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Rule Following, (n-1) Dimensions and the Panes of Immanence - How We Artistically Create In Our Lives

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This is going to be very sketchy. It will be jumping between associations and thought network hubs, building out a vision I had upon waking this morning. Sometimes in the half-dream things come to you, that are worth unpeeling. I've been slowly working my way through Agamben's The Highest Poverty: Monastic Rules and Form-of-Life which is a study of Medieval monastic rule-guided life (in quite fine detail), with a view towards Wittgenstein's elementary solve for questions of Philosophy, among so many other things. Wittgenstein's powerful tool was to examine just what rule-following is (whether this be following mathematical processes or playing various language games), and ostensibly point out that generally there is "no rule for how to follow a rule". There is no way outside of rule-governed behavior and Life. Instead, we are all in Forms of Life. It's probably not a very good summation, as it's been many years since I engaged Wittgenstein, but that's my immediate stake. Agamben takes up Wittgenstein's rule-following examination and applies it to a period in Western Civilization where lives became quite starkly defined and governed by rules. It writes about the nature of rules, and how they differ from Laws. 

I've already taken a deep dive foray into Bourdieu's concept of Habitus and how it exemplifies itself in the Thai kaimuay, if you want to hypertext swerve from my point here you can. It's about how rule-following and custom conditions and communicates the subject in Thailand's traditional kaimuay:


What struck me this morning was actually the way in which monastic life, which was rule-governed almost to the minute of waking life, with times and kinds prayers, meditations and rituals that mark out the hours (he writes about how monks were turned into living clocks), with great rigor. The window that is opened is the way in which all of our lives are rule-governed in important, hidden ways, and that we ourselves are becoming living clocks as well.

But this is not the point of where I am going, just setting ground. What occurred to me was the way in which the simplification of monastic life, it's bounded sense of living rules is very much like a host of human actions which might be characterized as (n-1) inscriptions. N is the dimension we live in, so to speak (and I think we are using it analogically at this point, we can also call it an order of complexity, and (n-1) is rule following actions/creations which drop down in an order of complexity, and importantly inscribe these actions on a medium, a bordered medium. Medieval monks are inscribing the complexity of the world (their otherwise lived worlds beyond monastery walls), in an (n-1) dimensional way, through rule following.

For some reason, upon waking, I pictured the way in which we now all interact and express ourselves through screens. Screens that act like panes. There is a (n-1) dimensional reduction of the complexity of our lives, and all these interactions are rule-following on several levels of description. In a certain sense these panes are little different than the inscriptions of a monastic life, or the way in which an icon painter would paint on treated wood:



They are bounded, rule-following inscriptions on a medium, (n-1) dimensional reductions. Much has been made about Plato's (n+1) dimensional picture of the world. We live in this world of shadows (n), the shadows are cast by a dimension of a higher order than our own (n+1), and the purpose of Philosophy (and religion) is to connect up this world N, with N+1. Platonism runs through all of Western Culture, and in schools of critical philosophy transcendence (the mark of Platonism, trying to get from N to N+1) is scorned. It's thought to be the great mis-step, principally because it devalues this world, for another more imaginary one, one that has often been in the hands of dogma for the purposes of social control.

What is missing from this picture of Platonisms, hidden and outright, are the ways in which we actually perform or construct transcendence through (n-1) operations. This is the quintessence of Art, which also is often in the service of Platonism. Here, within the bounds of this rule-governed, or rule-conditioned inscription (let's say an icon painting) an N-1 simplification casts our eyes to an N+1 reality. What is operative here though is the very experience of how N-1 releases itself, and calls up "N" in an expression or experience of transcendence in an everyday way. If we look at a hand written letter by our mother who has passed, every jot, every gap in words, every word-choice, every piece of it calls up a world far more complex and rich than what is "contained" in that letter. The inscription holds transcendence, and does so in everyday ways. Scrolling through Twitter on an iphone, a bounded, rule-governed or rule-conditioned inscription in a medium (n-1), is an transcendent experience to our world of N. These are pane of immanence.

There is wordplay here, as the Philosopher Gilles Deleuze proposed a metaphysical plane of immanence, the wikipedia summation of which is below. Hopefully you can see the difference between joining a plane of immanence, and constructing a pane of immanence. We leave aside some of the vitalist and semi-transcendent operations of Deleuze's project when plane become pane. 


Plane of immanence (French: plan d'immanence) is a founding concept in themetaphysics or ontology of French philosopher Gilles Deleuze. Immanence, meaning "existing or remaining within" generally offers a relative opposition to transcendence, that which is beyond or outside. Deleuze rejects the idea that life and creation are opposed to death and non-creation. He instead conceives of a plane of immanence that already includes life and death. "Deleuze refuses to see deviations, redundancies, destructions, cruelties or contingency as accidents that befall or lie outside life; life and death were aspects of desire or the plane of immanence."[1] This plane is a pure immanence, an unqualified immersion or embeddedness, an immanence which denies transcendence as a real distinction, Cartesian or otherwise. Pure immanence is thus often referred to as a pure plane, an infinite field or smooth space without substantial or constitutive division. In his final essay entitled Immanence: A Life, Deleuze writes: "It is only when immanence is no longer immanence to anything other than itself that we can speak of a plane of immanence.

The idea here though is just to focus on operations of N-1 dimensional reductions, in rule-governed, rule-conditioned ways, so was to leverage the dimensional shift between N-1 and N. And I do believe these go well beyond the human. They can be anything from RNA inscriptions of life forms to a new diet regime to lose weight. The phrase occurs sometimes, that of "playing God", but really anytime we are de-dimensionalizing Life, moving from N to N-1, we are spring loading a transcendent effect...and effect which is immanent.

It could very well be that Platonism (and we know this does not all flow from Plato himself, he just codified it, brought N to N-1, in a particular powerful and historically lasting way) was simply a formulation of N-1 inscription which makes up all of Life itself, and is carried forward through rule-governed, rule-conditioned ways. We all are constructing Panes of Immanence everyday, through all our rule-following actions of inscription. How we walk into an office we work at. How we compose an email. How watch movies from our couch. How we eat. The ways we have turned our lives into clocks (that's a slightly different story).

For me it comes to learning to see all these flattenings as panes. Which is to say, a dimensional reduction of complexity, that in a rule-governed/conditioned way interacts with and encodes its medium. These inscriptions are meant to be released. N-1 is meant to be unfolded into N. And this is immanence. 

Because my writings here almost always have to do with traditional Muay Thai and fighting, this brings up back to what exactly a fight is. (We'll leave aside the whole of training which makes up a great deal of a fighter's life, and that sum of inscriptions.) A fight is an N-1 inscription of the complexity of the world. It's rule-governed, rule-conditioned nature is directed to a material medium, composed of the ring and its opponent, and in a certain sense the fighter (like any artist) must join the medium in order to inscribe within it. The judges, the audience, the gamblers, they too make up aspects of the medium when the fighter is more aware. And in a certain, Old World way, it is an N-1 inscription which invokes an N+1 real, in the way that sparks, embers and lineations sketch out fire and form that lies beyond us.



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More on N+1 and N-1 from Duchamp and Panes of Immanence

TIME AND AGAIN, DUCHAMP INSISTED that the Large Glass (fig. 1) was also (perhaps even in the first place) a consideration on perspective. When Pierre Cabanne asked him how he had arrived at the idea, he replied, “Perspective was very important. The Large Glass is actually a rehabilitation of perspective, which had been completely neglected and decried. With me, perspective became absolutely scientific . . . It was scientific mathematical perspective . . . based on calculations and measurements.”1 To Richard Hamilton he likewise admitted: “The projection [of each part of the Glass] in perspective [on the Glass] is a perfect example of classical perspective, I mean that I imagined the various elements of the bachelor machine first of all as arranged behind the Glass, on the ground, rather than as distributed over a surface in two dimensions.”2 We know that Duchamp drew up several perspective diagrams in this way, to situate the various pieces of his Bachelor Apparatus—now on a reduced scale, now life-size—before they were outlined on the surface of the Glass. from Duchamp and the Classical Perspectivists


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I think this ties back to the Buddhistic (?) principles you and Sylvie discuss on the podcast. Ideas like Ning, Ruup, Samadhi, etc. can be thought to be in the N+1.

Having never fought I can't speak to that aspect, but even just in training the regimented structure highlights whether a fighter and the gym as a whole embody those ideas.

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1 hour ago, jpmoral said:

I think this ties back to the Buddhistic (?) principles you and Sylvie discuss on the podcast. Ideas like Ning, Ruup, Samadhi, etc. can be thought to be in the N+1.

Under this idea, the practice of Ruup, Ning, etc, as aesthetics would be N-1 inscriptions, because they are decomplexifications of the world which are rule-conditioned and trained/then-presented in a bound way, but the effect of them would be to involve N+1 truths or invocations I think.

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Photography makes a prime example of N-1 rule conditioned inscription, not only how it is framed, but the entire edit of the world, and the edit of the file, not to mention the rote, rule-governed paths of producing photographs.

These photographs from today of a calf and a mother are differing N-1 inscriptions.




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