The Obviousness of the Correspondence Concept of Truth

Veritas as adaequatio rei ad intellectum does not imply the later transcendental conception of Kant — possible only on the basis of the subjectivity of man‟s essence — that “objects conform to our knowledge.” Rather, it implies the Christian theological belief that, with respect to what it is and whether it is, a matter, as created (ens creatum), is only insofar as it corresponds to the idea preconceived in the intellectus divinus, i. e., in the mind of God, and thus measures up to the idea (is correct) and in this sense is “true.” The intellectus humanus too is an ens creatum. As a capacity bestowed upon man by God, it must satisfy its idea. But the understanding measures up to the idea only by accomplishing in its propositions the correspondence of what is thought to the matter, which in its turn must be in conformity with the idea. If all beings are “created,” the possibility of the truth of human knowledge is grounded in the fact that matter and proposition measure up to the idea in the same way and therefore are fitted to each other on the basis of the unity of the divine plan of creation.

Veritas as adaequatio rei (creandae) ad intellectum (divinum) guarantees veritas as adaequatio intellectus (humani) ad rem (creatam). Throughout, veritas essentially implies convenientia, the coming of beings themselves, as created, into agreement with the Creator, an “accord” with regard to the way they are determined in the order of creation. But this order, detached from the notion of creation, can also be represented in a general and indefinite way as a world-order. The theologically conceived order of creation is replaced by the capacity of all objects to be planned by means of a worldly reason which supplies the law for itself and thus also claims that its procedure is immediately intelligible (what is considered “logical”). That the essence of propositional truth consists in the correctness of statements needs no further special proof.

Even where an effort is made — with a conspicuous lack of success — to explain how correctness is to occur, it is already presupposed as being the essence of truth. Likewise, material truth always signifies the consonance of something at hand with the “rational” concept of its essence.

If we take the tracing back of propositional truth to material truth to be what it shows itself to be, namely a theological explanation, and if we then keep the philosophical definition completely pure of all admixture of theology and limit the concept of truth to propositional truth, then we encounter an old — though not the oldest — tradition of thinking, according to which truth is the accordance (homoiosis) of a statement (logos) with a matter (pragma). What about statements here remains still worthy of question — granted that we know what is meant by accordance of a statement with the matter? Then again, do we know that?

We speak of accordance in various senses. We say, for example, considering two five-mark coins lying on the table: they are in accordance with one another. They come into accord in the oneness of their outward appearance. Hence they have the latter in common, and thus they are in this regard alike. Furthermore, we speak of accordance whenever, for example, we state regarding one of the five-mark coins: this coin is round. Here the statement is in accordance with the thing. Now the relation obtains, not between thing and thing, but rather between a statement and a thing. But wherein are the thing and the statement supposed to be in accordance, considering that the relata are manifestly different in their outward appearance? The coin is made of metal. The statement is not material at all. The coin is round. The statement has nothing at all spatial about it. With the coin something can be purchased. The statement about it is never a means of payment.” – Martin Heidegger, The Concept of Truth

Although in the example of the coins and the earlier example of “true”, i.e. “genuine” gold Heidegger circles around the provenance of the philosophical concept, which made it appear common sense and obvious even when first written, not merely from long habit since, he doesn’t state its provenance as such.

In determining whether payment is “in accord” the “genuineness” of the coin could not simply be taken for granted, as it is with fiat currencies. The coin had to be tested to determine its actual purity, since different issuing states would take a different “seignurage” for issuance, which fee was the difference between the stated value and the actual amount of gold in the coin. The touchstone, discovered in Lydia, allowed traders to do precisely that, to measure the measures of exchange against one another. Hence correspondence, in terms of accordance of the statement “these coins equal the value of the goods” with the matter, pragma, was in itself a particularly pragmatic matter. Although the apparent obviousness of both the philosophical and the common sense concepts of truth remained, in what sense it was obvious dropped out.

A Few Thoughts that Belong Together

In trying to think of what I’m trying to think, I found I had to note a few thoughts that belong together, though they by no means think precisely the same. A few of these thoughts, when they occurred to me, appeared both obviously the case and odd in terms of how they were the case. The are in a sense the Logos or gathering of what is thought in my thinking, but not fully laid out, a punctuated synopsis.

I’ll put them down without intentionally trying to set them in order:

  • Self-identity is posited against a horizon, which is itself posited as time
  • Self and World are the same, but narrated differently
  • Evil is an over or mis-determination, particularly a retroactive one, it can only be avoided by a holding-open of every determination as provisional, thus notion, which keeps determination open and provisional, is higher than concept, which fixes it
  • Will to Power is a closure of metaphysics because in collapsing to will to will, what is demonstrated as hidden from metaphysics is will to determine, or ontologization proper
  • Metaphysical ontotheology is not simply evil as will to determine eternally, but the inherent excess of that will as drive
  • Judgement is provisionally provisional, provisional as an act, and doubly so as the response to an act that is itself provisional
  • We judge the truth of anything based on how its story fits our particular version of the fundamental narrative
  • Progress is the rational-historical version of the fundamental narrative and the fundamental fantasy
  • Every bigotry is a version of the fundamental fantasy
  • Reason, or ratio, is a reduction of the notion of Logos, but a faithful one, in that ratio, as taking the measure, means most immediately a “taking stock” or “balancing of the books” in the accounting sense, and this sense was already primary in Logos prior to Heracleitas. Even to see Logos as intending a more originary kind of “gathering” must recognize that the feminine form also meant collection, but specifically a collection of money, and that one does not “lay together to gather things” in the farmer’s field or the hunter-gatherer’s wood, but in the marketplace
  • the substantialization of measure, the hypokeimenon, or rational subject, is from Plato to Descartes founded on a hyperbole of unreason. This hyperbole, the intrinsic excess of unreason is the pharmakon, in its variations from simple habituation in learning to drug addled delusion – what is madness as a loss of rationality compared to the madness of reason itself?
  • the substantialization of measure is also the reification of money/capital as an object in itself, as property – what is the crime in robbing a bank compared to that of founding one?
  • as history is rational and rationality is historical, so the ahistorical / prehistoric / posthistoric must be seen as irrational from the perspective of history and rationality
  • Christ as the embodiment of Logos also implies that the death of God in the crucifixion is also in part a balancing of the books, although not only that. The “Holy Ghost” is the community as the self-unfolding of Cosmic Spirit as the origin of reason and history, an origin that is neither historical nor rational
  • The “unity of consciousness” is a necessary fiction, just as Self-identity is based on Self-difference, or better, on Self-change, so without positing its unity self-consciousness cannot be thought, and only as thought can it be self-aware, adult self-consciousness, while as unified it cannot be in any way
  • The Fall, as the fundamental narrative, always strikes us (in whatever variation we subscribe to) as unquestionable, because our most unmediated experience of our Self is as falling. To say it more adequately would require a present perfect tense
  • As the fundamental fantasy, the retroactive positing of something as prior to the Fall is even more dangerous when nothing specific is posited
  • There is no One” simply means that ontology can only begin from the gap insofar as the gap makes the split into multiples evident, and as such we can only experience something as being if it is already split. We temporalize this gap between the future perfect (will have been) and the present perfect (always already) tenses, not between the present (is) and the past perfect (has been) and certainly not in relation to the past (was), The “sense” or “direction” of the change is determined via the absolute past (was always past). Only in this gap can presencing as such occur. An event of presencing proper is always therefore a surprise, although we suppress any response to it for the most part
  • Quantum Physics, the combination of QM and QFT, is simply a mathematical model of the above, it cannot determine ontology since like all scientific/mathematical models it is an expression of a specific ontology
  • As Einstein intuited, from the perspective of classical physics quantum mechanics and quantum field theory can only be an anti-physics (and complementarity an anti-metaphysics)
  • Bohr’s insight, philosophically, was not that “there is no reality, only quantum phenomena” or even the more subtle notion that the noumenon is an effect of the self-limitation of the phenomenon, but that the mystery of presencing cannot be asked about from the Gestell of the experiment, in which the gestellen, or apparatus, is only a recording of its trace, one that is inscribed into the phenomenon itself, and the results of the experiment a representation of that recording, thus at one remove from the trace, and a double remove from presencing as such
  • Someone I know once asked, at breakfast of all times, the seemingly bizarre question “what do you call history when it’s in the future?”. The only rational answer is revelation, and can only be revelation insofar as history is experienced as rational and rationality experienced as historical. The only event that may provoke this experience is the revelation of revelation itself as rational-historical. This happening of such factically, as a personal life event, properly initiates post-metaphysical thinking as such.
  • There is no possible restoration of any a priori order, a priori order is a fantasy of the falling regarding what precedes the fall, but there is no prior state, we are as thrown and thus always already falling. The One is only in the absolute past, the always already past.
  • The Augenblick of insight takes many forms. In the Republic it is the return of the philosopher from the sun, in the Phaedrus it is erotic union, Eros draws us towards the horizon and draws what is beyond the horizon over it toward us.
  • Recollection is intimated in erotic union, a forgetting beyond the beginning to the moment prior, when what was begun was still undecided. Simultaneously in erotic union we experience the otherwise contradictory nature of Absolute Spirit as authentic being-with, the shared Self itself as authentic
  • Spirit is the obscene insistence beyond birth and death of the Self, always already and necessarily positing identity from Self-difference, as such it is in a sense only in the absolute past as the past that was always past, Spirit is thus intrinsicallydrive in Schelling and Freud’s sense
  • Cosmic Spirit and its recollection beyond the beginning of the rationality of history and the history of rationality is fulfilled Reason as Absolute Spirit, the Cosmic Spirit becomes SelfSame through its temporalization as rational history and the retrospective understanding of that history as the development of Cosmic into Absolute Spirit, with the simultaneous appropriation of itself as the shared Self of community with no transcendent other (every factical other is part of the human community, and thus not other in a transcendent sense, and Absolute Spirit does not “hover over” community as transcendent to it, but is intrinsic to it as its truth)
  • Absolute Spirit is the proper fulfillment of Spirit, which otherwise, as drive, as obscene self-insistence, expends itself as the “death drive”
  • Put another way, Dasein as the manner of being human is already transcendent as temporally outside itself, and there is no transcending this transcendence. Dasein though is not solely the individual, but the back-and-forthness of the individual as the embodiment of community, and the community as the complementary truth of the individual, a truth experienced factically in erotic union
  • Care” as the meaning or sense of Dasein ranges from mundane concern (worries of the day) to the highest love
  • The “truth” of Christianity as a community of love is hidden as long as it remains a community of anything else, including a community of belief. The conflation of faith and belief is the error of metaphysics and metaphysical Christianity, faith is simply trust in love as the only foundation of community, it has no transcendental or metaphysical content, it is the pure act of trust in the community of love
  • The exchangeability of technology, where anything technological is at the minimum distance from its essence as technology, reveals the exchangeability of any for any that technology has itself helped bring about
  • This exchange includes such things as Eros and Will/Power, Will/Power and Being, Being and Essence, Essence and beings, Thinking and Being , Rationality (measure/judgement) and Thinking, Reason and Unreason (Madness/Habit), Rationality and Reason, Techne and Poeisis, Techne/Poiesis and Nature, Nature and Self, Self and Event, Nature and Event, Event and Appropriation, Appropriation and Will/Power, Appropriation and Eros, Will and Self, Self and Spirit/Drive, Mind and Body, Freedom and Habit, Horizon and the Open. And any other of these for any other
  • “Ereignis” is the factical experience of the event of appropriation that places each to each and thus turns each towards each, creating a topology and a topography in which we glimpse the withdrawal of Being as change, granted/gifted only in and as change
  • “What withdraws in the granting” is not properly even a what, it does not and can never transcend the granting itself as always already withdrawn
  • The body thus is not an information processor except in an accidental sense. The body ontologizes the real, the mind experiences and is the experience of this ontologization as reality, yet once it is as an effect of the body, it determines the manner in which the body ontologizes the real to begin with
  • Reality is not purely nothing, but as the HIggs field models, the less than nothing that defuses pure nothing as the highest point of tension, that between passive nothing and active negation. This pure nothing is both false, in that like drive it is only in the absolute past, but it still must be in the absolute past because reality can only be as a defusion of that tension
  • Specifically the Higgs field models, not the void/Chaos, but the abyss/Tartarus that serves to keep the void/Chaos eternally hidden – the abyss is not deep, it is not even shallow, since it is a priori to every dimensionality
  • Entelechia as an active “at work remaining itself” is thus part of the moment before metaphysics. Plato and Aristotle, while being the foundation of metaphysics, are not themselves metaphysical, since they had to already accomplish their work for metaphysics proper to become possible. A return to the moment before the co-origin of rationality and history (and conceptuality, capitalism and numerous other intertwining intradependent threads of Western civilization) is in thinking a return to Aristotle, Plato and their predecessors, not to repeat metaphysics but to enact the new as a forgetting of metaphysics and a recollecting of a different possibility. This forgetting though must not forget its forgetting – a different possibility must remain in a certain relation to Western history as metaphysical
  • Aristotle’s work appears to be ordered backwards from a metaphysical perspective, with first philosophy appearing last, physics second last, and the studies of human experience in the Ethics and Poetics first. Yet it is not an incorrect ordering, since as pre-metaphysical Aristotle could only found physics and metaphysics itself on experience, and thus experiencing itself had to be understood first. Not until Hegel, Schelling, Marx, Nietzsche and Heidegger do we see the order of Aristotle’s thinking (largely how his students ordered his work) repeated, which is the signature of the post-metaphysical

Complementary or Just Confused? Thoughts on Complementarity: Anti-Epistemology after Bohr and Derrida, by Arkady Plotnitsky

Plotnitsky’s book held out some interest for me, particularly in terms of the debate between Zizek and Barad, and the impact of Bohr on the latter. Unfortunately it was disappointing in terms of its failure to question the basic terms of its own critique.

Part of the issue is that Plotnitsky is so enthused with Bohr and Derrida that his references to other thinkers appear to be exclusively based on their interpretations, primarily Derrida’s, since Bohr spent less time discussing other thinkers. Thus one has to remind oneself that “Hegel” in Plotnitsky means “Derrida’s Hegel”, Heidegger likewise “Derrida’s Heidegger”, even Plato succumbs and appears solely as “Derrida’s Plato”.

This has bearing on the phrase that is never quite defined but serves as a handy way to dismiss anyone other than Bohr and Derrida. That phrase is “a (more) general economy of thinking”. At no point is this “economy” itself put into question – why, for instance, thinking should be consumed under an “economy” in the first place, or even what economy means in this particular usage. A more general thinking of economy might be called for before a general economy of thinking is able to write off all of philosophy, Derrida and to the degree of his involvement in philosophy, Bohr, of course, excluded. Perhaps Plotnitsky needs to spend more time with Marx, although I suspect if he does it will only be with Derrida’s Marx.

That the thinking of Bohr (and science in general) betrays a particular restriction is likewise not put into question. Bohr’s claim that quantum mechanics is a “complete” description vs Einstein’s claim that it is not puts this restriction into sharp relief. Science has an overwhelming assumption that measurement alone comprises a sufficient and necessary description of any thing. That this fails spectacularly is seen in that science cannot do without “ordinary language” and indeed specifically metaphor, “poetic” language. That the assumption is rarely questioned demonstrates nothing other than the difficulty of unravelling the intertwining of rationality, history, conceptuality and accountability. The question, in order to be properly generalized, has to move beyond whether an “account” can be made of something, to why “account” is necessary or even relevant in terms of understanding things.

Bypassing “Derrida’s Hegel” for something more closely related to the thinker by that name, Hegel saw that Kant had already described the noumena as having “no positive content”. It’s not a great leap from that to seeing noumena as precisely a (self) limiting negation of and by phenomena themselves, insofar as they are phenomena. The subject, as well, for Hegel, is precisely a limiting negation of and by the self. Thus Bohr’s “discovery” of phenomena as self-delimiting, implying nothing beyond themselves, is already the case for Hegel. But Hegel thinks science as well in a more general sense, as rational and historical, and therefore not in itself reason proper, which can only come at the end of both.

Despite metaphysics’ (and physics’) numerous attempts, from Parmenides to Nagel, to make rationality a priori, it remains a human development as any parent can attest to, and thus must itself be based on something non-rational. We could look for the origin of rationality, assumably, in human history, or perhaps pre-history. The origin in fact is on the boundary between the two – rationality and history arose together and necessarily so. When Hegel said that the rationality of history was “not a result”, of course it cannot be a result of either rational thinking or historical exegesis, since it simultaneously means the history of rationality, in that they arose and belong together. History, thought in an appropriate way, is centred on the “historical record”. In fact historians are obsessed with the historical record, and for good reason. History as rational accounting-for the historical record arises via analogy from ratio as measuring in the sense of “balancing the books”, accounting-for a set of bookkeeping entries as the past in the sense of what “has been”. Natural history is merely a further extension of the same metaphor, and natural science the further extension of accounting as accounting-for the natural-historical record. The provenance of purely mathematical description as both necessary and adequate as a “complete” description now becomes apparent and obvious.  The provenance of rationality, predicated on non-rational metaphor, simultaneously becomes obvious.

Whether and how far the metaphor is justifiable is debatable, but that science is a very restricted view of things should be apparent. Science is technological in that it views things precisely as economic, as “enframed”, Gestell in Heidegger’s term. It’s not accidental that “gestell” is the root of the German word for “apparatus”.

Ironically, while Plotnitsky coos approvingly of Derrida’s focus on writing and the trace, he fails to see that this is precisely what reinscribes Derrida as a (negative) metaphysician of presence. Presence always means being as having-been, precisely as having-been in the historical record. The earliest writings we have are all bookkeeping records of particular transactions, writing itself is always at root analogous to accounting. Differance, as a written record of (ex)change, only serves to cover up (ex)change as what originally determines any thing as such.

As a negative physics, itself always part of ontotheology, Bohr’s work winds up rather precisely modelling the ontology of negative theology. The “bottomless abyss” is not deep, however, but is bottomless because it is not even shallow. It is any arbitrary line, horizon as such.

Just as the metaphysical theologians of the time sensed a destructive power in Eckhart’s negative theology, despite his obvious religiosity, Einstein sensed in Bohr’s abandonment of the founding principle of experimental science, the necessity and adequacy of a coherent mathematical description of reality, a potential to destroy physics, natural science even insofar as it is predicated on the mathematical projection of reality. Put simply, if experiment can make no truth claim to anything beyond the predicates of the experimental gestell itself, it fundamentally doesn’t say anything interesting, nor anything that wasn’t already thought and as such allowed for the projection of that particular experimental gestell in the first place.

It’s tempting to look for some sort of “general thinking” that could discriminate between, for instance, Heidegger’s rethinking of Logos and Hegel’s “system of science”, which is also a rethinking of Logos, however the idea that complementarity in Bohr or alterity/differance in Derrida is any more than another useful but limited tool of critique, and that no such tool can overcome the need to actually think, and remain, abide by, what is thought, is a fantasm. The notion that Bohr (and Derrida) “displace” metaphysical (and physical) terminology is unsustainable. It’s more the case that, as Beckett would put it, even an anti-writer inevitably must use some words. Rather than “displaced”, as often as not the manner in which Bohr and Derrida use such terms is simply confused. While it’s not the whole truth (and Derrida’s simplistic versions of Hegel, Heidegger etc are themselves useful but limited tools to help his own insight) there is a partial truth to the comment made by a professor of Derrida’s on one of his theses – “completement inintelligible”.

As an example of the use of such a tool, complementarity can be useful in dealing with the radically different descriptions of nothing as the self-negating in Hegel and drive in Schelling. Although radically different and apparently contradictory, perhaps both are necessary approaches to a truth that resists determination.  Complementarity itself can never be the truth of such a pairing, though.

My point isn’t to belittle the achievements of Bohr or Derrida, but to understand in what way they themselves have fairly rigid restrictions on what can be thought, and to note that the difficulty in understanding either, along with the other anti-* thinkers mentioned along the way, that although philosophy, metaphysics, physics et al require a rigor of thinking well beyond the mere exactness of mathematics or simplistic logic ultimately derived from Aristotle (and we would do well to remember that Aristotle didn’t posit his deductive logic as a tool for judging thinking, but as a means of winning a popular society game of the time), any anti-thinking, whether that thinking is philosophical, metaphysical, theological or scientific must be phenomenally more rigorous even than the thinking it opposes, precisely because it is dependent for any meaning on the very terms of the thinking it opposes, and the entire dynamic, systemic linguistic structure of which any such terms are not finally inextricable from. That Bohr avoids the cop out of not attempting to speak in rich language, confining himself to the formalized world of mathematics as so many physicists try to do, is commendable. True displacement of such terms is difficult at best, difficult to accomplish, but even more difficult to judge whether in fact anything has been accomplished, other than the negation engendered by simple confusion. Nor is it always clear if this confusion lies on the part of the reader or the writer, and in many cases, when it is clear, it is because it is clearly on the side of the writer.

Bohr doesn’t displace but precisely places measurement as such, in its modern scientific guise, by asking what questions measurement, and therefore experimental mathematical science itself can be expected to answer. From Descartes to Kant, the period of epistemology as a significantly relevant area for thought, the question is crucial. The anti-epistemologist par excellence, however, came shortly after Kant, and we know him as G.W.F. Hegel. Marx, Nietszche and Heidegger, together with their own complementaries, may have cut the body of epistemology apart and scattered its bones to the four corners of the Earth, but Hegel and his complementary Schelling, together with their anti-mediator Holderlin, had already ensured it was good and dead. That Bohr, largely, accomplished this revolution within the conservative milieu of physics is a tremendous achievement.

Heidegger’s topologial post-ontology, as well, already makes the partial and inconsistent displacing of metaphysical terminology in Derrida largely irrelevant. Heidegger places by firstly restoring place to its pride of place as the phenomenon of which time-space is merely an occasionally useful approximation. Differance remains only the written record of originary (ex)change, and Derrida a sort of Heideggerean bookkeeper.

The anti-thinkers, for want of a better word, from Eckhart to Nietzsche (probably the most rigorous of them) to Dilthey, Lacan, Derrida, Laruelle and Zizek (and I’m sure I’ve left virtually everyone’s favourite out of the list) require, as Heidegger said of Nietzsche, a reading more rigorous than that required of Aristotle. Of course that means they also require a phenomenal rigor be present in their work to begin with, one that could reward such a focused and attentive reading. Bohr managed, through his abilities as a physicist, to put physics, and by extension the underlying assumptions of all the mathematical natural sciences in question. That Bohr’s work is all too easily reintegrated into business-as-usual interpretations of physics is more often than not precisely because he used determinately metaphysical terms in their usual, that is modern, sense without qualification. By “rational” he means what most physicists mean by it for the most part. By “complete” he means what most physicists mean by it for the most part. If anything it was Einstein who insisted on a “completeness” that goes beyond the pragmatic usage of everyday research, precisely because he recognized, whether clearly or not, that without the notion of the completeness of mathematical description the project of experimental, mathematical science is so circumscribed as to become nearly irrelevant, and certainly uninteresting. The slight discrepancies in predictive accuracy between competing models, most of which occur at scales of no pragmatic interest to people, combined with the notion that none of which models can make a truth-claim beyond that reality, under strict experimental conditions, behaves in a manner that is more or less consistent with the model’s predictions, hardly justifies the degree of contention on any side of a scientific argument. If philosophy is “thinking well about things that matter to human beings” it is becoming apparent that science is not among those things that matter in any fundamental sense. The failure of the claim that technology is in some way dependent on science (other than the weak dependency that science accounts-for whatever technology happens to reveal) and the realization that science is merely an effect of technology, which goes about its way completely unhindered by any scientific methodology or metascientific philosophy, will in the not very long term turn science into the emperor with no subjects, never mind merely a reduced wardrobe.

Using Oracle Solaris on an Ultrasparc System as a Development or Test Server

If you’re like many developers you either work from home completely or work from home fairly regularly to avoid the interruptions and distractions of the office. One of the difficulties in doing so,, ven if you have a VPN that allows you to get to the dev and test servers at the office, and obviously worse if you work on your own and don’t have an office with servers to VPN into, is that VPNs can be extremely unwieldy, particularly insofar as they affect your local networking, and in many cases you need to fake domains that are not the domain your VPN is giving you. Since most dev servers are shared, messing with the domain there is not a gerat idea, and can inadvertently maket that server inaccessible via the VPN.

A common solution, especially popular over the last few years, is to create a virtual test server in VMWare or VirtualBox on your dev desktop or laptop. While convenient, though, the performance is likely to be poor especially on a laptop, as giving it sufficient memory to perform decently is going to take memory away from your dev environment (and if you use Eclipse, you know what a memory hog it can be). Another solution is to buy a server that has been obsoleted by some company off ebay or your local computer recycling depot, install some kind of environment (usually Linux) and bingo, you have a test server that doesn’t impact your dev machine.

The only issue with this is that since it’s a relatively common solution (as is buying such computers as cheap servers by small companies) there tends to be a sufficient market for used x64 machines to make them fairly expensive, espec ially if you’re writing heavily multithreaded code and want a test server that has a decent number of cores to test the threading under heavy load.

A viable, though less popular, solution is to buy a used Sun/Orac le Ultrasparc server. The advantages (so long as you are writing in a properly virtualized language – i.e. anything that runs in a JVM such as Java, Groovy, Jython, Jruby etc., or another virtualized or interpreted language such as PHP, Smalltalk, Perl or Python: 

  • you can get a machine with a huge number of cores and a massive amount of RAM for minimal cost.
  • Even if you do manage to get an x64 system with a decent number of cores and a good amount of RAM for a good price, your ongoing costs on  your electrical bill will be far higher than an equivalent performance Ultrasparc – by going to Ultrasparc T series servers everywhere the City of London was able to avoid building four new power plants!

The disadvantages include:

  • most recent Ultrasparc systems do not come with a video card, so you can’t use any X based GUI (or any GUI really) even remotely.

  • Oracle made the decision to not support pre T series Ultrasparc machines with the latest Solaris 11 release.

  • Although the environment, particularly from the command line, is very Linux like (and open source package managers are available) it’s not exactly Linux and there can be a few gotchas for those used to Linux environments.

  • While Solaris itself is free, support isn’t, so you won’t get interim patches from Oracle unless you have a support contract (if you work for a bigger company, many do have Oracle support contracts (even if they don’t use Oracle machines, they often sue Oracle software) so you can ask your sysadmin for your company login. You can of course upgrade when a new point release comes out without any support contract.

One gotcha that most people used to x86/x64 machines will not find obvious concerns the Solaris filesystem, ZFS, and the notion of root pools. If you’re like me, and you find yourself with a T series Ultrasparc machine, the first thing you’re going to do is install a fresh copy of Solaris. Likely you’re going to use the text installer off a USB stick or DVD (it’s downloadable with a free Oracle Technology Network account). If your machine, as is common, has two or four identical SAS disks, the default Solaris text install will only show you the first of those as an install candidate. This would be fine, you can create another ZFS pool for the other drives and mount it where you tend to use the most drive space, except when buying a used Sun machine quite often the first disk has been wiped but the others have not been, since the people doing that are often themselves unfamiliar with Solaris and ZFS. The machine that you just paid a couple of hundred dollars for (and that can be a machine with 16 or 32 cores and up to 128GB of RAM) was likely bought as a mission-critical macine by its original owner, which means the ZFS root pool (and other ZFS pools) are likely to be on a mirrored drive.

The result of all this is that you choose to use the whole disk (say c0t0s0 – usually the first available)), go through the rest of the choices at the serial terminal console, and Solaris installs fine and reboots allowing you to SSH into the machine over the network and disconnect that irksome USB serial cable.

You do some basic configuration, then install some package that wants you to reboot, or you simply decide to shut down the machine for the night (unless you like white noise when you sleep, Ultrasparcs tend to have relatively loud high speed fans going all the time). When you restart the machine if you’re looking at it through the serial console (or network management console if you can be bothered configuring it) at a certain point in the boot process you’ll see a message similar to this one

Sep 15 16:06:06 svc.startd[7]: svc:/system/early-manifest-import failed with exit status 1.

Sep 15 16:06:06 svc.startd[7]: system/filesystem/usr:default failed fatally: transitioned to maintenance (see ‘svcs -xv’ for details)

Root password for system maintenance (control-d to bypass):

If you do enter your system password to get to a command prompt and type svcs to see what services are not running, you’ll find most of them are offline. Worse, the usual fix (restoring the boot files) doesn’t work because there is no backup yet. Getting frustrated, you decide something didn’t go well with the Solaris install (or some package you installed hosed the system) and you go ahead and erinstall, only to find that on the second boot the same thing happens.

The problem is that Solaris, after the first boot, looks for any ZFS pools and automatically mounts them at their named mount point (there’s plenty of documentation on ZFS disk pools online, so I won’t go into that). If you’re unlucky enough that the first disk was mirrored, likely the other disk in the mirror has a (different version of) Solaris than the one you just installed. This disk gets mounted after the new boot disk, and since the mount point is usually / it overwrites your root file system, leading to the error.

The solution,while it takes a little patience, is once the install medium is booted, DON’T choose Install Solaris immediately, instead choose Shell and drop to a command prompt. From there you can follow the documentation to format each drive (this takes some patience, formatting a 73GB drive takes around 2 hours), then either create a new mirrored ZFS rpool (root pool) with the first two disks, or simply type exit to get back to the installer and let it use the first disk as your rpool (this is my usual method, since I’m not concerned about the data in the event of disk failure and Sun/Oracle machines tend to be limited on disk space unless you start adding external SCSI enclosures).

Once Solaris is installed, you can create a regular ZFS pool with your remaining disks and choose a convenient mount point (make sure you copy any files in that directory elsewhere because mounting the ZFS pool will make them inaccessible). At this point you should be able to reboot quite happily and not see any svc messages telling you the system is going into a maintenance mode you can’t recover from without reinstalling.

What is “The Human” – Part One – Rational Animal or Zoon Logon Echon

The two Greek definitions of “the human”, and therefore the Self insofar as my Self is a human Self, have to be understood not as alternates but as interdependent. The first, ζῷον or νθρωπον λόγοϛ ἔχων (zoon or anthropon logon echon) , is usually translated as “animal rationale”, although there is something correct in the translation, it is hopelessly inadequate. The second, βροτός, or “mortal” intends mortal as not merely subject to death in a general sense but in a specifically human sense, i.e. we are always subject to death via our awareness of it, an awareness not found in animals or plants, to our knowledge.

Although ζῷον λόγοϛ ἔχων is best known as the definition of Aristotle, found in various forms in the Ethics and Politics, it did not originate with Aristotle. Indeed its other formulation as νθρωπον λόγοϛ ἔχων which appears at first glance to deal more directly with the human (as anthropos) was not even a definition of the human but of φύσιϛ or physis, itself a crucial term for Aristotle as another term for what is, as Being.

The notion of Logos is dealt with in two fragments of Heracleitas, often seen as exceedlingly obscure.

The idea that all things come to pass in accordance with this Logos and “the Logos is common,” is expressed in two famous but obscure fragments:

This Logos holds always but humans always prove unable to understand it, both before hearing it and when they have first heard it. For though all things come to be in accordance with this Logos, humans are like the inexperienced when they experience such words and deeds as I set out, distinguishing each in accordance with its nature and saying how it is. But other people fail to notice what they do when awake, just as they forget what they do while asleep. (DK 22B1)

For this reason it is necessary to follow what is common. But although the Logos is common, most people live as if they had their own private understanding. (DK 22B2)

The meaning of Logos also is subject to interpretation: “word”, “account”, “principle”, “plan”, “formula”, “measure”, “proportion”, “reckoning.”

Though Heraclitus “quite deliberately plays on the various meanings of logos“, there is no compelling reason to suppose that he used it in a special technical sense, significantly different from the way it was used in ordinary Greek of his time.[31]

The later Stoics understood it as “the account which governs everything,” –

Heracleitas words are significant in that, while the Greeks certainly already thought conceptually, that is, rational-historically, at the time of his writings, the conceptual had not yet itself been conceptualized in the culmination of the first beginning of Western thinking, i.e. in Plato as the Eternal Ideas.

Private understanding” can also be translated as “opinion”, which is opposed to understanding, and Heracleitas disdain for it is clear in other fragments.

Heracleitas‘ thought must be thought together with his contemporary Parmenides, not least because, while they appear to be contraries, it is Heracleitas himself that is insistent that contraries are the selfsame, or one, looked at appropriately.

Parmenides famous statement το γαρ αυτό νοεΐν εστίν τε καί είναι, Fragm. Β1.3 (usually translated as “For Thinking and Being are the same.”) by no means implies that subjectivity determines reality, as some modern commentators would have it, since neither subjectivity nor reality in the modern sense had been thought. The relation between Heracleitas and Parmenides is focused in the terms νοεΐν and εστίν. The latter term does not mean “thinking” as an activity but understanding as a mode of being, delimited by νοεΐν. είναι is translated usually simply as the infinitive of “being” ( το γαρ αυτό is assumed to be nominative and not accusative, more literally, “for they are the same”).

The relation between Heracleitas thinking of Logos and Parmenides statement about understanding and being arises from Logos always being foundationally the Logos of Being for Heracleitas, epitomized but not exhausted by natural language as a correspondence to Being, itself thought as what presences. Thus the Logos of Being is a sense both the understanding of Being (as what is, or presences) and the Being of understanding as what responds, is “had” by Being. What is, as what presences, is thought as the unstructured in Parmenides, as the change of what changes in Heracleitas, and these also in a sense are the selfsame, as what is unstructured is is process of change, thought in a pre-Platonic way.

What then does ζῷον signify here? If we think of the definition of physis, where ζῷον is substituted by ἄνθρωπον, it becomes more obvious that ζῷον is used in its earlier meaning, not as “animal” but as “life” (azoic means nonliving, not nonanimal). But “life” is difficult enough to define in English (look at the philosophies of “life” from Nietzsche to Dilthey for examples of the difficulty), never mind to understand how it was thought in a Greek manner. Yet in this term we find the root of the necessesity of the other definition: βροτός, mortal, as life aware of its mortality or finitude.

Είναι is already a specific interpretation of Being. Being as “that which is”, or entities, is ὄντα, from the root ὄν, as used in the phrase ὄντα ὡς ὄντα (Being as Being). That the Greeks used many terms for intepretations of Being goes with Aristotle’s famous statement that “Being is said in many ways”. Yet Aristotle’s well known dealings with Being in the Metaphysics are based on a not well noticed oddity in thinking about the topic. Unwilling to ascribe actuality to Being, Aristotle treats it as a concept, yet as a concept it cannot be some sort of being, nor some sort of genus, even the highest, but is figurative, non-conceptual. That Plato’s Ideas are the concept of the conceptual itself reaches the limit of its reflexive power in Aristotle’s treatment of Being. Aristotle is unwilling to sacrifice experience for the purely mathematical as Plato, following Parmenides, did. Yet Being as understood by the earlier “natural” philosophers (the pre pre-Socratics such as Empedocles) defies conceptualization precisely because it is not thinkable within rational-historical conceptual thinking. This incidentally points to the concealed provenance of the rational-historical, conceptual mode of thinking in the pre-rational as figurative, metaphorical. How the rational-historical arose from the pre-rational, pre-historical, figurative thinking that preceded (and always supplements) it is a matter for another time.

The relation between φύσιϛ and the definition of man is the last clue in attempting to reconstruct the original Greek thinking of the human being in the West, which is crucial as in being pre-Roman, human had not been reduced to the “roman”, or “citizen”, nor had it been reduced (a la Descartes) to some sort of “psyche” attached to a “body” in some mutated manner.

Φύσιϛ, physis or phusis, is obviously an important word for Aristotle. It is generally translated as “movement” but in the sense of what generates movement, rather than the result. It is in this sense that Φύσιϛ also meant a thing’s inner mode of being, its whatness, and thus is an early form of both substantia and quidditas. Φύσιϛ was derived from the verb φύω (the nominalization of what was originally verbal is common in the change from pre-rational to rational-historical thinking). Φύω, for its part, means to bring-forth in the sense of a self bringing-forth as growth. While it thus is a kind of production, it is strictly differentiated from human production as τέχνη (techne). Thus in opposition to modern notions where growth is a form of movement, indeed all change is reduced to essentially spatial movement, initially movement and change were thought from the idea of growth as a kind of self-production.

A Critique of Heidegger’s Interpretation of Hegel in the first of the “Four Seminars”

“Reason reflects the Absolute. Reflecting is a bringing-before-itself, such that it means belonging-together that builds (dwells) together as a setting-together.” – Hegel

“Reason” for Hegel never means the act of rationality, and much less the goal of rationalism. Rather, reason is only achieved after rationality is displaced in favour of its provenance as figurative (speculative) thinking. The common goal of Hegel, Hölderlin and Schelling was first expressed during their belonging-together as the forging of a new mythos that in a certain sense returns to the pre-rational without thereby forgetting the rational-historical-conceptual, but setting it in its place.  Reason has to go beyond the conceptual-historical in order to find its essence, which always remains dependent on mythos, Logos (System)  as the domination of self-consciousness by the measuring facility, as Plato described it.

Despite appearances Hegel is involved in the selfsame task as Holderlin and Schelling, returning to its place the mythos/Logos of the final, developed figuration of the cosmic myth which preceded the birth of the rational-historical-conceptual as accounting-for, placing the rational-historical-conceptual, the accounting-for as “balancing the books” of a reality already experienced as conceptual where it belongs with its provenance in clear view. In Hegel it is couched in the movement of the dialectic rather than the  mythic language of Holderlin and to a certain extent Schelling.

Contrary to Heidegger’s reading, “System” in Hegel cannot be understood as the systematic, since Hegel understands and accepts Kant’s delimitation of the impossibility of the systematic.

Hegel’s “Science of Logic”, a poorly translated title that sounds like a schoolbook treatise of formal-rational logic, must be understood as the “knack-for-understanding through and as figurative (speculative) Logos (System).  At the very least “Science as Logic” would be as short as the usual title but indicate more accurately the essence of the work.

System in Hegel is thus akin to the Logos in Heracleitas (though not identical) as the gathering as absolute spirit that experiencestogether the changes in the determinations of things by being, an experience that by being absolute can never be total. This experience is subjective only in the sense of an absolute and shared subjectivity that already includes the objective and nullifies the distinction, just as the idealism of Hegel already includes materialism, not as physicalism or even productionism (the basic misinterpretation of Heidegger and of Marx) but as the movement of dialectic, which for its part is not rational-historical but figurative and analogical, or speculative Reason.

“Spirit” for Hegwl is nothing mystical, though it refers back to the “holy spirit” or “holy ghost” in the sense that St. Paul describes it, and the sense in which some early Christian communities described themselves as the “holy ghost”. It is not something that transcends the community, hovers over it or is found somehow “with” the community but separate from it, but as the involved transcendence of the being-together as building-dwelling, together with thinking speculatively as well as rational-historically, of the community itself. It is in this regard that the sentence “religion must trnnscend belief” must be understood, along with “Christianity is the true religion but not in its true form.” For Hegel Christianity has the truth but does not have it as the truth, but rather conceals and protects it without understanding it.

What Heidegger calls the onto-theological as the essence of metaphysics could be called for Hegel the mytho-logical, though he does not explicitly name it as such. It is the rational-historical-conceptual-calculative determination of reality in the sense of the past perfect, not as what was but as what still is, retained  in  the present as having-been-recorded and this record “tallied up” or “balanced” in the sense of accounting-for that record, loosely supplemented by a figurative mythic understanding of what cannot be accounted-for (since it is not part of the historical record) that cannot justify nor judge itself by reference to the written record as a reduction of Logos or Ratio.  Though we do not have the Greek present perfect tense, it is implicit as the proper coming-to-itself of the past perfect.

This is precisely the everyday mode of shared self-consciousness which Heidegger names the inauthentic. it is a semblance of understanding and sharing in being-with that has not fathomed either the provenance of the rational-historical-conceptual in the shared figurative understanding as Logos in the full sense or the shared nature of being-with.

“Science” for Hegel doesn’t mean the accounting-for by scission the natural-historical record (as analogous to the explicitly recorded record of bookkeeping that can be fully accounted-for), but must be understood in the literal sense of “wissenschaft”, the “knack for understanding” as system or Logos that Heracleitas bemoans as lacking in the everydayness of public opinion, that Heidegger instead accepts as the precondition for a self-appropriation that can only arise as a modification of this everyday mode rather than its opposition.

The conflict between the rational-conceptual views of modern science and the evolutionary-developmental views of the same, as noted by Nagel in his recent Mind and Cosmos, cannot be overcome by a positing of rationality and consciousness as a priori to reality, not only because it appears as developmental within  the pre-history of humanity as a whole, but in the self-evident development of rationality in the individual as a child becomes an adult. Although Nagel is careful to keep rationality and consciousness separate, though both are considered to be necessarily a priori,  this distinction cannot be sensibly maintained since we have no experience or evidence of rationality outside consciousness. This of course damages his claim to being an atheist and any sense to his search for some sort of “natural law” that would a priori ensure both, since what could a rational consciousness, a priori to all reality, be described as other than some sort of deity?