Gnostic Semiotics. Thought of the Day 63.0


The question here is what is being composed? For the deferment and difference that is always already of the Sign, suggests that perhaps the composition is one that lies not within but without, a creation that lies on the outside but which then determines – perhaps through the reader more than anything else, for after all the meaning of a particular sign, be it a word or anything else, requires a form of impregnation by the receiver – a particular meaning.

Is there any choice but to assume a meaning in a sign? Only through the simulation, or ‘belief’ if you prefer (there is really no difference in the two concepts), of an inherent meaning in the sign can any transference continue. For even if we acknowledge that all communication is merely the circulation of empty signifiers, the impregnation of the signified (no matter how unconnected it may be to the other person’s signified) still ensures that the sign carries with it a meaning. Only through this simulation of a meaning is circulation possible – even if one posits that the sign circulates itself, this would not be possible if it were completely empty.

Since it is from without (even if meaning is from the reader, (s)he is external to the signification), this suggests that the meaning is a result, a consequence of forces – its signification is a result of the significance of various forces (convention, context, etc) which then means that inherently, the sign remains empty; a pure signifier leading to yet another signifier.

The interesting element though lies in the fact that the empty signifier then sucks the Other (in the form of the signified, which takes the form of the Absolute Other here) into it, in order to define an existence, but essentially remains an empty signifier, awaiting impregnation with meaning from the reader. A void: always full and empty or perhaps (n)either full (n)or empty. For true potentiality must always already contain the possibility of non-potentiality. Otherwise there would be absolutely no difference between potentiality and actualization – they would merely be different ends of the same spectrum.

Is General Theory of Relativity a Gauge Theory? Trajectories of Diffeomorphism.


Historically the problem of observables in classical and quantum gravity is closely related to the so-called Einstein hole problem, i.e. to some of the consequences of general covariance in general relativity (GTR).

The central question is the physical meaning of the points of the event manifold underlying GTR. In contrast to pure mathematics this is a non-trivial point in physics. While in pure differential geometry one simply decrees the existence of, for example, a (pseudo-) Riemannian manifold with a differentiable structure (i.e., an appropriate cover with coordinate patches) plus a (pseudo-) Riemannian metric, g, the relation to physics is not simply one-one. In popular textbooks about GTR, it is frequently stated that all diffeomorphic (space-time) manifolds, M are physically indistinguishable. Put differently:

S − T = Riem/Diff —– (1)

This becomes particularly virulent in the Einstein hole problem. i.e., assuming that we have a region of space-time, free of matter, we can apply a local diffeomorphism which only acts within this hole, letting the exterior invariant. We get thus in general two different metric tensors

g(x) , g′(x) := Φ ◦ g(x) —– (2)

in the hole while certain inital conditions lying outside of the hole are unchanged, thus yielding two different solutions of the Einstein field equations.

Many physicists consider this to be a violation of determinism (which it is not!) and hence argue that the class of observable quantities have to be drastically reduced in (quantum) gravity theory. They follow the line of reasoning developed by Dirac in the context of gauge theory, thus implying that GTR is essentially also a gauge theory. This then winds up to the conclusion:

Dirac observables in quantum gravity are quantities which are diffeomorphism invariant with the diffeomorphism group, Diff acting from M to M, i.e.

Φ : M → M —– (3)

One should note that with respect to physical observations there is no violation of determinism. An observer can never really observe two different metric fields on one and the same space-time manifold. This can only happen on the mathematical paper. He will use a fixed measurement protocol, using rods and clocks in e.g. a local inertial frame where special relativity locally applies and then extend the results to general coordinate frames.

We get a certain orbit under Diff if we start from a particular manifold M with a metric tensor g and take the orbit

{M, Φ ◦g} —– (4)

In general we have additional fields and matter distributions on M which are transformd accordingly.

Note that not even scalars are invariant in general in the above sense, i.e., not even the Ricci scalar is observable in the Dirac sense:

R(x) ≠ Φ ◦ R(x) —– (5)

in the generic case. Thus, this would imply that the class of admissible observables can be pretty small (even empty!). Furthermore, it follows that points of M are not a priori distinguishable. On the other hand, many consider the Ricci scalar at a point to be an observable quantity.

This winds up to the question whether GTR is a true gauge theory or perhaps only apparently so at a first glance, while on a more fundamental level it is something different. In the words of Kuchar (What is observable..),

Quantities non-invariant under the full diffeomorphism group are observable in gravity.

The reason for these apparently diverging opinions stems from the role reference systems are assumed to play in GTR with some arguing that the gauge property of general coordinate invariance is only of a formal nature.

In the hole argument it is for example argued that it is important to add some particle trajectories which cross each other, thus generating concrete events on M. As these point events transform accordingly under a diffeomorphism, the distance between the corresponding coordinates x, y equals the distance between the transformed points Φ(x), Φ(y), thus being a Dirac observable. On the other hand, the coordinates x or y are not observable.

One should note that this observation is somewhat tautological in the realm of Riemannian geometry as the metric is an absolute quantity, put differently (and somewhat sloppily), ds2 is invariant under passive and by the same token active coordinate transformation (diffeomorphisms) because, while conceptually different, the transformation properties under the latter operations are defined as in the passive case. In the case of GTR this absolute quantity enters via the equivalence principle i.e., distances are measured for example in a local inertial frame (LIF) where special relativity holds and are then generalized to arbitrary coordinate systems.

Being Mediatized: How 3 Realms and 8 Dimensions Explain ‘Being’ by Peter Blank.


Experience of Reflection: ‘Self itself is an empty word’
Leary – The neuroatomic winner: “In the province of the mind, what is believed true is true, or becomes true within limits to be learned by experience and experiment.” (Dr. John Lilly)

Media theory had noted the shoring up or even annihilation of the subject due to technologies that were used to reconfigure oneself and to see oneself as what one was: pictures, screens. Depersonalization was an often observed, reflective state of being that stood for the experience of anxiety dueto watching a ‘movie of one’s own life’ or experiencing a malfunction or anomaly in one’s self-awareness.

To look at one’s scaffolded media identity meant in some ways to look at the redactionary product of an extreme introspective process. Questioning what one interpreted oneself to be doing in shaping one’s media identities enhanced endogenous viewpoints and experience, similar to focusing on what made a car move instead of deciding whether it should stay on the paved road or drive across a field. This enabled the individual to see the formation of identity from the ‘engine perspective’.

Experience of the Hyperreal: ‘I am (my own) God’
Leary – The metaprogramming winner: “I make my own coincidences, synchronities, luck, and Destiny.”

Meta-analysis of distinctions – seeing a bird fly by, then seeing oneself seeing a bird fly by, then thinking the self that thought that – becomes routine in hyperreality. Media represent the opposite: a humongous distraction from Heidegger’s goal of the search for ‘Thinking’: capturing at present the most alarming of what occupies the mind. Hyperreal experiences could not be traced back to a person’s ‘real’ identities behind their aliases. The most questionable therefore related to dismantled privacy: a privacy that only existed because all aliases were constituting a false privacy realm. There was nothing personal about the conversations, no facts that led back to any person, no real change achieved, no political influence asserted.

From there it led to the difference between networked relations and other relations, call these other relations ‘single’ relations, or relations that remained solemnly silent. They were relations that could not be disclosed against their will because they were either too vague, absent, depressing, shifty, or dangerous to make the effort worthwhile to outsiders.

The privacy of hyperreal being became the ability to hide itself from being sensed by others through channels of information (sight, touch, hearing), but also to hide more private other selves, stored away in different, more private networks from others in more open social networks.

Choosing ‘true’ privacy, then, was throwing away distinctions one experienced between several identities. As identities were space the meaning of time became the capacity for introspection. The hyperreal being’s overall identity to the inside as lived history attained an extra meaning – indeed: as alter- or hyper-ego. With Nietzsche, the physical body within its materiality occasioned a performance that subjected its own subjectivity. Then and only then could it become its own freedom.

With Foucault one could say that the body was not so much subjected but still there functioning on its own premises. Therefore the sensitory systems lived the body’s life in connection with (not separated from) a language based in a mediated faraway from the body. If language and our sensitory systems were inseparable, beings and God may as well be.

Being Mediatized

Agamben and the Biopolitical – Nihilistic and Thanatopolitical Expressions. Thought of the Day 56.0


Agamben’s logic of biopolitics as the logic of the symmetry between sovereign power and the sacredness of bare life should be understood in terms of its historico-ontological destiny. Although this theme is only hinted at in Homo Sacer and the volumes that follow it, Agamben resolutely maintains that biopolitics is inherently metaphysical. If on the one hand ‘the inclusion of bare life in the political realm constitutes the original […] nucleus of sovereign power’ and ‘biopolitics is at least as old as the sovereign exception’, on the other hand, this political nexus cannot be dissociated from the epochal situation of metaphysics. Here Agamben openly displays his Heideggerian legacy; bare life, that which in history is increasingly isolated by biopolitics as Western politics, must be strictly related to ‘pure being’, that which in history is increasingly isolated by Western metaphysics:

Politics [as biopolitics] appears as the truly fundamental structure of Western metaphysics insofar as it occupies the threshold on which the relation between the living being and the logos is realized. In the ‘politicization’ of bare life – the metaphysical task par excellence – the humanity of living man is decided.

Commentators have not as yet sufficiently emphasized how biopolitics is consequently nothing else than Agamben’s name for metaphysics as nihilism. More specifically, while bare life remains for him the ‘empty and indeterminate’ concept of Western politics – which is thus as such originally nihilistic – its forgetting goes together with the progressive coming to light of what it conceals. From this perspective, nihilism will therefore correspond to the modern and especially post-modern generalisation of the state of exception: ‘the nihilism in which we are living is […] nothing other than the coming to light of […] the sovereign relation as such’. In other words, nihilism reveals the paradox of the inclusive exclusion of bare life, homo sacer, qua foundation of sovereign power, as well as the fact that sovereign power cannot recognize itself for what it is. Beyond Foucault’s biopolitical thesis according to which modernity is increasingly characterized by the way in which power directly captures life as such as its object, what interests Agamben the most is:

the decisive fact that, together with the process by which exception everywhere becomes the rule, the realm of bare life – which is originally situated at the margins of the political order – gradually begins to coincide with the political realm.

The political is thus reduced to the biopolitical: the original repression of the sovereign relation on which Western politics has always relied is now inextricably bound up with its return in the guise of a radical biopoliticisation of the political. Like nihilism, such a generalisation of the state of exception – the fact that, today, we are all virtually homines sacri – is itself a profoundly ambiguous biopolitical phenomenon. Today’s state of exception both radicalizes – qualitatively and quantitatively – the thanatopolitical expressions of sovereignty (epitomized by the nazis’ extermination of the Jews for a mere ‘capacity to be killed’ inherent in their condition as such) and finally unmasks its hidden logic.

Agamben explicitly relates to the possibility of a ‘new politics’. Conversely, a new politics is unthinkable without an in-depth engagement with the historico-ontological dimension of sacratio and the structural political ambiguity of the state of exception. Although such new politics ‘remains largely to be invented’, very early on in Homo Sacer, Agamben unhesitatingly defines it as ‘a politics no longer founded on the exceptio of bare life’. beyond the exceptionalist logic – by now self-imploded – that unites sovereignty to bare life, Agamben seems to envisage a relaional politics that would succeed in ‘constructing the link between zoe and bios’. This link between the bare life of man and his political existence would ‘heal’ the original ‘fracture’ which is at the same time precisely what causes their progressive indistinction in the generalized state of exception. Having said this, Agamben also conceives of such new politics as a non-relational relation that ‘will […] have to put the very form of relation into question, and to ask if the political fact is not perhaps thinkable beyond relation and, thus, no longer in the form of a connection’.