Log24

Monday, May 11, 2015

George Steiner vs. the Order of St. Benedict

Filed under: General — Tags: — m759 @ 8:28 PM

See Steiner's phrase "Language Animal" in this journal 
and the corresponding authentic  phrase from a webpage
by a Benedictine monk —

Friday, May 8, 2015

Reflections of a Language Animal*

Filed under: General — Tags: — m759 @ 6:12 PM
 
The Idea of Europe  George Steiner

Overlook/Duckworth, pp.48, £9.99

* "Language animal" is a phrase apparently
    invented by Steiner in 1969 that he later
    attributed vaguely to the ancient Greeks.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Steiner on Language

Filed under: General — Tags: — m759 @ 4:00 PM

March 28 review in the Times Literary Supplement  of
George Steiner's new book The Poetry of Thought

"If this new book opens with the concession that
language has neither the performative power of music
nor the elegant precision of mathematics,
it is language, for Steiner, that defines the human.

The survey accordingly begins from the ancient Greek
view of man as the 'language-animal.'" 

A check of this phrase yields, in a 1969 Steiner essay,
"The Language Animal," a Greek form of the phrase—

In short, the least inadequate definition we can arrive at
of the genus homo , the definition that fully distinguishes
him from all neighbouring life-forms, is this:
man is a zoon phonanta , a language-animal.

— p. 10 in Encounter , August 1969 (essay on pp. 7-23)

After introducing "language-animal" as a translation of  "zoon phonanta " in 1969,
Steiner in later writing went on to attribute this phrase to the ancient Greeks.

 "The inception of critical thought, of a philosophic anthropology, 
is contained in the archaic Greek definition of man as a
'language-animal'…."

George SteinerReal Presences , U. of Chicago Press, 1991, p. 89

"… the 'language-animal' we have been since ancient Greece
so designated us…. "

George Steiner, Grammars of Creation , Yale U. Press, 2002, p. 265

Despite this, there seems to be no evidence for use of this phrase
by the ancient Greeks.

A Google search today for zoon phonanta  (ζῷον φωνᾶντα)—

There are also no results from searches for the similar phrases
"ζωον φωναντα," "ζωον φωνᾶντα," and "ζῷον φωναντα."

Friday, May 5, 2017

Pre-Linguistic Thought

Filed under: General,Geometry — m759 @ 11:05 AM

" I know for sure that my best insights (those which 
are not just routine calculations) are pre-linguistic, and
I struggle to put them into words . . . ."

Peter J. Cameron today

See also "George Steiner" + Language in this  journal.

A related figure —

Saturday, October 8, 2016

The Upshot

Filed under: General — Tags: — m759 @ 9:00 PM

George Steiner's phrase "the language animal" as examined by
Charles Taylor —

Charles Taylor in March 2016 on George Steiner's phrase 'language animal'— 'The upshot of all this is....'

Steiner attributes his "language animal" phrase, in the transliterated
form "zoon phonanta,"  to the ancient Greeks. This attribution
is apparently bogus. See Steiner on Language (March 30, 2012).*

It is highly relevant that Taylor is a Catholic and Steiner is a secular Jew.

* More generally — See Steiner + Language + Animal in this journal.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Ein Kampf

Filed under: General — m759 @ 9:29 PM

"Die Philosophie ist ein Kampf gegen die Verhexung
unsres Verstandes durch die Mittel unserer Sprache."

— Philosophical Investigations  (1953),  Section 109

Actor portraying Bobby Fischer

Related material —

"… the common bond between chess, music, and mathematics
may, finally, be the absence of language."

George SteinerFields of Force: Fischer and Spassky at Reykjavik ,
     Viking hardcover, June 1974.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

The Kick

Filed under: General,Geometry — m759 @ 9:00 AM

George Steiner, Real Presences , first published in 1989—

The inception of critical thought, of a philosophic anthropology,
is contained in the archaic Greek definition of man as a
'language-animal'….

Richard Powers, The Gold Bug Variations , first published in 1991—

Botkin, whatever her gifts as a conversationist, is almost as old
as the rediscovery of Mendel. The other extreme in age,
Joe Lovering, beat a time-honored path out of pure math
into muddy population statistics. Ressler has seen the guy
potting about in the lab, although exactly what the excitable kid
does is anybody's guess. He looks decidedly gumfooted holding
any equipment more corporeal than a chi-square. Stuart takes
him to the Y for lunch, part of a court-your-resources campaign.
He has the sub, Levering the congealed mac and cheese.
Hardly are they seated when Joe whips out a napkin and begins
sketching proofs. He argues that the genetic code, as an
algorithmic formal system, is subject to Gödel's Incompleteness
Theorem. "That would mean the symbolic language of the code
can't be both consistent and complete. Wouldn't that be a kick
in the head?"

Kid talk, competitive showing off, intellectual fantasy.
But Ressler knows what Joe is driving at. He's toyed with similar
ideas, cast in less abstruse terms. We are the by-product of the
mechanism in there. So it must be more ingenious than us.
Anything complex enough to create consciousness may be too
complex for consciousness to understand. Yet the ultimate paradox
is Lovering, crouched over his table napkin, using proofs to
demonstrate proof's limits. Lovering laughs off recursion and takes
up another tack: the key is to find some formal symmetry folded
in this four-base chaos
. Stuart distrusts this approach even more.
He picks up the tab for their two untouched lunches, thanking
Lovering politely for the insight.

Edith Piaf—

Non, rien de rien

See last midnight's post and Theme and Variations.

"The key is to find some formal symmetry…."

IMAGE- Valéry on ornament in 'Method of Leonardo,' with Valéry's serpent-and-key emblem

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Steiner’s Systems

Filed under: General,Geometry — m759 @ 12:00 PM

Background— George Steiner in this journal
and elsewhere—

"An intensity of outward attention —
interest, curiosity, healthy obsession —
was Steiner’s version of God’s grace."

Lee Siegel in The New York Times
     March 12, 2009

(See also Aesthetics of Matter in this  journal on that date.)

Steiner in 1969  defined man as "a language animal."

Here is Steiner in 1974  on another definition—

IMAGE- George Steiner on Levi-Strauss viewing man as 'a mythopoetic primate'

Related material—

IMAGE- Daniel Gorenstein quotes Freeman Dyson on physics and the monster group

Also related — Kantor in 1981 on "exquisite finite geometries," and The Galois Tesseract.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

The Kick

Filed under: General — Tags: — m759 @ 11:30 AM

"The inception of critical thought, of a philosophic anthropology, is contained in the archaic Greek definition of man as a 'language-animal'…."

George Steiner, Real Presences , U. of Chicago Press, 1991, p. 89 (See also Steiner on Language.)

"To some, Inception  is a film about the creative process, specifically filmmaking, with Cobb as the director, Saito the producer, Ariadne the screenwriter, Eames the actor, and so on.  To others the entire movie is a dream in that the film supports Carl Jungs' dream analysis; with all of the supporting characters acting as classical archetypes to Cobb's multiple personalities (which would also justify the lack of development in the supporting characters).  The fact that Inception , in the few months since its initial release, has already given rise to so much discussion and critical thought is much more revelatory than whether or not Cobb is still dreaming."

— Russell Espinosa at FilmFracture.com, Jan. 1, 2011

See also Piaf's "Rien de Rien in a Log24 post from Jan. 19, 2012.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Church Diamond

Filed under: General,Geometry — m759 @ 3:09 PM

IMAGE- The diamond property

Also known, roughly speaking, as confluence  or the Church-Rosser property.

From "NYU Lambda Seminar, Week 2" —

[See also the parent page Seminar in Semantics / Philosophy of Language or:
 What Philosophers and Linguists Can Learn From Theoretical Computer Science But Didn't Know To Ask)
]

A computational system is said to be confluent, or to have the Church-Rosser or diamond property, if, whenever there are multiple possible evaluation paths, those that terminate always terminate in the same value. In such a system, the choice of which sub-expressions to evaluate first will only matter if some of them but not others might lead down a non-terminating path.

The untyped lambda calculus is confluent. So long as a computation terminates, it always terminates in the same way. It doesn't matter which order the sub-expressions are evaluated in.

A computational system is said to be strongly normalizing if every permitted evaluation path is guaranteed to terminate. The untyped lambda calculus is not strongly normalizing: ω ω doesn't terminate by any evaluation path; and (\x. y) (ω ω) terminates only by some evaluation paths but not by others.

But the untyped lambda calculus enjoys some compensation for this weakness. It's Turing complete! It can represent any computation we know how to describe. (That's the cash value of being Turing complete, not the rigorous definition. There is a rigorous definition. However, we don't know how to rigorously define "any computation we know how to describe.") And in fact, it's been proven that you can't have both. If a computational system is Turing complete, it cannot be strongly normalizing.

There is no connection, apart from the common reference to an elementary geometric shape, between the use of "diamond" in the above Church-Rosser sense and the use of "diamond" in the mathematics of (Cullinane's) Diamond Theory.

Any attempt to establish such a connection would, it seems, lead quickly into logically dubious territory.

Nevertheless, in the synchronistic spirit of Carl Jung and Arthur Koestler, here are some links to such a territory —

 Link One — "Insane Symmetry"  (Click image for further details)—

http://www.log24.com/log/pix10B/101227-InsaneSymmetry.jpg

See also the quilt symmetry in this  journal on Christmas Day.

Link Two — Divine Symmetry

(George Steiner on the Name in this journal on Dec. 31 last year ("All about Eve")) —

"The links are direct between the tautology out of the Burning Bush, that 'I am' which accords to language the privilege of phrasing the identity of God, on the one hand, and the presumptions of concordance, of equivalence, of translatability, which, though imperfect, empower our dictionaries, our syntax, our rhetoric, on the other. That 'I am' has, as it were, at an overwhelming distance, informed all predication. It has spanned the arc between noun and verb, a leap primary to creation and the exercise of creative consciousness in metaphor. Where that fire in the branches has gone out or has been exposed as an optical illusion, the textuality of the world, the agency of the Logos in logic—be it Mosaic, Heraclitean, or Johannine—becomes 'a dead letter.'"

George Steiner, Grammars of Creation

(See also, from Hanukkah this year,  A Geometric Merkabah and The Dreidel is Cast.)

Link Three – Spanning the Arc —

Part A — Architect Louis Sullivan on "span" (see also Kindergarten at Stonehenge)

Part B — "Span" in category theory at nLab —

http://www.log24.com/log/pix10B/101227-nLabSpanImage.jpg

Also from nLab — Completing Spans to Diamonds

"It is often interesting whether a given span in some partial ordered set can be completed into a diamond. The property of a collection of spans to consist of spans which are expandable into diamonds is very useful in the theory of rewriting systems and producing normal forms in algebra. There are classical results e.g. Newman’s diamond lemma, Širšov-Bergman’s diamond lemma (Širšov is also sometimes spelled as Shirshov), and Church-Rosser theorem (and the corresponding Church-Rosser confluence property)."

The concepts in this last paragraph may or may not have influenced the diamond theory of Rudolf Kaehr (apparently dating from 2007).

They certainly have nothing to do with the Diamond Theory of Steven H. Cullinane (dating from 1976).

For more on what the above San Francisco art curator is pleased to call "insane symmetry," see this journal on Christmas Day.

For related philosophical lucubrations (more in the spirit of Kaehr than of Steiner), see the New York Times  "The Stone" essay "Span: A Remembrance," from December 22—

“To understand ourselves well,” [architect Louis] Sullivan writes, “we must arrive first at a simple basis: then build up from it.”

Around 300 BC, Euclid arrived at this: “A point is that which has no part. A line is breadthless length.”

See also the link from Christmas Day to remarks on Euclid and "architectonic" in Mere Geometry.

Thursday, December 31, 2009

All About Eve

Filed under: General — Tags: — m759 @ 9:57 AM

NY Times obituaries on New Year's Eve, 2009-- Carlene Hatcher Polite and David Levine

Genesis 3:24
So he drove out the man; and he placed
at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims,
and a flaming sword which turned every way,
to keep the way of the tree of life.

"The links are direct between the tautology out of the Burning Bush, that 'I am' which accords to language the privilege of phrasing the identity of God, on the one hand, and the presumptions of concordance, of equivalence, of translatability, which, though imperfect, empower our dictionaries, our syntax, our rhetoric, on the other. That 'I am' has, as it were, at an overwhelming distance, informed all predication. It has spanned the arc between noun and verb, a leap primary to creation and the exercise of creative consciousness in metaphor. Where that fire in the branches has gone out or has been exposed as an optical illusion, the textuality of the world, the agency of the Logos in logic—be it Mosaic, Heraclitean, or Johannine—becomes 'a dead letter.'"

George Steiner, Grammars of Creation

Carlene Hatcher Polite–
"Shall I help you?" asked a bass voice.
"If you can," answered a contralto.
"Trace down this tree. Let me show you
men in its stead. Leaf through this bush,
extinguish the burning fire…"
The Flagellants, page 8

"How much story do you want?"
George Balanchine

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Saturday March 21, 2009

Filed under: General,Geometry — Tags: — m759 @ 12:25 AM

Counters in Rows

"Music, mathematics, and chess are in vital respects dynamic acts of location. Symbolic counters are arranged in significant rows. Solutions, be they of a discord, of an algebraic equation, or of a positional impasse, are achieved by a regrouping, by a sequential reordering of individual units and unit-clusters (notes, integers, rooks or pawns)."

George Steiner
   (See March 10, "Language Game.")
 



For example:

Model of the 21-point projective plane consisting of the 1- and 2- subsets of a 6-set

Click to enlarge.

Context:

Notes on Finite Geometry
(Section on 6-set structures)
 

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Tuesday March 10, 2009

Filed under: General,Geometry — m759 @ 9:26 AM
Language Game

“Music, mathematics, and chess are in vital respects dynamic acts of location. Symbolic counters are arranged in significant rows. Solutions, be they of a discord, of an algebraic equation, or of a positional impasse, are achieved by a regrouping, by a sequential reordering of individual units and unit-clusters (notes, integers, rooks or pawns). The child-master, like his adult counterpart, is able to visualize in an instantaneous yet preternaturally confident way how the thing should look several moves hence. He sees the logical, the necessary harmonic and melodic argument as it arises out of an initial key relation or the preliminary fragments of a theme. He knows the order, the appropriate dimension, of the sum or geometric figure before he has performed the intervening steps. He announces mate in six because the victorious end position, the maximally efficient configuration of his pieces on the board, lies somehow ‘out there’ in graphic, inexplicably clear sight of his mind….”

“… in some autistic enchantment, pure as one of Bach’s inverted canons or Euler’s formula for polyhedra.”

George Steiner, “A Death of Kings,” in The New Yorker, issue dated Sept. 7, 1968

Related material:

“Classrooms are filled with discussions not of the Bible and Jesus but of 10 ‘core values’– perseverance and curiosity, for instance– that are woven into the curriculum.”

— “Secular Education, Catholic Values,” by Javier C. Hernandez, The New York Times, Sunday, March 8, 2009

“… There was a problem laid out on the board, a six-mover. I couldn’t solve it, like a lot of my problems. I reached down and moved a knight…. I looked down at the chessboard. The move with the knight was wrong. I put it back where I had moved it from. Knights had no meaning in this game. It wasn’t a game for knights.”


— Raymond Chandler, The Big Sleep

The Chandler quotation appears in “Language Game,” an entry in this journal on April 7, 2008.

Some say the “Language Game” date, April 7, is the true date (fixed, permanent) of the Crucifixion– by analogy, Eliot’s “still point” and Jung’s “centre.” (See yesterday, noon.)

Sunday, April 3, 2005

Sunday April 3, 2005

Filed under: General — m759 @ 3:26 PM
Wager

Pennsylvania Lottery Daily Number

for yesterday evening,
Saturday, April 2, 2005:

613

Related material:

From 6/13 2004

An 8-rayed star:

Another 8-rayed star:

The image “http://www.log24.com/log/pix05/050403-StPetersSq.jpg” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.

St. Peter’s Square in Rome
 
From 6/13 2003

A link to a 2001 First Things essay,

The End of Endings:

“Here is the heart of the matter:

The underwriting of Hebraic–Hellenic literacy, of the normative analogue between divine and mortal acts of creation, was, in the fullest sense, theological. As was the wager (pronounced lost in deconstruction and postmodernism) on ultimate possibilities of accord between sign and sense, between word and meaning, between form and phenomenality. The links are direct between the tautology out of the Burning Bush, that ‘I am’ which accords to language the privilege of phrasing the identity of God, on the one hand, and the presumptions of concordance, of equivalence, of translatability, which, though imperfect, empower our dictionaries, our syntax, our rhetoric, on the other. That ‘I am’ has, as it were, at an overwhelming distance, informed all predication. It has spanned the arc between noun and verb, a leap primary to creation and the exercise of creative consciousness in metaphor. Where that fire in the branches has gone out or has been exposed as an optical illusion, the textuality of the world, the agency of the Logos in logic—be it Mosaic, Heraclitean, or Johannine—becomes ‘a dead letter.’

That passage bears rereading.”

— Richard John Neuhaus quoting
   George Steiner’s Grammars of Creation
   (Yale University Press, April 1, 2001)

Sunday, September 22, 2002

Sunday September 22, 2002

Filed under: General,Geometry — Tags: , , , — m759 @ 8:02 PM

Force Field of Dreams

Metaphysics and chess in today’s New York Times Magazine:

  • From “Must-See Metaphysics,” by Emily Nussbaum:

    Joss Whedon, creator of a new TV series —

    “I’m a very hard-line, angry atheist” and
    “I want to invade people’s dreams.”

  • From “Check This,” by Wm. Ferguson:

    Garry Kasparov on chess —

    “When the computer sees forced lines,
    it plays like God.”

Putting these quotations together, one is tempted to imagine God having a little game of chess with Whedon, along the lines suggested by C. S. Lewis:

As Lewis tells it the time had come for his “Adversary [as he was wont to speak of the God he had so earnestly sought to avoid] to make His final moves.” (C. S. Lewis, Surprised by Joy, Harcourt, Brace, and World, Inc., 1955, p. 216) Lewis called them “moves” because his life seemed like a chess match in which his pieces were spread all over the board in the most disadvantageous positions. The board was set for a checkmate….

For those who would like to imagine such a game (God vs. Whedon), the following may be helpful.

George Steiner has observed that

The common bond between chess, music, and mathematics may, finally, be the absence of language.

This quotation is apparently from

Fields of Force:
Fischer and Spassky at Reykjavik
. by George Steiner, Viking hardcover, June 1974.

George Steiner as quoted in a review of his book Grammars of Creation:

“I put forward the intuition, provisional and qualified, that the ‘language-animal’ we have been since ancient Greece so designated us, is undergoing mutation.”

The phrase “language-animal” is telling.  A Google search reveals that it is by no means a common phrase, and that Steiner may have taken it from Heidegger.  From another review, by Roger Kimball:

In ”Grammars of Creation,” for example, he tells us that ”the classical and Judaic ideal of man as ‘language animal,’ as uniquely defined by the dignity of speech . . . came to an end in the antilanguage of the death camps.”

This use of the Holocaust not only gives the appearance of establishing one’s credentials as a person of great moral gravity; it also stymies criticism. Who wants to risk the charge of insensitivity by objecting that the Holocaust had nothing to do with the ”ideal of man as ‘language animal’ ”?

Steiner has about as clear an idea of the difference between “classical” and “Judaic” ideals of man as did Michael Dukakis. (See my notes of September 9, 2002.)

Clearly what music, mathematics, and chess have in common is that they are activities based on pure form, not on language. Steiner is correct to that extent. The Greeks had, of course, an extremely strong sense of form, and, indeed, the foremost philosopher of the West, Plato, based his teachings on the notion of Forms. Jews, on the other hand, have based their culture mainly on stories… that is, on language rather than on form. The phrase “language-animal” sounds much more Jewish than Greek. Steiner is himself rather adept at the manipulation of language (and of people by means of language), but, while admiring form-based disciplines, is not particularly adept at them.

I would argue that developing a strong sense of form — of the sort required to, as Lewis would have it, play chess with God — does not require any “mutation,” but merely learning two very powerful non-Jewish approaches to thought and life: the Forms of Plato and the “archetypes” of Jung as exemplified by the 64 hexagrams of the 3,000-year-old Chinese classic, the I Ching.

For a picture of how these 64 Forms, or Hexagrams, might function as a chessboard,

click here.

Other relevant links:

“As you read, watch for patterns. Pay special attention to imagery that is geometric…”

and


from Shakhmatnaia goriachka

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