Language as a Rope Between Nodes of Consciousness across Gaia’s Body: Plato’s Meno and Heidegger

“And yet, you’re saying yes, almost automatically, suddenly, sometimes irreversibly. Your picking it up means the call has come through. It means more: you’re its beneficiary, rising to meet its demand, to pay a debt. You don’t know who’s calling or what you are going to be called upon to do, and still, you are lending your ear, giving something up, receiving an order. It is a question of answerability. Who answers the call of the telephone, the call of duty, and accounts for the taxes it appears to impose?

The project of presenting a telephone book belongs to the anxiety registers of historical recounting. It is essentially a philosophical project, although Heidegger long ago arrested Nietzsche as the past philosopher. Still, to the extent that Nietzsche was said to philosophize with a hammer, we shall take another tool in hand, one that sheds the purity of an identity as tool, however, through its engagement with immateriality and by the uses to which it is put: spiritual, technical, intimate, musical, military, schizonoid, bureaucratic, obscene, political. Of course, a hammer also falls under the idea of a political tool, and one can always do more than philosophize with it; one can make it sing or cry; one can invest it with the Heideggarian cri/ecrit the Schreiben/Schrei of technical mutation. Ours could be a sort of tool, then, a technical object whose technicity appears to dissolve at the moment of essential connection.

When does the telephone become what it is? It presupposes the existence of another telephone, somewhere, though its atotality as apparatus, its singularity, is what we think of when we say “telephone.” To be what it is, it has to be pluralized, multiplied, engaged by another line, high strung and heading for you. But if thinking the telephone, inhabited by new modalities of being-for you. But if thinking the telephone, inhabited by new modalities of being-called, is to make genuinely philosophical claims – and this includes the technological, the literary, the psychotheoretical, the antiracist demand – where but in the forgetting of philosophy can these claims be located? Philosophy is never where you expect to find it; we know that Niezsche found Socrates doing dialectics in some back street alley. The topography of thinking shifts like the California coast: “et la philosophie n’est jamais la ou on l’attend,” writes Jean-Luc Nancy in L’oubli de la philosophie. Either it is not discoverable in the philosopher’s book, or it hasn’t taken up residence in the ideal, or else it’s not living in life, not even in the concept: always incomplete, always, unreachable, forever promising at once its essence and its existence, philosophy identifies itself finally with this promise, which is to say, with its own unreachability. It is no longer a question of a “philosophy of value,” but of philosophy itself as value, submitted, as Nancy argues, to the permanent Verstellung, or displacement, of value. Philosophy, love of wisdom, asserts a distance between love and wisdom, and in this gap that tenuously joins what it separates, we shall attempt to set up our cables.

Our line on philosophy, always running interference with itself, will be accompanied no doubt by static. The telephone connection houses the improper. Hitting the streets, it welcomes linguistic pollutants and reminds you to ask, “Have I been understood?” Lodged somewhere amount politics, poetry, and science, between memory and halluciniation, the telephone necessarily touches the state, terrorism, psychoanalysis, language theory, and a number of death-support systems. Its concept has preceded its technical installation. Thus we are inclined to place the telephone not so much at the origin of some reflection but as a response, as that which is answering a call.

Perhaps the first and most arousing subscribers to the call of the telephone were the schizophrenics, who created a rhetoric of bionic assimilation – a mode of perception on the alert, articulating itself through the logic of transalive coding. The schizophrenic’s stationary mobility, the migratory patterns that stay in place offer one dimension of the telephonic incorporation. The case studies we consult, including those of the late nineteenth century, show the extent to which the schizo has distributed telephone receivers along her body. The treatment texts faithfully transcribe these articulations without, however, offering any analysis of how the telephone called the schizophrenic home. Nor even a word explaining why the schizo might be attracted to the carceral silence of the telephone booth.

But to understand all this we have to go the way of language. We have to ask what “to speak” means. R.D. Laing constructs a theory of schizophrenia based, he claims, on Heidegger’s ontology, and more exactly still, on Heidegger’s path of speech, where he locates the call of conscience. This consideration has made it so much the more crucial for us to take the time to read what Heidegger has to say about speaking and calling, even if he should have suspended his sentences when it came to taking a call. Where Laing’s text ventrilocates Heidegger, he falls into error, placing the schizo utterance on a continent other than that of Heidegger’s claim for language. So, in a sense, we never leave his side, but we split, and our paths part. Anyway, the encounter with Laing has made us cross a channel.”

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The Telephone Book: Technology, Schizophrenia, Electric Speech

Avital Ronell

At MIT, I posted the following to my Facebook page:

“Meditations on Science and Religion. 14. 20100118. German-American warfare Geist, us, and Game Theory.

January 18, 2010 at 6:16am

I am conducting a social experiment with my Facebook page based upon what I have learned so far from studies of Game Theory.

You are the subjects.

Each of us naturally have generous spirits, and thus are inclined to cooperate in many social situations.

In well mix populations, cooperator behavior has a large fitness cost associated with it and in many cases is dominated by a “selfish” cheater strategy.

An example, of such a social situation is a subway car.

In such a setting, each individual maintains a highly selfish strategy. No reputation exists between individuals.

Thus, over time, we become disillusioned with cooperation and are more inclined to cheat.

This is how I was lead to nihilism towards the end of my studies at UC Berkeley.

Within a structured population, however, the relative fitness parameters of cooperators and cheaters change.

In many social “games,” cooperative behavior may thrive in structured populations.

For example, space promotes cooperation in the Prisoner’s Dilemma.

In spatially structured populations playing the Prisoner’s Dilemma significant propensities to cooperate can evolve which contrasts with well-mixed populations where the levels of cooperation converge to zero. In spatial settings individuals with a higher readiness to cooperate can thrive by forming clusters and thereby reducing exploitation by less cooperative individuals.

Note how the contents of this page are not accessible to the “general” Internet public.

There is a very good reason for this touched upon in this article in today’s New York Times Science section:

For simulations of the evolutionary dynamics in structured populations see:

The Tragedy of the Commons is an n-player Prisoner’s Dilemma.

The evolution of cooperative behavior is a key topic for our shared futures.

Evolving Cooperation, Altruism, and Selfless Behavior in beings-in-the-world is major challenge for mother Nature and ourselves.

Resolution of the Tragedy of the Commons emerges when beings-in-the-world evolve towards such “selfless” behaviors.

I embrace the challenge of resolving the Tragedy of the Commons.

So far, I have learned that cooperation may dominate cheating in particular settings.

For example, within the network of the 232 human individuals I have denoted as “Friends” on this Facebook page.

Within such a social environment, a human society – a tribe, an individual (myself) is subject to repeated encounters with the same set of individuals (you).

Reputation can be built in a way that is simply impossible within the well mixed environment.

In this way, I have been able to share my thoughts on a very controversial subject without too much trouble.

Before starting this experiment, I have not been able to share the complexity of my views and experiences as a Turkish-American man living in post-9/11 America.

It is truly liberating and wonderful to finally share them with others.

I approach teaching my views to others through the “lens” of the chilling similarities between pre-1945 Germany and the present day United States.

Thus, the interest in Germans such as Hegel, Adorno, and Heidegger.

It has been interesting to observe the evolution of thoughts in my friends and myself as I conduct this ongoing experiment.

Truth may emerge from our interactions thereby leading to constructive discussions on the subject.

Peaceful solutions may emerge.

From positions of Truth, we may then move with more grace, compassion, and Love as American beings-in-the-world.

The Principles of The Way: Life, Infinity, and Love.”

Several years pass and I find this in a friend written on 8/31,

Me: “I have been thinking a lot in my time at my new job about education and science. I have realized in my work last year teaching African-American kids in South Atlanta that the school in America is fundamentally flawed in some very major ways. My kids in that classroom had so much trouble internalizing the science I was trying to teach. In my new job as a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Minnesota I am working on basic research, but long term my passion is education. I see bringing together the humanities and the science in some ways that I have yet to really conceptualize to try to bring these ideas to kids that may not be so inclined to the mathematical or the highly technical. Perhaps engendering basic wonder in the sacred dimension of nature via the aesthetic and the arts is a way to do this? In this way, I am exploring poetry.

I found a text by a professor, Jennifer Anna Gosetti-Ferencei

(, who has a Ph.D. in philosophy from Villanova University that I would like to discuss with you. It is entitled, “Heidegger, Holderlin, and the Subject of Poetic Language: Toward a New Poetics of Dasein.”

A quote from the text, “In this context, Heidegger’s thinking then defines, according to the law of an “essential” destiny, the essence of the poem, indeed of poetic language itself. If has been pointed out that Heidegger both comes closer to Holderlin than any other reader ever has to any poet, and, at the same time, that “Holderlin says the exact opposite of what Heidegger makes him say” (Paul de Man) – that “Holderlin’s poetry is turned into its opposite by the use Heidegger makes of it” (Otto Poggeler). Derrida has suggested that Heidegger’s interpretations are a “catastrophe,” and the reader who takes note of the political undercurrents in Heidegger’s interpretations – particularly the lecture courses on Holderlin – in puzzled in comparing Heidegger’s political gestures to Holderlin’s largely ignored – and in Heidegger’s reading almost silenced – political thinking; this difference, furthermore, has not yet been given an audible voice in philosophical accounts of their Zwiesprache. Heidegger mentions Holderlin’s own worldview (Weltanschauung) – which includes an unwavering hope for democracy, a peaceful, “feminine,” even defenseless (GA 39, 17) image of Germania, of what Holderlin calls “human rights” (menschliche Rechte) – only in order to dismiss it, in mid-1930s Germany, as “untimely for our hard times” (GA 39, 17-18). Holderlin’s “my love is the human race” (“meine Liebe ist das Menschengeschlecht”) (WB 1, 813), belongs to a humanism left behind even by Heidegger’s later critique of technology, for all its merits.”

This passage is just a quick snapshot of the new feminine understanding I have of what started a couple years ago as a very angry male engagement with Heidegger. I am curious to find more about Holderlin and to see what he says and how he with Heidegger can point us back to some sacred dimension that has been lost in the west. I am very passionate about engendering in people the sacred dimension of nature, that through science can be revealed, in a way that brings people into a state of mind that they want to learn the equations and other hardcore machinery of theory and experiment. Ultimately, bringing in minorities and disadvantaged youth excluded by the elitist American educational system hinges on this.

This is complex, and I need to talk to you about it as we have had many conversations about this while I was at Princeton, but only in a very underdeveloped iway. I have grown greatly in the past couple of years and I hope to engage our conversation, even in the digital vortex that is the Internet of Facebook and email. You helped me greatly in my journey and I wish to share again in the dialog that we had across the science-humanities divide.

For the West to survive past the 21st century we need this. Kind of grand, but true.”

Friend: “Thank you for your thoughts. Indeed Heidegger allows us to think of nature as something that “is” just as human beings “are”. In a way we are all connected to whatever “is”. In think it can be deeply spiritual to be able to think this way. There is also a dimension of mystery and “excess” in whatever we may claim to know to be, because we never have access to what the thing is in itself – its being in its own terms – but only to what it reveals to us and we can apprehend through our perceptions and articulate through our modes of thinking and speaking. That is why silence also plays a central role in Heidegger’s philosophy. Silence can allow us to “listen” to other beings, let them speak to us. What differs between humans and other beings seems to be mainly their ability to see their future as open possibility. This is the case because humans can be aware of death, and understand themselves as beings towards death. The lesson that we then learn is that we need to make the most of life soon and now before death takes us away from any possibility of interaction with the mystery, appearances, revelations and even inaccessible “excess” of life. Cheers!

We want our students to dwell about and appreciate the mysteries of life and live out their possibilities as beings towards death. I think that what makes it harder for the lower classes to take a deeper interest in studying is precisely because they see their range of possibilities scrunched. It is better not to dream, not to wonder, not to go outside of what you know you need to survive, and then you won’t be disappointed. And this is super sad because, in the of life, all of us should be able to look back and say: you know what, this life was indeed worth leaving! But then again, what makes a life worth living? Maybe there is something we need to learn from our students first.

I have been studying Plato’s Meno. Teaching as dialogue and a searching together. It is difficult to buy the whole soul stuff, but nevertheless very interesting and fun to read!”

It is time to read Meno today. Find it on MIT classics page here. Read and have fun.

Learning is in the relationship with silence, the exchange of hearts and mind in the langauge-games of life.

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About kayaerbil

I am a Berkeley educated chemistry Ph.D. who is moving into the area of working on developing appropriate technology for communities that are subjected to socio-economic oppression. The goal is to use simple and effective designs to empower people to live better lives. Currently, I am working with Native Americans on Pine Ridge, the Lakota reservation in South Dakota. I am working with a Native owned and run solar energy company. We are currently working on building a compressed earth block (CEB) house that showcases many of the technologies that the company has developed. The CEB house is made of locally derived resources, earth from the reservation. The blocks are naturally thermally insulating, keeping the house cool in the summer and warm in the winter. Eventually, a solar air heater and photovoltaic panels will be installed into the house to power the home and keep it warm, while preserving the house off the grid. A side project while in Pine Ridge is a solar computer. I hope to learn about blockchain encryption software for building microgrids. In addition, it is an immediate interest of mine to involve local youth in technology education.
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