In the first part of this article I will speak about magnitudes, probabilities, and entropy, proposing to use a different expression to indicate entropy: expected length of code. The first part of the article is in preparation for the second part, in which I will give a simplified description of the concept of Complexity as introduced by Gerald Edelman and of the concept of PHI, proposed by Giulio Tononi in the context of integrated information theory. In this article PHI is presented as an interesting parameter, not as the core property of consciousness. The main mathematical reference that I employed for PHI is the work of Barnett, Barrett, Seth et al.









Measuring is assigning numbers to objects to represent their properties, but this assignment isn’t simply labelling, like the numbers on the t-shirts of football players, there must be some mathematical property of these numbers that represents relations among those objects.[1] A common example is addition. Think of five random physical objects. Each of them has a weight, we can put them in order from the lightest to the heaviest, and if we add one kilogram to each of these items, their order won’t change. These are some basic facts related to weight having an additive property.

Let’s think of a counterexample in order to fix our ideas. If we take five different pictures it is not possible to find an objective disposition of them from the ugliest to the most attractive, and even if we find it, it’s not possible to add another picture to each of the five initial ones, wielding five new pictures with the same order of beauty.
Maybe we can imagine some particular cases and find certain sequences for certain images that satisfy the conditions according to our taste, but with weight we are able to manage every kind of object in the same way, always obtaining the same results valid for everyone, everywhere.

The objects of measuring are those properties called magnitudes or quantities. Magnitudes are something more similar to real numbers than natural numbers, and, according to Gallistel, the ability to manage them is a very deep and ancient property specific to the mind of men and animals.[2]


The world produced the mind both with the events of our lives and by the evolutionary history of our species. We host many different weights of likelihood assigned to different items of the world. We are a sort of experiment that harvests the marks of the repetitions of past generations. In the past we stored in our warehouses the structures of many series and now we reproduce and compose them to accomplish our daily tasks. Maybe we will find that there is some property of DNA that facilitates these harvesting activities, and we will realize that there should be a moment in the ancient past when this property was selected.
When we develop a representation and we ask ourselves what is the chance this is true of a certain part of the world, then our mind collects the weight of these items that the representation is made of, and composing them it allows us to assign a certain truth weight to the whole representation. This is what introspection and intuition tell us about probabilities and these weights can be thought of as magnitudes.

Since they are magnitudes, we are able to compare different probabilities and to make additions out of them, even if with just a certain approximation. For example, we can compare the probability of a red number at the roulette and estimate it is larger than the probability of the numbers 3 or 4 over a single throw of the dice. We can operate over probabilities as we operate over weights and lengths, treating them as measurable items.

Not only intuition pushes us to consider probabilities as magnitudes. When it comes to get a formal definition of probabilities the main reference is the work of Kolmogorov. He asked that probabilities, in addition to being non-negative and having a total amount of 1 (normalization), also to being subject to addition.[3] The definition of Kolmogorov establishes probabilities essentially as something that can be measured, making them of the same breed of magnitudes.[4]


By probabilities we can treat as magnitudes a great extent of the phenomena in the world, so that in a sense we can think about probabilities as a translation from shapes to magnitudes, as a numerification of the shape. In this conversion some part of information is lost, and a knowledge made of probabilities is affected by a certain blindness in respect to what we could call a knowledge made of structure. Here is an example.

Let’s imagine a solid block with an entrance on the top where we can put a ball. Inside the block there is a web of tunnels ending in 10 holes on the bottom side, and under each bottom hole there is a box. If we are asked to build probabilities about the boxes where the ball will fall, the first move could be to give each box the same chance of 10%. If we are allowed to put the ball in the block one hundred times and check the results, we will understand that the ball dropping into certain boxes is more likely and we will shape our probabilities accordingly. If we are allowed to make the same experiment many more times we will be able to further refine our set of probabilities, but we will never get the same knowledge that we would get opening the block. Instead, if we know how the web of tunnels is made, and if we have enough knowledge about physics, we will be able to build an exact and definitive attribution of probabilities. If we know the structure of the block we can write its probabilitities, but if we know its probabilities we can not describe its structure.

At the beginning of the previous chapter I considered knowledge equivalent to a structure of frequencies, while here I pose knowledge in opposition to a structure of frequencies. The difference is that in the previous case I was talking about the whole structure of frequencies constituting the past of our species and of ourselves, while here I’m talking about the structure of frequencies of a single experiment over a single object. In the previous case, the issue was the rising of our intelligence, while here an already established intelligence is operating to build a description of a circumscribed item.


When we want to foresee the future, we can try to describe a series of possible outcomes, each with the same probability. This is the core idea behind the classical interpretation of probabilities. The primitive capacity required from our mind to accomplish this task is that of dividing the world into possible states or events. We find this issue also at the beginning of the work of Kolmogorov, who posits as a primitive object a collection of possible events: probabilities come only after the definition of the items to which we apply them.
It is our knowledge that allows us to divide the world into different states and events, and if we consider ourselves as the imprint of the frequencies of the world, then it is from this imprint that derives our ability to divide the world into objects and landscapes.[5] If often we do this well, this testifies to the good work carried out by evolution upon our minds, but there is no guarantee of a successful outcome to this process. We have to divide the world, but we don’t know in advance the best division, and different assignments of probabilities are possible. About this issue, it is interesting to consider the Bertrand’s Paradox in this version: “A factory produces cubes with side-length between 0 and 1 foot; what is the probability that a randomly chosen cube has side-length between 0 and 1/2 a foot? The tempting answer is 1/2, as we imagine a process of production that is uniformly distributed over side-length. But the question could have been given an equivalent restatement: a factory produces cubes with face-area between 0 and 1 square-feet; what is the probability that a randomly chosen cube has face-area between 0 and 1/4 square-feet? Now the tempting answer is 1/4, as we imagine a process of production that is uniformly distributed over face-area.”[6]

I reported this example to show a clear situation where we can’t jump over our doubts about the assignment of probabilities only by reasoning, without going to check what is happening in the world. Our representations do not retain the whole truth of the world for obvious reasons, because we only receive the content of senses, because memory deteriorates and it is never as complete as the current input of senses, and because of the cognitive work made by the cortex. Our representations are naturally made by dropping certain parts of the world. As a consequence, it would be quite strange to be able to accomplish a correct attribution of probabilities “a priori”, only relying on reflection over representations, without probing into the world. Dropping allows us to manage thinner thoughts and makes it possible to have more daring representations, but then we need to go back into the world to verify them.

It seems that the idea of same weight cases is not related with the intimate nature of the world, which we don’t know if we can grasp. It seems to be only one of the strategies to develop our ever evolving approximation of the world. Nonetheless, it remains an important reference for its simplicity. In fact, when we are in a situation of same weight cases, the probability of each case is the inverse ratio of the number of cases. For example, the number of cases after throwing a die is 6, and each of them results in the same probability = 1/6.


For managing cases we need to assign a label to each of them. Labelling is a basic form of description where we have a one-to-one relation among the described items and the words of which our description is made. To represent a certain number of cases we need a string that can give us at least that same number of combinations.[7]

If we have a set of, say, 4 characters, each of which can assume 10 different values (from 0 to 9), then the number of ordered combinations is 10 x 10 x 10 x 10, that we can write also as 104 = 10.000 = the number of combinations from 0000 to 9999. Power gives us to the number of possible combinations starting from the number of the characters that we can use. Logarithm works out the opposite function: given the number of different combinations, it returns us the number of characters needed to express them, which is a length of code. For example, if we have to label 100 products we will need two numbers, using all the combinations from 00 to 99. Similarly, if we have 1000 products, then we will need 3 numbers. If there are 2600 products, then we will need 4 numbers, the first which is used only in part. This partial use is reflected in the decimal value of the logarithm of 2600, which is 3,41.

In the instance of same weight cases, as we saw in the previous chapter, the number of cases is given by the inverse ratio of probability, and if we apply the logarithm to this quantity, then we get the length of code needed to label the number of cases that we are considering.


If we list all the possible states of a certain part of the world and we assign them probabilities, then we have a set of probabilities. For a certain set of probabilities, entropy is defined as the sum of the logarithms of 1/p, weighted by p: ∑ p log (1/p). The interpretation of 1/p as a number of possible cases allows us to consider its logarithm as a length of code, and the overall sum of the possible values weighed by p is, by definition, its expected value. So this sum is the expected length of code[8] required to label all the cases related to a certain set of probabilities. This interpretation is straightforward in the instance of same weight cases, but we need to extend it to the general circumstance when different cases have different weights.
In order to do this we have to break up the situation into subgroups where all configurations have the same probability ip (where ip stands for individual probability). Let’s make an example: suppose we have a book made of the letters A,B,C,D,E,F,G,H,I. Every character of the book takes values according to the following probabilities:

the probability of A is 0,05 (one twentieth)
the probability of B is 0,05 (one twentieth)
the probability of C is 0,05 (one twentieth)
the probability of D is 0,05 (one twentieth)
the probability of E is 0,05 (one twentieth)
the probability of F is 0,05 (one twentieth)
the probability of G is 0,10 (one tenth)
the probability of H is 0,10 (one tenth)
the probability of I is 0,50 (one half)

The value assumed by each character is independent of the preceeding ones. Thus, the part of the book assuming a configuration with individual probability 0,05 is given by the sum of the probabilities equal to 0,05, that is (0,05+0,05+0,05+0,05+0,05+0,05)=0,30. In a similar way, the part of the book assuming a configuration with individual probability 0,10 is (0,10+0,10)=0,20.

For the part of the book assuming a configuration with individual probability 0,05, the specific number of possible cases is twenty. We define this number as the number of possible cases if the portion characterized by a certain individual probability would be 100% of the system that we are considering. We can also think of it as the number of possible cases divided by the related fraction of this system.[9] This implies that we use this term qualitatively, not quantitatively.

Thus, dealing with configurations characterized by a certain individual probability ip, the length of code required to label the possible cases is the logarithm of the specific number of possible cases. This value is then weighed by multiplying it with the part of the system that assumes configurations with that individual ip, which we call the overall probability (op) of that individual ip.

Expected length of code table

Expected length of code table

In this way we get all the contributions for the expected length of code, which are in the last column of the table above. Making a sum over the items of this column we get entropy, and we see it as the expected length of code needed to label all the possible outcomes for each character of the book. Since in these paragraphs we worked with the logarithm in base 2, we get this measure of code in bits; we need 2,46 bits to represent each character of the book.

Of course, these operations are the same that we usually make to calculate entropy, only the grouping is different.[10] The essence of entropy is absolutely untouched by this recasting, which is intended only to give intuition a different way to understand the structure behind this concept, and to support the renaming of this quantity.[11]


Entropy is higher for a disturbed screen than for a film, and this does not fit our idea of information: who thinks that the disturbance has a higher level of information? Entropy is not a measure of information. It seems safer to follow the reasoning just exposed, conceiving it as a measure of a number of combinations and of the length of code needed to generate them.
Combinations can turn into information, but they are not information in and of themselves. They become information only interacting with the mind. These considerations agree with the idea of Searle that “information is in the eye of the beholder.”[12]
We could even say that information is in the eye of the beholder twice. Once in the sense of Searle, because a mind produces information adding the content of terms, which are retrieved from its inner warehouses, to combinations. But before this can happen, we need the premises for combinations to exist: the mind must identify the basic elements that we can use to compose combinations.



Gerald Edelman won a Nobel prize for his description of antibodies by selectionism; he is also famous for a selectionist interpretation of the neural structures of the mind.[13] In 1994 he published an article together with Tononi and Sporns[14], trying to grasp with a formula some important traits of the higher living beings, namely the coexistence of functional segregation and functional integration. Integration and segregation are intended respectively as dependence and independence, and thus they are naturally present in every system. In living beings we can find a strong integration at the global level, and the aim of these scientists was to find an exact quantity, which then they called Complexity, related to this trait. In order to do this, they examined dependence and independence over neural networks by using the concept of entropy. In the following paragraphs I will try to describe the core of their theory with some images, avoiding technical terms, and using the concept of code instead of entropy.


Think about a web of neurons the states of which are numbers. The set of all these numbers is the description of the web; we can imagine it to be a digital photo in which the pixels are the states. Think of a man dressed in black, doing various phisical actions in a white room. We are photographing at him. In each photo there is a wide area made of white or light grey shades, and darker colors making up the figure of the man. If we have to describe the photo pixel by pixel we will have no other possibility than to tell the color of each pixel. But if we consider wider zones of the image we will be able to describe a black zone by only giving its perimeter, without repeating that each pixel is black. This is the main point: considering wider zones we can create a shorter description for the same image and we get a certain amount of saved code. The more the pixels are interdependent, the larger integration is and the saving of code when the pixels are considered together. We can use this amount of saved code as a measure of interdependence; the usual expression for this concept is mutual information. This is defined as the sum of the expected lengths of code[15] for the distinct elements, minus the expected length of code for all these basics elements considered together.[16]

The last step is considering the system at different scales. The basic expectation for whatever a system is that the saving increases linearly with the size of the system. Instead, if we see that the saving (and thus integration) increases more than linearly with size, we have Complexity.[17]


Some year later the conception of Complexity, the way of Tononi departed from that of Edelman. He proposed a different measure, PHI, in the context of what he called integrated information theory.[18] PHI is what we are going to talk about, referencing to the treatment given by Barrett, Barnett and Seth.[19]

In respect to the previous case we will need to consider the relationship among subsequent states, moving our analysis into time. Thus, instead of the metaphor of the photo we will employ the metaphor of the film. We will find again the concept of integration, but its implementation will be different.

Think again about the web of neurons, which now changes its state 1000 times every second. Given the state of the web at a certain time, this will influence the state of the web in the following steps. If we want to describe the state of the web at a certain point in time we will need a certain amount of code; if we want to describe it starting from the knowledge of the previous states, we will need less code. If we are shooting a film of the black dressed man of the previous paragraphs we can avoid to describe the whole frame, we can only describe the differences in respect to the former. So, this time too we have a certain amount of saved code, when we can describe the present on the basis of the past. This fact is related with the stuff that present and past have in common.


Break the screen into 4 x 4 = 16 little screens. For each of them we can calculate the amount of code that we can save once we know its prior state. However, if we add together all these 16 little savings we get an overall saving that is less than the saving that we get when we consider the whole screen. In fact, when we consider the whole screen we are be able to detect the arm of the black dressed man moving from the top of the screen to the lower part, and so we are able to predict that the lower part of the screen is going to display the color of the sleeve of our man. Instead, if we consider independently each of the 16 screens, we are not able to exploit what is happening in the other parts of the screen to improve our prediction about the content of the little screen currently under examination.[20]

We can obtain a saving of code from the knowledge of the past and this saving is bigger when we consider the whole screen instead of the single little screens independently. The increasing of the saving that we get when we consider the whole screen in respect to the 16 little screens independently is called effective information. Effective information is the saving of code due to the consideration of the whole system in respect to its parts, in a context where we take into account the development into time.

The expression ‘effective information’ indicates that considering the system as a whole we can grasp a certain amount of information that we could not grasp considering only its parts, and that this information is useful to determine the future states of the system. Thus, in a certain sense, this information has an effect over the future system.

The difference between integration and effective information lies in the former being a general idea and the latter being a precise measure that tries to better define the former in the context of a well defined mathematical model.[21]


Now think of this example: we have a film, and for its entire duration the frames are divided into 2×2=4 screens. In each one a completely different story is going on with completely different characters. The saving of code we get considering the whole screen is a maximum, of course, but we can get the same saving also considering the 4 screens independently. This is the same as saying that the whole screen doesn’t show a greater integration in respect to the 4 screens. In this situation the overall system ends to lose some of its privilege of uniqueness, grant that our aim is the individuation of the states with the greatest integration.
If we now stop thinking about the film and we go back to considering the web of neurons, how can we be sure that what is going on is a unique coherent film and not 4 distinct stories? When we deal with the video we can literally understand at a glance what is going on, but when we deal with a web of neurons we don’t know which could be the subset of the web, having its own behaviour independent from the rest. We can’t consider only adjacent items as the pixels of each of the four screens. We have to consider all the possible divisions of the web, also taking into account the relations among distant neurons. This is where calculations become resource demanding.[22]


The parts generated by every decomposition of the web need a certain amount of code to be described, which is complexively higher than the amount of code needed when we consider the system as a whole. The decomposition that needs the smallest amount of code to be described is the one with the major integration; if we consider the system as a whole we will only get a little saving in respect to it. Tononi set up the convention to consider the smallest saving of this kind as a measure of consciousness and called it PHI. In other words, he managed to find a quantity that is bigger when the level of integration of all the decompositions is lower in respect to the whole system. This means that there are many causes and effects that can be understood only by considering the system as a whole.
For example, in the film described at the beginning of chapter V, there is a decomposition (that of the 4 little screens) preserving the same level of integration of the whole. In this case PHI is zero, and in a certain sense there is no need to consider the current system as a whole.


In this article I only gave a simplified description of a complex mathematical treatment. At the end of the story we have a quantity made up of bits telling us how much the work of our neurons is interdependent. PHI is an interesting parameter, a correlate of consciousness, as they say; it can be used in combination with other neurophysiological data to chase the properties of consciousness, but it is not the ultimate nature of consciousness. Tononi claimed too much about this.[23] Trying to understand consciousness by this measure is like trying to understand human activities by looking at the lights of a city in the night from a satellite. And there are too many dark rooms, the content of which we can’t see.

The statistical work about information integration can be inscribed in the cognitive course that employs the computer as the main metaphor of the mind. But there is not only one way to take inspiration from a computer. For example we can think that everything in the mind can be reduced into bits, or we can list all the input and the output of the mind, or we can go searching for the magical kernel of the software that runs the most important routines. Think of Jaak Panksepp, with his work on emotions. He deems the metaphor of the computer to be misleading when it comes to understanding the mind, but he is more similar than Tononi is to the hackers who sniff a secret system they don’t know, in order to understand its structure. On the other hand, what is the operation over the structure of a computer that is equivalent to the analysis by PHI? Maybe it is the approach of an electrician who tries to understand the functioning of a computer by the electrical properties of the items it is made of? Probably our electrician will be able to understand when the computer is turned on and when it’s carrying a heavy load, but maybe this is not the way we can understand software that we don’t know.

In the land of this science we are not citizens, we are travellers always thinking about our own home. What do we ask from knowledge about the mind? We need the keys to handle the day by day dancing battle that we carry on with the inner parts of ourself. The analysis of the overall interdependence among neurons can be used as a tool for brain imaging in an operating theatre, in order to understand if one is conscious, but it seems to not be useful in improving our skill in managing introspection, which is the main interface with ourselves.


Tononi claimed that PHI has a physical meaning and that where we have PHI we have consciousness. There was a debate between Tononi and Searle about this issue, and in this occasion Tononi’s thought was assimilated to a form of panpsychism.[24] I don’t agree with Tononi about the meaning of PHI, but there is still a possibility for consciousness to be a fundamental property of matter.

Let’s avoid the term consciousness for a while, and talk about these two concepts: 1) the capacity to manage the representations of the world in the broadest sense, and 2) the feeling that we exist. Let’s call them respectively representative skill and awareness. We are used to having these two properties together, but they are not the same thing. Awareness is what is missing in a zombie or in a computer simulation of the mind, even if this simulation were capable of reproducing all the tasks of thought, thus demonstrating to possess a full fledged representative skill.
It is acceptable to think that selection selects the representative skill during evolution, because this is useful to guide our bodies into the world, but what about awareness? Or we admit awareness as a fundamental property of the physical world, or we have to explain how it arose. If we accept the fact that selection is the only mechanism that could generate its arising, and that selection only chooses useful things, then explaining the arousal of awareness accounts for finding how it is useful; but I cannot see the usefulness of awareness. Of course the possibility remains that awareness arose as a collateral product of the devices underlying the representative skills, but still we would have to find the relation between awareness and these skills.

Let me make a science fiction game for a paragraph, thinking that maybe awareness is a property of the electromagnetic field, and that this field forms complex structures in neurons, while outside them only simpler objects are formed. Of course this is only a naive speculation. I make it only because a concrete example can help us in understanding the involved abstract terms, and because it can give us a hint for replying to the objection posed by Searle towards panpsychism, “Consciousness comes in units and panpsychism cannot specify the units.”[25] The expected length of code (entropy) and combinations need units, but consciousness maybe not, or at least no more than the quantum discretization.

We saw that since selection does not select items without effect, if awareness is useless we can’t get it by selection, and thus, since it exists, it must be a fundamental property of matter. But is this important? Two of humans’ main current problems as they are now are death and the division of different heads, which makes it difficult forming choruses. The fact that, say, a stone has a minimal amount of consciousness does not help us to fix either of these issues. The practical effect of knowing matter to be conscious is not so large, but this thought, if true, could contribute to determining a new important metaphor for understanding ourselves and the world.


According to Quine a general term is a term that “is true of each, severally, of any number of objects”; it is opposed to the singular term, which “purports to name just one object, though as complex or diffuse an object as you please.” There are then mass terms, that “like ‘water’, ‘footwear’, and ‘red’ have the semantical property of referring cumulatively: any sum of parts which are water is water.”[26]
We can use the word ‘code’ as a general term, as in the expressions ‘we need 1000 different codes to label these products’ or ‘this code is wrong’. But we can also use it as a mass term, perceiving it as a magnitude, like in the expression ‘quantity of code’. When we talk about ‘length of code’ the word ‘code’ is used as a mass term.[27] When in this article I talked of specific codes, I usually employed the word ‘combination’ instead of ‘code’, in order to avoid confusion. Sometimes I also used the word ‘label’ as a general term, both as a substantive and a verb.[28]

About the word ‘combination’: I used it intending to mean ordered combinations with repetitions, while in mathematics this word is used to indicate a sequence without order and without repetitions. I preferred to keep this word despite this counterindication, because it focuses on the discrete nature of the issue better than other terms like sequence, configuration, disposition or arrangement.

  1. [1]José A. Díez, “A Hundred Years of Numbers. An Historical Introduction to Measurement Theory 1887-1990,” Stud. Hist. Phil. Sci. 28, (1997): 167-185.
  2. [2]Charles R. Gallistel, Rochel Gelman, Sara Cordes, “The cultural and evolutionary history of real numbers.” In Evolution and Culture: A Fyssen Foundation Symposium, ed. S. Levinson & P. Jaisson (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2006).
  3. [3]Andrey N. Kolmogorov, Foundations of the Theory of Probability (New York: Chelsea Publishing Company, 1956).
  4. [4]“Kolmogorov comments that infinite probability spaces are idealized models of real random processes, and that he limits himself arbitrarily to only those models that satisfy countable additivity. This axiom is the cornerstone of the assimilation of probability theory to measure theory. ”
    Alan Hájek, “Interpretations of Probability,” The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, (Winter 2012 Edition),
  5. [5]By the way, our structure of frequencies depends on the body it is based upon. If we see our body as a set of transducers, then we can ask ourself how much the specific set of transducers influences this structure of frequencies. We can also ask what will happen embedding new transducers in the body, and even if we can drop the body once the business of intelligence is established by means of that body.
  6. [6]Alan Hájek, “Interpretations of Probability,” The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, (Winter 2012 Edition),
  7. [7]See appendix B for the use of the word ‘combination’.
  8. [8]In order to indicate this quantity we could also use the abbreviation ELOC.
  9. [9]In this case it is 6/0,30=20
  10. [10]The standard operations for calculating entropy in this case are: 6*(0,05*log(1/0,05) ) + 2*(0,10*log(1/0,10) + 1*(0,50*log(1/0,50).
  11. [11]In 1948, Shannon used the word ‘entropy’ to dub a quantity, the formula of which was the same of thermodynamic entropy. It is reported that Von Neumann suggested to Shannon that he should use the word ‘entropy’ because no one understood this concept very well.
    Cf. Myron Tribus, Edward C. McIrvine, “Energy and Information,” Scientific American 225(3), (1971): 179-188.
  12. [12]John R. Searle, “Can Information Theory Explain Consciousness?” The New York Review of Books, January 10, 2013,
  13. [13]Gerald M. Edelman, Darwinismo Neurale. La teoria della selezione dei gruppi neuronali. (Neural Darwinism. The Theory of Neuronal Group Selection.) Torino: Einaudi, 1995.
  14. [14]Giulio Tononi, Olaf Sporns, and Gerald M. Edelman, “A Measure for Brain Complexity: Relating Functional Segregation and Integration in the Nervous System,” Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 91, (1994): 5033.
  15. [15]The use of the adjective ‘expected’ implies that we don’t know the content of the photo, and that we have to describe it probabilistically. For the sake of simplicity, and in order to focus on the core concepts that I want to illustrate, I often skip this conceptual step and instead I talk about exact images that we already know. The use of the expression ‘expected lenght of code’ allows us to do this overtly, dropping the adjective ‘expected’, while we can’t do this with the word ‘entropy’.
  16. [16]Compare these considerations to the following expression by Shannon about mutual information, referring to the expression H(x) + H(y) – H(x,y): “it is the sum of the two amounts less the joint entropy and therefore in a sense is the number of bits per second common to the two.” Claude E. Shannon, “A Mathematical Theory of Communication,” The Bell System Technical Journal 27, (1948): 379.
  17. [17]In order to keep a more complete parallelism between these images and the web of neurons as considered scientifically in the articles that I’m talking about, one shouldn’t simply consider the code needed to describe a certain image, but rather a method for describing a whole family of images. I avoided putting this consideration in the foreground for the sake of simplicity.
  18. [18]Giulio Tononi, “An Information Integration Theory of Consciousness,” BMC Neurosci 2004, 5:42, doi:10.1186/1471-2202-5-42
  19. [19]Anil K. Seth, Adam B. Barrett, Lionel Barnett, “Causal density and integrated information as measures of conscious level,” Phil. Trans. R. Soc. A 369 (2011): 3748–3767, doi:10.1098/rsta.2011.0079
    Adam B. Barrett, Anil K. Seth, “Practical Measures of Integrated Information for Time-Series Data,” PLoS Comput Biol 7 (2011), doi:10.1371/journal.pcbi.1001052
  20. [20]The advantage of considering the whole screen also comes from the mutual information in each moment.
  21. [21]Compare: “To measure the extent to which this information is integrated, we use the concept of effective information (φ), which refers to the information generated by the whole system, minus the information generated independently by the parts .” Anil K. Seth, Adam B. Barrett and Lionel Barnett, “Causal density and integrated information as measures of conscious level,” Phil. Trans. R. Soc. A 369 (2011): 3748–3767, doi:10.1098/rsta.2011.0079
  22. [22]To keep this demand within lower values, we can consider the decompositions in two parts only.
  23. [23]Cf. “Another feature of the IITC [information integration theory of consciousness, A/N] is that integrated information is identified with consciousness, implying a relation of sufficiency. In our view, dynamical complexity (information integration) may be necessary, but is unlikely to be sufficient for generating consciousness. A challenge to the IITC in this context is that all measures of integrated information so far described exhibit instabilities due to normalization, undermining the ascription of physical meaning to the quantity.”
    Anil K. Seth, Adam B. Barrett, Lionel Barnett, “Causal density and integrated information as measures of conscious level,” Phil. Trans. R. Soc. A 369 (2011): 3748–3767, doi:10.1098/rsta.2011.0079
    Cf. also Anil K. Seth, Eugene Izhikevich, George n. Reeke, and Gerald M. Edelman, “Theories and measures of consciousness: An extended framework.” PNAS 103 (2006): 10799-10804, doi: 10.1073/pnas.0604347103
  24. [24]John R. Searle, “Can Information Theory Explain Consciousness?” The New York Review of Books, January 10, 2013,
    Christof Koch, Giulio Tononi, “Can a Photodiode Be Conscious?” The New York Review of Books, March 7, 2013,
  25. [25]John R. Searle, “Can Information Theory Explain Consciousness?” The New York Review of Books, January 10, 2013,
  26. [26]All the three citations in this paragraph come from Willard V.O. Quine, Word and Object (Cambridge: The MIT Press, 1960.) pp 90-91.
  27. [27]When we think about a lenght of code, we are using the word ‘code’ as a mass term, and we perceive it as a magnitude. Instead, when we talk of specific codes, we are using the word ‘code’ as general term. The logarithm leads us from the number of specific codes to the lengh of code needed to generate them. So, it happens that there is a bit of the logarithm in the relationship among code as mass term and code as general term.
  28. [28]According to Quine, substantive, adjective and verb can be viewed as “variant forms given to a general term.”






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.


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.



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


“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]


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.


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]


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.


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.


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. Registered & Protected

  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




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. Registered & Protected



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. Registered & Protected





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.


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.


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.


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.


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] Registered & Protected

  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:
  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 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. Registered & Protected

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

The inspiration portrait, and philosophy wearing a blue overalls


I was reading a philosophical text [1] and I took notes beside the printed letters. Then i got involved in rearranging them in regular phrases. I was wrong: i put on the paper only the six, seven or thirteen words that are just enough to identify the ideas i had a glimpse of. Instead, i should have descended into the galleries the creative thought had come from, before they became closed again.

 Notes about new ideas should be taken writing complete phrases only, when you are near the source of the inspiration that still is alive and the tracking of its background stories is feasible. Inspiration is fleeting, and its portrait cannot be postponed.

 Understood what to do for saving the intuition, here I am, pacing the thought roots on the contrary, in the hallways of this mobile and mysterious labyrinth, that gives itself to my view for a short time.

 Walking through these caves, I realize the words are no longer inside me and chosen by me, but they come to meet me brought by a coal cart in a tunnel, like an Indiana Jones movie or a Jules Verne book. But where do I stand?? May be these rooms are the department where I will meet the philosopy wearing a blue overalls, busy in an attempt to set in motion the metaphysics?

  1. [1]

    Heidegger, What is Metaphysics?

    Italian edition: Heidegger, Che cos’è metafisica, in “Segnavia”, Biblioteca Filosofica, Adelphi 1987, edited by Franco Volpi, Friedrich-Wilhelm von Herrmann . Pagg. 59-77