I just saw the movie ‘Arrival’, and I got to say, it is a very philosophically fulfilling mellow drama. I was astounded at all the philosophically coherent themes involved in this movie, even down to the look of the aliens (I won’t spoil it for you here).
but I just wanted to say that one of the things that I liked about it was the “non-zero sum game” idea that comes up at a critical moment in the film.
Without going into all the mathematical jibber jabber of what it might really mean to game theorists, to me the simple idea is involved with what I have said recently in a comment to another post, where in my defense to the reply to my comment I remarked that mine is a ‘total sum’. My meaning behind it was really the meaning that I get from non-zero sum.
If you have been reading my posts in the past few months or so I’ve been talking about a partition. While this notion involves many aspects and may be applied in a number of ways, the basic idea, for now, is that there are two routes that are not reconcilable to each other. My work seems to concern the route that is largely invisible or goes unnoticed as it is typically reconciled to what I’m calling real estimations; real estimation is a “zero-sum” game. Literary Lew recently published a post that gives a good rendition of how real estimation usurps all meaning unto itself; but in fact I would suggest this is so much the case that even while LL would speak of what is “spiritual”, I would say, the use of that term defies the meaning that he is trying to describe through its use; in other words conventional real estimations usurp all meaning unto itself.
While I tend to concur with LL, the meaning of this usurpation can be found in the very description of the ‘indication’ of discourses. This is where we come upon the philosophical-spiritual notion of ‘irony’. One one hand, though. irony merely describes the playing field, so to speak, wherein individuals may have their own spiritual meanings: irony, in a kind of crass Hegelian version. is actually a kind of meaningful door beyond which we have opened upon a multiplicity of interpretation and meaning, an infinite negativity of indefinitude. Fiction and fantasy that are proposed and supposed to arise out of the indistinguishable and personal conduit of inspiration, are viewed as evidence of the chaos of ordered potential that lay behind the veil of words.
Lew does a great job at describing this situation, but it is indeed a real situation. What is supposed indicated, in the general sense, turns out a be a specific and singular instance manifested in the particularity of multiplicity. The horizon of the dual universe found amidst the ‘mundane’ objectivity of unreflected, material-empirical things, and the ‘spiritual’ subjectivity of the human Being. These two intertwine in the variation of thought called speculation such that ‘nothing’, in the real and figurative sense, exists beyond these estimations; the bracketing involved of thoughtful intelligent thinking then allows for human beings to retain their spiritual centrality while using the privilege of thought to consider the possibility of defined terms, as these definitions are understood to contain the potential the relay or convey various truths of the universe. The significance of the description is found by this activity, which appears like a truism, of a stating of the obvious, nevertheless occurring as a ‘zero-sum game’. This is to say pretty much what Lew is saying; it is what call ‘orientation. But the problem here is not about anything spiritual. There is nothing spiritual about what any discourse might be indicating (as generalized in the term) as ‘spiritual’: It is only indicating something spiritual with reference to things that occur in reality, so much as what is spiritual does not breach what is real. At every juncture, the point of having any spiritual occurrence is found exactly in reality; in fact, to say that any sort of spiritual experience is not real would be to insult the person that is claiming a spiritual significance. This is founded in the very real want to stay relevant as Being in reality. So it is that to say that discourse might be indicating some spiritual significance is reality merely to reify that reality is where everything that is anything occurs, and thereby most usually defies if not negates the meaning of the spiritual indication — except inasmuch as what is indicated is indeed spiritually real.
But this is not to say that I am arguing against such spiritual situations as if they are not real. I am saying that they are precisely real; not wrong or incorrect, but exactly indicating only the arena in which they arise: In reality. So it is that where spiritual significance might still occur, some sort of break needs be enacted. The way to see this can only come about when one begins to see the description of obvious situations, such as the foregoing description above, as necessary; if everything is A.O.K., if reality is intact and questioned only by its eternal and internal designations, then what is indicated as spiritual never reaches beyond reality; but more, because discourses are indeed seen and understood to be able to indicate (reach) something beyond the discourse, a break is needed. Yet further, where there is no break, that is, where all that may be occurs at all times in reality, what is spiritual amounts to the reaching through this break, and we have the meaning of faith: The suture by which the zero-sum game remains viable. And, where I have indeed said that faith is the suture which allows for reality (in my blog, but also in my book The Moment of Decisive Significance), I also have indicated the balanced, zero-sum, equation.
To further show how reality might be or become a religious situation, we have an example at ‘lastenblog’ in this blog post about humanism that begins “It should be fairly obvious to everyone that “humanism” is a religion-substitute.”
Now, I’m not sure I agree with ‘lastenblog’ so far as I am invested in the discerning of real categories. So yet, when we begin to indict reality itself to contingency, then the question really becomes at what point or juncture do we begin to find religion? In what sense is humanism a religious proposal as opposed to any other situation?
The situation of ‘non-zero sum’ can be understood in the context of two routes that do not reduce to one another. Then, like the question upon which the whole movie is based, we are still concerned with the question Lyotard asked 40 years ago: How does one present a case to a court that cannot hear it? and the paraphrase adapted for our current: How do we communicate between apparently incompatible and alien arenas?
So; the first order of business must be that what exists outside of reality is ‘not nothing’, and that reality is a particular orientation upon discursive structures. This being the same order that requires agreement.