Thoughts on Relation


I wrote in an earlier post that I had no path towards a determination of what relation itself consists in. While that’s true, the reason for it is that relation doesn’t “consist in” anything at all.

In thinking about the idea of relation, the initial strangeness of the notion struck me, but what struck me more was the lack of any notice of this strangeness. Much like the notion of being, relation seemed assumed to be understood, yet even the basic definitions rely on the notion being defined, which shows there’s a basic lack of understanding together with the assumption it’s understood. Obviously we have some pre-understanding of it – without it we couldn’t understand anything at all in reality. Yet we haven’t really ever gone beyond this presumed pre-understanding.

At the same time, no matter what models of reality we have, or how we structure those models, the notions of structure and model themselves are reliant on relation. In the models of modern particle physics, not only do higher level systems rely on relation (it is after all the functional nature of their relations that makes them systemic) but the very base of materiality is dependent on functional relations between things that cannot be considered “material” in themselves, and the very laws of physics themselves only become operative within the systems predicated on these relations. From a philosophical perspective, a notion such as the “big Other”, the symbolic apparatus that structures our experience of the real as reality, is nothing more than a system of relations. Mathematics, though overtly based on sets, which rely on arbitrary rather than functional relations, is itself a set of systems of functional relations. What used to be termed “Functions and Relations”, one of the two main introductions to mathematics proper (along with Algebra) is now called “Finite Math”, which appears to me to be a largely meaningless description. I’ve never looked into the real reason for the change, but I have a fondness for the idea that mathematicians and teachers were simply embarrassed by the lack of a definition for relations, and the fact that all functions are inherently relational in any case.

Yet all of these means of understanding reality, whether metaphysical, physical or mathematical, arose from one culture, along with the history, rationality and conceptualism that we use to develop and critique them. Hegel’s experience of history as inherently rational could only be possible if history and rationality arose together as intertwined threads of western culture, along with conceptualism, metaphysics and the substantialization of currency, the necessary requirement for capitalism missing from other cultures that met all the more obvious requirements but never developed anything of the sort. While the latter appears strangely specific as compared with general notions such as rationality, history, concept, etc., this is only the case until one recognizes the “historical record” as originating via analogy from bookkeeping, rationality as originating via analogy from achieving ratio as “balancing the books”, even the substantial concept as being insofar as it “has been”, which never means how it was, but how it was recorded, how it was kept in the books.

But all of these things arose from a backdrop of a non-historiological, non-rational, non-conceptual culture that, unlike many other cultures from pre-recorded history, we know a fair amount about, the culture of the Ancient Greeks. Since that’s the case they all must in some sense be dependent on the way that culture understood reality.

As pre-rational, we tend to think of such cultures as “mythological” in terms of their understanding, which is immediately conflated with some undefined sense of “primitive”. Yet the Greeks were anything but primitive in any meaningful sense, nor does “mythological” imply some sort of absolute belief-system that overrrode their understanding of reality – it is precisely the modern, and precisely from modern science, that the absolutism of belief that can override reality arose. The Greeks understood mythology in a way that we no longer understand it, as mnemonics for remembering understandings that had been gained over thousands of years of cultural development. These understandings were not conceptual in that the concept is a particularly restrictive notion of an insight, which always includes relations to other insights that the concept cuts off in order to grasp its specific matter more tightly.

Uncovering the way in which the original mythos, the original story which structured reality, was subsumed, subverted and concealed by the development of metaphysics and its intertwined equiprimordial threads, requires understanding what is concealed by modern religion, since it too arose from the same culture. The Christ as the “Son of God” was a substitution by Augustus for the cult of Caesar, which he realized was isomorphic to that cult, which in no longer being believed was threatening the stability of Rome, and particularly the value of its currency, which along with a picture of Caesar was inscribed with the latin phrase meaning “son of (the) god”. Prior to Caesar the coin had the image of the god, Janus, and as such was valued as blessed by the god. The simultaneity of the transubstantiation and the offertory of coin in the Catholic mass retains this double meaning. Paul, in his letter to the Romans (written in Koine Greek, since even the Romans used Koine as the main language, not latin) uses the Latin phrase, identical to that on the coin, because to the average Roman who no longer spoke Latin it simply referred to a lord or king. Only in the gospel written after Paul, that of John, does the phrase appear, in the other gospels the phrase “Son of Man”, a far more radical notion properly understood, is the only phrase of the sort used.

Yet Janus, although claimed by the Romans as their own god with no Greek equivalent, remains an exchange for another god. That god in its various exchanged guises was the god of justice, Zeus/Jupiter, and eventually the most primary god of all for the Greeks, from which all other gods descended, Chaos. It is from the god of Chaos that the notion of god’s unrepresentability arose, since Chaos is not simply unrepresentable via some sort of taboo, but inherently. As humans cannot bear Chaos even for a moment, it is hidden by Tartarus, the Abyss. Yet Tartarus as the Abyssal is not deep, it is not even shallow, in Nietzsche’s words. It is the abyss of the unidimensional. As such it’s the ground of dimensional, geometric reality, and also the ground of trade as exchange, which is the reason the god of currency could in a certain sense act as a substitute, though as such it is an idol.

Relation, then, could have originated in Greek culture as Tartarus, as the abyss of Chaos. As relation that the infinite exchange of Chaos becomes finite and determinate, and as such underlies the temporality that currency represents as the temporally enacted difference between the value of trades.

Relation then would be undefinable because it is the abyssal ground of reality itself, an abyss that hides inifinite exchange as the never determinable. It is also the most primordial god with any possibility of being experienced.

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