Sunday, May 6, 2012

Universal Diagrams

Even as we philosophically assess the diagram — its applications, logic, and consequences — we tend to look at single diagrams.  Looking at diagrammatic thinking only in terms of a single diagram is one-sided.  Diagrams evolve, interact with other diagrams.  They are limited by their own abstractive selections as well as by other diagrams, as complete and tightly strung as themselves, but nevertheless producing different consequences.

What's more, an exclusive focus on single diagrams flirts with delusions of universality.  Arendt noted the totalitarian emphasis on logic.
"The device both totalitarian rulers used to transform their respective ideologies into weapons with which each of their subjects would force himself into step with the terror movement was deceptively simple and inconspicuous: they took them dead seriously, took pride the one in his supreme gift for "ice cold reasoning" (Hitler) and the other in the 'mercilessness of his dialectics,' and proceeded to drive ideological implications into extremes of logical consistency …" [Hannah Arendt, "Ideology and Terror," p. 318]
This is an effect of taking a single diagram as universal. There is no need for concern with applications just as there is no need for concern with consequences.  Being universal, the diagram applies to anything and explains everything.  The only concern is with the logic of the diagram itself, and perhaps a "practical" concern with that circular fanaticism that goes all-in on realizing that universality.  Arendt continues quoting Stalin.
"The power, which Marx thought was born when the idea seized the masses, was discovered to reside, not in the idea itself, but in its logical process which 'like a mighty tentacle seizes you on all sides as in a vise and from whose grip you are powerless to tear yourself away; you must either surrender or make up your mind to utter defeat.'" [Ibid., p. 319].

1 comment:

  1. This new political dimension to the diagrammatic issue you are exploring, Tom, is fascinating