SYNCHRONIC AND DIACHRONIC

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Interpretation keys of the project of man in the dimension of time.

INTRODUCTION
CHORDS AND MELODY
NARRATIVE AND METAPHOR
PROJECT POINT OF VIEW
FACING NECESSITY
APPENDIX: SYNCHRONIC DISCOURSES OR DIACHRONIC ONES?

INTRODUCTION

Synchronic and diachronic are two concepts employed by Ferdinand De Saussure[1]to describe the way one studies the nature of languages. The prefix dia means through and chrono is time: a diachronic vision entails objects going through time. The prefix syn implies togetherness, and the objects of a synchronic discourse occur together at the same time. A synchronic vision takes into account the reciprocal positions of the objects at a certain moment without considering their movement. [2]

The diachronic analysis of language dominated before De Saussure. After him, another approach was allowed whereby the hypothesis disregarded the formation processes of language, setting oneself the task of describing language structures only on the basis of the relationships active in a certain present time.[3]

Diachrony is the flow of time like a film telling a story. Synchrony is reality captured by intuition like a still photograph.

CHORDS AND MELODY

The pleasantness of a C major chord is attributable to the ratio of the frequencies of the three notes composing it: C, E and G. To recognize it, it suffices hearing the superimposition of these three sounds for a fraction of second. On the other hand, a melody is when a sequence of notes is reproduced one after the other. Suppose a melody is repeated six times slightly variates each time. When the seventh melody is played, the listener would expect something similar to the previous six, and the seventh turn indeed begins according to the sequence, but develops differently. An instinct tries to complete the beginning on the basis of the model given by the preceding melodies. However, a difference will become evident between the attempt of completion and the real behaviour. The listener will then realize the variation as a significant stylistic phenomenon.

Should we play the seventh sequence at the beginning without anything played before it, no sensation of stylistic difference would originate in the listener since there would be no expectation induced by the first six, in respect of which noticing the gap.

The pleasantness of the chord is synchronic in nature since it rests independently in the istantaneous superposition of notes and apart from what follows or precedes. On the other hand, the way we value a musical melody implies diachronic dynamics since it’s linked to the temporal paths from which musical objects reach the attention of our mind. Not only every note of the melody is valued on the basis of the preceding one but further, there is a level where whole groups of notes assume different meanings accordingly to their similarity with previously played groups.

With chord progression,[4] we have an example of artistic structure based as such on the synchronic dimension (harmony among notes inside a chord) as on the diachronic one (chord progression), tightly connected in the compass of the tonal system.

NARRATIVE AND METHAPOR

Let’s take into account the narrative with which we build a story. Its operative core consists of adding elements to the characters structure, being them people, concepts, or setting, so that what is added could assume a preparatory function of what will happen later.
Narrator’s building activity manages the pathes of characters through time, hence naturally operating in a diachronic dimension.

A poem also utilizes a narrative structure however, poetry usually gives its preference to the metaphorical dimension. A metaphor is a superposition of different concepts. It is a comparison and recognition of how structures and subparts of two dfferent concepts correspond. Metaphor is a synchronic structure in the sense that its effect is similar to a chord of concepts. On the other hand, it’s quite evident that the narrative of events shares the same structure akin to melody and therefore it could be called a narrative of notes.

PROJECT POINT OF VIEW

FIRST EXAMPLE: DASHBOARDS

I remember an anecdote which tells a story of a young engineer designing car interiors. As he began working, he drew fine-looking dashboards but articulated it too much and filled it with undercuts. His creation clashed with production exigencies and with the difficulties of realizing complex and expensive moulds. He was driven by a synchronic idea of the aesthetical harmony among the parts of the panel and failed to anticipate the productive processes from which his idea could become reality.

SECOND EXAMPLE: RIACE BRONZES

You are a very creative artist with the head in the clouds. Within a few days you will move to the tenth floor of a palace in the centre of the city and you wonder about the furnishing that you will put in the living room. A mirror will be placed in the middle of the left wall while the right one will hold a big white clock with black characters. In the centre of the room will be a cristal table on which a fleshy-leaved plant will be inside an opaque pot. Now you are searching thoroughly for the main character: something classical and unexpected at the same time. Here it is! The full-size reproduction of the Riace Bronzes with elegant curls and blue eyes crowning that impressive mass; with a plastic pose revealing an aristocratic awareness of the body; with that flavour of Ancient Greek that’s always intimately connected with a deep vision of the future. Wouldn’t it be nice to re-paint the walls looking for the best match for the tone of bronze?

Following the aesthetical necessities of the room, you reasoned in a synchronic way, thinking about maximizing the beauty of your living room, and manipulating its apparel objects. But may be the Riace Bronzes are too big and heavy to pass through both the lift and the stairwell. It’s not enough to imagine them in the final arrangement. You need to create a film inside your head simulating all the middle phases associating the desired output to the starting one which are the reproductions of the bronzes delivered at the ground floor, still packaged, there on the pavement.

FACING NECESSITY

Necessities of the physical world and economic-productive system call for man to reach concrete results respecting tight bonds. Confronting itself with such demand, human mind operates both in a synchronic and diachronic way. Synchronically, the mind lets itself to be dominated by great inspirations which define both the vision to follow and concepts employed for describing the world. Man seems to be expressly made to fall in love with these ideas architectures in which every part has its role in respect of the others. The building of the harmonical vision usually happens after dropping the reflection about how to bring it to reality. Such reflection usually happens in a phase when the synchronic vision (for the mere fact that it exists in the mind) starts confronting itself with daily events. Then occurs the shift from a creative setup to a more organizational one, and starts the evaluation of the modality for realizing the project in the diachronic dimension of causes and effects, tangled as thin threads through the tortured mass of becoming.

In the best case, the result is the higher form of the spirit that is somehow similar to the chord progression which is provided both with a diachronic and synchronic coherence. What I’m referring to is the spiritual core perceiving the mind and the world as a whole in the magic of Here and Now, but without being overturned by the economical becoming since it’s able to employ the diachronically right categories and procedures to satisfy the demand of body, society and productive processes. A spiritual structure facing economical necessities keeping itself aesthetical and musical.

In the wood of time,
let’s plan paths
for the objects to follow.

APPENDIX: SYNCHRONIC DISCOURSES OR DIACHRONIC ONES?

Utilizing these concepts, one may ask whether a certain discourse is diachronic or synchronic. I’m more inclined to consider both concepts as dimensions simultaneously associated to the same discourse therefore making it richer. The two questions corresponding these different attitudes are: “Is this discourse synchronic or diachronic?” and “In what quantity is this discourse diachronic, and in what quantity synchronic?”

Diachronic-Synchronic-Segment-Discourse-Position

Fig. 1 The geometrical model implicated by the question: “Is this discourse synchronic or diachronic?”. An eventual increase of synchronic or diachronic argumentation would provoke a shift of the red circle indicating the position of the discourse, respectively to the right or left side.

 

The geometrical model implicated by the first question is a segment having the pure diachronic and the pure synchronic as extremities. In this model, the addition of diachronic or synchronic descriptive elements to the discourse does not lead to a visible increase of the discourse value, but to a shift of the position of the discourse towards one of the two extremities.

Diachronic-Sinchronic-Cartesian-Discourse-Value-Increase

Fig. 2-3 The geometric model implicated by the question: “In what quantity is this discourse diachronic, and in what quantity synchronic?”. On the right I represented the value increase of the discourse, coming from an increase of synchronic argumentation.

 

On the other hand, the model regarded by the second question is a Cartesian plane with synchronic and diachronic dimensions. In this case, the addition of new synchronic or diachronic elements increases the correspondent side of the rectangle of discourse and of course its value, that is considered equivalent to the area. In this way, it becomes evident that there is the opportunity of integrating in the same discourse (not so easy, I know) both synchronic elements and diachronic ones.

Of course, this kind of representation is a simplification which does not express the intrinsic complexity of language, but I’m interested only to highlight that what appears to be a worthless shade (the difference between the two questions characterizing the models) can affect the judgments which presides the development of discourses.

  1. [1]His most famous work: Course in General Linguistics, have been published posthumous in 1916.
  2. [2]These concepts are to be used with a certain elasticity: for example, a synchronic vision can focus on the dynamics occurring in a given historical period, disregarding the way it originated from the previous ones. In such a case, the phrase “ without considering their movement” refers to the movement among different historical periods, not to the bustle of daily events occurring inside a single period, which can be regarded as a part of the synchronic discourse.
  3. [3]De Saussure made a comparison between the language and a game of chess: every configuration of the language is like a configuration of the chessboard, which can be examined indipendently from the sequence of moves that produced it.
  4. [4]Just out of idle curiosity, chord progression has been set up during the 17th century in Europe. “While in a polyphony of the 16th century the melodic organization was prevailing, in the sense that the superposition of melodies should simply care that derived harmonies were made by legitimate chords (chords made by consonant gaps), in the new tonal organization the harmonic progressions of chords have a primary structural importance and melody has to keep this in consideration adapting itself to them” Baroni, Fubini, Petazzi, Santi, Vinay 1988, Storia della musica, (History of music), Torino, Einaudi, Piccola Biblioteca Einaudi 25, Nuova serie. Pag 149.

A FLOWER IN THE VOID

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A LOVE SONG

 
Bm 
A minute before  
G 
the crack of dawn
A 
The scare wakes you up  
D 
in a black and white scene:
 
you are alone  
G 
in the shop of the clothes
A 
and the people around  
D 
are walking dead men.
Bm 
Then you realize:  
D 
not a nightmare but real
G 
You stare at the ceiling  
A 
and think of the knife.

Bm 
Dany don’t  
G 
cry 
 
be
A 
cause of the  
D 
void
Bm 
If you close your  
G 
eyes, 
 
 
A 
then you will  
D 
see
Bm 
There close to  
G 
you (is) the  
A 
beat of my  
D 
heart

Bm 
Covert a crack we keep in ourselves
G 
Hiding the cleft behind the laugh
A 
behind the mask that  
D 
often does smile.
Bm 
There is a thing  
G 
I never told (you):
A 
the day you should go,  
D 
i’ll do the same.

Bm 
Dany don’t  
G 
cry 
 
be
A 
cause of the  
D 
void
Bm 
If you close your  
G 
eyes, 
 
 
A 
then you will  
D 
see
Bm 
There close to  
G 
you (is) the  
A 
beat of my  
D 
heart

Bm 
The eye of the man can not see that far
G 
and even this black is only a joke
A 
Let’s go through this veil  
D 
changing our sight
Bm 
leaving the desert,  
G 
reaching the zone where
A 
every man is  
D 
a wild swan of Coole.

Bm 
Dany don’t  
G 
cry 
 
be
A 
cause of the  
D 
void
Bm 
If you close your  
G 
eyes, 
 
 
A 
then you will  
D 
see
Bm 
There close to  
G 
you (is) the  
A 
beat of my  
D 
heart

Bm 
So don’t fade  
G 
away, (and)  
A 
let’s drop the  
D 
knife
Bm 
believe me when  
G 
 
 
A 
speak of to
D 
morrow:
Bm 
there is a  
D 
flower, just  
G 
waiting for  
A 
us.

THE DANCE OF HERE AND NOW: A POCKET PARADISE

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MY DANCING RELIGION

THE WORLD: A GREY CONTEXT
DANCING: THE ZONE OF COLOR

THE WORLD: A GREY CONTEXT

Our thought is the art of organizing what we see according to an aim, but what we see is dramatically little in respect of the deafening bustle of becoming that everywhere blazes in the world, in offices and minds, on screens, in factories and atmospheres.

We think we know how things will go, and we create an image about it in our head. But the rest of the world does not organize to comply with our expectations. There is an intrinsic nature in things, proceeding according to its own rules, indifferent to our programs. Above all, there are the intents of other men, opposed to ours.

Meshes of reasoning become larger, trying to wrap up consequences and conditions of productive processes, but one cannot take care of all. It suffices to wait, and always something unforeseen arrives that forces us to change our thought readjusting it to the world. Our expectations are a crystal that will fall apart in the insensitive gears of becoming.

There is something wicked in the way man falls in love with his projects over the world, that come to life with so much enthusiasm but then trap in themselves the same man that loved them, making sad his reasoning. Society functions by this perversion, which mechanism is difficult to escape.

But if the reasoning about the world became sad, then thought needs a place aside where he can forget the world. If society is a high forest where light does not penetrate, we look for a glade with no shadow to retrieve the sky. We move away from the future to stay in the present, forsake the rest of the world to look only at these houses, divert ourselves from people and withdraw in the interior that does not speak.

Aries Tottile said that if man is reason, then the good for man is the practice of reason; but man is also and above all body. Putting aside the broken reasonment to make more room for the body can be the best strategy for later coming back to a reasonment that moves from cleaner ambients of the thought.

Often the will that organizes action to reach objectives ends to create a sort of smoke-screen between us and our movements, that are accomplished without being lived. But once we turned our back to the tainted reasonment, action can free itself from slavery of results, and gets access to that amount of sacre that is inherent in every gesture.

So, i’m ceasing to feed the thoughts of projects and of society duties. I let the images about work, people and news turn pale. After parking attention into the listen of breath, i look with the corner of my eye at the thoughts of the day keeping on sprouting. But if I hold myself and don’t watch, if I don’t pluck them, they return underwater, as a dolphin that after coming out in the air falls again. If before reason sent the order of movement by a telegram, now he listens to what body has to say. It’s the moment of adherence, the moment for attention to spread through the volumes of flesh, through the great muscles of arms and legs but even through the tiny ones which names are known only to doctors. It’s the moment for welcoming the sound organized in rhythms and harmonies of superimposed notes: music, the trainer of body and thought.

THE ZONE OF COLOR: DANCING

Among the leaves of a tree the sight of man looks in the hope of a fruit, and when it turns to interpret a face, the arrangement is made around the eyes. In the same way the mind longs for the polar points of a musical structure, and when it seems that something has been found, the mind makes a test, trying to seize that something with the captain of all gestures: the foot that meets the floor.

Every time the gesture guesses the time, energy does not diminish due to the accomplished work, but rises with the soundness of the musical sensation. And if the game of legs is well done, then the soul of inspiration takes possession also of trunc, arms and hands, till the articulations of fingers. Body structure is put in the service of music structure, as it were a puppet of manifold possibilities, and simple gestures that beat time are followed by more elaborated editings.

In adventure films, there are secret tiles, and when someone tramples by mistake on them, hellish traps spring up and palaces crumble. In this video-real-game instead, there is a secret G point inside the cement, moving just under the surface, like a big worm of Dune, and when you succeed in following him with your steps, the floor comes to life and becomes an animal to be ridden. When you lose his traces you have to stop, still like a silent statue waiting for the intuition to re-find the position.

But we are not in a twentieth century theatre workshop, and he is not an athlete the one who is dancing, interested in tougher muscles for more powerful jumps. He’s a citizen of the sad empire that by profession does something other, and uses with love the body available to him to play the score, without getting angry about the limits of his instrument. It is not the intensity of the physical performance ruling in this game, but the syntax of the movement words the inner director disposes of.

And there where fatigue lets its voice be heard, the dancing citizen interposes immobile pauses or lessen beyond measure the intensity of every movement, till it remains only a nod of the head or the look. But never he gives up about getting charmed by the fire-flies that kindle in the magic triangle among body, mind and the organized sound.

Man’s book teaches us a dance for building up the kingdom of here and now, giving a sense to the enterprise of facing the other coming against us in the days. It’s not a dance to comply with the look of a public; it’s a form of beauty that is not observed by the ones outside, but by the unique one[1] inside.

  1. [1]A clarification: I did not use this expression to indicate the faith in a monolithic “I”, that on the contrary I feel as manifold. I think the convention of a unitarian grammatical “I” to be a method that can be freely employed on the basis of the situation. In this specific case, the unique one is the mental point where inspiration is going to take shape, not bidden by an order, but invited by waiting.

A Love Song: The Girl From New York

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This is a song i composed coming back from China, where the last day of my journey i found a cool girl who hit my heart and gave me the inspiration for a new dream. That night we had a dance session, and we moved our hands in the style you can see in the video.



Here are the lyrics:

I came in Xiamen

to find a girl from New York

so sweet was the kiss

but she sent me away.

 

She has been the hint

for my mind to fly,

the flight went too far

and stretched the mind.

 

The mind fell apart

like a mirror that tries

to follow who leaves

going out of the room.

 

I came in Xiamen

to find a girl from New York

so sweet was the kiss

but she sent me away.

 

So tears on my face

this night in Xiamen;

only saved me the glue

i was told by Cobain.[1]

 

I came in Xiamen

to find a girl from New York

so sweet was the kiss

but she sent me away.

 


 

  1. [1]“My heart is broke, but I have some glue” by Kurt Cobain, Dumb.

JÜRGEN HABERMAS: A LAW FOR EUROPE

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Thoughts about law, beside Habermas’ text: Morality, Law, Politics[1] [2]

LAW’S ABSTRACT AND UNIVERSAL SHAPE

“There are 144 customs in France, they say, that have the force of laws; these laws are nearly all different. A traveller in this country changes laws almost as often as he changes horses. […] Nowadays jurisprudence has perfected itself so much that there is no custom without many commentators; no one of which, needless to say, is of like mind.”[3]

With these words, Voltaire described the French legal system before the Revolution: a variegated construction hosting in its recesses the privileges of clergy and nobility. This situation changed with the French Revolution[4] and the passage to a unified law of an abstract and universal kind, which still today constitutes the backbone of state organizations.

An abstract thought is devoid of colours and smells, of places, dates, and faces: the abstract and universal shape does not allow it to favour certain individuals rather than others, because it can not name them (in fact, should it name them, we would get an expression not abstract, but having concrete references).[5] Being unconnected to any definite conditions, it is portable throughout the different places of our social universe of today and tomorrow.

Let’s take a look at article 575 of the Italian penal code, which concerns murder: Anyone who causes the death of a man shall be punished with imprisonment for not less than 21 years. This text, by means of the word “anyone,” clearly refers to every individual, not only those belonging to certain social groups. This text does not talk about a murder committed by the poor against the rich, and neither about longer or shorter detentions for men or women.[6]

THE LEGITIMATING POWER OF LAW’S RATIONALITY

Max Weber talks about law’s rationality referring to the universal and abstract form of laws, in addition to other linked characteristics, such as the organization of the laws in a sentences system; the absence of specific addressees of the law; an application as mechanical as possible, intended for minimizing cases where subjective interpretation is needed; clearness and simplicity to generate in citizens definite expectations about what is allowed, which are important premises for social and economical projects.

In this conception of law’s rationality, attention is not directed to what is said, but to how it’s said. Indications are given not about the content of a law, but about the shape in which it’s written. Therefore one can talk about law’s formal properties.
If we imagine photographing a law, we will obtain a photo in which it will be possible to detect rationality as intended by Weber, which in his speech refers to law’s structure and not to law’s processes of formation, nor to law’s application processes, for capturing which a video would be needed.

According to Weber, law’s rationality is the main property that allows it to justify power, to legitimate it in the people’s eyes. In fact, governments don’t limit themselves to impose by force a series of rules made at their pleasure without respecting any principles, but they need to operate within laws capable of gaining some level of acceptation from the population.[7]
The alternative, an undesirable one, is a completely authoritative power operating without consensus, by force alone.

MOVING AWAY FROM LAW’S FORMAL RATIONALITY

Historically, centralized law with abstract and universal properties functioned in contrast to the privileges of the clergy and nobility, and thus favoured those who gained wealth by their labor instead of by birth, rent, or tradition. Thanks to ownership protection, many citizens can accumulate and preserve the fruit of their work. As such, conditions are created for an increased importance of the markets where individuals meet one another to seek advantages by exchanging goods and services, without violence, in the shadow of a regulation guaranteed by a state having force monopoly.

The described change represents progress the moment it allows citizens to realize their life projects, but it’s not devoid of negative aspects. In particular, it does not hinder the formation of a wide swath of the population that falls beneath the minimum income level required for a dignified life. If this malaise strata assumes a systemic nature, the need arises for its systemic management by the state by means of apposite rules.[8] Examples are disability or retirement pensions, health care, and collective work contracts specific to each industry.

Where is the problem, for him who desires to preserve law’s rationality? The point is that laws made to improve the status of the poor will not speak about men in general, as required by law’s abstractness and universality; instead, they will specifically talk about the poor. Tutelage of weak men turns to be an increase in law complexity, and it pushes us away from formal rational criteria, because of the need to define specific situations in which help and intervention must be addressed.

To sum up, simplicity and abstractness are applied at the beginning of the nineteenth century to fix inefficient laws that became entangled with privileges. Moving away from the zero point where this change occurred, the negative effects of the new laws accumulate and become evident as grey zones[9] that need to be managed by further laws, which are more specific and detailed because they must suit the multiplicity of the existing system, without the possibility of deleting it by a new, improbable revolution.
This development is equivalent to a shift from formal rationality as described above. We can talk about this process as law deformalization. Deformalization comes both from an historical continuity not repudiated by a discontinuity moment and from an increase of complexity in the social context in which law is applied.[10]

HABERMAS AND LAW’S PROCEDURAL RATIONALITY

In the ancient empires, law is based upon its sacred origin, upon habits and upon bureaucratic action. The sovereign can’t make of law what he wants, because this would mean going against the tradition and sacred authority law derives from. The fact that political power can’t dispose of law by will is indicated by talking about an unavailability moment.
In the moment when custom and the sacred sphere stop being sources of law, the only references remaining are the collections of laws created by man, who, having created them, can modify them too; so one faces the risk of law being manipulated by the political sphere for its own purposes, and the need is felt to anchor law to a referent that can protect it from the whims of power; one such possibility is to establish law as an expression of the collective will of the people, which authority is then placed above every other state’s body.

Should someone ask me what I’m doing now, I would not reply analysing the inside of my psyche and trying to detect the elements of thought involved in writing, and those elements having a rest, but I would tell him: “I’m writing an article about a Habermas’ book.” Now let’s create a mind experiment: try to imagine a people provided with a collective will, and ask him what is right and wrong. I don’t know what he will answer, but if he thinks as did I above, then he will speak without reference to his internal divisions, without mentioning single citizens and without referring to specific social situations. He will speak in an abstract way.

This is how one can think that a collective citizens’ will expresses itself with abstract and universal laws, with which it preserves law’s autonomy in relation to politics, opposing the inopportune wishes of the government with the necessity of expressing rules in a certain manner that is supposed to guarantee justice, avoiding explicit privileges allocated to certain social classes.

Habermas regards as an error considering the universality and abstractness of language as a guarantee that the aims of a collective monolithic will are fulfilled.[11] Universality and abstractness of law remain as reference points, but it’s necessary to deepen our understanding of how decisions form themselves, breaking the black box of people’s collective will as it has been thought by Rousseau.[12] This deepening has not been made by socialists,[13] while it has occurred in liberal theories.[14]

The abstract and universal nature of law does not allow it to formulate measures directly assigning privileges to particular citizens with a name and a surname, but also does not prevent laws from casting advantages and disadvantages onto society’s foliage creating dark and light zones. To avoid a manipulation of the grey regions generated by laws, there is the need to regulate the process by which decisions representing the will of all are taken at the top, rather than simply the manner in which these decisions must be written.

In this way, in respect to the formal rationality as intended by Weber we find ourselves with a concept of procedural rationality broader and sounder, that can keep its validity in the complexity of the contemporary situation, in which it’s hard to maintain intact the abstract and universal nature of law.

While formal rationality according to Weber had an instantaneous nature (in the sense that it was about properties present in the law in every single instant), examining procedural aspects of the law clearly brings us to consider events extended in time, and there is a passage from the synchronic dimension to the diachronic one. Using a musical metaphor, we could say that while Weber pored over the harmony among superimposed sounds, Habermas focuses our attention on melody and chord succession.

LAW AND MORALITY

In our society there can be different moral types; for example, there can be a morality based on the maximization of total happiness or one based on the practice of certain personal virtues. There can be one based on the love of the neighbour, or again another based on accepting only those behaviours that could be put to use by all men without damaging society. So we find ourselves in a situation where a unique law must be able to mediate among varying moral systems.

Aside from this, moral nature is intrinsically different from legality. Morality is more propositive, and drawing examples it can inspire action, while law is a prohibitive system. In addition, morality can talk about invisible thoughts, while this area remains inaccessible to law: one can not be on trial for his intentions. Law handles concrete and identifiable objects, while morality is (or can be) the seat of more daring inspirations and is hard to pigeon-hole systematically. Morality can describe a behaviour model that is a fragile equilibrium, rarely only reachable in practice; by the finger, morality can even point to the moon, and it’s not said that its speeches always reach definite conclusions. On the contrary, law must be a rule easily enforceable in every day contexts, and must arbitrate conflicts on the routes of the world. Law must (or should) give rise to fast and objective material decisions, while needing only reasoning that is as simple and repeatable as possible.
If we think about their respective social functions, we can consider law as a sort of completion of morality, because it constitutes the mechanical apparatus by which human conflictuality magma is modelled towards the direction suggested by morality.

A PROJECT FOR EUROPE

Habermas longs to detect the criteria permitting the elaboration of a fair and functional law for the contemporary context, and the European context in particular. To do this, he begins by discussing the concept of rationality described by Max Weber, and he means to give a better version of it, one more resistant to the law deformalization problem as well as capable of regulating how law absorbs moral matters, and of protecting law itself from attempts at manipulation led by political power.[15]

Habermas research is quite broad, taking account of different themes, from the origin of law in prehistoric societies to contemporary trends in legal thought in Germany and the USA, and from issues related with the formation of a united Europe to the thought of Niklas Luhmann and Friedrich Fröbel. Special attention is given to a series of considerations about the French Revolution and to the Enlightenment thought of Kant and Rousseau.

The solution detected by Habermas is a law’s rationality intended above all in a procedural sense: that is, the formation processes of political-legislative will must be such to receive the moral content present in public speeches made outside institutional structures, both political and juridical. Following Habermas, we see that democracy depends on the way we as citizens discuss arguments, on the quality of our speeches.

Habermas’ project is a political construction capable of incorporating different cultural shapes of life. Against this project of liberal democracy based on citizens’ awareness works that part of power that always longs for the dozing off of thought. In favour, here we are. If souls stay sitting in their armchairs watching TV, there is not much to hope for. But every time someone gets up from comfort to really want something, then the project regains strenght and a united, independent Europe returns to the realm of the possible, keeping up with its role in history.

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  1. [1]I worked on the following Italian edition: Jürgen Habermas, Morale, Diritto, Politica, Piccola Biblioteca Einaudi, vol. 359 – Filosofia, Torino 1992. This volume includes the original German titles Recht und Moral (Tanner Lectures 1986); Volkssouveränität als Verfahren (1988); and Staatsbürgerschaft und nationale Identität (1990), in Jürgen Habermas, Faktizität und Geltung. Beiträge zur Diskurstheorie des Rechts und des demokratischen Rechtsstaats (Suhrkamp, Verlag Frankfurt am Main 1992). The quotes in the following notes (if nothing else is indicated) are from the Italian edition.
    All translations from Italian to English made by the author (both quotes and the entire article, which was composed in Italian).
  2. [2]After a deep reading of Habermas’ text, I chose some of the main ideas present in it. This article has been constructed as a narration preparating the enunciation of the chosen concepts. This means the arguments coming from the book are not delved into; rather they are simplified to provide a basic introduction to the citizen.
  3. [3]Voltaire, Oeuvres de Voltaire, Dictionnaire philosophique par Voltaire (Paris: Imprimerie de Cosse et Gaultier-Laguionie, 1838). Entry for “coutumes”: “Il y a, dit-on, cent quarante-quatre coutumes en France qui ont force de loi; ces lois sont presque toutes différentes. Un homme qui voyage dans ce pays change de loi presque autant de fois qu’il change de chevaux de poste. […] aujourd’hui la jurisprudence s’est tellement perfectionnée, qu’il n’y a guère de coutume qui n’ait plusieurs commentateurs; et tous, comme on croit bien, d’un avis différent.”
  4. [4]Of course, the codes historical formation process is complex and extends through time; in addition, its formation is not a direct and exclusive effect of French Revolution.
  5. [5]“Citizens’ collective will, being capable of expressing itself in the form of universal and abstract laws only, operates excluding all interests not susceptible to be generalized, admitting only those rules that guarantee equal liberties to all men.” Habermas, “Morale, Diritto, Politica” p. 84
  6. [6]If we say, in example, that a vassal can sell wine 30 days before others, or that only vassal can hunt game, or that only vassal has the right to receive a tribute from all the lands of the fee, then we are creating distinctions favouring certain social classes.
  7. [7]From common citizens, but from legal professionals as well.
  8. [8]The so-called welfare state.
  9. [9]“In the degree to which constitutional monarchies and the Napoleonic code affirmed themselves, social inequalities of a new kind came to light. In place of inequalities linked to political privileges, other inequalities succeeded them, starting from the institutionalization of equal liberties, in the field of private law. They were the social consequences of the unequal distribution of an economic power that was wielded outside the political dimension.” Habermas, “Morale, Diritto, Politica” p. 88
  10. [10]This does not mean that at the zero point laws were “better” because they did not need the integrations that subsequently have been necessary. At the zero point, new laws have not yet had time to diffuse their consequences, which in a complex world can’t avoid having negative as well as positive aspects too.
  11. [11]“Kant, too, has been responsible for a confusion that soon will no more allow to separate between them two completely different meanings of universality: the semantic universality of an abstractly general law will early take up the place of procedural universality, characterizing the democratically established law as an expression of a popular collective will.” Habermas, “Morale, Diritto, Politica” p. 72
  12. [12]“It is necessary that the moral substance of self-legislation – compactly concentrated by Rousseau in a single act – disarticulates itself through the many grades of the proceduralized formative process of opinion and will, thus becoming accreditable in low-denomination banknote also.” Habermas, “Morale, Diritto, Politica” p. 99
  13. [13]“Marx and Engels limited themselves to touch on the Paris Commune, and they always disregarded every issue of democratic theory. […] To the enlarged concept of politics, it did not correspond to any theoretical deepening about which functions, communication forms, or institutionalization conditions, should characterize an egalitarian formation of the will” Habermas, “Morale, Diritto, Politica” pp. 88-89
  14. [14]“Every democratically enlightened liberalism keeps faith to Rousseau’s intention, but in the same time recognizes that popular soveraignity shall express itself starting from the discursive conditions only of an opinion and will formation process, differentiated in itself.” Habermas, “Morale, Diritto, Politica” p. 85
  15. [15]In the sense that there is the aim of defining a criterion under which political power can’t do all that it wants about laws, just because it must act within well-defined procedures allowing to gather the fruits of public speeches. Cf: “Communicative power is wielded in the modality of a siege. […] It regulates and fixes quotas to the reasons pool that the administrative power can sure instrumentally manage, but never – structured as it is in a juridical form – afford the luxury of ignoring.” Habermas, “Morale, Diritto, Politica” p. 98

THE BIRTH OF A RELIGION: KNOWLEDGE, CONTEXT AND TRANSPARENCY

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BOOKKEEPING AND CRYSTAL CLOCKS

An accounting preamble: context ignorance

When I began working in the purchasing office, still I didn’t know anything about accounting. Only, I gave the suppliers’ invoices to the external accountant, with some days in advance in respect of the VAT deadline. I had no idea about the routes the accounting clerks forwarded the documents to. If one talked about liabilities and equities I could follow the reasoning for a couple of sentences, but then I did not understand anymore the direction of credits and debits. I was aware there was a list of all the accounts and that it’s just called chart of accounts, but I knew a few entries only belonging to the expenses section; more precisely, I knew the entries positioned in the top part of that section, the ones related to the raw materials I was used to manage. Yet the subdivisions among the different kinds of services made me suspicious, and I knew that going more down there was strange things like the non-deductible input tax, amortizations, capital losses, or the cash over and short account.

After a couple of years from my entrance in the company it came the moment for us to bring the accounting inside (before, as I just hinted at, the accounting was managed by an external accountant). This happened together with the purchase of an AS400 server, and it was me managing both these changes, seizing the opportunity for learning how the accounts work.
We were in the half of the nineties, and Google was not there for helping me; I learned the matter from the programmer of the accounting software, and of course asking something to our external accountant. In a few weeks I started understanding the difference between credits and debits happening in the Assets rather than in the Revenues, and within some months I became familiar with bank accounts and year-end tasks. Now I usually record customs bills of entry, purchasing invoices with many different types of VAT, payroll liabilities and expenses. Let’s say I know enough about this stuff to weigh the competencies of an accounting clerk in a job interview.

Context awareness and crystal nature

There was a time when ignorance was prevailing, and to me accounting was a bother only, an address to which I sent requirements and from which I awaited answers. I saw what entered it and what came out of it, but with no understanding about the linkage between the input and the output. The ignorance about the issue sometimes brought me to underestimate its complexity, or, on the contrary, to fear excessively its consequences. Behind that word, there was in my mind an aggregate of external points of view, not a thoughts structure pertinent to the reality that it pointed out.
Subsequently an experience took place by means of which a sound awareness of the context built itself up, and today, before the voucher of the bank, I don’t hang on pondering anymore: soon I proceed recording it in the book of original entry. If checking the bank statement I find something that does not balance I just have in mind where the origin of the matter can be found. Yesterday, bookkeeping was the name of a wood which paths I didn’t know, today it’s a domain I can see through as it was a crystal clock in which I distinguish the moving mechanisms.

As months and years went by, I got skilled in other areas too inside the company, discovering crystal clocks in the sales office and in the production department, in the human resources management and in the most technical issues. Outside business, I found crystal clocks in women’s behaviours, in politicians’ talks and of course in university courses.

Transparency as a life-style

By experience and study, mass becomes transparent. Every work is a cultivation that makes the ground evaporate, leaving visible the knowledge gold seam. Earth is temporary only. The eyes sight teaches us the opaque surfaces, but we prefer looking for the crystal clocks. Transparency becomes a religion, consistent with the production context and capable to lead us to the most coloured countries of the Here and Now.

Sure, knowing the unknown contexts can be learned it’s not enough to make them transparent, but we can make it easier to happen, changing the mind attitude by an expectation for a transparent world. The difference is in becoming aware that every opaque substance is the starting point only for discovering an impalpable relations system. There is a change in the stance towards mass, that stops being a barrier against the unfolding of the thought, which tracks branch off in every direction, like Escher’s staircases. Objects become paths webs and the world turns to be the moves of a bright thought without any shadow.

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NOUNS FOR SAVING THE VANISHING THOUGHT

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It’s almost midnight and the cold sting us waiting for Micaela. You are a lot of things, you are fizzy. You are swaying with the hands in the pocket, and there is more style in your poses than in a famous musical of the seventies. You rattle off the news since the last time, giving a different tone to every episode with an amused recitation. Behind your variegated words one can glimpse a thin will directing the merry-go-round of events to lead it in a place of the future. I, hanging in this mild winter euphoria drawn by your behaviour, feel that your skin became tough due to the suffered scratches, and appreciate your mind, lucid in underlining your competencies and your limits at the same time.

Your good mood is sustained by the awareness of happened things. The decisions took in the artists group, the ideas conceived for a video, the read books, the job opportunities. But as hours goes by, happened things drift away from the present sliding into the past. Your mood mechanisms realize this and they go to check the new nearest past that in the meantime has set itself up. They take note about all the news just come from the outside world and about the undertakings you accomplished. If enough structure has not been delivered to the mind, the mood rating agencies will decide for a downgrade. You must be hard-working in silence to meet the delivery terms and gain a good time extension, avoiding the game over.

But putting a brake on the dispersive cues and focusing the attention on the just begun routes it’s not enough. Every work is like a gathering, and before beginning it’s necessary to prepare a container for saving the efforts. Being an issue about expectations and moods, that are pieces of the spirit, the container can’t be other than a noun. You have to give a noun to your jobs before beginning them, so you will know when they will be accomplished, and then you will be able to put them on display along the thought hallways.

It’s not easy to take happiness in our hands without making it die. Usually, when we face the matter we realize that we should have done something before. One has to beat to the draw, giving more awareness to his building activity. Working is not enough, one has to prepare the nouns the thought vanishing flows can be pinned down to.

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WRITING WORDS FOR FINDING IMAGES – THE INSPIRATION TWISTED WAYS AND CREATIVE DRAWING

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My customer wants a picture for an article. It must be clear without falling into the banal; i don’t find it. This article talks about children in a context of divorce, and i’m collecting sad and crying children, in the full or in the dim light, sitting alone or pulled by parents… The sheet and the thought fill up with images elbowing for a place, without leading me beyond. My creations become a little crowd besieging me with bother. I find myself caught between an inspiration need and the impossible gesture of stretching out my hand for seizing it. The more I try, the more it escapes me.

Talking about his animals, Konrad Lorenz pointed out that game occurs when there is no danger and the belly is full: when there are not important and urgent issues to face. But the appointment with my buyer is exactly this, and it seems to prevent the favorable circumstances for the creative game that itself requires.
Clearly, working doggedly on the aim does not favour the birth of the image, but neither i can stay with folded arms while a stupid clock is scoffing at me. What work can i carry on with to get closer to the inspiration, downwind, without making it escaping? The right image seems to come when it feels like coming only, but there must be in the back-stage of the mind a suitable situation for its birth. There must be somewhere between the conscious and the inconscious an idea of the structure that i have to illustrate, capable to supply raw materials for starting the neural magic off towards the G point of creativeness.

And so, i stop drawing children and i start writing where they came from and where they will go, forgetting their appearance. I let fading away all the images i collected before, because they absorbed the effort sweat they had been conceived with, and the smell was not good. I interview the subject of my paintings and i tell in words his past and his future, jumping from one thing to another or deepening in the never ending details, inventing something completely or mixing my experiences with my fancies. In this way i can give vent to my stress with a work bringing me closer to the result. The stories causal nexuses sediment in some hidden place of the thought, populating it with seeds i await a bud from, in occasion of which i will come back from the words world to the images one.

When i insisted on searching inspiration in the images field, the badly functioning creations[1] asked me to trace the breakdown and to make them worthwhile. So every figure that was not the right one weighed me down ending up by being a damage. Now that I moved into the words field everything i build is nothing and does not weigh me down, slips away without regrets because it’s not what I’m looking for.[2]
But really this words flow is not a nothing only, it’s the care too for something still i don’t see; as there is a rain dance, there is a dance for the images, and words are drops to forget and find them again.

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  1. [1]All but the last one: the good one interrupting the search.
  2. [2]Of course, the difference between the images dynamic and the words one is not due to their intrinsic nature; it’s because of images are the destination field, while words are the intermediate field.

THE DEATH OF THE AUTHOR: NOT LITERATURE ONLY

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THOUGHTS ABOUT BARTHES’ SCRIPT [1]

POSSIBILITY CLOSING

The individual thought is open to manifold possibilities the written words can evoke or drive away. If we imagine the reader’s thought as the big full light of a reflector, then every reading is a black sheet wherein some spaces are open, and after the sheet is put on the light, a part only of the thoughts remains possible. Changing reading is changing the sheet. Instead, writing an interpretation is putting a second sheet in addition to the first; less thoughts will remain possible: only the ones that will find the coincidence between the holes in the two sheets. It’s in this way that the interpretation of a work can shut its horizons, dimishing the possibilities it can match. In this sense, shutting a text is in itself neither good nor evil. If one likes the chances remained open then he will be happy they are more evident, and vice versa.

A competent functionary of the power, equipped with a long term vision, will be concerned about promoting global visions coherent with his interests, choosing the interpretations suitable with friendly thoughts. And the literary critic will be welcome to the political parts of which he shares the values scheme. Barthes, who has no liking for “the system”, takes a stand opposed to this lie of the land.

I can’t say whether the historical premises Barthes makes use of suffice for supporting his reasoning, or if they are valid as an introduction only, but even with these doubts about the roots of his reflection, it’s clearly possible to see its effect: the death of the author works as a slogan for disconnecting the author’s past from the tissue of the text, in order to contest the literary criticism and foster a synchronic reading.[2]
Literary criticism that Barthes takes aim to produces interpretations of a diachronic type:[3] they bring back the value of the literary work to the past dynamycs that generated it, with a route that traces back from the writing to the author’s supposed purposes. Then, if the ground where the critic browses are the author’s will routes, here is Barthes building a scriptor equipped with a Here and Now only, lacking any intention; a sort of bare procedural skill. Making the author die, Barthes breaks the critic’s toy.

A MENTAL ATTITUDE

Beyond the premises and the consequences of the death of the author, it is worth while to make some observations about the way it structures itself. The author’s elimination is first of all articulated as a refuse of the time before writing, during which the author conceives the work, making the scriptor’s existence coincident with the writing act.

“The Author, when believed in, is always conceived of as the past of his own book: book and author stand automatically on a single line divided into a before and an after.”

“In complete contrast, the modern scriptor is born simultaneously with the text, is in no way equipped with a being preceding or exceeding the writing, is not the subject with the book as predicate; there is no other time than that of the enunciation and every text is eternally written here and now.”

This emphasis put on the writing moment can even produce a certain enthusiasm into the reader, who can project himself in a writing modality grazing the sacred dimension, but this excitement is doomed to lessen when we see Barthes reducing the writer’s skills to a mere recombination of pre-existing elements, expressly depriving him of any personal emotional content.

“His only power is to mix writings, to counter the ones with the others, in such a way as never to rest on any one of them.”

“Succeeding the Author, the scriptor no longer bears within him passions, humours, feelings, impressions…”

Barthes is capable in preparing its entering in the scene, but the concept of scriptor is unbearable when one compares it with the historical complexity of the real individual who produced the work. The refuse of the duration can be ascribed (forcing a bit the hand) to the moment only when it occurs the definition of the exact words forming the text, but not to the entire creation process, that, besides, sees the author becoming the reader of himself with the purpose of accomplishing a validation or a self-criticism. In the process of setting up the literary device the author can’t be considered independent from his own history. The only way for having a likely scriptor, is intending him as a subpart of the real author, as a sort of mental microclimate typical of the writing moment.

LIGHTENING AND OPENING OF THE SUBJECT

Reading Barthes’ article, one perceives the need for a major impersonality; this term can be intended as the replacement of a cumbersome and monolithic I with a fleeting and manifold creature. As a consequence, the author does no more enter intrusively in the writing, but occupies himself handling a variety of mechanisms that will give rise to the beauty of the words tissue, accompanied by  the awareness of his own specific identity acquired by experience.
But in Barthes’ writing i see a corrupt version of impersonality, asking us to throw away our history, both as writers and as readers. It’s a request that hardly can get a positive answer.

A RESIDUE THAT ONE CAN NOT ELIMINATE

Unfolding the death of the author, Barthes maintains that narrated stories are other than the stories of the author’s life, and that the main narration line is not close fitting the author’s lived. Consequently he values inconsistent the practice, made by the literary critic, of deciphering the narrative line, leading it back to that lived.
But, even if there is no direct transfer of author’s stories into the text, there must be an author’s specificity passing into the work. Otherwise, the authors would be barely equal one each other. Therefore, strictly speaking, it always subsists the possibility to set up an interpretation of the writing tracing back to the specific features of its origin.

WHERE THE PROGRESS REMAINS

Altogether the death of the author seems to me a controversial issue[4]. As readers, the best use we can make of this image, is conceiving it as an invitation to temporarily set aside the causes of the past, symbolized by the author.
In doing so one creates the premises for losing himself in the present time, interpreting the writing according to the relations between the parts, avoiding any reference to an elsewhere. This way of giving trust to the text favours creativeness, in the same extent that the reflection works on fully available structures and is not broken off for the need of a search in the traces of the past, to verify the causal lines. The disadvantage, obvious, is that one gives up with certifying and enriching the analysis with the information content of the past.
About me, progress consists in finding the qualitative factors that can point out the right moment for breaking the synchronic analysis switching to a diachronic check. Eager to make immersions in the various localities of Here and Now, we need a method that indicates when it’s time for going back to the global context of History.[5] [6]

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  1. [1]This article contains my reflections about “The Death of the Author” by Roland Barthes, 1968. “Image, music, text” 1977 Pagg 142-148 publisher: Fontana, Londra – ISBN/ISSN: 0006861350 – Translated by S. Heath. You can find the pdf here: http://smile.solent.ac.uk/digidocs/live/Furby/Text/Barthes.pdf
  2. [2]That examines the present time without recurring to the past events, and hence to the becoming.
  3. [3]Extended in time; considering the present in relation to how it originated itself from the past.
  4. [4]In example I, as an author, am not very inclined to commit suicide.
  5. [5]It’s clear the movement between History and Here and Now localities happens many times; it’s not a single isolated event.
  6. [6]This reflection has been introduced referring to the reader role, but it does not exhaust itself in this compass.

THE APPEARANCES BATTLE

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SHORT PHILOSOPHICAL STORY ABOUT WISDOM AND CREATIVENESS

The Respectable Sage contests the Creative: “You always try to be original, don’t respect the conventions, and with your conceit you ruin the ground of society.”

The Creative, that luckily is also a little clever,[1] replies:

“First of all, I don’t go looking for the originality with a lantern: I look for myself. It’s you that look at me from the outside, and use this word for naming and criticize me, but I look at me from the inside.

Second: i’m not presumptuous, i’m the slave of the living beauty, and i’m humble in the sight of her.
I have much more respect for this owner of me than you have for your convention. My owner is piercing, he’s not a mask only, behind which every kind of life can stay hidden.

Third: if you did not understood what the living beauty is, I will make it clear: it’s the thought that moves, it’s when a meaning conquers and reorganizes the whole kingdom of the conscious and part of the unconscious.
It’s the new-born idea that becomes an occasion for the thousand names lying in the mind to put themselves in a new configuration, by casting themselves along the rays coming from that idea, or by forming a circle around it.

Fourth: in my pictures the full dress takes a seat near the poor clothes and the tracksuit. The laughing man goes with the the crying, the sad man talks with the joyous one, the absent-minded finds an agreement with the action man. Because my rule is not the equality of behaviours: it’s something other. Instead, you think I have no rules, for I break the uniform appearances.

Fifth: Fortunately, I don’t need different appearances to look for myself. And neither I need to hold a dialogue with your thought, that I already know. And so about this I give in to you, o Respectable Sage, and tomorrow I will dress myself in tone-on-tone, and I will answer with a mannered smile, without making them waiting. Because it’s not the appearances battle the one I want to lead.

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  1. [1]Otherwise, the Respectable Sage could ruin his inspiration.