An Interview with Zeno

Pender Island, October 7, 2002


Emile:  Zeno, I know there has been speculation that you and Parmenides were lovers, and that our audience is interested in how that might have 'coloured' the politics of the philosophy you supported, but if you agree, I would like to focus instead on your revised views after visiting with a cross-section of the public of this 21st century, ... 2500 years after your, and Parmenides, seminal works in philosophy.

Zeno:  I'm happy with that, Emile, and in passing, I will say my relationship with Parmenides was indeed intimate and that I loved that man so deeply that my own work was dedicated to seeing him gain full and deserved recognition for his brilliant and original ideas.

Emile:  Love is a powerful thing and to even contemplate understanding history in a purely deterministic context that ignores love would be insane.  But, at the same time, supporting Parmenides' materialist idea, that something can either exist or not and that it makes no sense in speaking of that which does not exist, ... is a terse binary foundation of philosophy that seems devoid of love.   How did this mesh with your feelings at the time?

Zeno:  Is it not possible to love existence?   A world of the existence of material things was to me, the only world we could touch and see, as Parmenides pointed out, and so our feelings of love, as I reasoned then, must have been induced by the material existence.  Had Parmenides not existed, I would not have loved him, ... but he did exist, as is supported by all accounts of the time, not just history, ... and his being visible and touchable to me as a contemporary enhanced greatly my feelings of love for him.

Emile:  The notion that feelings were induced by material existence seems to me to be a point worth some discussion, perhaps at a later time, since it establishes quite a precedent that I'm not sure that 'the Gods' would approve of.

Zeno:  If you remember, Parmenides, in his hexameter poem, after establishing that it makes no sense to pursue inquiry into what does not exist, turns to the abuse of ordinary mortals for showing by their beliefs that they never make the choice between the two ways 'is' and 'is not', but follow both without discrimination.  Thus Parmenides implies the preference of the Gods for hard logic over fuzzy feelings.

Emile: It's true, ... thanks for reminding me.  Right now, I would like to turn to what some feel is your pièce de resistance, your 'paradoxes of motion' in which you make a convincing argument that 'motion is impossible', concluding that we must trust hard logic based on material existence, ... the preference of the Gods, ... rather than our sensory experience which only serves to deceive us rather than bringing us truth.  Let's look at your paradox of 'The Arrow';

"What is in motion moves neither in the place it is in nor in one in which it is not"


. . . . . 1. Anything occupying a place just its own size is at rest.

. . . . . 2. In the present, what is moving occupies a place just its own size.

So. . . 3. In the present, what is moving is at rest.

Now . 4. What is moving always moves in the present.

So. . . 5. What is moving is always --- throughout its movement --- at rest.

This paradox continues to trouble modern philosophers since it is a convincing argument that motion does not exist.

Zeno: But, as you and I both know from our discussions before this interview, this argument depends upon the rigidity or non-deformability of matter and space, as implied by Parmenides philosophy and as carried on through to be embodied in the works of Descartes and Newton.  One of Newton's main contentions was that;

'God in the Beginning form'd Matter in solid, massy, hard, impenetrable, moveable Particles'.

This was, of course, a very different view from that of my and Parmenides' older contemporary, Heraclitus, who maintained that;

"all things are an equal exchange for fire and fire for all things, as goods are for gold and gold for goods. . . . the unity of things lies beneath the surface; it depends upon a balanced reaction between opposites"

Emile: That's right, ... two fundamentally different notions of the nature of space and matter that make all the difference when one inquires deeply into the nature of 'motion'.

Zeno:  At the time, as I explained to Socrates [1], my paradoxes were in support of Parmenides contention that we must put our trust in 'divine logic' and not be distracted by our fuzzy senses.   Proving that motion was impossible when our sensory experience screamed out that it was a fundamental property of the world we live in, provided, at the time, a convincing argument for forcing people to make a decision as to whether they would go either with logic or with feelings. 

Emile: ... why do you qualify this with 'at the time'?

Zeno: Well, as you can see from the wording of the paradox of 'The Arrow', the proof is not really oriented to 'motion' per se, but to a particular type of motion, ... the movement of solid material things in absolute, empty space.   In the renaissance of scientific thinking in the 20'th century, ... a renaissance that appears to have prematurely aborted in terms of the philosophical context involved, ... principles like 'relativity' and 'Mach's principle' emerged that suggested not only that space and matter were NOT non-deformable, but that they were mutually deforming or, in Mach's view,  they simultaneously conditioned one another.   And, of course, relativity suggested that space was not an empty rigid rectangular container of infinite extent as Euclid's geometry had portrayed it, ... but was instead a dynamically warping energy field wherein the material content, rather than being absolute and fundamental,  was no more than a secondary artifact of the energy field dynamics.  My paradoxes of motion were contingent upon the existence of empty space and absolute matter that were not capable of simultaneously conditioning one another.

Emile:  Yes, its true that the turn of the nineteenth century marked a period of philosophical renaissance where we questioned the most basic principles of life, including those scientific principles addressing the nature of space, matter and time that had prevailed in western society for 2500 years, from the ground-breaking work of the pre-Socratic philosophers such as yourself and Parmenides.  How then has your view of motion changed since your recent review of 21st century ideas.

Zeno:  Well, I've had the chance to review, not just the ideas of the current era of two thousand and two, but to put them in the context of the whole flow of historical development of how we think about space, time and matter.  As you know, if your foundations for motion start off from a base of empty space and independent atoms that move through the empty space 'in time', ... then there is no way to get to the type of motion that constitutes 'simultaneous harmony' amongst a plurality of constituents as is manifest in our community of sun and planets.  Kepler noted this paradox in his 1618 work 'Harmonies of the World', though it was soon enough eclipsed by Newton's regression to absolute space, absolute matter or 'corpuscles', and absolute time, consistent with the philosophy of Parmenides, ... and myself, ... at the time.  This paradox continues to be passed over by many of the 21st century philosophers of science that I have had the chance to speak with on my recent visit.

Emile: While it would shock Parmenides if he were here to hear you say it, ... what you seem to be saying is that your paradox of motion, based as it was on absolute empty space, absolute existence of matter and displacements of matter referenced to absolute time, ... was later seen to be falsely founded, and that there is a fuzzy interdependence between space and matter that emerges from the even more fundamental substrate of energy flow dynamics.

Zeno: Neither I nor Parmenides expected that our ideas on the primacy of logic over sensory experience would have as much lasting influence as they did.  We lived in a time when philosophizing was extremely popular and there was a rich and diverse assortment of ideas on the nature of life and the universe, ... where we were coming from and where we are going to.   I was already aware of the conflicting ideas of Heraclitus, born 35 years before me in 550 B.C. in your calendar, and also the ancient 'Myth of Orpheus' from Hesiod's 'Theogeny' dating back even earlier, to the 8th century B.C., ... the source text for 'Orphism' that was the most important religion of ancient Greece.  In Hesiod's epic story, Orpheus entered the Underworld by way of a cave entrance and charmed the very shades of Hades with his lyre, thus, the competing idea was that 'harmony', something that is 'felt' through one's inclusion in acoustic space, rather than something 'seen' by the excluded voyeur that looks in on 'visual space', was more powerful than the visual space opposites of 'dark' and 'light'.  Meanwhile, Pythagorus had intervened as a reformer of Orphism, reducing harmony to numerical ratios which fit well with the 'ratiocinative' logic of Parmenides and myself at the time.

Emile: So the 'love rules' philosophy saw the light of day with Orphism back in ancient greece, but why is it that the Pythagorian reforms turned out to be so successful?  Can you answer this in terms that tie back into the evolution of scientific thought up to the present?

Zeno: I'll give it a try.  First, one has to go back even before Orphism to understand this, and see Orphism as a reform of Dionysian belief.  In the myth of Dionysus, Dionysus (or Bacchus) who often appeared as a man or a bull or some combination, was the god of wine and drunkenness --- a fertility god for an agricultural people.  In its early form, Dionysianism was a religion of considerable debauchery: beer was brewed and drunk to give honor to Dionysus/Bacchus and was followed up (while under the influence of this intoxicant) with the tearing apart and eating raw of wild animals.  This was a playing out of a sense that this god had entered them in this fit of passion or "enthusiasm.".  In the myth, Dionysus is killed by a group of crazed women in a frenzy of the very worship which he introduced to the people.

The myth of Orpheus 'reforms' Dionysianism in the same kind of 'geometric' manner that Gabor's communication theory reforms the binary communication theory of Shannon and Wiener.  That is, Orpheus married Eurydice, who was bitten by a serpent and died.  Being inconsolable in this loss, Orpheus goes down to Hades to get her back.  He woos her from the gods with his beautiful music --- who let her go on the promise that she won't look back on her way out of Hades.  But Eurydice reneges on this commitment and is thus returned to Hades as a ghost.  As a result, Orpheus vowed to have nothing more to do with women. But he too, like Dionysus, during a Dionysian orgy, is torn to pieces by a group of frenzied women.

Emile:  That's a lot of 'geometry' in one 'sitting'.  But, if I hear you, ... the idea is that 'music' or 'love' with its power to 'order' by empassioning, over-rides the ordering power of the opposites of 'light' and 'dark'.  The Orphic myth implies that what is 'real' in the sense of 'material' is only half the story since what is 'real' is at the same time 'imaginary', as when Eurydice is initially considered either alive or dead in a material sense, but by the myth of Orpheus is considered to have a 'real' and 'imaginary' duality, ... the very nature of harmony itself as the mathematics suggests.  That is, while we can think of a planet as a real material object that exists and 'moves', ...we can think of it, at the same time as having a kind of lingering 'personality' given by its manner of moving relative to its enveloping fellows, the memory of its harmonious trajectory relative to the enveloping others it is referencing to, if you like.   Since the planets move under the simultaneous mutual influence of each other, and leave behind nothing 'real' or 'material' as a memory of the relative-motion-defined geometry that impinges on our sensual experience, ... the planet can never be described purely in its material being and its assertive action as if in-its-own-right, the manner of description of Newton and of the information theory of Shannon and Wiener, ... but instead, the planet has, at the same time, an imaginary behavioural personality, ... 'imaginary' since it is purely relative and implicit to the assertive behaviours of its enveloping fellows.

Zeno: Precisely.  There is no way to describe the aesthetic of this relative behavioural dynamic in descriptive terms founded on the time-based actions of the individual material being in-her-own-right since the aesthetic emerges from the simultaneous, relative dynamical relationships, rather than from time-based relationships.   As Kepler said in his 'Harmonies of the World';

“Furthermore, a great distinction exists between the consonances of the single planets which have been unfolded and the consonants of the planets in pairs.  For the former cannot exist at the same moment of time, while the latter absolutely can; ..”  … “As the essence of movement consists not in being but in becoming, so too the form or figure of the region which any planet traverses in its movement does not become solid immediately from the start, but in the succession of time acquires at last not only length but also breadth and depth (its perfect ternary of dimensions); and, gradually, thus, by the interweaving and piling up of many circuits, the form of a concave sphere comes to be represented --- just as out of the silk-worm’s thread, by the interweaving and heaping together of many circles, the cocoon is built.”

Emile: What Kepler is saying is that this implicit pattern of behaviour that we can associate with an individual, that emerges from the simultaneous relationships between the relative motion of the individual and the motions of his enveloping fellows cannot be accommodated by descriptive models based on the unfolded motion of the individual as if in-his-own-right, as in the laws of Newton.   This is indeed, as Kepler says, a great distinction between the sequential harmony that belongs to the individual and the simultaneous harmony that impinges on our sensory experience, lingering and building on itself in our imagination like the silk-worm’s thread.

Zeno: It is the poetic instinct in us that attaches so much value to this 'imaginary' personality that necessarily associates with the dynamics of every 'real material individual', ... thus descriptions in the sole terms of the assertive behaviours of the 'independent' constituents of space, as persists in 21st century science, ignore the harmony-based aesthetic personality or 'dissonant personality'  that we all 'feel', even though it is purely implicit and 'imaginary'.   As Shakespeare wrote;


Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?

Thou art more lovely and more temperate:

Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,

And summer's lease hath all to short a date:

Sometimes too hot the eye of heaven shines,

And often is his gold complexion dimmed;

And every fair from fair sometimes declines,

By chance or nature's changing course untrimmed;

But thy eternal summer shall not fade,

Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow'st

Nor shall death brag thou wander'st in his shade

When in eternal lines to time thou grow'st:

So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see,

So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.


                                        william shakespeare


Emile: Yes, its true, the trajectory of a person's life that is retained in our hearts, is not that trajectory that describes their assertive dynamics in their own right, ... in fact it is no longer a 'trajectory' but rather the grace and harmony by which they moved amongst others and amongst the enveloping dynamical otherness of nature.

Zeno:  This great distinction noted by Kepler and left out by Newton and by the popular science and social philosophy of the western world since, clearly has a primary value in our lives and to ignore it and leave it unattended is to risk its being suffocated by the rough logic of  'light' and 'dark'.

Emile: Zeno, as a reformed Parmenidist, ... you have all the extra powers of having been there and seen the exposures 'from the inside looking out', ... through the eyes of an empassioned advocate that has spent his life trying to cover such 'exposures' and defend them.   But in your review of the history of ideas up to the present, have you seen any signs of a revival of  'Orphism', which sees 'harmony' or 'love' in terms of this imaginary, yet influential aesthetic that is quite clearly accessible to our experience, as the force that keeps Nature unified?

Zeno: Like a delicate flower buried within  a patch of robust weeds, it has continued to struggle for emergence over history, ... but always seems to be pushed aside for further 'offline' reflection while the discrete logic of mutual exclusion of space and matter, further supported by Aristotle's syllogisms, has been sustained as the ordering mechanism-of-choice of the social systems of western civilization, a culture that has risen to world dominance, ... some say not by wisdom but by the force of technological invention and the power over others that this brings.

In this regard, I was interested to note that while Newton, who prepared the way for the industrial revolution, acknowledged the 'something missing' in basing his 'Principia' on the non-interdependence of space and matter, the point was quickly forgotten in the ensuing centuries of mainstream scientific discourse which became more interested in invention and application than in maintaining an evolutionary understanding  of fundamental philosophical principles, ... at least until the turn of the nineteenth century and the emergence of deep philosophical thinkers such as the mathematician-philosopher Henri Poincaré.   As you will recall, Newton observed, in his Author's Preface to 'Principia';

"I wish we could derive the rest of the phaenomena of nature by the same kind of reasoning from physical principles; for I am induced by many reasons to suspect that they all may depend upon certain forces by which the particles of bodies, by some causes hitherto unknown, are either mutually impelled towards each other, and cohere in regular figures, or are repelled and recede from each other; which forces being unknown, philosophers have hitherto attempted the search of nature in vain; but I hope the principles laid down will afford some light either to this or some truer method of philosophy." 

Emile: Yes, Newton's purging of the simultaneous harmonies of the community of sun and planets, that Kepler had noted necessarily take precedence over descriptions of motion based on the actions of the individual constituents, seemed to have induced some 'guilty feelings' in Newton that he 'confessed' both in his Author's Preface and in his 'Scholium' sum-up at the end of his 'Principia' text.  But what talk of such things did you discover in your more modern era reviews?

Zeno:  What I found in the mainstream culture at large, and it is of course the mainstream culture that controls the social ordering principles of the society that determines the allocation of effort and emphasis on such things as philosophical inquiry, ... is that the current orientation seems to have once again regressed to the 'light' and 'dark', ... a divisive means of ordering and sorting based on making better what is seen as 'good' and eliminating what is seen as 'bad', ... two complementary policies of 'perfectionism' and 'purificationism' that come bundled in with the Pythagorean reform that reduces harmony to numbers.   Nevertheless, I did discover an esoteric revival of Orphism in a scientific area of research termed 'biofluiddynamics', ... that seeks to explain the often highly harmonious community-constituent codynamics of marine world constituents, in terms that are not constrained by framing things in non-deformable space, matter and time terms.

Emile: Yes, I think I know what you are getting at.  The biofluiddynamicists, by using acoustic space wavefield modeling techniques, see motion in its most fundamental sense as a sucking-and-gushing or inhaling-and-exhaling, rather than as 'things moving' in the sense of the actions and transactions of 'independent' material objects.

Zeno:  Precisely, ... or rather, ... your precision in declaring the primacy of imprecision is right on target.   The shape of the silence between the notes of the orchestra, that impresses us with its geometry of becoming, rather than with its geometry of being, like Kepler's cocoon forming out of the silk-worm’s thread imagery of a planetary dynamic, while 'imaginary',.is far from 'nothing' since it induces powerful feelings in us that shape our behaviours and an influence that shapes our behaviours must be included in any inquiry into the origins and nature of the social dynamic.  The acoustic wavefield that comes into play in shaping the behaviour of communities of fish is worth examining in more detail, since it brings us back to the Orphic ethic wherein inner-outer spherical resonance, as found in the system of sun and planets, is the primary ordering influence.

Emile:  I appreciate the point you are making.  In the acoustic space wave view, space is first of all capable of deforming in an inner-outer radial manner, and this is referred to as the 'compressional wave' and while it emerges from an inner-outer fluctuation of potential energy, it is seen as something greater than the kinetic motion associated with it, though the two are complementary aspects of a self-unifying dynamic.

Zeno:  Yes, the primacy of the potential field dynamics, as they are called, over the assertive dynamics of the constituents, can be seen in reflecting on the nature of a wave on the surface of the ocean.   Seen in a deeper context, the ocean waves are simply a smaller way of visualizing the inner-outer deforming dynamics going on at the spherical interface between the hydrosphere and the lithosphere, ... an interface emerging from the different acoustic potential energy flow-gating properties of the two mutually inclusive spheres.

Emile: ... and in the fundamentals of acoustic space wave dynamics, the so-called kinetic energy related 'assertive' dynamics are no more than a derivative view of the more fundamental inner-outer sucking-and-gushing of space, otherwise referred to as the dynamical energy field.

Zeno:  Thus it seems, that it is our gushy responses that give rise to our assertive behaviours, or so it is in the acoustic space of the aquatic world, and such Gaborian physics would have us believe, as well, that the dynamics of the terrestrial domain too, comply with such dynamical precedence though their 'acoustic properties' are rather different.

Emile:  Even the hardest rock behaves like a fluid when it is disturbed, as our experiencing of earthquakes demonstrates, with acoustic wave energy being propagated through all manner of material; hydrospheric, lithospheric and atmospheric, though moderated by the properties of these inclusional spheres.

Zeno:  Social dynamics are no different, for the individual himself is a community of cells that comply with the acoustic space dynamics wherein the inductive potential field influences of spherical compression and dilation are in a natural primacy over the kinetic trajectories of assertive behaviour of the constituent cells.

Emile:  What seems often to be overlooked is that the expression of potential field dynamics in terms of compressive and dilative influence is purely inductive in nature, affecting a multiplicity of material constituents simultaneously and inducing them to suck in towards some imaginary virtual center and to again simultaneously gush out as if away from some imaginary virtual center.  But of course, there is no real 'causal' agent or material attractor/repulsor sitting at such centers, and as the acoustic wave propagates, it is apparent that each and every point in the space of such dynamics can play the role of a center-of-sucking-and-gushing.

Zeno:  Indeed, the work of relativity has suggested that a more general way to think of space is in terms of a dynamical energy field that is self-deforming in an inner-outer manner, consistent in geometric principle with the acoustic space studied by the 'biofluiddynamicist'.  That is, the 'field equation' developed by Einstein says that the dynamically deforming geometry of space is of overriding importance in the emergence of physical phenomena and that the curvature of any spherical volume of space can be given in terms of the 'excess radius',  G/(3*c**4) times the total energy content within the spherical volume, ... where ‘G’ is the gravitational constant and ‘c’ is the speed of light, ... the ‘total energy content’ including the energy equivalent of mass contained within the region.

Emile:  Ignoring the particulars of the equation itself, the implication is that seeing things in the terms that space is stored 'potential' energy in continuous self-organizing dynamic and that motion is, in a primary sense, an emergent property of the dynamical deformation of space.  Thus it would appear that your paradox of 'The Arrow' has been resolved by the 'inclusional logic' of relativity, and that the spotlight is now fully turned on the culprits, ... the abstract notion of space as an empty rectangular container of infinite extent inhabited by absolute non-deformable material objects that are capable of in-their-own-independent-right assertive behaviours mechanically animated by the corollary abstraction of absolute time.

Zeno: Indeed Emile, ...........  and its time for me to confess that it was my love for Parmenides and the beauty of his abstracting powers, ... his words that flowed forth like the silk-worm's thread, spinning purity and enchantment in their becoming that mesmerized his audiences, ... that induced me to argue, insanely, in the very opposite direction of what I held in my heart, in support of holding logical abstraction in the primacy over sensory experience, ... in support of putting the purity of his static content in a primacy over the organic beauty of the dynamical context of his delivery.   But if only you could have been there, Emile, ... if only you could have felt the gentleness of his loving embrace as I did, ... the sweetness of his breath that enveloped and interwove with his advocacy of the divinity of  logic, ... like the embroidered torus that weaves itself from the single smoke-strand of a candle in the wind, making of and for itself its own soft and caring cocoon, ... a sensually aesthetic one-ness of context and content that induces in me right in this moment, an orphic resonance in each and every cell of my being, in the mere remembrance and re-imagining of it.

Emile:  Your capacity for love and indeed its power to inductively shape the assertive dynamics of your life is evident in your remarks.  Have you ever felt similar emotions for a woman?

Zeno:  Logically, how can I, or anyone, ever forgive what those bitches did to Orpheus?

 * * *

[1] Zeno's account of a discussion between himself and Socrates in Athens as cited in Plato's 'Parmenides', from 'The Pre-Socratic philosophers' by Kirk, Raven et al;

"The book [Zeno's] is a retort against those who believe in plurality; it pays them back in their own coin, and with something to spare, by seeking to show that if anyone examines the matter thoroughly, yet more absurd consequences follow from their hypothesis of plurality than from that of the One. In such a spirit of contention I wrote it while I was a young man" . . . "After Socrates had heard this [Zeno's reading of his book], he asked him to read again the first hypothesis of the first argument. When it had been read, he said; "How is what you say to be taken, Zeno? If the things that are are many, they you say they must be both like and unlike, but that this is impossible - for neither can what is unlike be like, nor what is like unlike? Is not that what you say? --- 'Yes', said Zeno, --- 'So if it is impossible that what is unlike should be like and what is like unlike, it is also impossible that there should be many things? For if there were many things they would be subject to impossibilities. Is this the purpose of your arguments --- precisely to contend, against all that is commonly said, that there are not many things? And do you regard each of your arguments as evidence of this very conclusion, so that in fact you reckon to provide as many proofs as the arguments you have composed that there are not many things? Is this what you are saying, or do I not understand you correctly? --- 'No,' said Zeno, 'you have understood the purpose of the whole treatise beautifully."

Epilogue to 'An Interview with Zeno'

If you had difficulty in assimilating the full sense of  'An Interview with Zeno', it is probably because you are a fish out of water.  In fact, we humans are all fish out of water, and we seem to have forgotten a lot about the 'good old days', ...when we were all 'marines'.

When we lived immersed in water, we realized that the enveloping space, far from 'being empty', was fluid and deformable in an elastic way so that it resonated in phase with our movements.   In fact, this fluid deforming containing space, otherwise known as 'water' was inside of us at the same time as it was outside and thus 'including us' in its resonances.  Even in our terrestrial experience, we persist in having a sixty-five percent water content and a dependency on sustained hydration by continued infusions of some form or another.

The dynamics of fish are inductively influenced by the enveloping acoustic space fluid dynamic, and, at the same time, contribute to the ambient fluid dynamics.   The three little words 'at the same time' characterize the essential difference; i.e. the polar-precedence and complementarity that relate 'acoustic space' perception and 'visual space' perception, that in turn heavily influence the tendency to resonance or dissonance in community dynamics.

That is, throughout the ages, man has reflected on the question as to whether the actions of the individual and the enveloping collective (i.e. 'environment')  is 'simultaneous' or 'sequential'.  The Heraclitean philosophy and the philosophical traditions of  Taoism, Buddhism and Native North Americans embraced the natural primacy of 'acoustic space' perception wherein everything is in the flow.  This gives the sense that our individual dynamic is 'at the same time' as the enveloping dynamic, as in the case of the fish where the asserting of the fish is, at the same time, the invaginating of the enveloping fluid space-medium.   In Platonic and Aristotelian schools of philosophy and in the western religions; Christianity, Islam, Judaism, .. the tradition is to think of 'perception' in purely 'visual space' terms of 'sequence of events'.  The sense of visual space perception is that the behaviour of the material constituents of space is 'independent' rather than 'interdependent' as in acoustic space perception, ... and this of course makes a radical difference in how one approaches order-inducing management in a collective (e.g. in a community).

The importance of this visual-space/acoustic-space perceptual outlook is critical to an understanding of the issues touched upon in 'An Interview with Zeno'.   It is a subtle thing to philosophers, as the following two observations on differences amongst philosophers show, so the message is that there is something here that we who do not spend our lives reflecting on such issues, but simply accept the 'philosophical defaults' of our culture, might want to 'revisit';

Henri Poincaré versus Bertrand Russell

In a public argument in Poincaré maintained that the notion of 'perception' could infer either 'visual space' perception or 'acoustic space' perception while Russell assumed that 'perception was perception' ('visual space' perception).

"Regarding geometry, i have had a long discussion with Mr. Russell, and i see that he persists in his opinion as i persist in mine; but there is one phrase that allows one to better understand the origin of our disagreement, 'so that objects', says Mr. Russell, 'which we *perceive* as near together ..' and he comes back to the word perceive several times in his writing. as for me, i never use the verb 'to perceive', nor the noun 'perception' because i don't know what they mean. I don't know if the perception is a feeling or a judgment, and i truly believe that amongst philosophers that use this word, some understand it in the first way [feeling] and others in the second [judging]. that's why i avoid using it."  Henri Poincaré, 'Science and Méthode' (1908), Chapitre IV 'Les Nouvelles Logiques', I 'La Logique de Russell'.  

Heraclitus versus Aristotle

Historians of philosophy Kirk, Raven et al in 'The Presocratic Philosophers' suggest that Aristotle 'overlooked' this important issue of 'simultaneity' versus 'sequentiality' in perceiving constituent-collective codynamics which equates to putting acoustic space 'feelings' into the primacy over visual space 'judgment', or vice versa. For example, is there a sequential adaptive path between the dynamic of strife and the dynamic of love, ... or are love and strife characterizing the same simultaneous codynamic? (as in the Taoist proverb 'There is no path to happiness, happiness is the path').  Kirk, Raven et al observe;   

"Plato clearly distinguished between Heraclitus' SIMULTANEOUS unity and plurality of the cosmos and Empedocles' SEPARATE PERIODS of Love and Strife. At the same time, they are mentioned together as both alike in believing in the unity and plurality of the cosmos; and Aristotle's coupling of the two might conceivably have been motivated by the Platonic comparison, the important distinction between them being overlooked.

The mythology of ancient peoples was replete with different treatments of 'the Light' and 'the Dark' and how the twain 'reconcile'; i.e. via back-and-forth sequential oscillations of love-and-strife or via  incipient in-the-continuing-now transformation of dissonance into resonance.  While Heraclitus opted for the 'hidden attunement' based on transforming dissonance into resonance in the continuing 'now', Aristotle defaulted to the back-and-forth time-based adaptation model, the former corresponding to the acoustic space 'simultaneous unity-and-plurality' (relative motion) and the latter corresponding to visual space 'sequential unity-and-plurality' (absolute motion). 

What is at stake for 'us' here is whether we use 'acoustic space perceptual lenses' that are simultaneous-resonance-feeling based or 'visual space perceptual lenses' that are sequential-assertive-judgment based.  While the latter, visual-space perception is a derivative of the former acoustic space perception, the reverse does not hold true; i.e. visual space perception is 'blind' to the inner-outer resonances of acoustic space perception since these resonances are purely 'implicit', emerging from how things moving under simultaneous mutual influence move relative to one another (rather than moving relative to a fixed space-and-time containing frame).

Acoustic space perception is in a natural primacy over visual space perception because it includes it as a derivative, informationally-reduce view and goes well beyond it..

In the aquatic domain, 'acoustic space perception' was the perception-of-choice for us,... informing us that the environmental dynamic that permeates and includes us emerges from our actions relative to one another, ... therefore 'there is no path to community harmony' community harmony emerges from jointly tuning in to the resonances we are co-creating in-the-moment, ... in the continuing space-time 'now'.  We 'know' this when we speed along a crowded freeway; i.e. we know we are in-the-process of co-creating a dissonant enveloping space or a harmonious enveloping space in-the-continuing-now by the manner we are all moving relative to each other. In the 'friendly' case, we let our actions be in the service of cultivating community resonance and this elicits in us the acoustic space 'feeling' mode of perception, rather than the visual space 'judging' mode of perception.

Now, we have the habit, even though we are using acoustic space perception, to 'automatically' speak of what we are doing in the informationally-reduced terms of visual space perception where we 'judge' the distances between things and decide whether we are going too fast or two slow and/or whether we should veer left or veer right, and there is a good reason for this.  It is because our language is innately visual space-based.  So, if we don't talk about our acoustic space perception based experience, there is no problem, ... but if and when we want to talk about it, there is a problem because acoustic space experience is purely implicit and relative while language is rooted in visual space judgements.   So our 'automatic conversion' from acoustic space experience to visual space language is simply 'analytical backfill' to what we really experienced.   And when we are flying along nose-to-tail and wingtip-to-wingtip with encircling others, all we desire in this mutually vulnerable case is to sustain some mutual continuing opening-up-of-possibility-to-move space between ourselves and our fellows and we let ourselves drop into 'acoustic space' feeling mode where our movements are not 'centrally managed' on the basis of our judgment of what we should do (i.e. our private assertive agendas), but are instead in the service of sustaining the desired possibility-oriented 'geometry of space'.  

If  my writing seems to be long and 'hyper-abstract', it is due, on the one hand, to the subtlety, yet critical importance, of recognizing the implications of these two modes of perception with respect to how we approach the 'co-managing of community dynamics', and, on the other hand, to the limitations of language (language being visual space oriented) and to the limitations of my language skills.

My whole essay series is 'centered' around this core issue, and the implication that we terrestrials of the western culture have 'forgotten' about the natural primacy of acoustic space feeling perception over visual space judgment perception and are now paying the price for it in terms of rising social dysfunction.

How could this happen?

Our social behaviours do not come out of nowhere, they are continually induced, inspired by those around us as we develop from infancy.  That is why our behaviours have a cultural overprint depending on the enveloping culture we grew from infancy in.   The process can been seen in the following anecdote in regard to the behaviour of chimpanzees;

"In the beginning of the study, they put a distinctive ladder in the cage, and when any of the chimps climbed this ladder, the whole cage and all five chimps were sprayed with ice-cold water which they hate. they very quickly learned to associate climbing the special ladder with the ice cold spray and if any among them made a move to climb that ladder, the others would stop him and get angry with him. once the chimps had learned this lesson well, the psychologists removed all the spraying equipment, and began to change out the chimps one by one. each new chimp which entered the cage was roughly 'given a lesson' by the others if he tried to climb the ladder and he quickly learned not to touch it. when they had changed out all the chimps on a one-by-one basis, ... the behaviour of avoiding the special ladder persisted on as strong as ever, even though none of the chimps who now occupied the cage knew anything about the ice cold water spray."

Could similar things happen in 'science'?  As Douglas Caldwell wrote in 'Is the Environment the Organism', discussing our persisting belief in the mechanical notion of 'Natural Selection' (as has been contrasted herein with the resonance based evolutionary advantage manifest in such behaviours as the flock flying formation of geese which delivers greater speed (danger avoidance), greater migratory range (foraging advantage) for twenty percent lower energy requirements (reduced feeding need) than could be achieved in solo mode);

"The primary difficulty is that, although technology has been strengthened during the past 50 years, scientific thought has weakened. Scientific reasoning is sometimes referred to in the popular press as 'mind-numbing post-modern jargon (Cartmill, 1998), and it is often completely absent from technical journals, being regarded by technologists as philosophical rather than scientific. Few scientists are required to take courses in the philosophy of science, and some do not realize that they have degrees of philosophy (PhD)."  Douglas E. Caldwell, 'Post-modern ecology: is the environment the organism?', Environmental Microbiology, Volume 1, Number 4, August 1999

So we western terrestrials have made 'visual space judgment' the cultural default for the way we perceive the world and it persists in being 'the way we do things around here', ... but imagine that you were once again a fish.   When you move, you make waves.  But someone is always moving so you are always immersed in waves and those waves are moving you.   When you move, you move RELATIVE TO what is already moving you and the same is true for your fellow fishes.  When you are a fish, it is clear that you are co-creating the enveloping dynamic that your dynamic is referencing to (i.e. 'pushing off from'), ... though not completely, of course, the wind above the water surface is helping and so are the sun and the moon (the tidal currents) and so are the intruding rocks and the shores that reflect back the motions that send to them.  All constituents of space are helping to co-create their enveloping dynamic ('the organism is the environment')

For you as a fish, it is clear that you must get your assertive actions 'in-phase' with those of your enveloping fellows, and this is precisely what fish travelling in schools do.   You do this by the acoustic space 'feeling' mode of perception that induces you to adjust your wigglings until you 'discover' by 'feeling' that you, as a group, are co-creating a resonant group-dynamic mode.  When everyone is simultaneously influencing everyone else via the mediating role of the enveloping possibility-to-move space, there is no solution if everyone opts for the visual space judgment approach, UNLESS, of course, there is centralized management with the kingfish barking out the dance-steps for everyone else.  Fish schools and flocks of birds don't employ visual space management techniques that require centralized management. 

Terrestrials don't have to either, ... not if they remember the forgotten art of acoustic space perception.  

This was Marshall McLuhan's underlying thesis, and a summary of his outlook is appended in footnote [E1]

So, for a general history on how we western terrestrials got locked into visual space perception, the works of Marshall McLuhan can be perused.  The essay 'An Interview with Zeno' is an expansion on a part of that history dealing with our assumptions as to the nature of space, matter and time.

What it intended to relate was how we, as western culture terrestrials, made the convenient 'simplifying assumption' that the space around us is 'empty' rather than deformable and that the things that occupy it, like ourselves, are for all practical purposes, non-deformable solids. 

The significant gap between these assumptions and the enveloping reality of our experience is causing us increasingly severe growing problems in the domain of  community dynamics.   Only if we believe in the 'Orphic' qualities of our environment can we make music with it, whether that environment is the human social dynamic and/or the dynamics of our earth, air, thermal energy and water based fellow constituents.  The fish school and the flock of birds understands that their environment is 'resonant' and by moving together in search of 'co-resonance' they discover a dynamical way to 'live together' that is resonance-based.

'An Interview with Zeno' also got into gender issues as 'resonance' is an inner-outer gender related assertor-receptor phenomenon.  Conflict arise when one thinks of the gender-dynamic as being a 'back-and-forth' dynamic as in the visual space perception.  Conflict is resolved when one thinks of the gender-dynamic as being a simultaneous inner-outer dynamical resonance as in acoustic space perception.

Much of the ancient Greek myth deals with the 'back-and-forth' interpretation, e.g; in the myth of the ancients, there is both fascination and fear in association with 'resonance' and a 'gender connection'.   The myth of the 'Sirens' casts 'resonance' in terms of a 'back-and-forth' conflict between 'female' and 'male' wherein the female 'tuned in' on a one-on-one basis to the vulnerable susceptibilities of the male and enticed them to sail into their own destruction while the male simply drowned out or suffocated the voice of the female;

 * * *

The Sirens are said to be the daughters of Achelous and Terpsichore, one of the Muses.  In their early days they had wings, but lost them upon being conquered by the Muses, with whom they rashly contended; and with the feathers of these wings the Muses made themselves crowns, so that from this time the Muses wore wings on their heads, excepting only the mother to the Sirens.

 These Sirens resided in certain pleasant islands, and when, from their watch-tower, they saw any ship approaching, they first detained the sailors by their music, then, enticing them to shore, destroyed them.

Their singing was not of one and the same kind, but they adapted their tunes exactly to the nature of each person, in order to captivate and secure him. And so destructive had they been, that these islands of the Sirens appeared, to a very great distance, white with the bones of their unburied captives.

Two different remedies were invented to protect persons against them, the one by Ulysses, the other by Orpheus.   Ulysses commanded his associates to stop their ears close with wax; and he, determining to make the trial, and yet avoid the danger, ordered himself to be tied fast to a mast of the ship, giving strict charge not to be unbound, even though himself should entreat it; but Orpheus, without any binding at all, escaped the danger by loudly chanting to his harp the praises of the gods, whereby he drowned the voices of the Sirens.

 * * *

So, in the history of the evolution of our western civilization, 'resonance' was an important theme, an invisible influence that was the source of 'hidden attunement' in the dynamics of nature (as well as the community dynamics of fish and birds), but which could also be very dangerous.

Pythagorus found a way to reduce resonance to 'numbers', which was kind of a 'taming' of resonance by taking out the mesmerizing 'phase' aspects.   For example, if you are dancing and doing pirhouettes, the 'phase effects' of your spinning relative to what's around you will 'make you dizzy'.   The remedy is to focus on a single spot each time you 'come around' and this restores the sense of stasis; i.e. it allows your mind to 'ignore' or  'forget' the continuously changing 'phase information' so that you can mesmerize others with your dancing but not yourself, and it basically reduces resonance to 'cycle counting' or 'absolute time' as captured in the visual space versions of days and seasons conceived of as linear 'count' based measures rather than as inner-outer resonances.

Thus, Pythagorus, purportedly guided by the Orphic cosmogenies and some ancient books coming from farther east, through the concept of 'harmonia', succeeded in linking rational abstraction (visual space judgment) to both the sense and the 'spirit'.  As Frankfort et al observed in 'The Intellectual Adventure of Ancient Man', while Heraclitus had noted the over-riding importance of recognizing the 'hidden attunement' in Nature's dynamic via 'harmonia';

"the Pythagoreans were anxious to determine it [harmony] quantitatively'. The starting point for their enterprise was a remarkable discovery by Pythagoras. Measuring the lengths of the string of the lyre between the places where the four principal notes of the Greek scale were sounded, he found that they had the proportion 6:8:12. This harmonic proportion contains the octave (12:6), the fifth (12:8) and the fourth (8:6). If we attempt to regard the discovery naively, we shall admit that it is astonishing. It correlates musical harmonies, which belong to the world of the spirit no less than to that of sensual perception , with the precise abstractions of the numerical ratios."”

To conclude this epilogue, it seems that humans have a dual mode perceptual capacity, one mode being an informationally reduced derivative of the other.  Our western terrestrial culture has made the informationally reduced derivative, visual space judgment, the cultural default and has tended to 'ignore' and/or 'forget' the natural primacy of acoustic space feeling, ... a natural primacy that was and is the cultural default of our aquatic fellows, and a way of perceiving that is innate in the dynamics of Nature.

Zeno and Parmenides were influential in our historical choice of opting for the reductive visual space default in their era.  George Bush and Tony Blair are doing their best to have us retain the unnatural primacy constituted by that same option in our current era.

[E1] Selected comments from the works of Marshall McLuhan dealing with the 'visual space' / 'acoustic space' relationship;

(a) As McLuhan observed in his interview with Bruce Powers entitled 'Angels to Robots From Euclidian Space to Einsteinian Space' (in 'The Global Village'), the Euclidian view is "not a complete way to visualize the totality of the world ... because it cannot deal with issues of 'resonance' "  vis;

Bruce Powers: We are constantly suppressing the awareness that the material universe is comprised of resonances; that no straight lines exist.

Marshall McLuhan: Exactly. Because the Euclidian construct is controllable. The 'center' of acoustic space is everywhere and, therefore, seemingly chaotic.

(b) Anthony Hempell provides a synopsis of McLuhans work on the difference between visual space and acoustic space at  

"McLuhan believed this [simultaneous] duality [of the visual and the acoustic as enabled by television] would lead mankind to embrace the lost hemisphere of acoustic space where holistic, creative thought based on relationships and patterns was dominant (in contrast with the linearity of the left-brained visual space of rational/scientific thinking)."


The Global Village

Visual and Acoustic Space

The Mind and Eye The Physiology of Visual Space

Western history has been dominated by the perception of the world as a linear thought everything has a beginning, a middle, and an end. McLuhan hypothesizes that this linearity is a side effect of the phonetic alphabet, which compresses the range of human speech and thought into a symbolic system of 26 characters. The result is a world view dominated by linear logic and the symbolic abstraction of meaning.

The alphabet and writing strongly biases our communication towards the world of visual space. Our discourse about our environment is constricted into ideas of lines, planes and grids. The universe is perceived as having a beginning, and at some point an end; time is constructed as a line. These models are not necessarily "truth," but abstractions based on our perceptive tools which are built to heighten our awareness of visual space. McLuhan states that it may be partly due to the physiology of the human eye (which perceives lines and perspective in great detail) that we are prone towards the visual.

The Lost Dimension Acoustic Space

In contrast with the linear biases of visual space, acoustic space is analogous to the natural environment. Acoustic space surrounds us; it approaches from 360 degrees. It is a simultaneous process of "centers everywhere and margins nowhere." Acoustic space was dominant in pre-literate societies, where orality and myth were the medium between humans and the environment "for hundreds of thousands of years, mankind lived without a straight line in nature."

Writing and publishing are the main technologies that have focused Western society on the visual; however, McLuhan claims the counteraction of two "acoustic" technologies (cash money and the compass), have kept us with some balance. Acoustic technologies focus on the intangible (cash as a metaphor for value/wealth; a means of increasing the "velocity" of the economy over barter) and the global (compass reconstructs the world as a navigable sphere).

Table 2 Attributes of Visual and Acoustic Space

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Visual Space

Left hemisphere of the brain

Linear, sequential; based on the line, plane, grid, perspective. Heightens response of the eye. Linear conceptualization, causality.

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* * *

Acoustic Space

Right hemisphere of the brain

Gyroscopic, 360 degrees, reflective, reverberant, simultaneous. Heightens response of the ear (balance). Oral culture, myth, time as a cycle.

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