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The Origin of Writing

by John Barclay-Morton


HISTORY:

Why Post-Structuralism?

By now it should be readily apparent that the structural principles which inform English as a language are not directly equatable to those that define anametric image writing. Further, it should now be obvious that the ways in which this form of image writing function are not at all the same as we find with any form of writing that is phonetically based.

Finding an analytic approach that is adequate to the task at hand, in accurately describing how anametric image writing works, might seem an insurmountable obstacle; and we would be justified in asking: How, then, can post-structural philosophy hope to serve this purpose?

Well — let me tell you! As I have mentioned earlier, post-structuralism arose out of a critique of the linguistic paradigm of philosophy; but it did so as part of a larger project — dedicated toward critiquing ideology in all forms— that came to the forefront in Europe following the Second World War.

“The ideal subject of totalitarian rule is not the convinced Nazi or the dedicated communist, but people for whom the distinction between fact and fiction, true and false, no longer exists.”
Hannah Arendt, “The Origins of Totalitarianism”.


Prior to that period of intense turmoil, at the start of the 20th century, there had been an attempt to reduce language into a system of logical propositions modeled upon mathematics. This attempt persisted throughout the last century, greatly influencing the study of language. It also informed the practice of philosophy — and to a large extent, marks one of the major points of divergence between the Continental and Anglo-American Schools of philosophy — but in itself, this approach became ever more strictly dependent upon performative “rules”: logic, presented as the determining element for all of philosophy, had become established as an ideological practice — an approach which excluded much that had always contributed directly to philosophy’s vitality.

Following Jean Paul Sartre’s stunning refutation of the certainty assumed to attend the logically ideal approaches established by way of Edmund Husserl’s phenomenology, a new generation of post-war French philosophers continued the attack against ideological structure and established the post-structuralist movement. Alongside such great minds as Jacques Derrida and Michael Foucault, Gilles Deleuze emerged as one of the greatest thinkers of the 20th century. By himself, and in partnership with Felix Guattari, he produced some of the most innovative approaches to philosophic thought yet seen.

Through their first work written in concert, Deleuze and Guattari introduced the world to what they called schizo-analysis.

Rather than taking language as the normative key to thought — an approach pioneered by Freud, among others — Deleuze and Guattari turned psychoanalysis, linguistics, and philosophy on their collective heads with a simple proposition: ALL thought is characteristic of thinking, not just that which occurs in well-formed, logically constructed sentences.

Thought and Language: A Continental Context

At the onset of their collaboration, Deleuze had already gained a reputation as “a philosopher’s philosopher”; to which Guattari added on-the-ground experience, as the director of an alternative practice psychiatric clinic. Guattari brought an innovative approach to linguistic analysis: he knew his patients were trying to communicate; and rather than try and force them into speaking 'clearly and logically', or interpreting what they were saying in terms of an established psychological canon, he had begun working with “subject groups” — wherein the patients themselves set the communicative rules for interacting with each other. Together with Deleuze, he expanded this practice into a philosophic approach dedicated toward mapping the contingencies of thought — rather than dictating to thought the proper ways in which it was allowed to occur, in order to be considered legitimate.

Think about that for a moment, and consider the implications: language is generally thought of as a system of usage rules that define how communication can be successfully achieved. Deleuze and Guattari's approach recognizes that communication WILL proceed regardless of any set rules of usage: language is a dynamic which is fully capable of generating its own rules in the course of being used to communicate.

This is where we pick up our inquiry. Of course, Deleuze and Guattari were working and publishing in French, so there was a significant lag between the onset of their work together and the point when their work became accessible to philosophers in the Anglo-American tradition. I was very fortunate in that I began studying philosophy a year before one of my future professors, Constantine V. Boundas, decided to devote himself to a study of Deleuze’s work. I fact, I remember meeting Costas for the first time — before I had taken any classes with him — through a casually random introduction on the street, by a friend who was taking classes with him. Costas told us he was about to go on a sabbatical to Paris — he hadn’t yet found a place to stay but he was going nonetheless — and I later read, it was on this trip that he decided to study Deleuze in depth — and translate Deleuze’s works into English:

After this heroic period when Deleuze and Guattari’s work was first received by America's counterculture of artists and antiestablishment proponents, there was a second burst of enthusiasm among academics, thanks to a Greek-Canadian academic, Constantin Boundas, a philosophy professor at Trent University in Canada. While writing his thesis on Ricoeur in the 1970s, he looked for rigorous poststructuralist philosophy, but his reading of Barthes, Derrida, Foucault, and Lyotard left him unsatisfied. “I was on sabbatical in Paris in 1981 and near my hotel on rue Cujas. I found a lot of Deleuze’s books second hand in the Tiers-Mythe bookstore. I bought Différence et répétition, took it into my room and five days later had read it without having understood the essentials, but I was nevertheless fascinated and convinced that this was it.” Boundas wrote to his thesis director to let him know he was changing subjects to work on Deleuze. He read everything by Deleuze and Guattari that he could get his hands on and met François Laruelle, who encouraged him.

Once back in Canada, he was convinced that he wanted to write on Deleuze, but in 1981, very few of Deleuze’s books were available in English. “Deleuze was unknown at that point in philosophy departments. Derrida, Foucault, and Leotard were already being read, but he wasn’t.” Boundas then begin the enormous and solitary task of translating without any contract…
François Dosse: gillesdeleuze & felixguattari: intersecting lives.
Surplices: 1980–2007; Winning Over the West, pg. 471
(Constantin Boundas, interviewed by the author)
Translation copyright 2010, Columbia University Press


Sylvère Lotringer (The "heroic period" wherein Deleuze and Guattari were first introduced to North America was spearheaded by Sylvère Lotringer, who brought post-structuralism to Columbia University and New York City in the late 1970s through the publication Semiotex[e] — which included the introductory essay to my early work with anametric image writing in the 1994 edition of Semiotext[e] Canadas. Pictured left: Sylvère at the 40th Anniversary celebration of Semiotext[e], which took place at MoMa's PS1.)

So in my second year of university, I took my first course with Costas — who introduced our class to the Continental School of philosophy. I was also very fortunate to have Prof. William Newton-Smith teaching the first semester of my 3rd year Metaphysics and Epistemology course that year. This was before he left to teach meta-linguistics at the University of Toronto, prior to returning to Oxford where he held the Newton Chair in the Philosophy of Science.

By my third year of university (after taking a year off, when I spent the winter in Mexico’s Yucatan visiting archaeological sites and the summer in Yellowknife, NWT Canada working for “The Native Press,” a First Nations newspaper), Costas was supplying us students in his Existentialism and Phenomenology class with photocopies of his early translations of Deleuze’s work into English; and by the time I left university, other translations of Deleuze’s and Guattari’s works were becoming more readily available.

Post-structural philosophy developed into a life-long interest for me, one I have sustained to this day.

Post-Structural Meta-Linguistics

Deleuze’s work is unique in philosophy: rather than applying a pre-set collection of philosophical concepts to all other fields, he sought to bring new concepts from other fields into philosophy.

This is an approach made viable by Deleuze’s rigorous adherence to the nature of that which he examined — a methodology made possible by his dedication toward respecting the precedent role difference plays in establishing any ascription of identity. This systematic adherence to a philosophy of difference has proven particularly well suited for surveying and mapping the contingencies of the real — by way of a Transcendental Empiricism.

Such an approach will continue to serve us well as we proceed with our analysis of anametric image writing.

Guattari’s work with schizophrenic patients helped him to understand that conventional approaches to linguistics were simply inadequate: people were perfectly capable of having thoughts, even if they had difficulty expressing them; and people were perfectly capable of using language in ways that worked for them, even if it seemed incoherent to others. Working with these realizations, Guattari brought some very practical insights to his collaboration with Deleuze; and together (along with others), they moved away from a conceptualization of language that was predicated upon meaning, and toward one that was defined by functionality.

The systematic ignorance of society and politics characteristic of current linguistics and semiotics can only be smashed by calling into question or dismembering their basic categories. From this point of view, a return to Louis Hjelmslev, or perhaps a detour by way of Hjelmslev, will be useful. The issue is not to recapture or resume his project of a radical axiomatization of language but to start up again from those categories which appear to be the result of a truly rigorous examination of the totality of the semiotic problematic. This means drawing out in particular all the consequences of his calling into question of the status of content and expression. “The terms expression plane and content plane and, for that matter, expression and content are chosen in conformity with established notions and are quite arbitrary. Their functional definition provides no justification for calling one, and not the other, of these entities expression, or one, not the other, content. They are defined only by their mutual solidarity, and neither of them can be identified otherwise. They are each defined only oppositively, as mutually opposed functives of one and the same function”. {note 8}

It is regrettable that the Hjelmslevian expression-content pair coincides in fact with the Saussurian signifier-signified couple, which has in effect made the totality of semiotics fall back upon a dependency on linguistics. Be that as it may, at the most essential level of what glossematicians called the “semiotic function”, the form of expression and the form of content contract themselves to constitute a “solidarity” that radically relativizes the classic opposition between signifier-signified.

This opposition only recovers its law at the level of substances, in knowing the sens [purport] of content and the sens [purport] of expression. This must lead us, of course, to give up envisaging the existence of forms, except as they are manifested or put into action by particular substances. This point is paramount because, as I have tried to show, it is only by starting from non-linguistic - or non-signifying linguistic - semiotic assemblages, that these substances may be produced: in other words, "before" the constitution of significative redundancies and without that which would confer to them a status of priority or hierarchical superiority vis-à-vis other semiotic productions (symbolic, diagrammatic etc.).
Félix Guattari, “Semiological Subjection, Semiotic Enslavement”;
Pages 145–146 in “The Guattari Reader,” edited by Gary Genosko;
Copyright 1996 by Blackwell PublishersLtd.


The linguistic paradigm of philosophy had always been constructed upon a central tenant: that of meaning. There was an underlying but unanalyzed assumption that language represented thought precisely insofar as both language and thought were meaningful: and this equation of meaning, the underlying ratio of proportion between language and thought which defined rationality itself, would by inference necessarily need to be structural in nature. From Kant onward, it seemed apparent that there were certain necessary structures within thought that provided a meaningful context for thought (such as the a priori categories of space and time), rendering it intersubjective; and that language similarly shared such structure, allowing people to communicate. It was as if the ascription of meaning justified an assumption of structure, an inference that simply displaced pertinent questions regarding coherence and communication into a realm one step removed from close scrutiny — and so away from any rigorous analysis. Surprisingly, this kind of approach persists even to this day, with commentators upon language such as Steven Pinker continuing to postulate generalized levels of meaning such as “mentalese” — instead of examining the particularities of specific linguistic instances.

It may come as a surprise to some who have only heard vague reports about the post-structuralist projects that originated from French philosophic circles, but the intention driving these approaches forward with regard to linguistics was one directed toward making the study of language a scientific endeavor, rather than an artistic one. We have already seen a hint of how this could be accomplished: science, Deleuze and Guattari have told us, proceeds by defining the functions that describe how things actually work. Thus we have the guiding principle for semiology, the study of signs: meaning may always be arbitrary, but the actual functional nature of signs within language is necessarily discernible and can always be determined to some degree through observation and analysis.

This is the principle that is guiding us in our study of anametric image writing: that we can discern the principles by which this form of writing functions, and therefore we can understand how it produces concepts without having access to the meanings — or even the sounds — of the words spoken by those who created and used this form of writing.

Let’s have a look at the approach Guattari pioneered with respect to linguistic analysis (as developed within the context of his clinical practice):

I am using Hjelmslev’s categories here solely in an attempt to identify the position of the signifier in the institution - a position that the classical analytic situation did not reveal. We may remember that the distinction between expression and content is overlaid by a triple division into matter, substance, and form. I shall be mainly concerned with the opposition he establishes between matter (the matter both of the expression and of the content) in the formation of semiotic substances.

What I want to show here is that the semiologies of signification operate in the four areas where expression and content are cut across by substance and form, whereas the semiotics we are confronted with in an institutional situation involve two further dimensions of a-semiotically formed matter - that is, meaning as the material of expression, and the continuum of material fluxes as the material of content. (Page 73).

For Hjelmslev, a substance is semiotically formed when its form is projected onto matter or meaning ‘as a net that is stretched out projects its shadow onto an unbroken surface’. As we know, signifying chains set going, at the level of the substance of expression, a limited range of signs - discretized and digitalized signs - whose formal composition is conjoined to the formalization of their signified contents. It seems to me that the linguists have been over-hasty in assimilating Hjelmslev’s distinction between expression and content with Saussure’s distinction between the signifier and what is signified. In point of fact, the separation between a-semiotically formed matter and semiotically formed substances, to the extent that it is established independently of the relationship between expression and content, opens the way to a study of semiotics independent of the signifying semiologies - is that is to say, semiotics which are precisely not based on the bi-polarity of the signifier and signified.

Let me once again summarize my suggested classification.

1) Non-semiotic encodings. An example of these is the genetic code, or any type of what we call natural encoding, which functions independently of the constitution of any semiotic substance. These forms of code formalize the area of material intensities without recourse to any autonomous or translatable code of inscription. One must avoid the semiotic mistake of projecting the idea of ‘inscription’ onto the world of nature. There is no genetic ‘handwriting’. The second vertical column of our table is not involved.

2) Signifying semiologies. These are based upon systems of signs, on substances formed semiotically and having a relationship of formalization on the plane both of content and of expression. There are a two kinds - symbolic semiologies and semiologies of signification.

a) Symbolic semiologies. These bring various types of substance into play. In primitive societies, for instance, there are semiotics of gesture, of mime, of posture, of inscriptions on the body, of ritual and so on. The creation of the ‘world’ of childhood or the ‘world’ of madness also brings into play several non-centred semiotic circles that can never be fully translated into any universal system of signification. Semiotic substances will therefore preserve a certain autonomous territoriality that corresponds to a specific type of jouissance (A joy that grasps one’s being; specifically used to bring out the sense of grasping in relation to territoriality). (Page 74).

b) Semiologies of signification. On the other hand, all their substances of expression (of sound, sight, and so on) are centered upon a single signifying substance. This is the ‘dictatorship of the signifier’. That referential substance can be considered as a written arche-writing, but not in Derrida’s sense: it is not a matter of a script that engenders all semiotic organization, but of the appearance — datable in history — of writing machines as a basic tool for the great despotic empires. Writing machines are essentially linked to the setting-up of State power machines. The moment they are there, all other poly-centred semiotic substances become dependent upon a single specific stratum of the signifier. The totalitarian nature of that dependence is such that, by a tremendous retroactive effort, it seems to make all semiotics originate from the signifier.

3) A-signifying semiotics. These must be distinguished from semiologies of signification; they are, in a word, post-signifying semiotics. An instance of a non-signifying semiotic would be a mathematical sign machine not intended to produce significations; others would be a technico-semiotic complexus, which could be scientific, economic, musical or artistic, or perhaps an analytic revolutionary machine. These a-signifying machines remained based on signifying semiotics, but no longer use them as anything but a tool, an instrument of semiotic de-territorialisation, making it possible for the semiotic fluxes to form new connections with the most de-territorialized material fluxes. Such connections operate independently of whether or not they signify anything to anybody… Thus, with non-signifying semiotics, it is the reciprocal relationships of production and generation between the semiotic machine and the material fluxes that are being radically altered. (Page 75).

The signifying machine was based on the system of representation, in other words on a production of semiotic redundancy that created a world of quasi-objects, of images, analogues and schemata in place of real intensities and multiplicities. The signifying effect produced by the conjunction of the two formalisms — of the signifier and the signified — was thus caught in a veritable vicious circle, with the semiotic fluxes and the material fluxes neutralizing each other in the sphere of representation. A world of dominant signification was established out of the signifying re-territorializations that resulted from the, as it were, self-mutilation of the semiotic machines effected by their being centered solely on the signifying machine - that machine of illusion and impotentization. The signifier functioned on an autonomous stratum of its own, ceaselessly referring back to itself, while reality was to be found a long way away from the semiotic fluxes. An individuated subjectivity emerged from the workings of that signifying machine; in Lacan’s phrase, ‘a signifier represents the subject for another signifier’. It was an ambiguous, divided subjectivity: in its unconscious aspect it took part in a process of semiotic de-territorialization that was at work in the linguistic machines, preparing them to become a-signifying semiotic machines whereas, in its conscious aspect it was based on the re-territorialization of significance and the interpretation.

This position of the subject changes radically when a-signifying semiotics come to the forefront. The world of mental representation or ‘reference’ then no longer functions to center and over-code semiotics. Signs are involved in things prior to representation. Signs and things engage one another independently of the subjective control that agents of individual utterance claimed to have over them. (Page 76).
Félix Guattari — The Role of the Signifier in the Institution;
From: Molecular Revolution.


The table to which Guattari refers in the above quote — one which we will be using for our own purposes — is this one:

A-signifying semiotics and a-semiotic encodings

Of course, Guattari designed this table with a specific purpose in mind: it is arguable, therefore, how directly applicable this particular arrangement would be for the purpose of analyzing anametric image writing. However — regardless of Guattari’s immediate intentions — we have caught a colossal break here, in that the main functionalities of phonetic forms of writing are primarily localized within the two categories on the right: these are the signifying semiologies, defined by relationships holding between signifiers and that their signifieds.

In our ongoing analysis, we are focussed upon a-signifying semiotics and a-semiotic encodings; but, note something VERY interesting here: while Guattari shows these alternatives to signification forming between the categories of “Matter” and “Form”, our analysis unfolds primarily between the categories of “Matter” and “Substance” — a possibility that Guattari, to the best of my knowledge, never investigated in depth. Let us proceed, then, without hesitation.

I will be placing a considerable degree of emphasis in this upon the category of “Substance”; but first, let’s pay particular attention to the category of “Matter.”

Guattari and Hjelmslev had very specific ideas as to what they were referring when using this term; and for better or worse, we won’t be bothering very much with that. Instead, we will be using a very literal understanding of this word, and we will be taking it as applying to the physical substrates of stone used in the production of anametric image writing.

We can find some justification for this approach in other works Guattari produced, with Gilles Deleuze:

In what respect are desiring-machines really machines, in anything more than a metaphorical sense? A machine maybe defined as a system of interruptions or breaks (coupures). These breaks should in no way be considered as a separation from reality; rather, they operate along lines that vary according to whatever aspect of them we are considering. Every machine, in the first place, is related to a continual material flow (hylè) that it cuts into… The term hylè in fact designates the pure continuity that anyone sort of matter ideally possesses (page 36).

In desiring-machines everything functions at the same time, but amid hiatuses and ruptures, breakdowns and failures, stalling and short circuits, distances and fragmentations, within a sum that never succeeds in bringing its various parts together so as to form a whole. That is because the breaks in the process are productive, and are reassemblies in and of themselves. Disjunctions, by the very fact that they are disjunctions, are inclusive. Even consumptions are transitions, processes of becoming, and returns…

It is only the category of multiplicity, used as a substantive and going beyond both the One and the many, beyond the predicative relation of the One and the many, that can account for desiring-production: desiring-production is pure multiplicity, that is to say, an affirmation that is irreducible to any sort of unity.

We live today in the age of partial objects, bricks that have been shattered to bits, and leftovers. We no longer believe in the myth of the existence of fragments that, like pieces of an antique statue, are merely waiting for the last one to be turned up, so that they may all be glued back together to create a unity that is precisely the same as the original unity. We no longer believe in a primordial totality that once existed, or in a final totality that awaits us at some future date (page 42).
Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, “Anti-Oedipus”.


We are getting a little ahead of ourselves here, in that we will be examining what Deleuze and Guattari call “The Abstract Machine of Inscription” a little later — when we consider how we can replace the somewhat problematic categories of “Content” and “Expression”. For now, it is enough to note that we will indeed be examining how the “Matter” of the substrates we examine are affected by The Abstract Machine of Inscription — and that the “interruptions and breaks” introduced in that process are something we are already familiar with: for our purposes, these are the divisions through which time divides up — into differences in kind. This approach is supported by the fact that Deleuze and Guattari refer in the quote above to “multiplicity” — a term we encountered through Bergson, during our deliberations on temporality — specifically as “a substantive.”

For now, we need to address another distinction that is much more germane to our current analysis: the distinction between “Matter” and “Substance.”

The word “matter” is used to designate a general idea of undifferentiated “stuff” that, simply exists (as with the Greek term hylè).

The word “substance,” in contrast, designates something — anything — that has distinct, distinguishable properties which render it notably unique.

We will call the relationship between “Matter” and “Substance” in the chart Guattari constructed a process of “substantiation”; and we will consider the formation of anametric image writing in terms of Substantiation, rather than in terms of Signification. In doing this, we will of course realize that the verb “to substantiate” itself an established meaning, which is most certainly not being excluded here: to “provide evidence to support or prove the truth of.” Indeed, this meaning is precisely in the first place the impetus underlying the production of anametric image writing!

Substantiation is also, of course, the essence of the productive technologies employed in the creation of stone tools: no stone tool was ever produced without its creator closely examining, and in effect questioning, the matter that was being worked upon in order to discern its specific and singular material properties: of cleavage, of balance, of resilience, of friability, and of any other substantial properties.

Thus we see here established the productive context within which anametric image writing emerged: that of a very close analysis of the metrical properties inherent within material substrates, undertaken for purely functional purposes. But we also know that experience is always a composite of spatial and temporal properties; and it is of this immanence between what can be measured in space and what can be experienced through time as duration that we find the temporal multiplicities of anametric image writing being formed, within the context of substantiation.

This is a context which is directly based in functionality, giving us an immediate point of access into how anametric image writing works as a form of communication. We would never be able to establish such access were we limited to an analysis of meaning defined through phonetic signification.

Three Material Epochs

Having established how we can incorporate the concept of “matter” into our linguistic analysis, we are now in a position to consider a very important aspect of anametric image writing: the relationship holding between the material substrates used in its production, and the form into which this writing evolved.

I will start with two very basic observations here: that the physical properties of the stone substrates used had a direct influence on the nature of the image writing produced thereupon; and that stone was primarily used in the production of tools. In considering these two points, a third immediately captures our attention: with reference to the Three Feather Chief, that we know there was a developmental evolution in the technologies used to produce stone tools — and that this corresponded to shifts in the types of stone being used in the production of tools.

If we consider the production of anametric image writing in terms of Substantiation, it stands to reason that we might be able to trace the development of anametric image writing through an examination of the stone substrates used in its production: if the stone substrates shift along with the type of stone used for the production of tools, then we may have a way to map the evolution of anametric image writing.

This is precisely my contention.

You will recall when we examined the Three Feather Chief motif, the idea was introduced that the individual apprenticeship of stone tool producers might follow what was apparently also, historically, the progressive development of stone tool technologies. This was an approach which seemed entirely in agreement with a First Nations perspective on the cyclical nature of time. I would also propose, then, that the horizon of historicity most proper to First Nations culture is one which is resolved within the context of their own writing, rather than within that of Western academic determinations — since “prehistory” is, by definition “… the period from the time that behaviorally and anatomically modern humans first appear until the appearance of recorded history following the invention of writing systems.”

We must immediately recognize the arrogance and absurdity of defining the historicity of First Nations culture exclusively with reference to the phonetic forms of writing which are native to Europe: indeed, this is precisely the approach that drove the cultural genocide visited upon the First Nations by way of the Residential School System.

To ignore the historical horizon of the First Nations as defined by their own system of anametric image writing is quite literally a crime agains t humanity — ALL of humanity, given that the writing system invented by the First Nations of North America appear at the beginning of written history.

To clarify my position, I am not trying to “prove” anything here: I am simply attempting to trace the contours of a historical progression using the evidence at hand, as best I can, to construct a viable hypothesis that can be compared with and tested against actual examples of anametric image writing — both now, and in the future.

The First Material Epoch

Not surprisingly, it is not at all easy to find examples of the earliest form that image production took in North America just lying around. In fact, it is almost — although not quite — impossible. Nonetheless, I do very fortuitously have one such example, in more or less pristine condition. This, I found in association with the other oldest example I have found — the one I am fairly certain was created and used by an as yet unidentified species of hominid that inhabited North America from some unguessed earlier era. I strongly suspect that the example I am about to show you was obtained from early human arrivals by a hominid, who secreted it away with one of his or her own species’ production; but, I don’t see any way of proving that conclusively (and I am not going to go into the grounds for my suspicions here).

As noted with reference to the Three Feather Chief motif, the earliest era of material production for the First Nations in North America was characterized by the production of simple stone tools that were made in a one-off fashion: one piece of stone was used to produce each tool, with the stone being shaped progressively, as more and more flakes were removed, until the desired tool was all that remained.

Examining a very early example of image production in North America, we find that there is indeed a correlation between the sophistication of the tool production techniques being used at the time, and the complexity of the images being produced at the same time.

In placing this very early example within the context of history, we immediately find ourselves in a perplexing situation: inferentially, if our earlier considerations regarding the use of microblades in North America was also correct, then two possibilities must be taken into account here: either this particular example was created very early on in the era during which microblades were produced and used, or, humans arrived in North America prior to the invention of microblade technologies. If the former is the case, then questions arise as to how persistent the use of early stone tool technologies were; and if the latter is the case, then there is also the chance that microblade technologies were first invented in North America, before then being carried back into Asia: at that point, it is anyone’s guess as to how early the first people arrived in North America.

I might tend to lean toward the former interpretation, in that this stone was found far to the south of where the first active volcanoes would have been encountered by those arriving earliest in North America; but as we have noted all along, whatever we might reason of these matters must always be secondary to the contingency of what actually happened — and we really don’t have enough information to discern that, accurately.

What we can say for sure is that the person who created the images upon this particular stone saw erupting volcanoes. They also saw horses. They also saw lions; indeed; they identified with lions (which we will assume were North American lions); and this is an observation which is consistent with that of the hominids who initially encountered the first humans to arrive in North America. Examining the images upon this stone, we find that, although the use of imagery was not overly sophisticated — images seem to be singular in nature, and do not appear to be articulated together into the intricate composites that characterize later epochs of image production — the techniques employed and the skill behind the execution of these images were very advanced.

Image in sculpted relief, First Material Epoch

The stone itself has been sculpted into a distinct shape; and this is consistent with stone tool technologies which would have been directed toward producing singular tools from single pieces of stone. We can also see how the image of a child has been very skillfully carved in relief on the surface of this stone, a fact best revealed with a distinctly directional light source. Indeed, the creation of images upon this stone is intimately tied to the lighting conditions under which that seems to have occurred: there is a particularly beautiful image of a horse at full gallop that is most easily evident when viewed by firelight.

Images of North American horses, First Material Epoch

Whatever else we might learn from this very early example will be left for future study: my primary purpose in presenting this here is to provide a baseline example with which to compare later instances of anametric image writing. In any event, we should keep in mind that there does seem to be at least a tentative relationship between the stone used — that is, the material epoch in which this example was produced — and the form of the images created upon its surface.

The Second Material Epoch

In examining the microblade core depicted in the Three Feather Chief motif, we noted a shift in the technologies being used to produce stone tools — and a correlated shift in the type of stone being used in the production of tools. We also noted a distinct conceptual shift occurring: from the idea of using one stone to produce one tool, to that of using one stone for the production of multiple tools. This was very much the case with microblade cores and the multitude of tools flaked from each; but it was also true of another approach to stone tool production, which would forego the use of sharper flints and other such stone in favor of duller slates and other sedimentary stone — because, stone that formed in layers could be used to produce multiple tools from a single rock. By shaping sedimentary stone appropriately, and then separating the layers into individual tools, as many copies of a tool could be made as there were layers within a stone. In this way, it was even possible to produce different kinds of tools using the same stone: by sculpting a stone into the generalized shape of a small animal’s skull, for instance, both spear points and arrow heads could be made at the same time; and after the stone was separated into its constituent layers, all that remained to be done was imparting an edge to each of the resultant stone blanks.

Recall here what was noted in previous sections, in the context of stone tool usage: slates and other such stone, although duller than flints, were more efficient in being less prone to breakage during use; and it is the time saved in the production of new replacement points that makes the use of slates more efficient — an efficiency greatly enhanced by producing multiple copies from a single stone.

It is difficult to say whether this approach to tool production predated or followed that of microblade production: the basic skill sets needed were in evidence with the First Material Epoch of stone tool production, but the conceptual context might be more strongly associated with advanced approaches to utilizing wood resources; so that question might end up being answered in either direction. Clam shells also have somewhat of the same characteristic layering as wood, so these may have provided the inspiration for this approach to stone tool production.

I will note that examples of image production from this, the Second Material Epoch, are a little easier to find than the first. In addition to The Stone Astrolabe we looked at earlier, I have a couple of other (apparently earlier) examples from this time period. The other examples I have are of course much more worn and weathered than The Stone Astrolabe, which apparently was handed down from person to person for unguessed millennia before it came to me. The other examples I have were lying around for just as long; and, it shows.

Shell-shaped artifacts, Second Material Epoch

Examining these examples, we see that the overall shape of an ear is a popular one — apparently suggesting, of course, an all-expected relationship between speech and writing. Very early examples might also be construed as having the shape of mollusk shells — an abundant and readily available source of food along shorelines that was not subject to seasonal fluctuations in availability. If the first people to arrive in North America did so by skirting coastlines now long-submerged (as suggested by The Hominid Stone's images), then this would naturally have been a favored food source. To this day, the First Nations on the Northwest Coast have a saying: “When the tide is out, the table is set”; and origin mythologies involving mollusk shells are well know from this area. And of course, shells always exhibit ridges of annual growth that are very reminiscent of the layers in sedimentary stone; so perhaps the shell shape is the primary one, with the ear shape being secondary; but there is no reason why both would not be in play.

Looking at the images upon these particular examples, we find that there was a definite tendency to sculpt characteristic shapes along the edges of individual layers in the stone. This is entirely consistent with the way that tools were being produced from similar pieces of sedimentary stone, with sharpened edges being added after each layer had been separated into individual tools.

Ear-shaped artifact, Second Material Epoch

When we get to the much later example of The Stone Astrolabe, we find something very interesting has happened: in addition to being sculpted in relief, images have also become reduced to silhouette-like schema — that are incised through the surface layer of stone into an underlying layer of darker color. In effect, where sculpted images were joined through sharing the edge of a common layer, now a surface of images are all co-joined through an underlying commonality that also defines their expression — it is by way of the darker stone coming through the lighter stone that all the inscribed images appear together.

Line of sight images, Stone Astrolabe, Second Material Epoch

It is easy to see how, conceptually, this development most closely aligns with the use of multiple microblades in the formation of a single tool (such as a saw); and this suggests that the period of tool production which utilized sedimentary stone, and was associated with shellfish harvesting along the coastline, preceded the period in which microblade technologies were utilized. So again, we have the dilemma of a coherent timeline to contend with: if we say that microblade technologies were introduced to North America after the end of the last period of glaciation, then we are at a loss to explain how images of animals that went extinct at that time are found in profusion upon examples of anametric image writing that clearly date much later than The Second Material Epoch; but, if we date the introduction of microblade technology to North America much closer to the point where it first occurs in Asia, then we are looking at a strong indication that people arrived along the Northwest Coast of North America BEFORE microblade technologies were invented.

Be that as it may, and however this issue resolves, our primary concern here is an analysis of anametric image writing; so let’s leave the dating of a timeline for this alone, and focus upon the developmental evolution of this form of writing. We can see that by the late stages of The Second Material Epoch, all the necessary components were in place for us to be able to say that we are indeed looking at a form of writing: images are being produced as composites that articulate conceptual structures, and they are compositionally unified through a common shared substrate that defines their expression. If this were as far as anametric image writing developed, it’s production and use would still constitute a form of writing in itself; but, its development didn’t stop there — an entirely other epoch of material production followed, and it is by far the most substantial of all.

The Third Material Epoch

We found in our examination of the Three Feather Chief motif that a final, third stage in the production of stone tools was eventually reached — one which utilized solid granite to produce very sturdy and long-lasting tools. It is when we consider the image composites that were produced using this material substrate that we begin to see how truly advanced anametric image writing actually became.

We noted of The Second Material Epoch how images, in being inscribed into sedimentary stone, were being connected together by virtue of a common shared substrate within the stone, below its surface. This was not the case with The Third Material Epoch: granite has no such layers, but only a chaotically random profusion of variance in the grain patterns constituting its stone matrix.

Any consistency imparted into such a substrate will need to be discerned of the chaotic, and cultivated in expression — exactly as conceptuality itself must be. Further, such expression will need to occur in a context of partial dimensionality: never was a simple two dimensional surface available for the production of images, nor any consistent depth defined in which the resolution of a surface could be grounded. Instead, only a radical difference suffuses this mediating substrate: a metrical variance between light and dark, yes, but one which randomly varies both by position on the substrate, and by the viewer’s relative location — as well as through the conditions under which the stone substrate is being viewed, and the personal experience of the viewer.

And consider if you will a direct implication of this: if, as has been suggested, the spatial organization of writing systems influences their user’s conceptualization of time, then we are not simply looking at a First Nations concept of temporality that is circular, instead of linear in nature. Whereas those who use the phonetic forms of writing common to Europe most usually see the past as something which the present builds upon in forming the future, we must consider a different possibility implied by anametric image writing: that of a future which, in becoming present, removes the past by incorporating it during the formation of that which is before us.

Perhaps in this we can grasp a better sense of the “manifestation” Whorf spoke of — as a future that removes the past through becoming evident. We would say, then, that in such a case the future is the condition under which, that which is, becomes apparent through removing what has been — a conceptualization which is certainly true, logically speaking; and yet which is very different, in subtle ways, from the determinate view of a past that causes what the future can become.

As I’ve noted, examples from the Third Material Epoch of anametric image writing abound; but since we’ve already spent an appreciable amount of time examining an example from The Third Material Epoch — the Three Feather Chief stone — there is really only one question to address before we move on to a closer look at how anametric image writing actually works, considered in linguistic terms: How long was anametric image writing in use? We've considered at length its beginnings, but where and when did it end — if it did?

I do have a few images that seem to show aspects of contact with Europeans. From the Northwest Coast, I have one example that seems to show a forest of ships masts and rigging, perhaps in harbor at Victoria or near the mouth of the Frasier River. From Ottawa, I have an example that includes the image of what appears to be a person with a blunderbuss — a muzzle-loading firearm with a flared mouth that was used into the 1800s.

All the examples shown above — from the First and Second Material Epochs — are from the Pacific Northwest Coast of North America. I also have a number of examples from the other side of the continent; for instance, from the harbor area of New York City, on the Atlantic seaboard — artifacts of the Lenape People's culture.

The first example I will show you here is notable in that it exhibits characteristics we have seen in our exploration of the Three Material Epochs: it is obviously a product of the Third Material Epoch, in that it utilizes a stone substrate of granite; but, it also displays a characteristic feature from the First Material Epoch: namely, that of a distinctly sculpted surface. In their own words, the Lenape note:

"The peace loving Lenni-Lenape are called the "grandfathers" or "ancient ones" by many other tribes and are considered to be among the most ancient of the Northeastern Nations, spawning many of the tribes along the northeastern seaboard. We were known as warriors and diplomats, often keeping the peace and mediating disputes between our neighboring Native Nations and were admired by European colonist for our hospitality and mediation skills."


This is certainly consistent with the evidence we see before us, for it would appear that, when the ancestors of the Lenape people arrived in this area, they were carrying with them the earliest traditions of image production in which anametric image writing is grounded. This particular example may not date from that early; but we can see that is is still very early indeed: overall, the shape of this stone is that of a beluga whale — an Arctic or sub-Arctic species that is no longer found as far south as New York City. So we can say that, while the Lenape were immersed in the Third Material Epoch, this was also when they were still at the edge of the last ice age: they lived in the New York City area when this region was under sub-Arctic climatic conditions.

Lenape artifact, New York City harbor area

The next example presents us with an extremely interesting situation: it appear to show images of individuals who are of European origin. We might try to discern this by way of facial features, but that is a little problematic when dealing with as anexact an imaging process as that entailed by modifying pre-existing patterns of natural stone grain; so instead, we might better rely upon a secondary feature of these minute portraitures: some of the faces we can find here are of people who are clearly wearing hats. I won't spoil your fun by pointing out all the ones I can find on this particular example — chosen because of course there is indeed more than one apparent — but I will highlight one such example, as the top left image in the composite that then follows next, below.

Lenape artifact, New York City area, showing Europeans

As mentioned above, the top left image shown below is taken from the example shown above. The other examples are from other stones; and all are from the harbor area of New York City, in the traditional territory of the Lenape People. Each of these examples was chosen specifically because they appear to show people who are wearing European headgear — hats of shapes not historically noted as being among the traditional accoutrements of the First Nations. We can note here two undisputed facts: anametric image writing continued to be used into the period of European contact; and, as they have stated, the Lenape were no strangers to the Europeans who flooded onto their shores, from the 1600s onward.

Outlined images of Europeans from Lenape artifacts, New York City area

The Abstract Machine of Inscription

All methods for the transcendentalization of language, all methods for endowing language with universals, from Russel’s logic to Chomsky’s grammar. have fallen into the worst kind of abstraction, in the sense that they validate a level that is both too abstract and not abstract enough. Regimes of signs are not based on language, and language alone does not constitute an abstract machine, whether structural or generative. The opposite is the case. It is language that is based on regimes of signs, and regimes of signs on abstract machines, diagrammatic functions, and machinic assemblages that go beyond any system of semiology, linguistics, or logic. There is no universal propositional logic, nor is there grammaticality in itself, any more than there is signifier for itself. “Behind” statements and semioticizations there are only machines, assemblages, and movements of deterritorialization that cut across the stratification of the various systems and elude both the coordinates of language and of existence. That is why pragmatics is not a complement to logic, syntax, or semantics; on the contrary, it is the fundamental element upon which all the rest depend.
Deleuze and Guattari; A Thousand Plateaus, page 148.


You will recall that, at the outset of this section on the horizon of historicity unfolded by anametric image writing, we were looking at Félix Guattari’s innovative approach to a linguistics that would not be defined strictly by signification alone. We also briefly considered the nature of “a machine” — that being, an assemblage formed between mechanical and human aspects — which introduces breaks and interruptions into some (indeed, any) material. At that time, I noted we would eventually consider how this applied to the relationship between Guattari’s use of Matter and Substance as linguistic categories, in that we would be considering how these divisions are established as differences in kind — an approach consistent with Henri Bergson’s investigations into the nature of temporality as duration.

We also noted that Guattari pointed out some ambiguity concerning the categories of Expression and Content; whereupon I commented that we would eventually be replacing that distinction with something which is, pragmatically, a little more closely aligned with the realities we are observing in our encounter with anametric image writing.

Let’s do that now; and with this in mind, I am first going to take a bit of time to go over the directions I have been working along, in reconciling The Abstract Machine of Inscription with anametric image writing — because this approach has proven to have many extremely useful applications.

To begin, then: at the beginning; which was a very, very, very long time ago.

As a philosopher, none of what I have been doing here in analyzing anametric image writing has unfolded without, at the same time, my giving a great deal of thought to the whole question of consciousness — as we know, and experience, it.

The central question in this respect is, simply: How consciousness has come to be aware of itself — in such a way that we think of ourselves as possessing what we call consciousness-of-self. This is considered one of the foremost problems facing science and philosophy. I will append my own adequate (even elegant) solution to this question, reached for the purpose of grounding this inquiry (in knowing I would need to work from the ground up), as the sidebar to this section. At this present point in our inquiry, I will simply consider the context within which consciousness appears to have folded onto itself, shaping what we know as thought and defining what we call The Abstract Machine of Inscription.

Although it is not a trait exclusive to humanity, nonetheless, the use of tools is considered a defining characteristic of being human. Certainly, whatever other uses tools can be put toward, they are used for writing; and in forming an assemblage with the human hand that produces expressions of thought, writing implements function, as, ‘an abstract machine of inscription’. Let’s consider, then, the functionalities that define the human hand’s activities and actions in this, and trace the contours of these as best we can.

In the beginning, then: we definitely know that in our distant ancestry, there was a point before our lineage achieved its upright stance. If we look at animals which move about on all fours, we note that quadrupeds use their legs — and paws — in a characteristic manner: although not exclusively so, hind paws tend to be used primarily for providing the force used in moving an animal forward; and fore paws tend to be used for directing an animal in motion, one way or another. Both, of course, do either; but each tend to do one as the other does, well, the other. In a sense, then, we can say that hind paws primarily motivate animals; and fore paws primarily modify the movement of animals.

When we look at our hominid ancestry, this obviously changes: hind paws become feet, which must both move us forward and direct us; while fore paws become hands, which then — do what? Well, hands are used to manipulate objects; and when they are used to manipulate tools, we find something interesting: as with the feet, our hands both motivate the tools we use, and use those tools to modify. The difference here is that the tools are used to modify aspects of the external world, rather than direct the movements of our own bodies.

Here, then, we have a very simple way of defining The Abstract Machine of Inscription for our own purposes — as it occurs in writing: in this, we have an immanence of motivation and modification; with the motivational aspect defined by the facility of the device for being grasped, and the functionality of the machine found in the way it is used for modifying external objects, by way of inscription.

What should we call this machine? Let’s give it a name taken from one of the first implements used for inscription, in the Middle Eastern origin of writing: let’s use an archaic term for “stylus”: STYLE.

So: when examining specific instances of anametric image writing, we can describe the functionalities involved by making use of the model provided by The Abstract Machine of Inscription. In this, we can determine the nature of something we are justified in calling STYLE; and we can do so with reference to immanences that form articulations in the co-extension of motivation and modification, with that of facility and function.

Let’s consider for a moment what this gives us. We know that consciousness-of-self as we experience it is an immanence, in the articulation of consciousness as co-extended with itself. Here we have a pragmatic context in which immanence as the articulation of co-extension can be specifically described: that of the hand, in its use of tools. In that we are dealing with a tool that is used for writing; and in so far as we are specifically considering the application of such tools in processes of Substantiation that are productive of images, we have therefore placed ourselves where we can establish a sense of STYLE as an aspect of consciousness, and which in turn also occurs in co-extension with something we encountered earlier: conceptual personae. Where we already had a way of defining the personalistic nature of the concepts we encounter, as formed within anametric image writing, we now have a way of also defining within a linguistic context the stylistic aspects of anametric image writing that individualize the singular natures of conceptual personae.

Instead of trying to talk about “Content” and “Expression” in the context of Substantiation — a discussion inevitably predicated upon ascriptions of meaning — we will instead be looking at what has motivated instances of anametric image writing: how the stone substrate was modified; how the resulting constructs are “grasped” by consciousness, are resolved as images, or in any way facilitate the formation of concepts; and, how all of this functionally constitutes a form of writing. In short, we will be attempting to map and survey the results of those productive technologies that anametric image writing emerges through, well before we ever work our way toward what might constitute “meaning” as such.

To take a specific example of how we might apply this: at the least, we know that there is a spatial substrate of survey and mapping within many Third Material Epoch examples of anametric image writing from the Northwest Coast of North America. We see the motivation in doing this: to define territory in such a way as to make useful maps; that is, to grant a certain sense of facility in being able to conceptually grasp a territory. The ordinates of which these maps are generated are in turn modified: what is in essence a system of spatial coordinates and correlations is expressed through experiential composites of both space and time. Through anametric image writing, maps of territory were imparted with compositional visualizations of events that might be expected to occur within the territory — giving the map a functional nature, in communicating those singular differences in kind that determine the event horizons for characteristic specificities of any territory’s empirically contingent nature.

None of this is in itself descriptive of conceptual personae; but all of this is compositional for conceptual personae, in that this is the context through which the singularities that define conceptual personae are formed within anametric image writing. Definitely, these are the processes of territorialization through which any individual establishes their relationships with the world around: processes that Deleuze and Guattari describe in terms of “Geophilosophy” — and present as an alternative approach to the traditional subject/object dichotomy that structurally informs most of Western philosophy.

And as useful as embracing the basic methodological approaches of geophilosophy obviously proves to be upon first encounter, these become invaluable as we move between different bioregional examples of anametric image writing — and encounter some very different sets of image elements, through which widely variant territories were grasped.

For the present, though, let’s refine our understanding of The Abstract Machine of Inscription in the context of Substantiation — without the use of those ambiguous categories “Content” and “Expression” (derived, as they are, from phonetically-based linguistics; and occurring, as a result, in ways that are all too close to the standard distinction between signifier and signified).

I have described above a sense for “motivation” and “modification” as derived from movements of the body; but, how does this relate to consciousness?

Interestingly, we can find references to each of these conceptual structures —as they occur in forming conscious activity — in Edmund Husserl, and Jean-Paul Sartre. Not surprisingly, there is some contention here between the two; but, nothing we can’t resolve to our own benefit.

Jacques Derrida’s analysis of Edmund Husserl’s “The Origin of Geometry” was fundamental for Derrida’s development of deconstruction as a philosophic practice — and it also helped to shape Derrida’s understanding of language, as a texture of traces.

Husserl’s approach was one consistent with that of Kant: to establish “universal categories” inherent in all human thought, and to demonstrate how these categories could be revealed through phenomenology. Husserl’s primary methodology was that of “imaginary variation”: visualizing as many examples of any particular theme as possible, then identifying those elements which were common to all possible examples for any one given theme. Of course, this is exactly where Sartre focused his criticism of Husserl’s methodology: on the unexamined assumption that the processes of visualization were as certain as those of direct perception, as experienced through sight. We’ll look at that problem in a minute; but first, let’s look at the role Husserl has MODIFICATION playing within consciousness:

Forgetfulness of truth itself will thus be nothing but the failure of an act and the abdication of a responsibility, a lapse more than a defeat - and this forgetfulness can be made to appear in person only on the basis of an intentional history.

From then on, whether it remains as the disappearance of intersubjective truth or, as we said above, a historical category, forgetfulness can nevertheless be described as a phenomenon of the ego, as one of its intentional "modifications." As intentional sense, everything can and should be described only as a modification of the pure ego, provided the sense of each modification is prudently respected, as Husserl tries to do, for example, concerning the difficult constitution of the alter ego. We also see that, for the same reason, forgetfulness will never be radical, however profound it may be, and sense can always, in principle and de jure, be reactivated. (Page 98).

It brings all this together in the structural and internal unity of a system, of a "region" in which all deposits, interrelated but distinct, are originally prescribed by an archi-tectonics.

Confronting sedimented sense, our first danger is passivity. In the Origin, Husserl dwells more on perceptive acceptance of signs — first in reading — than on the secondary technical or logical activity that is not only contradictory to the first passivity but, on the contrary, supposes it. The synthesis which awakens the sign to signification is first, in fact, necessarily passive and associative. The possibility of giving way to this first expectation of sense is a lasting danger. But only freedom can let itself be threatened in this way; we are always free to reawaken any passively received sense, to reanimate all its virtualities, and to "transform" them "back... into the corresponding activity." This freedom is the "capacity for reactivation that belongs originally to every human being as a speaking being". By this reactivation, which, Husserl states, is not "in fact" the "norm" and without which a certain comprehension is always possible, I actively re-produce the primordial evidence; I make myself fully responsible for and conscious of the sense that I have taken up... Reaktivierung permits bringing to life, under the sedimentary surfaces of linguistic and cultural acquisitions, the sense arising from instituting evidence. This sense is reanimated by the fact that I restore it to its dependence on my act and reproduce it in myself such as it had been produced for the first time by another. (Page 99).

Certainly the work of the historian, sociologist, ethnologist, and so forth constitutes a kind of realized imaginary variation in the encounter with factual difference; this kind of variation can be used directly for access to the concrete and universal components of sociality or historicity. Since these invariants will teach us nothing about the specific character of a particular society or epoch, I will - especially - have to "empathize," as Husserl said to Levy-Bruhl. But this empathizing (Einfuhlung), as the factual determination of difference, cannot exactly institute science de jure. Einfuhlung itself is possible only within and by virtue of the apriori universal structures of sociality and historicity. It supposes an immediate transcendental community of all historical civilizations and the possibility of an Einfuhlung in general. In the material determination of historicities, Einfuhlung, moreover, strictly conforms with the method of all historical phenomenology, since it penetrates historical significations from within and makes the external inquiry depend on internal intuition.

But, then, how do we reconcile the affirmation according to which historicity is an essential structure of the horizon and for all humanity (as well as for every community) and the allusion to the "nonhistoricity" of certain archaic societies? This non-historicity seems not to have any pure and absolute signification for Husserl. It would only modify the apriori structure of mankind's universal historicity empirically or materially. It would be the form of historicity that is only proper to finite societies enclosed in their "locked horizons" - societies as yet removed from the irruption of the "European" Idea of the infinite task and tradition. (Page 114).

“Their "stagnation" would not be the mere absence of historicity but a kind of finitude in the project and recollection of sense. Therefore, and only in comparison with the infinite and pure historicity of the European eidos, do archaic societies seem "without history." In the Crisis, moreover, Husserl only recognizes an empirical type in those societies which do not participate in the European Idea. Nonhistoricity, then, would only be the lower limit-mode of empirical historicity. The ambiguity of an example which is at once an undistinguished sample and a teleological model is still found here. In the first sense, in fact, we could say with Husserl that every community is in history, that historicity is the essential horizon of humanity, insofar as there is no humanity without sociality and culture. From this perspective, any society at all, European, archaic, or some other, can serve as an example in an eidetic recognition. But on the other hand, Europe has the privilege of being the good example, for it incarnates in its purity the Telos of all historicity: universality, omnitemporality, infinite traditionality, and so forth; by investigating the sense of the pure and infinite possibility of historicity, Europe has awakened history to its own proper end. (Page 115).
Jacques Derrida, "Edmund Husserl's 'Origin of Geometry': An Introduction.”


Absolutely the first thing we need to notice here is an idea that is still all too prevalent in Western thought: that all other cultures should be understood in terms of their comparative relativity to European culture. This is the sense that Husserl has of History as such: whatever that is, it can best be determined from the “good example” of Western culture; and what it is for other cultures can be determined with reference to the extent that they are not Western culture.

Note that Husserl has a specific term to describe the degree to which other cultures vary from the norm of an ideal established by way of reference to European culture: MODIFICATION.

But notice also how Husserl speaks of “intentionality” — a fundamental characteristic of consciousness — he does so in terms of MODIFICATION: the INTENTION of consciousness to MODIFY itself.

All in all, this particular sequence of quotations from Derrida regarding Husserl would be very insightful, were they not so very, very wrong-headed in their sense of entitlement over the assumed superiority of European culture. As it is, we know that there are no cultural norms exclusively characteristic to Europe that could serve as the basis for evaluating all other cultures. There is no a priori category of “Historicity” (as derived from European culture, or otherwise) that universally serves to provide a context of understanding for ALL of that which is historical in nature — indeed, we have seen how even the Kantian sense of time and space as a priori universals proves problematic in the context of First Nations cultures, as demonstrated by Whorf (to the continued chagrin of universalists everywhere).

All is not lost in this, though: for we certainly know that all humans share the same basic neurology for processing visual information; and in this context, Husserl’s comments regarding “forgetfulness” and “reactivating” the “instituting evidence” of cultural products become very interesting indeed. In fact, if we adapt Husserl’s insights in such a way as to base them within the neurology of human vision (for the endoconsistency of the concepts we need here), and upon the empiric qualities of material substrates (for the exoconsistency of these concepts), then we can actually have quite a bit of fun here — in that Husserl’s overall intention of providing a functional description outlining how the universal axioms of geometry might provide information regarding the possibility for common bodies of knowledge being shared by all cultural groups, regardless of the realities attending their specific circumstances, can also be brought to bear upon any non-subjective transcendental field of knowledge — including writing.

As temptingly useful as such an inquiry promises to be, I will “cut to the chase” here and quickly comment that one of Derrida’s most important insights attained through his study of Husserl was the realization that Husserl’s classically Western metaphysical sense of “being” (as an equation of “the present” with “presence”) in turn structures Husserl’s philosophy within a “Universal Now” of Eternity that provides him with an Absolute Horizon of Historicity — one that is intimately linked with a concept of identity. Derrida, as a post-structuralist, went on to emphasis Difference over Identity; but also to view this universalist conception of time as inherently suspect. As we have seen, any attempt to understand anametric image writing will need to embrace both a fundamental sense of difference and an infinitely more variable sense of the temporal than that which is inherent within the traditional language(s) of Western metaphysics. This is why, if we do decide to make use of Husserl in an analysis of anametric image writing, we would be wise to do so by way of Derrida.

The exact nature of this problem with reference to Husserl becomes very clear when we consider what Jean-Paul Sartre had to say about the difference between visual perception and imaging consciousness:

III. FROM SIGN TO IMAGE CONSCIOUSNESS OF IMITATIONS

It is true that the imitation uses signs that are understood as such by the spectator. But the connection between sign and image, if they should be understood as an associate bond, does not exist; first, for the reason that the consciousness of imitation, which is itself an imaging consciousness, does not include a mental image. Further, the image, like the sign, is a consciousness. There is no question of an external bond between these two consciousnesses. A consciousness does not possess an opaque and unconscious surface by which it can be seized and attached to another consciousness. Between two consciousnesses, the relation of cause-and-effect cannot hold. A consciousness is a synthesis through and through, thoroughly intimate with itself: it is at the heart of this synthetic interiority that it can join, by an act of retention or pretension, with a preceding or succeeding consciousness. Moreover, for one consciousness to act on another consciousness, it must be retained and recreated by the consciousness on which it is to act. There are never passivities, but internal assimilations and disintegrations at the heart an intentional synthesis that is transparent to itself. One consciousness is not the cause of another consciousness: it motivates it. (Page 25).

"…the consciousness of imitation is a temporal form, which is to say, it develops its structures in time. It is consciousness of signification, but a special sign consciousness that knows beforehand that it is to become an image consciousness. It then becomes imaging consciousness, but an imaging consciousness that retains in itself what was essential to the sign consciousness. This synthetic unity of these consciousnesses is an act of a certain duration, in which the sign consciousness and the image consciousness are in relation of means to end. The essential problem is now, to describe these structures, to show how the sign consciousness serves to motivate the image consciousness, how the former includes the latter in a new synthesis. How there is, at the same time, a functional transformation of the perceived object, which passes from the state of signifying matter to the state of representative matter." (Page 26).

II) Symbolic Schema and Illustrations of Thought

The image is a consciousness. If one accepts that principle, what sense is retained by the association of ideas? Association is presented as a causal connection between two contents. But, precisely, there can be no causal connection between two consciousnesses: a consciousness cannot be provoked from outside by another consciousness; rather it constitutes itself according to its own intentionality and the only link that could unite it with the previous consciousness is a link of motivation… But if the image is a consciousness, it must, like all other species of consciousness, be characterized by its own sense. Its appearance following a thought is never the effect of a fortuitous connection; it plays a role. Without doubt that role is easier to determine in the case of the symbolic schema than in that of an engraving. But if our premises are correct, there must be a function for all the images that are not given as schemas. (Pg. 107 - 108).

But this subordination of the material structures to the ideal structures is possible only if one grasps the material structures as not exhausting the ideal structures, only if a relative independence is posited between the two. This is produced only in the attitude that I have described in the preceding pages when the subject, although in the unreflective attitude, retains a kind of vague memory, a kind of empty knowledge concerning the pure idea in general.

In the imaging attitude, in fact, we find ourselves in the presence of an object that is given as analogous to that which can appear to us in perception. This object, insofar as it is constituted as a thing (pure determinations of geometric space, common object, plant, animal person) is the correlate of a certain knowledge (empirical — physical or biological — laws, or a priori — geometric — laws), which has served to constitute it but which has not been exhausted in this constitution. This knowledge presides over further development of the image, orients them in this or that direction, resists when we want to modify the image arbitrarily. In a word, as soon as I constitute the image of an object, the object tries to behave as imaged as objects of the same class do in reality. (Page 117). IV). Image and Perception

At the beginning of this work I have shown the difficulties raised by every attempt to constitute perception by an amalgam of sensations and images. We now understand why these theories are inadmissible: because the image and the perception, far from being two elementary psychic factors of similar quality and that simply enter into different combinations, represent the two great irreducible attitudes of consciousness. It follows that they exclude one another... But the structure of images called 'mental' is the same as that of the images whose analogon is external: the formation of an imaging consciousness is accompanied, in this case as in the preceding, by an annihilation of perceptual consciousness, and reciprocally.

It remains, evidently, that I always perceive more and otherwise than I see. (Page 120).
Jean Paul Sartre, “The Imaginary.”


Sartre is certainly unambiguous as to his fundamental position on these matters: that consciousness MOTIVATES itself, in producing itself; and that imaging consciousness IS NOT a modified form of perception — the two are entirely distinct forms of consciousness.

So, where does this leave us? We must agree with Sartre — that the production of consciousness states is always a matter of motivation. At the same time, we must recognize that, even if we cannot say consciousness intentionally modifies itself (because this is necessarily a process of motivation), it can definitely intentionally modify external objects; and intentionally modified objects can certainly, in turn, motivate thought. In such a case, we would not need to say that we are dealing with a relationship between subject and object, because we are specifically dealing with MODIFICATIONS in themselves — which is to say, DIFFERENCES — in so far as they serve to MOTIVATE the production of consciousness as differential.

Let’s stop for a moment, and consider what is happening in this. According to Sartre, consciousness is MOTIVATED in its formation. According to Husserl, MODIFICATION is an act of intentionality. We can say, then, that imaging consciousness occurs as a motivation — in this case, as a conscious intention to impart an image onto an external object; which then occurs as a modification of that object. So far, so good: Sartre and Husserl are not contradicting each other. But we can’t say that such modifications of external objects are, in themselves, aspects of imaging consciousness; instead, we need to say that they FACILITATE the formation of consciousness — these images are “grasped” by consciousness through perception, whereby they achieve a linguistic FUNCTION: that of motivating the formation of consciousness.

In this, we can clearly see a kind of “feedback loop” in which to place the otherwise problematic distinction between “reading” and “writing” — an ambiguous differentiation which can prove to be as problematic as that of “Content” and “Expression”; and we can localize this process with The Abstract Machine of Inscription, as the process of Substantiation.

All of these seemingly problematic distinctions can be seen to occur as immanences localizing articulation between singular positions of co-extension.

We also notice something else here that is extremely interesting: there is a very strong correlation between the circularity of those survey and mapping structures that underlie anametric image writing in certain cases, providing in some instances its grammatological formalization; and, this productive feedback loop where reading and writing, as such, are realized. Here, we are sitting right on top of the transitional immanences, that articulate: those metrical properties which characterize spatial extension; with, the anametric durations which actualize temporal distinctions — that is to say, the specific functionalities of THIS Abstract Machine of Inscription, in the way it divides up the metrical properties of its material substrates into temporal differences in kind.

And so we have an interesting correlation between motivation, and modification: one that articulates upon external external objects, through The Abstract Machine of Inscription — a correlation developed in such a way as to implicate imaging consciousness, and Historicity. This very nicely situates for us the production of anametric image writing, and articulates with an essential correlate: the linguistic nature of anametric image writing, as defined through the immanence of facility (through metrical properties that define thresholds of imaging resolution) and functionality (in articulations that transition from, metrical properties in visual perception, to, the differences in kind discerned through imaging neurology).

The Haptic Space of the Close Optical

Deleuze and Guattari have a term to describe the very special relationship that holds between the eye and the hand, in situations such as those wherein objects are being modified as described above: the Haptic Space of the Close Optical, wherein the eye functions as a finger, tracing contours as if by touch.

The first aspect of the haptic, smooth space of close vision is that its orientations, landmarks, and linkages are in continuous variation; it operates step by step. Examples are the desert, steppe, ice, and sea, local spaces of pure connection. Contrary to what is sometimes said, one never sees from a distance in a space of this kind, nor does one see it from a distance; one is never "in front of," any more than one is "in" (one is "on"...). Orientations are not constant but change according to temporary vegetation, occupations, and precipitation. There is no visual model for points of reference that would make them interchangeable and unite them in an inertial class assignable to an immediate outside observer. On the contrary, they are tied to any number of observers, who may be qualified as "monads" but are instead nomads entertaining tactile relations among themselves. The interlinkages do not imply an ambient space in which the multiplicity would be immersed and which would make distances invariant; rather, they are constituted according to ordered differences that give rise to intrinsic variations in the division of a single distance. These questions of orientation, location, and linkage enter into play in the most famous works of nomad art: the twisted animals have no land beneath them; the ground constantly changes direction, as in aerial acrobatics; the paws point in the opposite direction from the head. the hind part of the body is turned upside down; the "monadological" points of view can be interlinked only on a nomad space; the whole and the parts give the eye that beholds them a function that is haptic rather than optical. This is an animality that can be seen only by touching it with one's mind, but without the mind becoming a finger, not even by way of the eye.
Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, "A Thousand Plateaus”; pages 493-494.


Recall also that this description of haptic space corresponds to the eye movement tracing patterns that Sartre describes as being directly productive of concepts within consciousness.

In keeping with our observations regarding The Abstract Machine of Inscription, we must add a second variation to the tactile sense of haptic space: an ambulant haptic space, characterized as by a relationship between the eyes and the feet. As tactile haptic space is characteristic of painting — where the hand creates shapes for the eye to trace — so ambulant haptic space is characteristic of photograph, which is entirely contingent upon the placement of the camera, and upon moving the camera around between the different positions where photographs are captured.

(If you would like to read more about this distinction, you can do so in an earlier piece I wrote — Photography Paces Philosophy Pedagogic: an essay concerning Gilles Deleuze and Photography — for the online journal Rhizomes.net.)

This places us exactly at the positions circumscribed by Geophilosophy, through deterritorializations and reterritorializations holding between people and their surrounding world. It also gives us an important insight into the grammatological structure of anametric image writing, where we are always working within a haptic space: within that haptic space, we can distinguish between an ambulant haptic element (whereby we move between image composites) and a tactile haptic element (whereby we compose images). We can further distinguish these elements in noting that ambulant haptic elements, as motivational, will be characterized as facilitating deterritorializations and reterritorializations; while tactile haptic elements, being of modification, will be characterized by functionalities which transition between the metrical properties of mediating substrates and the durational differences in kind that characterize images.

Ambulant haptic facility need not be strictly about moving through space: as motivational, it can and will occur relative to any resolution threshold metrics — that is, with reference to any distinctions discernible by degree — not just distance. The functionalities of tactile haptic space, in physically modifying these resolution thresholds, predicate the productive realizations of The Abstract Machine of Inscription: in dividing up the matter of its substrates into differences in kind, it is tasked with distinguishing temporal durations.

And if we compare the description Deleuze and Guattari give of a machine’s functionality: “In desiring-machines everything functions at the same time, but amid hiatuses and ruptures, breakdowns and failures, stalling and short circuits, distances and fragmentations, within a sum that never succeeds in bringing its various parts together so as to form a whole. That is because the breaks in the process are productive, and are reassemblies in and of themselves. Disjunctions, by the very fact that they are disjunctions, are inclusive. Even consumptions are transitions, processes of becoming, and returns… It is only the category of multiplicity, used as a substantive and going beyond both the One and the many, beyond the predicative relation of the One and the many, that can account for desiring-production: desiring-production is pure multiplicity, that is to say, an affirmation that is irreducible to any sort of unity”; with, Sartre’s description of how images interact within consciousness: “In the imaging attitude, in fact, we find ourselves in the presence of an object that is given as analogous to that which can appear to us in perception. This object, insofar as it is constituted as a thing (pure determinations of geometric space, common object, plant, animal person) is the correlate of a certain knowledge (empirical - physical or biological - laws, or a priori - geometric - laws), which has served to constitute it but which has not been exhausted in this constitution. This knowledge presides over further development of the image, orients them in this or that direction, resists when we want to modify the image arbitrarily. In a word, as soon as I constitute the image of an object, the object tries to behave as imaged as objects of the same class do in reality” — we find we already have a very good working description of how anametric IMAGE WRITING works.

Functionality emerges from Modification as the context of articulation that defines the transition from metrical to anametric distinction— between difference in degree and difference in kind. Functionality occurs here as the immanence that folds co-extensive consciousness with itself — within the world in which it is immersed. Sartre very nicely sums up how this works when he points out the role played by empirical knowledge in the constitution of the image. In that we find The Abstract Machine of Inscription so directly involved with Functional aspects, we can proceed with composing a scientific determination of writing within the context of Substantiation.

Substantiation is all about establishing thresholds of resolution; it is a process of survey. The relationship between Motivation and Facility is the basis for Substantiation, in that it is through discerning specific properties of matter that the nature of each substance is grasped. When we say that The Abstract Machine of Inscription operates through Substantiation, we are very clearly defining how the different aspects of this Machine interact in mediating between consciousness and the world.

Substantiation is where Motivation comes into play; and we can postulate a relationship between Motives and Functives which parallels that holding between Percepts and Concepts. The relationship between Modification and Functionality occurs as a necessary correlate to that of Motivation and Facility, enabling the transition into a non-subjective transcendental field of writing.

Motivation and Facility form as an Immanence of Derivation (that which varies from itself, and becomes Other in doing so); as do Modification and Functionality: but both are articulated pairs rather than a pairing of Pure Immanence; each are of the folding, through co-extension, of an Immanent fusion. Guattari and Hjelmslev wrestle with this in trying to differentiate between “Content” and “Expression”; and here we can see why this was so: Motivation and Modification are contingently paired, as are Facility and Function; but Motivation and Facility are derivationally paired, as are Modification and Function.

But as Guattari notes, the important thing here is that the relationships holding between these terms allow us to orient ourselves within a scientific approach to language, which supports the comparative analysis of different examples by a very diverse community of researchers.

A Final Word (or two)

The prior version of this website was composed for the online Journal Rhizomes.net back in the fall of 2004. That version focused upon an analysis of anametric image writing within the context of “Seven Criteria for Sign Differentiation,” as derived from Gilles Deleuze’s text “Proust and Signs.”

At that point in time, I still had much work to do in determining and defining the core characteristics of anametric image writing; so, this revision of my website (posted in February of 2017) marks my having worked back toward those core considerations, resolving them to my satisfaction, and then working my way back to the point where this new website became feasible.

My next step will be to revise the material that contributed to the original “Seven Criteria” version of this website with the current state of my research; but before I embark upon that, I hope I might (finally manage to) raise the funding I need in order to proceed with my work on anametric image writing.