Gnostic Semiotics. Thought of the Day 63.0

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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.

Hilbert’s Walking the Rope Between Real and Ideal Propositions. Note Quote.

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If the atomic sentences of S have a finitistic meaning, which is the case, for instance, when they are decidable, then so have all sentences of S built up by truth-functional connectives and quantifiers restricted to finite domains.

Quantifiers over infinite domains can be looked upon in two ways. One of them may be hinted at as follows. Let x range over the natural numbers, and let A(x) be a formula such that A(n) expresses a finitary proposition for every number n. Then a sentence ∀xA(x) expresses a transfinite proposition, if it is understood as a kind of infinite conjunction which is true when all of the infinitely many sentences A(n), where n is a natural number, hold.

Similarly, a sentence ∃xA(x) expresses a transfinite proposition, if it is understood as a kind of infinite disjunction which is true when, of all the infinitely many sentences A(n), where n is a natural number, there is one that holds. There is a certain ambiguity here, however, depending on what is meant by ‘all’ and ‘there is one’. To indicate the transfinite interpretation one should also add that the sentences are understood in such a way that it is determined, regardless of whether this can be proved or not, whether all of the sentences A(n) hold or there is some one that does not hold.

If instead an assertion of ∀xA(x) is understood as asserting that there is a method which, given a specific natural number n, yields a proof of A(n), then we have to do with a finitary proposition. Similarly, we have a case of a finitary proposition, when to assert ∃xA(x) is the same as to assert that A(n) can be proved for some natural number n.

It is to be noted that the ‘statement’ “In the real part of mathematics, either in the real part of S or in some extension of it, that for each A ∈ R, if ⌈S A, then A is true” is a universal sentence. Hence, the possibility of giving a finitary interpretation of the universal quantifier is a prerequisite for Hilbert’s program. Does the possibility of interpreting the quantifiers in a finitary way also mean that one may hope for a solution of the problem stated in the above ‘statement’ when all quantified sentences interpreted in that way are included in R?

A little reflection shows that the answer is no, but that R may always be taken as closed under universal quantification. For it can be seen (uniformly in A) that if we have established the ‘statement’ when R contains all instances of a sentence ∀xA(x), then the ‘statement’ also holds for R+ = R U {∀xA(x)}. To see this let ∀xA(x) be a formula provable in S whose instances belong to R, and let a method be given which applied to any formula in R and a proof of it in S yields a proof of its truth. We want to show that ∀xA(x) is true when interpreted in a finitistic way, i.e. that we have a method which applied to any natural number n yields a proof of A(n). The existence of such a method is obvious, because, from the proof given of ∀xA(x), we get a proof of A(n), for any n, and hence by specialization of the given method, we have a method which yields the required proof of the truth of A(n), for any n.

Having included universal sentences ∀xA(x) in R such that all A(n) are decidable, it is easy to see that one cannot in general also let existentially quantified sentences be included in R, if the ‘statement’ is still to be possible. For let S contain classical logic and assume that R contains undecidable sentences ∀xA(x) with A(n) decidable; by Gödel’s theorem there are such sentences if S is sufficiently rich. Then one cannot allow R to be closed under existential quantification. In particular, one cannot allow formulas ∃y(∀xA(x) V ¬ A(y)) to belong to R ∀ A: the formulas are provable in S but all of them cannot be expected to be true when interpreted in a finitistic way, because then, for any A, we would get a proof of ∀xA(x) V ¬ A(n) for some n, which would let us decide ∀xA(x).

In accordance with these observations, the line between real and ideal propositions was drawn in Hilbert’s program in such a way as to include among the real ones decidable propositions and universal generalizations of them but nothing more; in other words, the set R in the ‘statement’ is to consist of atomic sentences (assuming that they are decidable), sentences obtained from them by using truth-functional connectives, and finally universal generalizations of such sentences.

Given that R is determined in this way and that the atomic sentences in the language of S are decidable and provable in S if true (and hence that the same holds for truth-functional compounds of atomic sentences in S), which is normally the case, the consistency of S is easily seen to imply the statement in the ‘statement’ as follows. Assume consistency and let A be a sentence without quantifiers that is provable in S. Then A must be true, because, if it were not, then ¬ A would be true and hence provable in S by the assumption made about S, contradicting the consistency. Furthermore, a sentence ∀xA(x) provable in S must also be true, because there is a method such that for any given natural number n, the method yields a proof of A(n). By applying the decision method to A(n); by the consistency and the assumption on S, it must yield a proof of A(n) and not of ¬A(n).

Paradox of Phallocentrism. Thought of the Day 34.0

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The paradox of phallocentrism in aIl its manifestations is that it depends on the image of the castrated woman to give order and meaning to its world. An idea of woman stands as lynch pin to the system: it is her lack that produces the phallus as a symbolic presence, it is her desire to make good the lack that the phallus signifies. The function of woman in forming the patriarchal unconscious is two-fold. She first symbolises the castration threat by her real absence of a penis, and second thereby raises her child into the symbolic. Once this has been achieved, her meaning in the process is at an end, it does not last into the world of law and language except as a memory which oscillates between memory of maternal plenitude and memory of lack. Both are posited on nature (or on anatomy in Freud’s famous phrase). Woman’s desire is subjected to her image as bearer of the bleeding wound, she can exist only in relation to castration and cannot transcend it. She turns her child into the signifier of her own desire to possess a penis (the condition, she imagines, of entry into the symbolic). Either she must gracefully give way to the word, the Name of the Father and the Law, or else struggle to keep her child down with her in the half-light of the imaginary. Woman then stands in patriarchal culture as signifier for the male other, bound by a symbolic order in which man can live out his phantasies and obsessions through linguistic command by imposing them on the silent image of woman still tied to her place as bearer of meaning, not maker of meaning.

Speech. Thought of the Day 17.0

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Speech, is a gesture, an indication, or a pointing toward, a certain intended signification. Speech, if it is understood, brings a certain something before us, but what is the status of that something? Firstly, given that language is equivocal, the signified necessarily goes beyond any attempt to signify it. As such, language never affords total expression, but rather, is merely the linguistic embodiment of an attempt to signify. It is therefore the case that these significations have the status of “Ideas,” which target, or aim at total expression but are constantly outstripped by the “things themselves” which they signify. The signified is never present before the act of expression; rather, it is this act of expression which realizes it as an intention. It is, furthermore, appropriate to say that we have, or possess, a language as the sum total of available significations. Language is intrinsically historical, in the sense that any synchronic moment possesses all previous synchronic moments within it. Any particular present carries with it all presents occurring prior to it. The distinction between the synchronic and the diachronic, therefore, cannot be maintained in a language as it is lived. It is the case, therefore, that any particular signification becomes available as a kind of ‘sedimentation’ within the ‘tradition’ of a language. The significative intention, therefore, must draw from available meanings but is also limited by the ‘world’ as the limit of possible meanings. The speaking subject, therefore, through the power of expression, is able to draw from available meaning and in turn, through them, constitute a new meaning. Understanding the meaning, therefore, is a process of taking up the signification of others, or having them “dwell within me,” such that a new ‘style’ of thought has been awakened. What has, thereby, been ‘acquired’ will remain available, without the need to reactivate the original process of constitution. A new ‘sedimentation’ has been constituted, which does not erase, or eliminate, the ‘sedimentations’ previously available. Rather the new ‘acquisition’ is incorporated into the cultural tradition that is language and is added as a new possibility for an expressive intention. The speech of others comes to “dwell” within me in a movement of transcendence, beyond the merely available meanings of the language, and is understood the moment I am able to take it within myself and express it anew. It seems to be the case, therefore, that what is available to me is not solely my ‘own,’ but ‘ours’ in the sense that what is available to me is available to everyone and only becomes mine specifically when, through my mute intention, I take it up into myself and express it anew. The ‘tradition,’ or language, is that which gives us the means of realizing our significative, or mute, intentions, however, at the same time it is constituted as the result of our expressivity.

Industrial Semiosis. Note Quote.

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The concept of Industrial Semiosis categorizes the product life-cycle processes along three semiotic levels of meaning emergence: 1) the ontogenic level that deals with the life history data and future expectations about a single occurrence of a product; 2) the typogenic level that holds the processes related to a product type or generation; and 3) the phylogenic level that embraces the meaning-affecting processes common to all of the past and current types and occurrences of a product. The three levels naturally differ by the characteristic durational times of the grouped semiosis processes: as one moves from the lowest, ontogenic level to the higher levels, the objects become larger and more complicated and have slower dynamics in both original interpretation and meaning change. The semantics of industrial semiosis in industry investigates the relationships that hold between the syntactical elements — the signs in language, models, data — and the objects that matter in industry, such as customers, suppliers, work-pieces, products, processes, resources, tools, time, space, investments, costs, etc. The pragmatics of industrial semiosis deals with the expression and appeal functions of all kinds of languages, data and models and their interpretations in the setting of any possible enterprise context, as part of the enterprise realising its mission by enterprising, engineering, manufacturing, servicing, re-engineering, competing, etc. The relevance of the presented definitions for infor- mation systems engineering is still limited and vague: the definitions are very general and hardly reflect any knowledge about the industrial domain and its objects, nor do they reflect knowledge about the ubiquitous information infrastructure and the sign systems it accommodates.

A product (as concept) starts its development with initially coinciding onto-, typo-, and phylogenesis processes but distinct and pre-existing semiotic levels of interpretation. The concept is evolved, and typogenesis works to reorganize the relationships between the onto- and phylogenesis processes, as the variety of objects involved in product development increases. Product types and their interactions mediate – filter and buffer – between the levels above and below: not all variety of distinctions remains available for re-organization as phylos, nor every lowest-level object have a material relevance there. The phylogenic level is buffered against variations at the ontogenic level by the stabilizing mediations at the typogenic level.

The dynamics of the interactions between the semiotic levels can well be described in terms of the basic processes of variation and selection. In complex system evolution, variation stands for the generation of a variety of simultaneously present, distinct entities (synchronic variety), or of subsequent, distinct states of the same entity (diachronic variety). Variation makes variety increase and produces more distinctions. Selection means, in essence, the elimination of certain distinct entities and/or states, and it reduces the number of remaining entities and/or states.

From a semiotic point of view, the variety of a product intended to operate in an environment is determined by the devised product structure (i.e. the relations established between product parts – its synchronic variety) and the possible relations between the product and the anticipated environment (i.e. the product feasible states – its potential diachronic variety), which together aggregate the product possible configurations. The variety is defined on the ontogenic level that includes elements for description of both the structure and environment. The ontogenesis is driven by variation that goes through different configurations of the product and eventually discovers (by distinction selection at every stage of the product life cycle) configurations, which are stable on one or another time-scale. A constraint on the configurations is then imposed, resulting in the selective retention – emergence of a new meaning for a (not necessarily new) sign – at the typogenic level. The latter decreases the variety but specializes the ontogenic level so that only those distinctions ultimately remain, which fit to the environment (i.e. only dynamically stable relation patterns are preserved). Analogously but at a slower time- scale, the typogenesis results in the emergence of a new meaning on the phylogenic level that consecutively specializes the lower levels. Thus, the main semiotic principle of product development is such that the dynamics of the meaning-making processes always seeks to decrease the number of possible relations between the product and its environment and hence, the semiosis of product life cycle is naturally simplified. At the same time, however, the ‘natural’ dynamics is such that augments the evolutive potential of the product concept for increasing its organizational richness: the emergence of new signs (that may lead to the emergence of new levels of interpretation) requires a new kind of information and new descriptive categories must be given to deal with the still same product.

Representation as a Meaningful Philosophical Quandary

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The deliberation on representation indeed becomes a meaningful quandary, if most of the shortcomings are to be overcome, without actually accepting the way they permeate the scientific and philosophical discourse. The problem is more ideological than one could have imagined, since, it is only within the space of this quandary that one can assume success in overthrowing the quandary. Unless the classical theory of representation that guides the expert systems has been accepted as existing, there is no way to dislodge the relationship of symbols and meanings that build up such systems, lest the predicament of falling prey to the Scylla of metaphysically strong notion of meaningful representation as natural or the Charybdis of an external designer should gobble us up. If one somehow escapes these maliciously aporetic entities, representation as a metaphysical monster stands to block our progress. Is it really viable then to think of machines that can survive this representational foe, a foe that gets no aid from the clusters of internal mechanisms? The answer is very much in the affirmative, provided, a consideration of the sort of such a non-representational system as continuous and homogeneous is done away with. And in its place is had functional units that are no more representational ones, for the former derive their efficiency and legitimacy through autopoiesis. What is required is to consider this notional representational critique of distributed systems on the objectivity of science, since objectivity as a property of science has an intrinsic value of independence from the subject who studies the discipline. Kuhn  had some philosophical problems to this precise way of treating science as an objective discipline. For Kuhn, scientists operate under or within paradigms thus obligating hierarchical structures. Such hierarchical structures ensure the position of scientists to voice their authority on matters of dispute, and when there is a crisis within, or, for the paradigm, scientists, to begin with, do not outrightly reject the paradigm, but try their level best at resolution of the same. In cases where resolution becomes a difficult task, an outright rejection of the paradigm would follow suit, thus effecting what is commonly called the paradigm shift. If such were the case, obviously, the objective tag for science goes for a hit, and Kuhn argues in favor of a shift in social order that science undergoes, signifying the subjective element. Importantly, these paradigm shifts occur to benefit scientific progress and in almost all of the cases, occur non-linearly. Such a view no doubt slides Kuhn into a position of relativism, and has been the main point of attack on paradigms shifting. At the forefront of attacks has been Michael Polanyi and his bunch of supporters, whose work on epistemology of science have much of the same ingredients, but was eventually deprived of fame. Kuhn was charged with plagiarism. The commonality of their arguments could be measured by a dissenting voice for objectivity in science. Polanyi thought of it as a false ideal, since for him the epistemological claims that defined science were based more on personal judgments, and therefore susceptible to fallibilism. The objective nature of science that obligates the scientists to see things as they really are is kind of dislodged by the above principle of subjectivity. But, if science were to be seen as objective, then the human subjectivity would indeed create a rupture as far as the purified version of scientific objectivity is sought for. The subject or the observer undergoes what is termed the “observer effect” that refers to the change impacting an act of observation being observed. This effect is as good as ubiquitous in most of the domains of science and technology ranging from Heisenbug(1) in computing via particle physics, science of thermodynamics to quantum mechanics. The quantum mechanics observer effect is quite perplexing, and is a result of a phenomenon called “superposition” that signifies the existence in all possible states and all at once. The superposition gets its credit due to Schrödinger’s cat experiment. The experiment entails a cat that is neither dead nor alive until observed. This has led physicists to take into account the acts of “observation” and “measurement” to comprehend the paradox in question, and thereby come out resolving it. But there is still a minority of quantum physicists out there who vouch for the supremacy of an observer, despite the quantum entanglement effect that go on to explain “observation” and “measurement” impacts.(2) Such a standpoint is indeed reflected in Derrida (9-10) as well, when he says (I quote him in full),

The modern dominance of the principle of reason had to go hand in hand with the interpretation of the essence of beings as objects, and object present as representation (Vorstellung), an object placed and positioned before a subject. This latter, a man who says ‘I’, an ego certain of itself, thus ensures his own technical mastery over the totality of what is. The ‘re-‘ of repraesentation also expresses the movement that accounts for – ‘renders reason to’ – a thing whose presence is encountered by rendering it present, by bringing it to the subject of representation, to the knowing self.

If Derridean deconstruction needs to work on science and theory, the only way out is to relinquish the boundaries that define or divide the two disciplines. Moreover, if there is any looseness encountered in objectivity, the ramifications are felt straight at the levels of scientific activities. Even theory does not remain immune to these consequences. Importantly, as scientific objectivity starts to wane, a corresponding philosophical luxury of avoiding the contingent wanes. Such a loss of representation congruent with a certain theory of meaning we live by has serious ethical-political affectations.

(1) Heisenbug is a pun on the Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle and is a bug in computing that is characterized by a disappearance of the bug itself when an attempt is made to study it. One common example is a bug that occurs in a program that was compiled with an optimizing compiler, but not in the same program when compiled without optimization (e.g., for generating a debug-mode version). Another example is a bug caused by a race condition. A heisenbug may also appear in a system that does not conform to the command-query separation design guideline, since a routine called more than once could return different values each time, generating hard- to-reproduce bugs in a race condition scenario. One common reason for heisenbug-like behaviour is that executing a program in debug mode often cleans memory before the program starts, and forces variables onto stack locations, instead of keeping them in registers. These differences in execution can alter the effect of bugs involving out-of-bounds member access, incorrect assumptions about the initial contents of memory, or floating- point comparisons (for instance, when a floating-point variable in a 32-bit stack location is compared to one in an 80-bit register). Another reason is that debuggers commonly provide watches or other user interfaces that cause additional code (such as property accessors) to be executed, which can, in turn, change the state of the program. Yet another reason is a fandango on core, the effect of a pointer running out of bounds. In C++, many heisenbugs are caused by uninitialized variables. Another similar pun intended bug encountered in computing is the Schrödinbug. A schrödinbug is a bug that manifests only after someone reading source code or using the program in an unusual way notices that it never should have worked in the first place, at which point the program promptly stops working for everybody until fixed. The Jargon File adds: “Though… this sounds impossible, it happens; some programs have harbored latent schrödinbugs for years.”

(2) There is a related issue in quantum mechanics relating to whether systems have pre-existing – prior to measurement, that is – properties corresponding to all measurements that could possibly be made on them. The assumption that they do is often referred to as “realism” in the literature, although it has been argued that the word “realism” is being used in a more restricted sense than philosophical realism. A recent experiment in the realm of quantum physics has been quoted as meaning that we have to “say goodbye” to realism, although the author of the paper states only that “we would [..] have to give up certain intuitive features of realism”. These experiments demonstrate a puzzling relationship between the act of measurement and the system being measured, although it is clear from experiment that an “observer” consisting of a single electron is sufficient – the observer need not be a conscious observer. Also, note that Bell’s Theorem suggests strongly that the idea that the state of a system exists independently of its observer may be false. Note that the special role given to observation (the claim that it affects the system being observed, regardless of the specific method used for observation) is a defining feature of the Copenhagen Interpretation of quantum mechanics. Other interpretations resolve the apparent paradoxes from experimental results in other ways. For instance, the Many- Worlds Interpretation posits the existence of multiple universes in which an observed system displays all possible states to all possible observers. In this model, observation of a system does not change the behavior of the system – it simply answers the question of which universe(s) the observer(s) is(are) located in: In some universes the observer would observe one result from one state of the system, and in others the observer would observe a different result from a different state of the system.