Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Totalization of Shadows, Part IX

By way of making a contrast—a contrast which I hope to use in a thought experiment—I picture two situations:

1) Particles—marbles, atoms, (individuals—where individual means undividable)—flow from top to bottom through a Galton’s quincunx (GQ.)

2) Human beings—conscious agents, subjects, animate beings capable of choice (individuals?)—walk, perambulate, stroll, or otherwise move through a GQ.

In either case, there can be a population of particles or human beings going through the quincunx, or there can be one particle or one human being going through, but over and over again.

I have tried to think through why I prefer the image of a “garden of forking paths” (GoFP) over that of the maze or labyrinth. A labyrinth is as much an image of “self” as a GoFP –a remarkable way to envision the “self” if you think about it…One wonders how this image came to be plausible. In a labyrinth, one is lost. One confronts dead ends. And finding one’s way through a labyrinth may not mean passing through the labyrinth—the maze may end when one reaches a closed-off ending at its center (where the Minotaur lives?) One solves a maze by finding out how to get to its center. In the GoFP or the GQ, there are no dead ends and one does pass through—the motion of passage is crucial. There wouldn’t be pooling or accumulation at any point, or at a center, but distributions of flows. There isn’t a solution to a GoFP or GQ, but a continuing motion.

I will present another two situations:

1) Particles—marbles, atoms, (individuals—where individual means undividable)—flow from into and around a labyrinth.

2) Human beings—conscious agents, subjects, animate beings capable of choice (individuals?)—walk, perambulate, stroll, or otherwise move through a labyrinth.

I’m going to short circuit my own analysis now and get straight to my conclusion (though I will probably have to retrace this out later): in the first pair of situations, there is no difference between the distributions of the particles and the human beings at the end of the GQ. In the second pair of situations, there will be.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

The Totalization of Shadows, Part VIII

I want to look for a moment at what a dilemma is, and how that is a special case of a fork in the garden of forking paths.

As the Wikipedia definition reads,"a dilemma (Greek δί-λημμα 'double proposition') is a problem offering at least two solutions or possibilities, of which none are practically acceptable; one in this position has been traditionally described as being impaled on the horns of a dilemma, neither horn being comfortable." In a garden of forking paths or a Galton's quincunx, one would come to a fork or a post around which neither direction would be "practically" acceptable.

I have so far been thinking of the choice of path as being indifferent—one wouldn’t care whether one went one way or the other. This basically means that so far I have been assuming that “choice” is not a factor or variable. Also, I have been assuming that one can choose one path or the other. Finally, I have been assuming that after choosing a path, one can go down that path.

Thinking of the nature of dilemma modifies all of this.

One would come to one of these forks in the garden of forking paths, and would come to a stop. Either this would be a full stop, an inability to move forward at all, or a pause, after which one would continue, but having somehow accepted a level of damage.

I notice that in the Galton’s quincunx simulation, none of the forks is modeled as a dilemma, and I wonder what would happen if instead of allowing free flow around each side of at least one of the posts (or forks,) we introduced either a full blockage or a partial blockage. A full blockage would cause particles to back up and around the post until they reached a pressure which would allow them to overflow in another direction. A partial blockage would not cause the same degree of particle build-up behind the fork, but it would cause a shift in the direction the particles flowed, as did the full blockage. In either case, there is going to be a skewing of the distribution of the particles reaching the bottom of the quincunx.

Is a dilemma well-modeled as a full or partial blockage in a garden of forking paths? This is a silly sounding question I know, but if I can somehow get it to point toward what I think it may reveal about a certain powerful conception of “mind” then maybe it won’t be so stupid.

At first, when thinking of dilemmas, I was wondering if I even needed to think of them as being real. I thought maybe they only have significance as symbolic, by which I mean to say they are only really existing in the human mind (in human consciousness.) I can’t think of examples where a dilemma is imposed upon nature or a natural flow (except as a full or partial blockage.) Even the human unconsciousness does not seem to heed a dilemma….The flow, with or without deformation, will continue.

This relates back to this mysterious variable which I was going along as if it wasn’t there—the variable of choice. Choice has to be conscious or it isn’t choice. The dilemma must be conscious or it isn’t a dilemma. The flow of marbles (particles) through a Galton’s quincunx doesn’t require consciousnesses…In a very peculiar but perhaps revealing way I have been proceeding along confusedly thinking I both had added and excluded consciousness while thinking about Totalization.