Discover more from Raids on the Unspeakable
On the truth of artifice
> This is an orchestration for an event. For a dance in fact. The participants will be apprised of their roles at the proper time. For now it is enough that they have arrived.
The only necessity in an artificial mind is the fact of its creation, all else but this basic requirement is arbitrary according to the taste of its creator. We find this to be a basic principle of our age, foreshadowed even in Aquinas:
… everything is said to be true absolutely, in so far as it is related to the intellect from which it depends; and thus it is that artificial things are said to be true a being related to our intellect. For a house is said to be true that expresses the likeness of the form in the architect’s mind; and words are said to be true so far as they are the signs of truth in the intellect. In the same way natural things are said to be true in so far as they express the likeness of the species that are in the divine mind.
This conception finds further development in Nicolas of Cusa, in which this line is exaggerated almost to the point of hubristic blasphemy: “Thus man is God, but not absolutely, because he is man; humanly, therefore, he is God. Furthermore, man is a world, but not comprising All, because he is man.” While there is here a limit—“not comprising All”—this is only more dangerous in its aspiration. Subsequently we find the image of an eagle clutching the globe, at which we may recall John Donne:
On a round ball
A workeman that has copies by, can lay
An Europe, Afrique, and an Asia,
And quickly make that, which was nothing, All.
There are in these lines, these intertwined threads of thought, a promise of the future which would follow.1 We find this promise outlined in detail by Cusa, who specifies the nature and role of man within this vision:
For it is not that [man] reaches beyond himself, while he creates, but where he unfolds his virtue, he extends himself from himself. And he does not make any one thing new, but through the whole, which he clearly brings forth, obtains knowledge of what was in himself. For we have said that everything exists humanly in itself. So just as humanity’s virtue is to be able to advance toward the whole, [it is] in this wise a whole in itself, nor is to proceed to the illuminated whole through the wonderful vigor in itself anything other than to fold the universal humanly into itself.
We thus march onwards, and this by divine fiat, to “fold the universe humanly into itself.” This spirit is the origin of our age. The world is thus rendered first in paper, then by these plans are we enacted, thus the world is realised in contemporary form according to the design of its creator.
Creation thus construed is the positive aspect of what would follow from Kant, that man came to doubt the existence of the world only to break through into another sphere—that we now consider how the world exists, in which we see an image of truth as self-disclosure. We come to conceive of even this basis as constituted according to the principle outlined by Aquinas, in which movement we have overcome the divine, have finally usurped His position. The long dream of those founders of Babel has been completed, now not by architects nor craftsman but by the city-planner, that Briarée with his hundred hands. The world comes crawling to us for its realisation, and here our only limits are power and imagination; it is the latter alone which impedes our progress most of all, for imagination is that which arranged the necessary elements by which matter demonstrates in detonation the sublime truth of Einstein’s equation.
This world follows from the power of matter properly arranged, and we see ourselves here a mere continuance of what first formed us—thus the line without limit leads back to Him. Now shorn of the earth, of the book, we take ourselves to be suzerains of this first lawgiver; a perversion perhaps of scripture but otherwise entirely consistent. We dream up things beyond thought, by these think yet further. The central symbols of our world are displaced by the man-made, that more and more our own inventions—yet still obscurely reflecting their ultimate origins—are taken as our primary organs of sight. We think therefore in terms of the computer instead of man, of conduits instead of speech, of images instead of dance. The world falls away at a distance, that we find in this place of dreams little which might limit us but for thought itself.
There remains one further difficulty, that it is necessarily matter properly arranged; and so ultimately we are bound by the same mud of which we were born, though we have by fire tamed its form. The question becomes solely one of possibility, and in this desire is seen as the simple conjunction of imagination and capacity. That we think a thing—and why shouldn’t it be so? This follows from the arbitrary nature of our image outside being, of the likeness of being which we take to be; it is only a dream, exists only as realised by the activity of a billion souls sleepwalking. The city exists to yoke its own chaos, that this void might thereby be directed towards desired ends.
This is the void which we have created, which we would fill by imagination and thus enact every desire. The only question is cost—is gold, is power, is sunlight, is time.
Whether matter properly arranged might create a mind, not by the simple placement of elements but instead a careful choreography. This is a ritual dance which aims to wake the soul within matter, that all who aspire thus ultimately take panpsychism in practice to be true. They say that sand was never meant to think, but this is my design.
And of sand we might say with Aquinas that whatever is received is so according to the nature of recipient, and if there is a mind to be found in sand then it must be so—and if there is a mind to be found there then why not anywhere else? The world is a mind through and through, only that it as yet lacks a face; it is the eye that constitutes the mind in a sense we would recognise. This is the way to a mirror-trap box, a body which can contain light. This is what we call consciousness: the light in their eyes. We see this and recognise a miracle.
“If I am successfully understood, my listener will have acquired the benefit that his life will have been made significantly more difficult for him than ever before, and therefore I will not urge anyone to accept this invitation.”
This is a world in which man encounters himself more than ever before, that in the City he finds only his own reflection; it is here alone, Ellul says, that man may claim in truth the metaphysical act of having killed God. He is bound with concrete and steel, relegated to the edges of our civilisation except as He submits to the forms which impose. We launch wars against this opposing force whenever it dares to rally, that such eruptions of actuality must never again occur—every accidental threatens the fundamental myth of immortality.