetary issues. Tangental topics of AOC, Andrew Yang, UBI tied in with ideas of Pleroma, shared vision, creativity. The group only scratched the surface…

Referenced Reading:

Related Discussions:


Cosmos Café [4/16] - Seeking Economic Freedom, Peace and Sanity
(Davor Löffler) #2

Thank you all, it was a great conversation! I just remembered that there is a short version of Mühlmanns book in English. In my opinion this is one of the most important books / theories of the last decades and should or maybe will be called a classic one day (maybe he is something for humanities what Frege was for mathematics and logic or sth in this vein). Definitely once you understand it you will see the world with different eyes. The original book is somewhat difficult to read, while the theory is not so complicated. This short version is a very straight forward and comprehensible summary. If you want to take a look at it, you’ll find it attached. He is originally an art historian and links this to cultural aesthetics (the perception of the sublime, for example in flags as we talked about or triumphant city architecture like the “procession roads” in the capitals of empires, like Rome, Paris or Berlin leading to the symbolic gate in the holy center like the Arc de Triomphe) and rhetorics (decorum as sedimentation and transmission of the virtues selected after MSC-events).

“MSC generates cultural founding events. Founding events can take the form of murders on religious founders. Founding events can take the form of victorious battles and wars won, but above all battles lost which lead to cultures reorganizing, retaliating and triumphing. […] If an MSC event always separates cooperation from conflict and must trigger off strong stress emotions in order to, by means a positive assessment, create a phase of relaxation and furthermore, if this relaxation is inevitably the result of separating cooperation from conflict and therefore is infused with cooperative behaviour in its entirety, then this complete MSC complex of stress, emotion, relaxation and cooperation is to a large extent memoactive. That means it is excellently suited as a enculturating trait which can be transmitted over many generations in the future.” (27 f.)

"The western cities’ characteristic topographical structures resulted from the need to protect its people. That leads us back to the MSC principle. Cities were constructed as fortifications. Right up until the widespread use of artillery the city walls and city gates were an indispensable means of defence. As soon as the need for protection begins to predominate when settlements are being built ‘gate communities’ begin to arise. This applies to antiquity, the Middle Ages and earlier Modern times and today’s luxury ghettos in USA and Asia with all their security precautions. All these consist of a ring shaped enclosed area and gates are built through which one gains access to the inside. The gate in the surrounding wall creates the characteristic structure of this kind of settlement. It is the transversal.
By means of the transversal curve the main boulevard always appears leading from the main gate to the central square. It forms a line which cuts the surrounding ring. Intersecting at right angles two straight lines is known as orthogonal in classical geometry. In topology one generally calls the orthogonal, transversal, because topology does not pay attention as to whether it is dealing with Euclidian straight lines or curves with all possible curvatures. In the city gate a sphere is intersected
by a curve. The location of MSC has the topological form of the sphere. "

Ok, good night! :slight_smile:

Heiner_Muhlmann_MSC_Maximal_Stress_Cooperation.pdf (254 KB)


Am Di., 26. März 2019 um 15:52 Uhr schrieb Douglas Duff via Infinite Conversations


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(T J Williams) #3

Thank you for the link and again for your well presented thoughts - it was indeed a great conversation!

I will definitely read it but Muehlmann’s* “maximal stress cooperation” already makes a lot of sense; one thing I appreciate about Gebser is his clarity on how crises fueled the “mutations” which ushered in successive structures of consciousness. World historian William H McNeill also spoke of cultural development as a series of ‘layers’ where cooperation on one level enables a group to compete more effectively on the next, etc… For me, conceptions like these ground more philosophical ideas on culture such as Spengler’s “Ur-symbol” or Sloterdijk’s “sphere” formation (though the latter does touch upon the importance of city walls in that regard).

*As soon as I figure out how to properly type vowels with umlauts I shall. LOL


(Douglas Duff) #4

This link should allow you to review the recording. I will have it processed tomorrow.

Great that the four of you came together! I look forward to viewing this when I can and adding in humble feedback. I only heard the short bit about Alaskan UBI that Barrett mentioned, which is funded by oil revenue “reserves” correct? Too bad this won’t be scaled up to the level of the entire country, or that some sort of environmental tax won’t be used to re-fund the citizens any time soon.

Additional Link to Vimeo:


(john davis) #5

I am currently reading Topography and Deep Structure in Plato There is a lot of information about and ancient buildings and walls and the inner workings of city-states. Looking at these ancient boundary objects we can get another layer of Plato’s philosophy. I imagine this resonates with your observations, Davor, about trends in the rise of our techno-cultural configurations. We have much to learn and as much to unlearn. We should never underestimate the power of unlearning. Elizabeth Bishop, an eccentric poet, said, " the Art of Losing isnt hard to master, lose something everyday…"

Yes, and as we let go of deficient forms of the the mental structure it is no wonder that we are shocked to find that underneath that is amazing material that was unnoticed and ignored in our official educations that nurtured narrow Neo-liberal interests. The magical and mythical never went away they just went underground, waiting to irrupt. These forces are irrupting through our technology. William Irwin Thompson, a great Gesberian scholar, speaks of this capacity of techno-gadgets to induce trance states in us through which suppressed ancient spirits and daemonic forces reappear in get into our public discourse. It is not the Russians we need to fear but our own suppressed daemons. If, late at night, you have searched the web for new ideas, you can notice these odd and wierd manifestations. This kind of serendipitous and syncronistic happenings are on constant display and is sometimes disorienting to see these old ideas putting on new costumes.

I wish you could have joined in the quartet, making it into a quintet! Maybe next time. I imagine we will have more of these meetups and can host more of these events. Is there a way, Doug, once the video is up, to set up a space for these comments as we did with Social Dreaming? I would like for us to host more of these kinds of gatherings. We need to get better at creating momentum, for the long term and short term, and a new kind of memory could emerge. I hope we can create spaces so that theory and practice can co-specify, a space where logic and visionary episodes can co-evolve. We need scholarly rigor, creative rants and plenty of time to revise! We are already doing this, as Davor observes, so let us do more of it and do it on purpose.


(Davor Löffler) #6

Hi there,

just a quick follow up - so this was of course still a general introduction and it was great to just let the conversations flow and generate new thoughts. But if you want I could so to speak “finish” the intro and focus a bit on metaphysics and economy to provide the full(er) scope of the work and from there on you can see how it may relate to your thoughts and what you can derive from it.

TJ said: "
World historian William H McNeill also spoke of cultural development as a
series of ‘layers’ where cooperation on one level enables a group to compete more effectively on the next, etc…" I’ve tried to find it but couldn’t - would you have a concrete reference? I do accept links without Umlaut.

John: Thanks for the tip on Plato - maybe this is some sort of analogy as in the 60’s when Plato was reinterpreted by Toronto media theory, now after the spacial turn it is theory of space and embodiment?

A sidenote as a link to the question on metaphysics and structues of cognition: the Greek did not have a word for space, only for place.




(john davis) #7

That is very intriguing. I know little about Toronto media theory but I will have to look it up. I am very drawn to topological figures and this book I mention seems to suggest how Plato has internalized the size and shape of Athens, almost like another character, in the dialogues. Timeus, is also is of imagery of the lost Atlantis, the fabled city, that went under water. That echos so much of what the future of Manhattan, the great metropolis, might become if we fail to act now. This gets personal!

I would love it! TJ, I hope, will continue to bring his scholarly interests to the mix. And I look forward to hearing more from @Barrett.A_87 . Also, I want to get a chance to study the essay you posted. This is exciting.

Now, that we have a video to share with our community, I expect others may be drawn to the next part of the introduction. Thanks again, Davor. Let us know what the best time for you is and we will make it happen.


(Davor Löffler) #8

Just a quick reply in form of some links:

Toronto School: Innis, Havelock, McLuhan

The connection of media and philosophical thought according to Havelock/Toronto School:

“For nearly thirty years Eric A. Havelock advocated the view that alphabetic literacy was chiefly, or even solely, responsible for the Greek Enlightenment and thus provided the foundations of western civilization. In this view the creation of the Greek alphabet (and it alone) was able to bring about widespread literacy, which in turn radically and permanently transformed human consciousness. Alphabetic literacy enabled thought to transcend the limitations of “oral mind,” represented by Homer, to become the instrument of logic, philosophy and sci- ence-an entirely new kind of consciousness, whose first great exponent was Plato. Havelock’s theory first appeared in 1963 in his Preface to Plato, was developed further in The Greek Concept of Justice and in a series of papers collected in The Literate Revolution in Greece and Its Cultural Consequences and received its last compendious formulation in The Muse Learns to Write.”

Havelock: Preface to Plato - PDF


(john davis) #9

I remember reading Havelock a long time ago. Thanks for the links, Davor.


(T J Williams) #10

It’s a basic premise of The Human Web: A Bird’s-Eye View of World History (New York, 2003) which he co-wrote with his son J R McNeill (an environmental historian of renown in his own right - among other things proponent of the need to distinguish the Anthropocene from the Holocene to highlight specific human contributions to the rate of current damage).
“A web, as we see it, is a set of connections that link people to one another.” (p. 3)
“All webs combined cooperation and competition. The ultimate basis of social power is communication that sustains cooperation among people… If a cooperative framework can be maintained, the larger the web gets, the more wealth, power, and inequality its participating populations exhibit.
“But, paradoxically, hostile competition also fostered a parallel process… Competition at one level… promoted cooperation at other levels.” (p. 5)


(john davis) #11

This process,perhaps, goes on at the cellular level. The boundary between outside/ inside is maintained by the lipids, some of which like water, some of which dislike water. The boundary has an inside and an outside dynamic. This boundary maintenance ( not the nucleus) determines what goes in and out, what is friend or foe. Many of the interior critters that make up the community of the cell are fixed in the same routines, some are more able to move around, but the DNA is not the boss that gives orders to the members. This old notion, of Crick and Watson, is a hangover from the top-down, corporate management style, of the fifties. The DNA is more like an inert library at the center of the cell, that the active members of the cell read and interpret. We have a much more dynamic situation than we can adequately model, as the cell, is a community, within a community. We know that the prokaryotic cells were once outside of the cell but became members of the eukariotic cells which hosted them during the great explosion of oxygen, that wiped out many prokaryotic cells. The prokaryotic cells were allergic to Oxygen, and sought a safe haven within the walls of the eukaryotes. We can see that this arrangement was beneficial. So we have foreigners mixing with the natives in new living arrangements. Lynn Margulis points this out in her version of Gaia theory. Are we scaled up versions of cells? Are we a parallel process to these ancient cellular mergers and acquisitions? We may need to coordinate research in current bio-semiotics with history of technology. This, I think, is already happening.

As we are active agents, with many kinds of constraint and freedom, we are not fixed in a rigid outside/ inside dynamic, but engage with fluid interpreters of signs and symbols that allow us to communicate, as well as clash, with strangers and aliens. As we re-enter and re-exit frames of reference with other communication systems ( human and other than human)and it is easy to imagine that other kinds of drives can begin to emerge than simple fight or flight. We are Second Order creatures, participant/observers, not good soldiers or loyal employees, stuck in a pre-given slot. We can decouple perhaps from the either-or friend foe dynamic and move towards something that we can’t define yet. As we learn how to read different kinds of code ( digital and analogical) we are entering into a new kind of intelligence. Some are suggesting that we are decoupling from the biological as culture reshapes these drives and niches. Biology can’t be reduced to Physics, Culture can’t be reduced to Biology. That is what I imagine some of Davor’s work comes from. A Second Order Culture emerges out of First Order Culture. The Globalization of the Planet seems to mirror this First Order. We are now able to move towards a Second Order but we are still able to make First Order distinctions. Indeed, the capacity to make a distinction is primary at every level of organization. Biotic systems have a first person oriention. We have a personal pronoun’ I’ that interacts with multiple kinds of ‘we’. We are bodymindsigns in action! But it is my view, we have to differentiate from the BORG and explore interior space rather than try to colonize the Cosmos in while operating in a Cartesian grid. This is an amazing phase of evolution we are at the cusp of. We might blow a fuse!

Pardon the broad strokes of my crude style of presentation. As we move between contexts we may need a more trans-contextual style of communique. I am working on this. We are no longer becoming what we were becoming.


(Maia ) #12

Intriguing, Johnny. Can you give a couple of examples of this?


Cosmos Café [4/2] - Musical Rejuvenations
(john davis) #13

That’s a great question, Ariadne, and I find it a challenge to answer as the examples usually arise from a liminal space I enter when I no longer am using the technology to do a search for specific research or have a plan of action I want to make happen. It is more off to the side, something I save and look at later, a glimpse of some face in pain, or an odd turn of phrase in an article. It is usually present when I am in a certain mood and the material finds me receptive. I hear overtones, I feel the presence of something invisible, I marvel at something that I could not have anticipated. Life is like that.

I feel the presence of the Trickster. I am not that interested in scandal but I am drawn to the recent uproar around Jussie Smollett, a gay, black, activist/actor/singer who has managed to enact a master hoax on just about everyone and seems to have gotten away with it legally. He has had a slide into the mud in public opinion.He did not show up for the NAACP awards last night, was fired from job as a leading actor on the hit show Empire, has been mocked by late show comics. But he seems to have had people in high office pull some strings on his behalf. The man who cried victim is become a smooth operator, a manipulator of others for personal gain, hiding behind those who have been dealt a bad deal by society. Smollett and most recently, the young celebrity, Octavia Jade and her notorious actress/mother, are the faces of a highly privileged hypocrisy. I offer this video as an overview of this whirlwind of a scandal, which seems to have landed Jussie ( renamed Jessie by Chris Rock, a dark skinned performer mocks a light skinned fraud) on an easy joke list. I imagine this scandal the tip of an Iceberg, as the Me too movement and the Mueller report expose how Hollywood and Washington, DC. are more fully entangled as a new kind of show business. It is becoming a giant ponzi scheme. The rich lie for each other, then get caught on camera with their hand in the public cookie jar, and posted all over Youtube. Oh the banality of evil! Can we align ourselves with Trickster and make use of these serendipitous events for good rather than for ill? Perhaps.

There is a shift ( I imagine) as the Trickster uses the technology to stage certain tricks on the rich and famous and the fans who have made them rich and famous. It appears that the Trickster is a powerful agent of change, who hides behind and assembles these multi layered scenarios and often triangulates from the margins, trying on different roles, and intruding in public affairs. These large scale scandals happen, leaving the rich and the powerful in their glass houses, with lots of broken glass scattered around the community. It just doesn’t seem to stay localized but the crisis spreads to other glass houses. I could add the recent College Admission Scandals as another related example of how private subterfuge opens up deep fissures in public facades . These are the kinds of odd and weird activity that is generated by Trickster, they are thick with plot and hidden dynamics. Trickster is everywhere and will upset the best laid plans. We need to pay attention to these cracks that we try to collectively paper over. When the ice caps melt and the waters of a heated up ocean start to rise, many a rising career will be floating out to sea. Can we do something for an endangered ecology with these scary clowns causing so much commotion? I wonder. As Shakespeare says, Life is but a walking shadow, a poor player, that struts and frets his hour upon the stage, and then is heard no more.


(Barrett Avner) #14

John, I love the Trickster correlation you made, as Native lore sees the Trickster or Heyoka as a nessesary entity which moves in opposite currents, yet is essential to the gateway of the fourth (or new) world. This is the world we are trying to get to…the Trickster is necessary towards the path of contact with the sacred. We have seen people crucified for the sin of telling the truth, only to have civilizations built upon their lives 500 years later, to be resurrected and crucified again. The dialectical/historical viewpoint underestimates this power of disruption and upset, this is where metaphysics can be a most powerful agent, is in the face of the Heyoka.


(Barrett Avner) #15

I’d like to suggest an Anishinaabe writer, Gerald Vizenor, who wrote a novel called “The Trickster of Liberty”, he draws a lot upon native folklore and Deleuze/Baudrillard.


(john davis) #16

Yes, I agree, and there is a vast literature on Trickster. He is related to Hermes and Mercury and Coyote, those fast talking shape shifters, who love to move between the margins and knock over tables and chairs, turn our plans upside down, let the hot air out of our balloons. I see Trickster operating in the well mannered social set ups that the rich and powerful try to maintain, as they seek to impose a global order upon what they imagine is utter chaos. Chaos will always win! Showing respect for these chaotic forces ( which the mental structure will never tame) is something the magical and mythic are pointing out to us. Those who claim to be post-metaphysical are usually trying to apply a soft sell for some kind of Neo-Liberal ponzi scheme.

Thanks for this suggestion, Barrett, I will look it up. I am glad to know that alternate fictions are happening. Who could make up something as crazy as the Jussie Smollett story? If it were turned into a movie, it would be rejected as “over the top”. It is so melodramatic and yet it is so called ’ real life’. The boundary between fiction and reality is a blur and this is where Trickster loves to fuck with us.


(Maia ) #17

I’ve long admired Vizenor, butnever read The Trickster of Liberty. WIll see if I can I find it!

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Generations II
(Maia ) #18

I feel there is a whole lot more to the Jussie story than we are hearing about in the news. I don’t disagree at all, but I do wish you would go into more detail about how you see “trickster” working in Jussie’s particular story, or at least what we can know of it.

Just by the by: Maia is Hermes/Mercury’s mother. One of the versions of his birth is, naturally, a rape by Zeus. She raises him alone in a cave to keep him hidden from Z. Before Maia was a “nymph” and thus rapable by Zeus, she was a Great Mother Goddess of life and death. “Maia” means : grandmother, good mother, great mother, etc. So really, Hermes is the son of the Great Goddess, no need for Z. at all.


(Maia ) #19

This is the part of your comment I so much resonate with!
I am still thinking about the rest of what you’ve written. Something I can’t put my finger on…


(john davis) #20

I can’t put my finger on it either. That is why I call it Trickster energy, an illusive sense of things out of control. Jussie has fallen prey to this mischief maker and I agree we have yet to figure it all out. My remarks come out of reading a wonderful book Trickster and the Paranormal by George Hansen. He claims that Trickster is an anti-structure energy, and that makes sense to me. I have also noted there are a lot of happy accidents, too. Right now I feel as many of us are that the old institutions are cracking up…setting the stage perhaps for something new.