[Collage] On and on and on

…the fact that an aeviternal thing is neither inveterate, nor subject to innovation, comes from its changelessness; and consequently its measure does not contain “before” and “after.” We say then that since eternity is the measure of a permanent being, in so far as anything recedes from permanence of being, it recedes from eternity… Therefore these are measured by aeviternity which is a mean between eternity and time… In this way time has “before” and “after”; aeviternity in itself has no “before” and “after,” which can, however, be annexed to it; while eternity has neither “before” nor “after,” nor is it compatible with such at all.

Thomas Aquinas, ST. I-I, Q10A5.

It is, I say, evident from what has been said in the foregoing Parts of this Treatise, …that visible Ideas are the Language whereby the governing Spirit, on whom we depend, informs us what tangible Ideas he is about to imprint upon us, in case we excite this or that Motion in our own Bodies.
George Berkeley, Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge.
CONSIDER the following sentences:
“Those spots mean (meant) measles.”
“Those spots didn’t mean anything to me, but to the doctor they meant measles.”
“The recent budget means that we shall have a hard year.”…
[F]or all these examples an approximate restatement can be found beginning with the phrase “The fact that…”; for example, “The fact that he had those spots meant that he had measles”…
When the expressions “means,” “means something,” “means that” are used in the kind of way in which they are used in the first set of sentences, I shall speak of the sense, or senses, in which they are used, as the natural sense, or senses, of the expressions in question.

Paul Grice, Meaning, Philosophical Review.

A memeplex is a set of memes which, while not necessarily being good survivors on their own, are good survivors in the presence of other members of the memeplex.

Richard Dawkins. The God Delusion.

Some marine bacteria have internal magnets (called magnetosomes) that function like compass needles, aligning themselves (and, as a result, the bacteria) parallel to the earth’s magnetic field… If a bar magnet oriented in the opposite direction to the earth’s magnetic field is held near these bacteria, they can be lured into a deadly environment… this appears to be a plausible instance of misrepresentation. Since, in the bacteria’s normal habitat, the internal orientation of their magnetosomes [naturally means] that there is relatively little oxygen in that direction, and since the organism needs precisely this piece of information in order to survive, it seems reasonable to say that it is the function of this sensory mechanism to service the satisfaction of this need, to deliver this piece of information, to indicate that oxygen-free water is in that direction.

Fred Dretske, Misrepresentation.

[C]onsider honey bees, which perform “dances” to indicate the location of sources of nectar they have discovered. Variations in the tempo of the dance and in the angle of its long axis vary with the distance and direction of the nectar. The interpreter mechanisms in the watching bees-these are the representation consumers-will not perform their full proper functions of aiding the process of nectar collection in accordance with a normal explanation, unless the location of nectar corresponds correctly to the dance. So, the dances are representations of the location of nectar. The full representation here is a dance-at-a-time-in-a-place-at-a-tempo-with-an-orientation.

Ruth Millikan, Biosemantics.

Nature is an endless combination and repetition of a very few laws. She hums the old well-known air through innumerable variations.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, History.


[The plausibility of the idea that there are such things are homogeneous units of labor] allows [Marx] to formulate the crucial definition of “value” as “socially necessary labour-time;’ which “is the labour-time required to produce any use-value under the conditions of production normal for a given society and with the average degree of skill and intensity of labour prevalent in that society:’ He concludes, “What exclusively determines the magnitude of the value of any article is therefore the amount of labour socially necessary, or the labour-time socially necessary for its production”.

David Harvey, A Companion to Marx’s Capital.

The situations into which the product of mechanical reproduction can be brought may not touch the actual work of art, yet the quality of its presence is always depreciated. This holds not only for the art work but also, for instance, for a landscape which passes in review before the spectator in a movie. In the case of the art object, a most sensitive nucleus – namely, its authenticity – is interfered with whereas no natural object is vulnerable on that score. The authenticity of a thing is the essence of all that is transmissible from its beginning, ranging from its substantive duration to its testimony to the history which it has experienced. Since the historical testimony rests on the authenticity, the former, too, is jeopardized by reproduction when substantive duration ceases to matter. And what is really jeopardized when the historical testimony is affected is the authority of the object.

Walter Benjamin, The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction.

Starting without prior meaning or communication, how are we supposed to get to the most desirable sort of equilibrium? Once there, why do we stay there? Lewis offers answers to both these questions. A signaling system, like any convention, is maintained because a unilateral deviation makes everyone strictly worse off.

Brian Skyrms, The Evolution of the Social Contract.

I originally took my clue on how to read the performativity of gender from Jacques Derrida’s reading of Kafka’s “Before the Law.” There the one who waits for the law, sits before the door of the law, attributes a certain force to the law for which one waits. The anticipation of an authoritative disclosure of meaning is the means by which that authority is attributed and installed: the anticipation conjures its object. I wondered whether we do not labor under a similar expectation concerning gender, that it operates as an interior essence that might be disclosed, and expectation that ends up producing the very phenomenon that it anticipates. In the first instance, then, the performativity of gender revolves around this metalepsis, the way in which the anticipation of a gendered essence produces that which it posits as outside itself. Secondly, performativity is not a singular act, but a repetition and a ritual, which achieves its effects through its naturalization in the context of a body…

Judith Butler, Gender Trouble.

Others instead obey a norm just because they recognize the legitimacy of others’ expectations that they will follow the norm. My definition of what it takes for a social norm to exist and be followed takes into account the fact that there are different types of people. All have conditional preferences for conformity, and all need to believe that enough people are obeying the norm to make it worthwhile to conform. What makes people different is the nature of their normative expectations: Some just need to believe that enough other people expect them to conform, whereas others need to believe that others are also prepared to punish their transgressions. In both cases, I stress that preference for conformity is conditional. If expectations change, so does conforming behavior… A situation can be interpreted and categorized in several ways, with very different consequences for norm compliance. An observed exchange, for example, can be perceived as a market interaction, an instance of gift-giving, or an act of bribing. Depending on how we categorize it, our expectations, predictions, and emotional responses will be very different.

Cristina Bicchieri, The Grammar of Society.

[The fluidity of imagination and belief] is noted in the case of liars; who by the frequent repetition of their lies, come at last to believe and remember them, as realities; custom and habit having in this case, as in many others, the same influence on the mind as nature, and infixing the idea with equal force and vigour. (1-5)

Men will scarce ever be persuaded, that effects of such consequence can flow from principles, which are seemingly so inconsiderable, and that the far greatest part of our reasonings with all our actions and passions, can be derived from nothing but custom and habit. (1-10)

In a little time, custom and habit operating on the tender minds of the children, makes them sensible of the advantages, which they may reap from society, as well as fashions them by degrees for it, by rubbing off those rough corners and untoward affections, which prevent their coalition. (2-2)

David Hume, A Treatise Of Human Nature.

For the translation of values into needs is the twofold process of (1) material satisfaction (materialization of freedom) and (2) the free development of needs on the basis of satisfaction (non-repressive sublimation). In this process, the relation between the material and intellectual faculties and needs undergoes a fundamental change. The free play of thought and imagination assumes a rational and directing function in the realization of a pacified: existence of man and nature. And the ideas of justice, freedom, and humanity then obtain their truth and good conscience on the sole ground on which they could ever have truth and good conscience – the satisfaction of man’s material needs, the rational organization of the realm of necessity.

Herbert Marcuse, The One-Dimensional Man.

In my approach, the focus of inquiry is not needs but rather discourses about needs. The point is to shift our angle of vision on the politics of needs. Usually, the politics of needs is understood to concern the distribution of satisfactions. In my approach, by contrast, the focus is the politics of need interpretation.

The reason for focusing on discourses and interpretation is to bring into view that contextual and contested character of needs claims.

Nancy Fraser, Talking About Needs: Interpretive Contests as Political Conflicts in Welfare-State Societies.


Then Sisyphus watches the stone rush down in a few moments toward that lower world whence he will have to push it up again toward the summit. He goes back down to the plain.
It is during that return, that pause, that Sisyphus interests me. A face that toils so close to stones is already stone itself! I see that man going back down with a heavy yet measured step toward the torment of which he will never know the end. That hour like a breathing-space which returns as surely as his suffering, that is the hour of consciousness. At each of those moments when he leaves the heights and gradually sinks toward the lairs of the gods, he is superior to his fate. He is stronger than his rock.

Albert Camus, The Myth of Sisyphus.

A monotonous and unvarying order was established in my whole economy. Everything unable to move stood in its appointed place, and everything that moved went its calculated course: my clock, my servant, and I, myself, who with measured pace walked up and down the floor. Although I had convinced myself that there is no repetition, it nevertheless is always certain and that by being inflexible and also by dulling one’s powers of observation a person can achieve a sameness that has a far more anesthetic power than the most whimsical amusements and that, like a magical formulary, in the course of time also become more and more powerful.

Kierkegaard, Repetition.

The Heaviest Burden. What if a demon crept after you into your loneliest loneliness some day or night, and said to you: “This life, as you live it at present, and have lived it, you must live it once more, and also innumerable times; and there will be nothing new in it, but every pain and every joy and every thought and every sigh, and all the unspeakably small and great in thy life must come to you again, and all in the same series and sequence – and similarly this spider and this moonlight among the trees, and similarly this moment, and I myself. The eternal sand-glass of existence will ever be turned once more, and you with it, you speck of dust!” – Would you not throw yourself down and gnash your teeth, and curse the demon that so spoke? Or have you once experienced a tremendous moment in which you would answer him: “You are a God, and never did I hear anything so divine!” If that thought acquired power over you as you are, it would transform you, and perhaps crush you; the question with regard to all and everything: “Do you want this once more, and also for innumerable times?” would lie as the heaviest burden upon your activity! Or, how would you have to become favourably inclined to yourself and to life, so as to long for nothing more ardently than for this last eternal sanctioning and sealing?

Nietzsche, The Gay Science.

The first question is by no means whether we are satisfied with ourselves; but whether we are satisfied with anything at all. Granting that we should say yea to any single moment, we have then affirmed not only ourselves, but the whole of existence. For nothing stands by itself, either in us or in other things: and if our soul has vibrated and rung with happiness, like a chord, once only and only once, then all eternity was necessary in order to bring about that one event,—and all eternity, in this single moment of our affirmation, was called good, was saved, justified, and blessed.

Nietzsche, The Will to Power.

The categorical imperative is thus only a single one, and specifically this: Act only in accordance with that maxim through which you can at the same time will that it become a universal law… Because the universality of the law in accordance with which effects happen constitutes that which is really called nature in the most general sense (in accordance with its form), i.e., the existence of things insofar as it is determined in accordance with universal laws, thus the universal imperative of duty can also be stated as follows: So act as if the maxim of your action were to become through your will a universal law of nature.

Kant, Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals.

“The thing is,” says [Alan] Moore, “we don’t have free will, or at least that’s what I believe, and I think most physicists tend to think that as well, that this is a predetermined universe. That’s got to pretty much kill religion because there aren’t any religions that aren’t based on some kind of moral imperative. They’ve all got sin, karma or something a bit like that. In a predetermined universe how can you talk about sin? How can you talk about virtue?”

This leads to a humanist philosophy that is not without its own morality, albeit one that this is self-imposed and unique to each individual. It means, says Moore, that you should be careful not to do anything in life that you cannot live with for all eternity.

“We’re talking here about heaven and hell, we’re talking about them as being simultaneous and present, that all the worst moments of your life forever, that’s hell; all the best moments of your life forever, that’s paradise. So, this is where we are. We’re in hell, we’re in paradise; both together, forever. I’m saying that everywhere is Jerusalem. That in an Einsteinian block universe, where all time is presumably simultaneous, then everywhere is the eternal heavenly city.”

Dominic Wells, on Alan Moore’s Jerusalem.

Extinctions, of course, have been happening for millions of years: animals and plants were disappearing long before people arrived on the scene. But what has changed is the extinction rate. For millions of years, on average, one species became extinct every century. But most of the extinctions since prehistoric times have occurred in the last three hundred years.

And most of the extinctions that have occurred in the last three hundred years have occurred in the last fifty.

And most of the extinctions that have occurred in the last fifty have occurred in the last ten.

It is the sheer rate of acceleration that is as terrifying as anything else. We are now heaving more than a thousand different species of animals and plants off the planet every year…

Even so, the loss of a few species may seem almost irrelevant compared to major environmental problems such as global warming or the destruction of the ozone layer. But while nature has considerable resilience, there is a limit to how far that resilience can be stretched. No one knows how close to the limit we are getting. The darker it gets, the faster we’re driving.

Douglas Adams, Last Chance to See.

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