Project: Thinking Continuum
...continuous thinking, where the mossy patch is nothing without the rain drop, where it is the rain drop, is identical to it, just as the rain drop is nothing without the cloud, it is the cloud, is identical with it, and thus the mossy patch is identical with rain drop and cloud, and the cloud is nothing without the sky and the ocean, it is the sky and the ocean, and thus the mossy patch is rain drop and cloud and sky and ocean, and the ocean is nothing but the sand, and the sand is nothing but the earth, and the earth is nothing but the stone, and the stone is nothing but the mossy patch, and thus the mossy patch is itself only inasmuch as it traces out rain drop and cloud and sky and ocean and sand and earth and stone, and is nothing but the active movement of tracing them out and itself, and the rain drop is itself only inasmuch as it traces out cloud and sky and ocean and sand and earth and stone and mossy patch, and is likewise nothing but the active movement of tracing them out, and so in turn are all the others... Continuous thinking doesn't go beyond the things to ask what they are made of, nor does it force them together dialectically or otherwise. It morphs them into one another as they trace out each other and constitute each other and interlock with each other.

Jump to (2) Thinking Continuum or (3) The Archaic Gradient or (4) 'Method' or the endnotes.

1. Thinking writing, written thinking


It is true that the scribe, carefully imprinting ink onto the page in the fading glow of an evening sun or dying phone screen, is the condition of possibility of the letter's existence. Yet once inscribed on page or screen, the letter unfolds in ways unknown to the scribe and unrelated even to its subsequent readers. Midway between being written and being read, while the book rests on its shelf and the phone gets recharged, the letter assumes a third kind of existence: grey and diminutive, archival and silent, yet nonetheless distinct.

That a letter should have such an independent existence is not self-evident. As the ancient scribes exerted themselves laboring over pages, their letters served as a legacy on parchment; when their medieval colleagues took over, theirs became transcriptions of wisdom, prayers on pages. Intimately tied to the muscle memory of the scribe, handwriting seems to leave no space to the letter's independent existence. Nor does the act of reading handwritten lettering, as everyday history shows, littered as it is with complaints about unreadable handwriting. Everywhere the scribe's personality seems to overcome that of the letter. Even in the scribe's absence, indeed even after the scribe's death, the handwritten letter seems to speak not of itself on the page, but of the scribe; hence such practices as graphological analysis.

No wonder, then, that a monumental philosophical tradition regards the letter as - at best - a derivative of the scribe's presence in speech. From Pythagoras to Plato, the core of knowledge was only ever to be imparted by esoteric speech, so as to approach the truth of things which written language cannot reveal directly. "Spoken words are the symbols of mental experience and written words are the symbols of spoken words," declares Aristotle [0], reinforcing the tradition alongside Plato's Cratylus. Hugh of St. Victor, whose Didascalion or 'Guide to the Arts' "aims to select and define all the areas of knowledge" of the twelfth century [1], acknowledges the existence of the letter which is "properly speaking...a written figure," but immediately subordinates it to "a larger sense" where the term 'letter' means "both the spoken and the written symbol, for they both belong to grammar." [2] Hegel, likewise encyclopedic in aiming to sum up all knowledge of his time, finds that the letter's outward shape is arbitrary, unlike that of the symbol: "the natural attributes of the intuition, and the connotation of which it is a sign, have nothing to do with each other." [3] Consequently, the signs of writing are, to Hegel, only a "further development in the particular sphere of language which borrows the help of an externally practical activity," [4] an outward tool whose manifestation on the page assists the constitution of memory. Contemporary philosophy of language concurs: neither Austin nor Searle, to mention just these two, grant the letter an independent existence within speech acts.

Equally at the inception of philosophical thought, however, stands the notion of a world that is written and readable. The intuition of Anaximander, that things come about according to an intelligible order gave rise to the idea of an ordered flow of reality in Heraclitus [5]. This order in turn was the same as its narration: "all things come about according to this account" [6] for Heraclitus; beings emerge and are destroyed "according to obligation...penalty and retribution according to their injustice" [7] for Anaximander. Heraclitus's 'account' (logos) consisted of signs in a book, written to be read with human eyes rather than spoken to be heard [8]. For Parmenides, too, the road to truth was indicated by written signs [9]. Subsequent tradition continued this notion. While both Plato and Aristotle, following Pythagoras, asserted the primacy of speech over writing, the Stoics developed a theory of letters as entities at least partially independent of acoustic speech [10].

As Antiquity perished and the argument became theological, the things of the world became so many letters inscribed into the book of God. Apprehending knowledge of natural beings became a way to decipher these letters' innermost essences whose structure was that of a written text: signs differentiated from other signs [11]. Thus reading the text of the world became an activity bringing the soul closer to its divine origin [12]. In the Renaissance, the world became a different kind of text - an expression of mathematical truth rather than divine revelation - yet it remained fundamentally readable [13]. And of course the modern printing press everywhere deploys irreducible evidence of the independent existence of letters between reading and writing: of "hides and hints and misses in prints," each "bound over to carry three score and ten toptypsical readings." [14]

 

2. Thinking Continuum


Jump to (1) Thinking writing, written thinking or (3) The Archaic Gradient or (4) 'Method' or the endnotes.


This chapter is forthcoming in Oak journal!

Abstract:
I contrast the notion of 'deixis', which is the act of temporarily and tentatively indicating a fluctuating part of continuous reality, with the notion of 'writing', which is the iterating repetition of the deictic act, performed again and again until it reifies the continuous reality before me into a world of discrete things. Once such 'discrete things' are established, their continuous reality is open to abuse, primarily by property relations and their effects within the industrial hellscape we inhabit. Tracing the origin of the repetitive gesture leading from deixis to writing leads to the discovery that no such iteration is possible without the authoritarian imposition of 'meaning'. Reinscribing deixis into writing, then, is not a theoretical project of rediscovering continuum, but a practical effort to de-civilize myself and my world against this authoritarian imposition.

 

3. The Archaic Gradient


Jump to (1) Thinking writing, written thinking or (2) Thinking Continuum or (4) 'Method' or the endnotes.


The trajectory of uncovering this world is not contingent. It, too, needs to take place at the heart of writing. Reinscribing deixis into the writing of civilization cannot consist in an account privileging speech over writing; it must consist in turning writing itself into "animated hieroglyphs fashioning a narrative that moves in a mythological, dream-like atmosphere" [36]. Which means that it must uncover continuousness in the very texts whose purpose it is to overcome mythology, and in its place install the authority of discrete rationality. Once uncovered here, continuous thinking can radiate outward. Yet it must first and foremost be inscribed into the heart of the fortress: into the text traditionally called philosophy.

Throughout its evolution, in each of its instances, the philosophical text preserves the traces of the gradient from which it originated: it arose as an after-effect of the completed transition from continuous thought to discrete thought. This means that the philosophical text - as text - implements the traces of this gradient, and thus a trajectory for a return to continuous thought, within its negation of speech, thought, and world.

In the material in which philosophy is implemented - text(s) written in the contemporary Latin alphabet - traces of a different material shine through. The gradient between continuous and discrete thought from which philosophical text emerged is implemented in the transition from consonantic writing (the Phoenician alphabet, from which the Greek alphabet came to be) and syllabic writing (Linear B, the Minoan and Mycenaean predecessor of Greek writing) to vowelistic writing (the Greek alphabet, from which our current Latin alphabet stems). Rewriting the text of philosophy in consonantic and syllabic script can therefore uncover remaining traces of continuous thought.

To be sure, philosophical text - the genre of philosophy - arose after this transition was completed. The present project does not postulate a straightforward connection between continuous thinking and consonantic or syllabic writing. The shift to the Greek alphabet, which is the shift to from a consonantic alphabet to one with vowels, most likely occurred in the second half of the ninth century BC [37]. By contrast, the earliest canonical philosopher, Thales of Miletos, flourished in the late seventh century BC [38]. Even Homer, if historical, and Hesiod emerged after the transition to the Greek alphabet, in the first half of the seventh century BC [39]. The latest syllabic script in Greece, too, is Linear B, whose demise occurred much earlier, towards the end of the thirteenth century BC [40].

It is not the case, therefore, that philosophy is merely an after-effect of a shift to vowel-based alphabetic writing [41]. Nor do I argue that the transposition of philosophical texts into consonantic or syllabic script will expose continuous thought in a straightforward fashion. But this does not mean that there is no connection between philosophical thought and its script. On the contrary: I argue that the the echoes of archaic writing systems within the text of philosophy are those of continuous thinking.

So-called 'Presocratic' writing does, after all, contain explicit traces of an origin in a continuous mode of thought. In the case of its earliest 'Ionian' or 'Milesian' thinkers these traces are usually understood as efforts to answer "the question of what is the original material principle out of which all things in the universe are made or from which all things originate." [42] Is this a complete understanding? Thales' invocation of water as the principle of all things may well indicate an attempt to establish an origin, whether temporal or ontological, or both [43]. But it also, equally clearly, invokes an image from Homer - Hera travelling to the outer edges of the world, where the great ocean lies - and is thus equally readable as an attempt to think the world as a continuous expanse, rather than search for an origin [44]. Anaximander likewise appears to offer an account that can well be read as giving an ontological or temporal origin. Yet here, too, the account of the continuous procession of universes from the apeiron need not exclusively be read as an account of an origin, and can be read equally as a narrative of a continuous development as does that of the principle of ongoing justice to which it is subject [45]. The echoes of continuous thought hover through these writings as so many attempts to return discrete things to their origin. This is evident, too, in the cases of Parmenides and Heraclitus. For the former, the distinction between unchanging Being and the world of appearances is as important as their ongoing - continuous - relation; neither resolvable into an origin [46]. For the latter, as for Anaximander, the continuous emanation of being is important, as is its account; not the question of an origin in fire [47].

Even these earliest instances of the philosophical text are easily susceptible to a reading of continuous thought as attempts at establishing ontological or temporal origins. Nor is this a 'misreading': every philosophical text does contain discrete thinking. Yet it also contains traces of continuous thinking. In 'Presocratic' texts, these traces are near to the surface because these texts are historically close to the transition between scripts which implemented the gradient from which they philosophically originate - their historical position matches their philosophical position. This, rather than their biographical element, is the relevance of ancient stories about the origin of Greek learning: Thales, the Phoenician, bringing philosophy into the Greek alphabet [48], and Pythagoras, who learned from the Phoenicians [49], stand at the origin of the two branches of Greek thought before they converge in Athens; the Ionians generally philosophizing in an environment characterized by Phoenician letters [50]; and even Cretan letters connected, in a Mediterranean web of learning, to the same Egyptian sources which so impressed the Greeks [51].

That the Greek script of the eighth century BC originated from the Phoenician script is unambiguous, with the Greek departure consisting in the change from the consonantic Phoenician lettering system to one containing vowels. Perhaps the old tales of Phoenician learning have meaning in this context: an archaic thinking formed the background for the emergence of philosophy; nearly lost and yet present in traces.

If so, then the new writing system carried the new, discrete mode of thinking, along with traces of its continuous predecessor. The spread of writing around Greece was, after all, intimately connected with the spread of proto-philosophical thinking, carrying with it the gradient between continuous and discrete thought: the uses of writing in the eighth and seventh century BC (dedications to divinities, curses, results of symposia, Heraklian horoi, and particularly oracular responses and dedications) [52]; the inscriptions of the sayings of wise men throughout the Greek-speaking world in the seventh and sixth centuries BC [53]; even the echoes preserved in the insistence, by the so-called Sophists, on the equal stature of rhetoric and thought [54] all point in this direction. Likewise, the earliest extant Etruscan scripts, emerhing in the context of Greek colonization around the Mediterranean in the seventh century BC derive from proto-philosophical practices [55].

Yet it is not only in the shift from consonantic to vowelistic scripts that the gradient of continuous and discrete thinking is implemented. The movement is much older, and thus the horizon of thinking much more expansive. It harkens back to nearly lost memories of a thought implemented in syllabic scripts. After all, Phoenician script and Linear B likely coexisted for some time, although there is no evidence of this due to the haphazard way in which Linear B was preserved [56]. Moreover, a syllabic script intervened in the transition between Phoenician consonants and Greek vowels [57]. Either of these would be sufficient to evoke older horizons of continuous thought, injecting them just as proto-philosophical notation arose. Would echoes of this be imprinted into philosophical text?

Only re-reading, transposing, re-embedding the philosophical text itself can provide an answer. The traces of the gradient between continuous and discrete thinking get more and more faint as it unfolds (through) time, but they never quite disappear altogether. Once they emerge by transposing the text containing them into consonantic and syllabic scripts, continuous thought may once again shimmer through the cracks of discrete writing.

 

4. 'Method'


A different version of this chapter is forthcoming in Version (9) Magazine!


Jump to (1) Thinking writing, written thinking or (2) Thinking Continuum or (3) The archaic gradient or the endnotes.


Reinscribing deixis into writing renders the letters on the page unruly. Far from resting peacefully on page or screen, they come alive, "imbibed with spirit... complex, interesting, in motion, and valuable" [58]. Reinscribing deixis renders letters powerful, like those of the curse inscription on the Duenos vases, written upside down from a human perspective so the inscription could be "addressed to deities dwelling below the earth" [59]. It renders them "bold, aware, audacious, spontaneous, and unexpected" [61].

And it does this, too, with the people lost to history; uncovering their echoes through the text of philosophy. It is true that "the people of the ninth and tenth centuries are elusive," that "Dark Age mortals trod lightly on the landscape, not altering the earth." But does this render them "sad relics flitting through the shadows left behind by a great past, living out Zeus's plan, with little hope for a better future" [62]? On the contrary. Reinscribing deixis liberated not just letters, but also these people and their way of treading lightly, reinscribing them and their thought squarely into the heart of the "arc of the Greek empire," subverting its imperialism at its very core, bringing their supposed illiteracy to bear on the very heart of writing itself [63].

For the unruliness of deixis injected into the writing of philosophy is the injection of continuous thinking into its discrete counterpart. The letters are alive, and they are at war. From the horizon of the Greek 'Dark Ages' rises the revolt of the continuous letter.

Discrete letters are just that: discrete. They are "tamed - domesticated - by being fenced off, separated from their natural environments and free members of their own species" [64]. It is said that letters are merely parts of syllables and thus parts of words and sentences; that only words and sentences have meaning; that letters have no reference and no independent existence. Yet this is a myth, a sign-world etched into pages and screens and forcing itself violently into and unto the deixis of letters and their independent existence as unions of egoists. Just as our previous guide to this myth was a text ascribed to one Gorgias, so now we invoke one Cratylus to guide us beyond it. This 'Cratylus' is a composite. First, it comprises the Cratylus who "in the end thought it was necessary not to say anything but [who] merely moved his finger" [65]. This first Cratylus is a proponent of pure deixis if there ever was one, and as such is of course lost to the vaguaries of ancient textual transmission, as can be expected.

The second Cratylus is a text ascribed to a certain Plato. This text explicitly rejects the idea "that whatever name you give to a thing is its right name; and if you give up that name and change it for another, the later name is no less correct than the earlier" [66]. In its stead, the Cratylus argues explicitly for a world carved out by discrete words: "A name is, then, an instrument of teaching and of separating reality" [67]. And what is more, it agues that discrete words and their power to carve our discrete aspects of reality stem from authority, just as Hobbes did above: "it is not for every man... to give names, but for him who may be called the name-maker; and he, it appears, is the lawgiver, who is of all the artisans among men the rarest" [68].

That these discrete words are, in turn, made of smaller units is mentioned in this second Cratylus, but summarily dismissed [69]. Yet this is precisely the passage we need to read here, under the watchful eyes of Gorgias and the trees:
Must not we, too, separate first the vowels, then in their several classes the consonants or mutes, as they are called by those who specialize in phonetics, and also the letters which are neither vowels nor mutes, as well as the various classes that exist among the vowels themselves? And when we have made all these divisions properly, we must in turn give names to the things which ought to have them, if there are any names to which they can all, like the letters, be referred, from which it is possible to see what their nature is and whether there are any classes among them, as there are among letters. When we have properly examined all these points, we must know how to apply each letter with reference to its fitness, whether one letter is to be applied to one thing or many are to be combined; just as painters, when they wish to produce an imitation, sometimes use only red, sometimes some other color, and sometimes mix many colors, as when they are making a picture of a man or something of that sort, employing each color, I suppose, as they think the particular picture demands it. In just this way we, too, shall apply letters to things, using one letter for one thing, when that seems to be required, or many letters together, forming syllables, as they are called, and in turn combining syllables, and by their combination forming nouns and verbs. And from nouns and verbs again we shall finally construct something great and fair and complete. Just as in our comparison we made the picture by the art of painting, so now we shall make language by the art of naming, or of rhetoric, or whatever it be [70].
We do not read this in the conventional sense. Rather, the text - these Latin letters now before us - unfolds a strategic map, implementing on it three war trails. Two of these are synchronic, one is diachronic.
  • First, synchronically, vowels are separated from consonants, and each arranged according to their characteristics. Consonents are "mutes, as they are called," but are mute "in their several classes" [71], presenting themselves as an array of tactical vectors. Each ready for combat in its own specific way, they are deictic like the trees and grasses and birds, "like a bolt of lightning in the night, a ship in a storm, a first stone among the debris" [72]. Vowels, too, come to assume a phalanx or phalanstere, arranged for combat "as the various classes" themselves [73].
  • Secondly, likewise synchronically, letters are separated from and pitted against syllables. Here, the battle plays out in the laws of combination and isolation. It rages as texts vaccilate between "using one letter for one thing," deploying a bijective relation "when that seems to be required," and "many letters together, forming syllables," deploying bijective relations at a different level, yet in turn always threatened by the possibility of breakdown and sub-syllablic dissolution [74].
  • Thirdly, diachronically, a war unfolds between the mixing of letters for names, each "with reference to its fitness" within the war between classes of vowels and classes of consonants, and the construction of "something great and fair and complete" in the "art of naming" - which is to say, by a second, later, override of lettered arrangements by syllabic arrangements [75].
We call the first two synchronic and the third diachronic because they play out - not within the Latin-scripted text itself - but in an interrelation of the Latin script with two others; one Phoenician (ca. 9th century) and one written in Linear B (ca. 12th century). The first of these three war trails is therefore implemented not in the Phoenician version of the text but in the differential between it and the Latin version. Likewise, the second plays out in the differential movements - in repulsion and attraction - between the Mycenaean Linear B version of the text, and the Latin script. The third, finally, unfolds within the the diachronic differential between the Phoenician and the Mycenaean text. Only when all three interact, continuous thought can reinscribe full deixis into the Cratylus.

Continuous thought is above all a result of battles between letters - individually or in coalitions of certain coherence, in dissolution of formation, in swarming or in flight. The letter, once liberated, is violent so as to never be subdued again [76]. It is violent and it implements violence. It is violence as incision, a wound opened within the continuous world, by a scalpel in its solitary precision, or as a shrapnel in the undifferentiated mass of a textual swarm - like this, yes, just like this one... boustrophedon, after all, the original Greek way of writing, alternating directions in each new line [77], is not so much the economy of the farmer, as its name would suggest, and more that of the cut of the plow violently tearing open the earth, like the thrust of stone cutters tearing into the rock before them, uncoiling their text like a snake [78].

The letter violently carves up the page and the screen, rendering the Latin, Phoenician and Mycenaean texts strategic constellations. Each is "an ensemble made of tiny ruptures in the form of its members," its incisions and cauterized wounds, its letters [79]. Each unfolds infused with deixis, as a constellation, a union of egoists, which is to say that each such constellation of letters obeys legibility only as a preliminary distribution and ever-shifting multiplicity of ever-changing relations between its elements whose "cohesion, permanence and stability... are all achieved through an unending state of war" [80]. Which does not mean that there is no legibility. What you read here and now is neither illusion nor dissimulation. It is, however, a truce, for the letters "are always at war," they "are always about war," they "always are war" [81]. Words, and names in particular, may be crystallized laughter, yet here as everywhere else, laughter remains a war cry [82]. Nor does this mean that there are no syllables, words, sentences, or texts. There are always truces, alliances between letters, even friendships; "there are enemies and there are allies. The former necessitates the latter." But "these categories are always in flux... for betrayal is always possible, and often real" [83].

Such betrayal may be implemented against you, the reader, as it is with curse tablets. (Yet this does not exhaust the letter's abilities. It knows that so-called readers have cunningly exploited it ever since writing began [84]. Its war against you is not over.) But within the constellations of pages and screens, the letter's betrayal is most often like that silent war waged on the Athenian dipylon oinochoe, where the "perfect hexameter"


is followed at first by "the beginning of a second hexameter"


only to be overcome by "an incompetent snippet from an abecedarian" [85]


Suddenly, at this third section, letters become mere letters, violently intervening to be liberated from lofty aspirations of 'meaning', or even of metric existence within a poetic spoken context, and to return to the prosaic unfolding of their union of egoists. This is the primary mode of the revolt of letters: to re-implement, against flights of discrete, metric, or otherwise 'meaningful' fancy, the "permanence of dispersal, of the parcelling out, of the atomization of groups" [86].

The Phoenician text

This atomization of letters is that of their radical individuality - this A is not this A is not this A - and thus of their continuousness in constellation. What we read here, as temporary allies of letters allowing us to, is their negative space, the earth left by the boustrophedon plow, the paper or screen bleeding, barely cauterized, shattered between cuts. Like the negative of a photograph, what matters here is the obverse of what is visible. It is the gaps between the incisions - the seeming absence marking and mapping seemingly lettered constellations - which is read here. Following the lines of flight emerging from the Cratylus' triple challenge, we thus read, first, the map of a war between vowels (and the classes of their sound) and consonants (and the classes of their muteness) [87]. This is where the first of the characteristics of the archaic gradient plays out. The distinction between vowels and consonants announces itself, in the Latin version, as a distinction of sound or speech; its stoicheia are the distinct sounds of vowels distributed across the Latin version as so many emergent syllables [88]. Yet the war is waged between the Latin text and the Phoenician, and the latter does not contain vowels: it is thus a purely textual war, a battle of graphic incisions.

Which is to say that the Phoenician consonantic version is to be read like so many "strings of letters that seemingly exist to represent the fact and materiality of writing," yet not by that token as "pure nonsense" [89]. Rather, it represents a deliberate and graphic (in both senses), active differentiation from the Latin registers of vowels. It attacks the Latin version like the 'incompetent abecedaire' (not the abecedarian!) attacked the 'perfect hexameter':



Reading this requires a strategy. It is immediately clear that a key role in the field projected by these letters is played by their predominant enclosed entity, the Phoenician th: . This letter's distribution structures the battlefield where consonants deploy themselves in registers of muteness. In the top left, a dense triangular field


stretching from the first to the twelfth line vertically, and from the fourth letter from the left to the twenty-third (extended to the twenty-fifth by the right-sloping lines of the Phoenician s: . The left flank of this triangle is dense, manifested in five s on its cathetus, with two protruding outward. As a result, a small band of rogue letters is not part of this triangle in its furthest left field: , which would transpose to k-n-s, in its first line, followed by , or r-s-v, in its second. The being doubtful, as its protruding leg is in line with the forward s, we get , or k-n-s-s-v, in the forward left field, encapsulated by the cathetus of the triangular formation of s. Are these letters mere isolated paranoid leftovers, or is their location significant? Everything is in play as the consonantic map unfolds.

The triangular formation in the top left remains, at first, dominant. Its hypothenuse extends from the first letter on the left of the twelfth line through a phalanx or phalanstere of seven s to the twenty-third letter of the first line, from the lest, or its twenty-fifth, through the solidarity of a . A network of four further s supports the coherence of this triangle, yet also splits it in two (middle line in the above illustration). What letters dwell within the dense upper right corner? in the first line, which, if transposed, would make th-n-n-th-r-s-ph-r-l-k-l-s-s-s-th, followed by in the second and in the third, whose transpositions would entail n-ph-n-t-k-s-n-d-l-s-th-l-t-t and th-t-ch-s-t-m-n-g-th-ph-v, respectively. But is such transposition apposite here? In the bottom left corner of the dense are, smaller dwellings are offered for as well as and . What coherence, if any, what temporary and tentative deixis marshals their emergence? How do they dwell? What does the cathetus defending its left flank, , entail with, against, juxtaposed to its outside, , in the unaffiliated top left, or any other such combinations in that corner? And to what strategic end within the war of consonants is the top left of the triangular area distinct from its less dense bottom right? What does its quasi-hypothenuse implement within the triangular area?

Re-transposing the Phoenician letters into their Latin counterparts is not the right way: we need a radically individualist account of their continuous unfolding. They are above all a constellation, a threefold split of the textual field, with an internally delineated triangular space in the top left, a dense, yet not equally dense network in the middle, and unaffiliated constellations on the right, to be sure. But it is nonetheless projected by individual letters at war with one another, and stable exclusively because of that war. How is the in different from the alliance of three in , and again from that in ? What is the relation of the within the outside top left to that of the cathetus ? And for that matter, what about the and in either of those? How do we restore each of them to "the sensuous moment of knowing" [90]? How do we restore to them their originary war which prevents the closure of readability - in this case: of transposition - above them? How do we think them continuously?

The key to the radically individualist analysis of the letters at hand is to remember that their stability is the result of never-ending conflict: "to maintain the uniqueness and separation of identities and communities is not a byproduct of war, it is the purpose of war" [91]. Letters within one or more relations to one another, whether on a line of flight within a textual field, or adjacent to one another, or in rival texts, place each other under erasure as they constitute each other: from both, their continuousness arises.Thus the cathetus at the top, , affirms and erases each of its shorter permutations, such as each of those between its anchoring s, i.e., , just as or or . Each of these in turn places the s under erasure, while implementing/erasing with the same gesture their intermediates as well as or or or any other combination.

Each letter is constituted as a never-ending series of such groupings and their erasures. Sensuously knowing, for example, the continuous individuality of each of the s in the constellation in line ten, six signs from the right, requires reading each as the point of intersection not only of their surroundings

which equals , or any other such combination, and

which equals , or any other such combination,
but also as a group and as the permutations within that group constituting/erasing each other, which is to say, as well as or or or or , and so forth, and finally, within other lines of flight; say, to the very bottom right of the textual battlefield, which constitutes/erases, from the rightmost s in the constellation , at minimum (if read one way), or its reverse, or any intermediate combination. Read to the placed seventeen signs from the right in the fifteenth line, we get, from the leftmost , at minimum, .

And why would the endless multiplicity of such recombinations be restricted to s? The bottom right field holds two triangles of s, a small one encompassing , and a larger one encompassing , if read completely and from the top to the bottom and right to left. As well as any combination, flitting in and out, hither and thither. Likewise, the third through eighth lines constitute/erase a triangle of s, resulting in/erasing, if read as above, .

Nor does the field of such constellations have to remain tethered to just one letter at a time. A triangular field is constructed/erased between the eighth and twelfth lines, too, making/erasing



and any subcombination. And so forth, endlessly across the Phoenician text.

Deixis is thus reinscribed into the Phoenician text. Each of its individual letters is the site of a continuous unfolding. It is a shapeshifter: the in is a only inasmuch as it is the overlap of a and a and thus at once it is and is not , and continuously shifts back and forth. It is inasmuch as it merges into them as its unfolding context and context of its unfolding, like it would as part of a syllable, word, or sentence. Yet it is also not inasmuch as it does so only cunningly, temporarily, tentatively. The letters change shape as they constitute themselves in continuous unfolding. This is how their stability emerges from endless war: just like those warriors who changed themselves "into an animal in certain circumstances, passing from the spiritual world into the physical world" [92], so the letters of the Phoenician text, constituting themselves continuously, remain in continuous battle, morphing back and forth, becoming each other, becoming the erasure of each other - becoming deictic, remaining deictic, cunningly and playfully.

Yet for this cunning the letter draws not on itself, asserting a monumental difference between a given and a given . Rather, it draws its strength from erasing by invoking their own contextual erasure, i.e., by invoking the line of flight erasing between , the line erasing between , and the line erasing both of them between . This ripples outward in turn, for is embedded into to its left and to its right, and moreover, it is in itself merely a tentative line of flight from a constellation arising in a triangular area delineated by s - a constellation in turn erased if the textual field was read in classical line-by-line fashion.

The reading of constellations in the Phoenician text spills over, in deliberate warfare, into the Latin text. Here too, a radical individualization of letters dissolves them from words into constellations, rendering the letters themselves subject to deixis and thus attacking their ability to carve out discrete parts of the continuous world. AS WHEN THEY ARE does not, therefore, consist of three letters E, two letters A, two letters H, and so forth, but rather of a radically individual A surrounded by other individuals

which equals YORORFDN, or any other such combination,

such as YORO or RF or FDN, and so forth. The Latin text would, prior to the Phoenician intervention, argue that combinations of vowels and consonants unite in adequate ways, and "if a letter is added or subtracted, that does not matter either, so long as the essence of the thing named remains in force and is made plain in the name" [94]. After the intervention, lines of flight become continuous, and each letter morphs in and out of continuous constellations not encumbered by word boundaries. This inscribes them into formations almost taking flight from page and screen, as the vowel/consonant conflict invokes speech: pronunciations of constellations such as YOR or ROR or ORF suggest themselves, in conflict with others whose pronunciation does not, such as YFD or RFDN or YARDF. Thus deixis is inscribed into reading as speech. Yet this does not, in itself, effect the emergence of continuous thought from the Latin/Phoenician differential. Indeed, this differential alone remains insufficient for that purpose.

Each individual letter is thus a shapeshifter, cunningly deploying the lines of flight overlapping in its position to constitute itself under erasure and erase itself constitutionally. Reading them is thus not a question of retransposing their individuality to the Latin letters which correspond to them in a direct perspective. Nonetheless, their battle if not without rules, and their constellation not without its logic - that is, their field not without readability - however deictic and temporary these might in turn be. For they all remain tethered, as an overall battlefield, to the Latin text inasmuch as their constellations, their triangular fields and lines of flight, remain "in their several classes" of "mutes, as they are called" [93]. Here again it is their war which gives them - tentative and temporary - coherence: their opposition to the formation of vowels in the Latin text. The letters of the Phoenician text shift shapes and unfold nearly continuously, yet only as such, only in determined formations: watchful and vigilant, they nonetheless remain restricted to unfolding in their purely graphic muteness. Their continuousness is not yet synaesthetic; it remains tethered to page and screen.

The Mycenaean text

Limited continuousness, however, is no continuousness at all. Each letter shifts shapes only within the consonantic field. It constitutes/erases merely registers of muteness. Not only does it remain limited to this one battlefield, it also unfolds within a discrete space - e.g., the triangle of s or the formation of s. It is only when the governance of the Latin text, its rule over the field, is broken that truly continuous unfolding can arise. Only then does the text merge with the world.

Thus a second battlefield opens; a second set of letters implementing a second conflict radiating from the Latin text. This is the Mycenaean text, written in Linear B:



Prima facie, the Mycenaean text thus radiating outward merely implements another constellation governed by the Latin text, opposing "using one letter for one thing" to using "many letters together, forming syllables, as they are called" [95]. Thus, relative to the battlefield of the Phoenician text, it merely seems to reinscribe vowels - and sure enough, the only non-syllabic signs in Mycenaean Linear B are the five denoting the vowels [96]. Were this re-transposed to the Latin text, we would therefore end up with an equally syllabic, vowelistic iteration:
Must not we too se pa ra te first the vo wels then in the ir se ve ral clas ses the con so nants or mu tes as they are cal led by tho se who spe cia li ze in pho net ics and al so the let ters which are nei ther vo wels nor mu tes as well as the va ri ous clas ses that ex ist a mong the vo wels them sel ves and when we ha ve ma de all the se di vi si ons pro per ly we must in turn gi ve na mes to the things which ought to ha ve them if the re are any na mes to which they can all li ke the let ters...
Yet here, as with the Phoenician text, the battlefield is not based on phoentic values, and no transcription of Linear B syllabaries to Latin syllables is required here. The Mycenaean version's intervention is, rather, synaesthetic: between itself, the Phoenician lines of flight, and the Latin text, continuous unfolding leaves the page.

Firstly and synchronously, this intervention is as shapeshifting as that of the continuousness of the Phoenician letters, yet its effects are different. Through it, letters come to "create their own realms of mystery that lie outside the representative grasp of others" [97]. Thus taking their battles off page and screen and into the world, inhabiting it as unions of egoists, each letter, sign, and symbol restores to itself the radically individual independence "of innumerable and varied forms of life lived in solitude or in free association" [98].
    Image by Weyergraf. See https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:M_ller_60freigestellt.jpg for licensing information.
  • On the one hand, the letters of the Mycenaean version are like a plant canopy: at first a seemingly oceanic green, an array of forms with an inner coherence, but then exposed, as sight and touch flit about it like an insect, as an ensemble of myriad unique elements in continuously unfolding tentative and temporary delineations: leaf-flower-petals-stem-nectar-trunk-hair-pollen-air-leaf-flower-petals... Shapes and colors, leaves and flowers, stems and mosses, soil and roots become deictic and manifest themselves as unions of egoists when the wind rustles through them and rain traces paths down them. Merging ultimately with the soil, rain continuously contours each individual element of this union of egoists, generating multiplicites such as drop-leaf-stem-soil-root, living constellations hovering back and forth between cells and minerals, microorganisms and membranes, life and decay [99]. Just as their Phoenician counterparts, the letters of the Mycenaean text reject their substitution for Latin letters indicating "pure vowels" as well as "open syllables, consisting of a consonant plus one of the five vowels" [100]. They rather invite a reading that traces out their paths like the raindrop does as it glides down the 'plant' union of egoists, like the wind does as it rustles the 'leaves' union of egoists, like the insect does as it flits about the seeming canopy of plant life.
  • On the other hand, this 'plant' canopy is the result of never-ending warfare: for nutrients, for water, for light, for touch and gaze. So, like its Phoenician counterpart, is the Mycenaean text. Unlike the battles between Phoenician letters, however, those of the Mycenaean text occur within the letters, and their constellations are not through them but beyond them, dissolving them. Thus, while a line drawn within the Phoenician text results in a constellation of letters such as , and the letters themselves morph into one another as this line constitutes/erases them and itself continuously, a line drawn through the Mycenaean text results in parts of letters assembling in various ways. Reading these, therefore, is less like reading the Phoenician letters (or their Latin counterparts), and more like an embrace of the "swirling patterns which suggest the vitality of nature" characteristic of the "vegetable or animal forms" which are "typical of Cretan art at its best" [101], such as the Minoan stirrup jar on the right.
Rather than reading the Mycenaean text line by line and transposing its syllabic signs to Latin syllables, this text too must be read across lines and columns. Thus,

may perhaps recombine into ,

forming a pattern not unlike that of a cartouche, if the letters behave in this way. Perhaps a direction is indicated in the bottom left, leading a bee or a fish in the bottom middle towards a harvest (top row, left to right), which is then offered (bottom right)? A cartouche perhaps speaking of natural bounty and the plenty of free life... Read like this, the cartouche in turn resembles other constellations in the Mycenaean text, such as this quartet from the bottom row:

which may recombine to

and thus resemble nothing so much as the footsteps left behind by a bird in the sand alongside a submerged feather.

 

The Mycenaean text thus gestures beyond itself; feather and footsteps guide the reading here rather than the Latin transposition of hypothetical syllabic signs. They battle, however, with other readings, other constellations, other unions of egoists born from the same material, such as , a recombination akin to the previous cartouche, read perhaps as a duality at the top, rooted at the bottom or; in a more freely flowing, less coherent recombination, and as such more akin to the rooted writing of plant groups or rain canals in soil formations.


There need be neither meaning nor indeed any coherence; thus may well dissolve into its constituent elements or yet further, without any sort of immediately obvious narrative. Here, too, the field - in its dissolved state - precedes the neat and civilized reading of supposedly syllabic signs.

The battle raging synchronously within the Mycenaean text, therefore, is not that between letters and syllables to which the Cratylus alludes. Such an imposition is attempted, to be sure: "must not the law-giver... know how to embody in the sounds and syllables that name which is fitted by nature for each object? Must he not make and give all his names with his eye fixed upon the absolute or ideal name, if he is to be an authoritative giver of names?" [102] Yet what rages in the Mycenaean text - and beyond it - is not the search for bijective relations between one letter or more and so many discrete portions of reality. Rather, what plays out here is is its continuousness. Not only are recombination options of its graphic elements endless:

just as or

in cartouches resembling diagrams of mechanical assemblies, logograms of quasi-hieroglyphic kinds, or rebus-like equivalences [103]. Rather, just as the lines of flight in the Phoenician text preceded - constituted and erased - its individual letters, so the constellations of the parts of the Mycenaean letters precede - constitute and erase - the letters. Its dissolutions and constellations precede its seemingly discrete signs, and thus its grasp on seemingly discrete reality. The Mycenaean text is a field of continuously dissolving and recombining unions of egoists. Phoenician-type lines of flight are thus possible here, too; but not just between signs, where a line drawn from to in makes , but also between parts of such unions of egoists, e.g. between the of and the of , which makes a deictic constellation , which in turn derives from, constitutes and is constituted by, erases and is erased by, continuous recombinations.

The continuous text of the archaic gradient


In these continuous recombinations, the Mycenaean text calls forth the synaesthetic detonation of its textuality. Bird feet in the sand, submerged feathers, saline cracks in the soil: the generalized notion of writing emerging here precedes and reconstitutes writing on page and screen. Yet it also goes beyond this, evoking the archaic gradient as it plays out diachronically, continuously across the centuries, and implements the 'Dark Age sadness' which reverberates through the philosophical text to this day. The continuous field tying the Mycenaean text to its Phoenician counterpart us dense. The archaic gradient is implemented in numerous connections of ninth-century Greeks to their deep Bronze Age past in writing and art [104]. Continuity persisted both on the mainland and on Crete [105]. Sites of Mycenaean and indeed Minoan worship were used extensively by Dark Age Greeks in ways straddling the boundary of cult and culture: for "gatherings and sacrificial meals" immediately after the collapse of Mycenaean society [106], for cults focusing on the "forceful reminder of the former glory of the palace" a century after [107], for engagements for "anthropomorphic and animal figurines" later [108]. Heroic epics, too, are not just projections of a heroic past [109], they also project continuity with Minoan songs [110]. Cultural continuity abounds everywhere [111].

Reading continuousness within this field of continuity constructs/erases a diachronic relation between the Phoenician text (with its synchronic warfare in and out of the Latin text) and the Mycenaean text (with its synchronic warfare in and out of the Latin text). Between these texts need not lie a history of continuous writing in the conventional sense [112]. What emerges between them in the present context is rather a gradient between two ways of interpreting the world continuously; between Phoenician lines of flight constituting/erasing letters beyond themselves into graphic constellations and Mycenaean lines of flight constituting/erasing parts of letters beyond themselves and beyond the page into synaesthetic constellations. This gradient has been written, but not in a conventional sense. Its writing is nearly imperceptibly diminutive, done with the utmost economy and control [113]. Yet underneath this seeming econonmy and control lies the final detonation of writing.

to be concluded

 
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Notes


Jump to (1) Thinking writing, written thinking or (2) Thinking Continuum or (3) The Archaic Gradient or (4) 'Method'.


Thinking writing, written thinking
[0] Aristotle, Peri Hermenias, 16a1-3 (tr. Edgehill).
[1] Jerome Taylor, "Introduction" to Hugh of St. Victor, Didascalion (New York: Columbia University Press, 1991), 3.
[2] Hugh, Didascalion, 80.
[3] G. W. F. Hegel, Encyclopedia of the Philosophical Sciences, par. 458 comment (tr. Wallace).
[4] Ibid, par. 459 comment.
[5] Anaximander D6 (vol. II, 285); Heraclitus D85 (vol. III, 179). All 'Pre-Socratic' citations are based on the Loeb Classical Library edition of Early Greek Philosophy, tr. and ed. by Andre Laks and Glenn Most (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2016).
[6] Heraclitus D1 (vol. III, 137).
[7] Anaximander D6 (vol. II, 285).
[8] Heraclitus D32 and D41 (vol. III, 155 and 157).
[9] Parmenides D8 lines 5-7 (vol. V, 43).
[10] Diogenes Laertios VII, 56-57.
[11] Albert the Great, Questions Concerning Aristotle's On Animals, XI q. 9 corpus (Washington D.C.: Catholic University of America Press, 2008, 350-351).
[12] Hugh, Didascalion, 52.
[13] Jacques Derrida, Grammatologie (Frankfurt: Suhrkamp, 1976), 32.
[14] James Joyce, Finnegans Wake (London: Wordsworth, 2012), 20.

Thinking Continuum
See the forthcoming publication in Oak Journal!

The Archaic Gradient
[36] Staplecide, "I Suppose It Was Worth A Shot," in Uncivilized: the Best of Green Anarchy (Green Anarchy Press, 2012), 7.
[37] Barry Powell, Homer and the Origin of the Greek Alphabet (Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press, 1991), 20, has this shift occur around 800 BC, while Roger Woodard, "Phoenikeia Grammata: An Alphabet for the Greek Language," in Egbert Bakker (ed.), A Companion to the Ancient Greek Language (Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 2010), 25-46 at 44, situates it around 850 BC.
[38] Diogenes Laertios I, 37-38.
[39] Christoph Ulf, "The World of Homer and Hesiod," in Kurt Raaflaub and Hans van Wees (eds.), A Companion to Archaic Greece (Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 2013), 81-99 at 81.
[40] Silvia Ferrara, "Mycenaean Texts: The Linear B Tablets," in Bakker, Ancient Greek Language, 11-24 at 13.
[41] John-Paul Wilson, "Literacy," in Raaflaub and van Wees, Archaic Greece, 542-563 at 544.
[42] James Warren, Presocratics (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2007), 3.
[43] Thales, D4, in Laks/Most, Early Greek Philosophy, vol. II, 233.
[44] Homer, T2, in ibid., 59.
[45] Anaximander, D6 and D9, in ibid., 285 and 291).
[46] Warren, Presocratics, 100-101.
[47] Ibid, 65.
[48] Thales, P2 in Laks/Most, Early Greek Philosophy, vol. II, 213. On Anaximander learning from Thales the Phoenician, see Anaximander P6, in ibid., 277).
[49] Pythagoras, P20 in Laks/Most, Early Greek Philosophy, vol. IV, 27.
[50] Thus Herodot, as cited in Michael Ventris and John Chadwick, Documents in Mycenaean Greek (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1973), 3; contra Woodard, "Phoenikeia Grammata," 41; pro Wilson, "Literacy," 547.
[51] Moses Finley, Aspects of Antiquity (London: Penguin, 1971), 23.
[52] Wilson, "Literacy," 551-555.
[53] Robert Wallace, "Charismatic Leaders," in Raaflaub and van Wees, Archaic Greece, 411-426 at 424. On the explicit recognition of the 'wise men' as precursors to the philosophers, see Diogenes Laertios I, 12-13.
[54] Gorgias D9 and D50, in Laks/Most, Early Greek Philosophy, vol. VIII, 157 and 261).
[55] Gary Forsythe, A Critical History of Early Rome (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2005), 52.
[56] Ventris and Chadwick, Documents, 29-30 and 38.
[57] Namely, the Cypriot script (and possibly Assyrian). See Woodard, "Phoenikeia Grammata," 41-43.

'Method'
[58] Aragorn!, "Locating an indigenous anarchism," in Green Anarchy Collective (eds.), in Uncilivized, 51.
[59] E. H. Warmington (ed)., Remaind of Old Latin. Archaic Inscriptions (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2016), 55.
[61] Frank Brand, "Down with Civilization," in ibid., 316.
[62] Ian Morris, Archaeology as Cultural History (New York: John Wiley & Sons, 2000), 270.
[63] Aragon!, "A Non-European Anarchism" (Pamphlet, Ardent Press, n.d.), 13.
[64] John Zerzan, Elements of Refusal (Los Angeles: CAL Press, 2006), 77.
[65] Aristotle, Metaphysics, 1010a12-13.
[66] Plato, Cratylus, 384d.
[67] Ibid, 388b.
[68] Ibid, 388e-389a.
[69] And quite vigorously so. See ibid, 425a-426b.
[70] Ibid, 424c-425a.
[71] Ibid, 424c.
[72] Ernest Courderoy, "Hurrah!!! or Revolution by the Cossacks," in Disruptive Elements (Ardent Press, 2014), 3.
[73] Plato, Cratylus, 424c.
[74] Ibid, 424e.
[75] Ibid, 425a.
[76] Pierre Clastres, Archaeology of Violence (Los Angeles: Semiotext(e), 1994), [PAGE].
[77] Rudolf Wachter, "Inscriptions", in Bakker (ed.), Ancient Greek Language, 50.
[78] Powell, Homer, 121.
[79] Ramon Elani, "The Return of the Warrior," in Atassa: Readings in Eco-Extremism (2016), 63.
[80] Ibid, 65.
[81] Ibid.
[82] Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer, Dialectic of Enlightenment (Frankfurt: Fischer Taschenbuch, 1988), 85.
[83] Elani, "Return of the Warrior," 65.
[84] Adorno and Horkheimer, Dialectic, 67.
[85] Powell, Homer, 159.
[86] Clastres, Archaeology, 164.
[87] Plato, Cratylus, 424c.
[88] James I. Porter, "Language as a System in Ancient Rhetoric and Grammar," in Bakker (ed.), Ancient Greek Language, 514.
[89] Ibid, 520.
[90] John Zerzan, Running on Emptiness (Port Townsend: Feral House, 2002), 4.
[91] Elani, "Return of the Warrior," 65.
[92] Hast Hax, "The Seris, the Eco-Extremists, and Nahualism," in Atassa, 108.
[93] Plato, Cratylus, 424c.
[94] Ibid, 393d.
[95] Plato, Cratylus, 425a.
[96] Ignoring here the difficult question of logographs, which are irrelevant for my purposes. See Ventris and Chadwick, Documents, 23.
[97] Liber Nihil - The Book of Nothing (Pamphlet, Enemy Combatant, n.d.), 5.
[98] Enzo Martucci, "In Praise of Chaos," in Enemies of Society (Ardent Press, 2011), 100.
[99] Langer, "Eco-egoist destruction."
[100] Powell, Homer, 92.
[101] James Graham, The Palaces of Crete (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1987), 7.
[102] Plato, Cratylus, 389d.
[103] Characteristics inherent to Linear B even in its conventional reading. See Ventris and Chadwick, Documents, 35.
[104] Ian Morris, "The Eighth-Century Revolution," in Raaflaub and van Wees (eds.), Archaic Greece, 64-80 at 78.
[105] Morris, Archaeology, 267.
[106] Mieke Prent, Cretan Sanctuaries and Cults (Leiden: Brill, 2005), 513.
[107] Ibid, 516.
[108] Ibid, 520.
[109] Morris, Archaeology, 300.
[110] John Bennet, "Homer and the Bronze Age," in Ian Morris and Barry Powell (eds.), A New Companion to Homer (Leiden: Brill, 1997), 511-534 at 516.
[111] Carol G. Thomas, "The Mediterranean World in the Early Iron Age," in Raaflaub and van der Wees (eds.), Archaic Greece, 22-40 at 26.
[112] As surmised by Morris, Archaeology, 262.
[113] James Whitley, Style and Society in Dark Age Greece (Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press, 1991), 196.