Monthly Archives: November 2012

Memory and Oscillatory State

We have discussed the availability of oscillatory (or complementary) states and of memories as contexts of an observed existence in the last post. Let us now look at their commonalities. Firstly, an oscillatory state as the complementary outside to the inside of the distinction in the focus of the observation necessarily also rests on the memory of a previous observation. As I have laid out, this is also the case if the complementary state consists of an expectation towards a potential future of the current existence.

Secondly, if we can indeed reduce any observation to fundamentally being one distinction separating its inside from everything it is not, then this must also be true for any previous observation remembered in the current one. With this in mind, the difference between oscillatory states and memories as contexts of existence becomes almost obsolete. The one remaining difference is retained in the marker that the oscillatory state is an alternative state of this existence, the existence in the focus of the observation. Thereby, oscillatory states can become a marker of uncertainty, as it is clear that they could potentially gain actual existence in the next observation.

In Chapter 11 of his “Laws of Form”, George Spencer Brown, in dealing with equations of the second degree – i.e., recursive functions -, introduced the notion of oscillator and memory functions. These notions are at the basis of our considerations, and we will return to them for further exploration.


Momentary Observers

Considering the notions of space and time laid out before, observations can only be seen as momentary events, without any intrinsic duration in time or extension in space. This is a necessary pretense, as it is by observations, not within them, that time and space are constructed.

In this sense, only that on which the observation focuses can be said to exist, even if only for the specific observer. Everything else is context for that on which the observation focuses, either providing an alternative perspective on the existence in focus, or referencing the memory of some related entity that was observed before in other observations.

A possible alternative perspective would, for example, be the negation of that which is in the focus. In social phenomena, we often encounter such oscillatory states in which complementary views on one entity negate each other, but in a positive way that does not proceed to negate altogether the existence of the entity in question.

The other option for a context is to reference the memory of another observation. As I have mentioned, this can include expectations towards future observations as well, for they, too, have to be based on previous observations in order to project future events. Also, such previous observations were not made by the same observer. Firstly, any observation creates a discrete observer, thus ruling out the concept of unity at this basic level anyways. But secondly, they also do not have to be made by the same constructed unity, such as a person, on a more abstract level. A person is able to bind together different observations via self-reference, thus creating the notion of conciseness in recognizing existence. Memories of previous observations used as contexts can, however, also deal with external reference, e.g. the notion that some other person made a specific observation. This ability to build on the observations made by other points of reference is one of the strengths and efficiencies in society.

Therefore, any observation can be described as focused on some entity, thus attributing to it the possibility of its existence, and placing this entity in the context of alternative, complementary states of existence, and/or in the context of memories of other observations. All of this is just one event, which means it does not have a duration in time or an extension in space. For this, further observations would be necessary, which could be summoned to effectively construct such measurements.

With this, we have reached the same notion we started out with: The notion of distinction. Any observation can fundamentally be seen as just that, a distinction separating something from everything it is not.

The form of the distinction.

The form of the distinction.

Everything on the outside of this distinction may be made more explicit to infinite detail, however, all of these explications will themselves be observations and thus fundamentally claim only this one distinction. In addition, all such distinctions would be decoupled as individual events, thus creating time, but never falling together. Thus, no universal existence could be claimed for them, and it could also not be referenced from any individual observation.

Space I

I have described observation as comprised of distinctions, and in the last post, explored how time can come into existence out of the sequentiality of observations. Notably, it can be stated that observations are necessarily sequential. Any one observer is equal to what is observed, and only that which is included in the observation can be a reference at that particular point in time. This is not to say that observations can contain only one reference. Indeed, multiple references are not only possible in observations, but they are the norm, as we will see in further case studies.

Space can be described as the possibility of simultaneous existence. As with points in time, we have concepts of points in space, and also in a similar way, we can describe extensions in time as we can in space by explicitly relating different points. However, I would argue that, again similar to how time is constructed, space is also born out of the need to create continuity between observations, instead of itself being available for direct observation.

If observers are defined as part of their observations, distinct observations by one identical observer are not possible. Any one observation is always tied to its one observer, and a subsequent observation has another observer, distinguishable at least because he is making this other, subsequent, observation. The identity of both observers then has to be defined in yet another observation, taking both previous observations into account. Therefore, if no observer can make more than one observation at once, the possibility of simultaneous existence also cannot be verified in an observation. Direct observation of space is, then, impossible.

This is not to say that different existences cannot be observed in their relation, and that this relation is necessarily non-spatial. Indeed, ontological statements of the form “this is here and that is there” are rather common. However, I would argue that such statements are in fact memories of previous observations, rather than actual observations at that particular point in time. Consider how the notion of space is used as individual memory technique, where you are taught to match things you want to remember to an arrangement of places you are familiar with. You are thus asked to construct a space out of familiar relations, and then add heretofore unfamiliar references on top. A more abstract and more reduced version of this concept can be assumed as the foundation of any notion of space. The very possibility of relations is the first premise, onto which specific models of relations can be built. The places connected by such relations can then be populated by references to observations. The trick is that actual observations can firstly deal with potentially many of these relations, thus creating contexts for their subjects, and secondly they can operate as if the referenced observations were actually part of the current observation, belonging to what is going on at the moment.

I would argue that such references that are related to the subject of the current observation serve as memory functions, binding something that has been possible and probably will again be possible to the actual moment. Thereby, they serve functions of expectation as well. In the functional relation to an observation, memory and expectation are therefore indistinguishable. In order to use them differently, they have to be specified using further contexts. We will investigate such cases in detail.