A Brief History of Stasis
The ancient Greeks were recipients of ideas as they were the hub of trade for the ancient world. Pythagoras’ geometry was certainly a direct gift of the Egyptians. Indirectly, the Egyptian’s theory of triangles made the Great Pyramids possible. I think it could be argued that the ancient Egyptians were fascinated with the idea of the straight line. Think of their pottery and their tombs. Almost always circumscribed and inscribed with straight lines, rectangles and squares, set in two dimensions. What better environment to think of the relationship of angles and lengths in geometric objects? Perhaps the essence of this fascination was the novelty of straight lines in nature. The clarity of lines, boundaries and demarcations made possible the Great Pharaohs who must continually one-up their successor in the quest for Immortality resulting in the Great Pyramid’s geometry and the tombs in the Valley of the Kings. We know that ancient Greeks were not only aware of the Egyptians’ history, but some actually travelled to Egypt to study.
Then, there was the influence of the Near East. The fascination with math and numbers which resulted in the decimal system and even primitive calculators in their day. Numbers reveled to reality of the shadows of nature (in Platonic tones). Numbers not only brought clarity to trade but to the cosmos; astronomical measurements of nature which were precise and supported equinox and solstice and impacted agriculture. The Egyptians were also co-conspirators in this wealth of budding knowledge. Numbers and math revealed a geometry behind the scenes; a transformation from nature to what the ancient Greeks thought in terms of phusis (termed physics today) and first principles or origins of the big bang in another mode of contemporary thought (thought through Latin transformations as metaphysics).
Also, we have the influence of the Far East, the Orient. The direction of their thought encompasses the essential circularity of nature. Reflect on the circularity of their art and their philosophy in the early Upanishads. Think of the understated minimalism of the ancient Chinese paintings and art. The questions of chance and existence subsumed by what the Greek’s thought as fate were taken up into the intrinsic play of singularity and multiplicity, the many and the one, the Atman and the Brahman; all the great accomplishment on nature (phusis copied in the Latin thought as naturalis; Latin Adjective . nātūrālī. dative masculine singular of nātūrālis; dative feminine singular of nātūrālis; dative neuter singular of nātūrālis; ablative masculine singular of nātūrālis; ablative feminine singular of nātūrālis; ablative neuter singular of nātūrālis).
In all this we find the nexus of the Ancient Greeks. They did not invent out of nothing; they invented out of everything. They could well be thought as clever thieves of their happenstance. And what of their early thoughts of the cosmos? Strains of ethnocentrism show up as the Mediterranean being the concentric center of the cosmos. The sun, moon and planets revolved around the earth in concentric spheres (circles) of earth as what we now know as middle earth in fiction and the Mediterranean region in geography and sky which demarcated the complement of mortals the expanse of the gods.
Later in Latin thought the geometry and confluence of Greek thought was taken up as the heliocentric of the Absolute God of Constantinople and Christianity. Neo-Platonic thought was copied into Christian dogma and the budding and controversial power struggle of the early catholic (universal) Church and the gnostic strains of Christendom and paganism resulting in power relations of a reformulated ‘eternal’ (as contra-distinct-ed from earlier formulations of eons or ages, epochs) heaven and hell.
Then, we have Galileo and the budding of science. The struggle to denounce heliocentrism and its relations to eternity in favor of a more dynamic and less static universe. A universe where the eternal question itself is raised in a sea of fluidity and flux. A start for the question of boundary, uniqueness, and specificity. A place for the river of Heraclitus which can never be stepped in twice and the chaotic boundedness of Anaximander’s:
“Whence things have their origin,
Thence also their destruction happens,
As is the order of things;
For they execute the sentence upon one another
– The condemnation for the crime –
In conformity with the ordinance of Time.” Anaximander
From there we proceed to the dark ages and the resulting conflict of the Royal Society and Alchemy. The Philosopher’s Stone and the transmutation of base metal into gold representing Salvation and transformation and finally clashing with Newton’s absolute time and space and equations of motion. Chemistry replaced and transformed itself from alchemy into a less mystic and more static thought of ‘purely’ physical ‘substance’ (from Latin); compounds interacting in mechanical fashion with predictability and confluence – fluidity in stasis.
Eternal Recurrence of the Same and Chaos in Post Modernity
Now, we look at the stars and think the radical thoughts of Einstein as tame. Time-Space relativity is taken for granted in such a short time from the beginning of the 20th century when it was deemed as fake science and scientific apostacy from absolute time and space. People do not appreciate what a radical and far-reaching effect Einstein had on culture, religion, and scientific dogma of the day. To think time and space as manifestations of a unitary phenomenon of gravity essentially questioned Eternity and all its historical ramifications. In Einstein, we moved so quickly and almost unnoticed from, once again, stasis
(from Greek stasis “a standing still, a standing; the posture of standing; a position, a point of the compass; position, state, or condition of anything;” also “a party, a company, a sect,” especially one for seditious purposes; related to status “placed,” verbal adjective of histēmi “cause to stand,”) and dynamis
(unaccountable, potency, potential, capacity, ability, power, capability, strength, possibility, force , Aristotle’s potentiality and actuality, also taken as power and force and later into rule, in Latin dunamis is taken as potentiality). -In Greek thought apeiron and peras, the eternal struggle of chaos and order, form and shadow, the real and the possible.
Once again, our Einsteinian cosmos has been challenged by quantum mechanics and gravitational waves. In 1801 Thomas Young demonstrated the wave behavior of light and the resulting paradigm shifts in epochs of scientific history. The double-slit experiment which Richard Feynman demarcated as “a phenomenon which is impossible […] to explain in any classical way” focused intensely on the fundamental nature of stasis and dynamis, particle and wave specifically related to light but having permutations in physics which eventually brought on the demise of the static atom and the rise of subatomic particles. Subatomic particles pop in and out of existence with overtones in philosophy of the play of something and nothing, being and non-being, existence and its impossible Other (Levinas). Once again in a more relevant and profound contemporary setting, we have the one and the many, the same and the other, thesis and antithesis in transformation, the universal and the particular, stasis and dynamis.
To add insult to injury now we have gravitational waves. Just as we were settling into a ‘stasis’ of relative calm now we see that our tamer views of Einstein’s relativity have been liberated from the static deep well of gravity as space and time and gravity itself as the flux of dynamis, fluid dynamics. We now know that space-time is not a well, a dip or a break (as in a black hole) in the fabric of space-time but that the fabric has been pulled away to bring forth a fluidity of ‘substance’ resulting in what I might be extrapolating to be related to the popping in and out of existence of sub-atomic particles.
If space-time is a wave which can account for stasis a calm sea and dynamis a tsunami which breaks the fabric of gravity so extreme that we can hardly think of it as a coherent fabric anymore but more like a well of wonder not so removed from the mysticism of alchemy. Neutrinos are everywhere but extremely difficult to find. Why? Because they are so small that our universe rarely sees them and so electrically neutral that they barely interact with our universe. They fly through the earth as if we did not even exist. They very rarely interact with anything in our universe which makes them extremely hard to detect but we have definitely detected them. They are believed to be created in the fusion of a sun and permeate the universe. They change ‘colors’ in a temporally unexplainable fashion which brings up questions about the absoluteness of the speed of light in a vacuum.
Even more so, we know that dark energy and gravity account for most of the ‘stuff’ of the universe, but we have no idea what it is. There is some speculation that neutrinos may be a variety of a ‘lighter’ version of this dark ‘stuff’. While neutrinos have infinitesimal mass, there are so many of them flying out from suns in fluid dynamics fashion that they can have an effect or possibly in another variety called a graviton create gravity. Perhaps it is easier to think of them as massless particles which is kind of a fancy way of saying pure energy, tiny force fields popping in and out of existence having a ‘real’, actual, static, effect on the perceived universe. However, the dynamics of these tiny forces, perhaps Planch size strings, essentially defy our notions of existence/non-existence, static/dynamic, permanence/impermanence, the one/the many, the particular/the universal and we are left as occupants of a cave which can only perceive shadows of fire light and are haunted by dreams of an exteriority opening up into sun light.
So ‘stuff’ which barely recognizes our universe, our reality ‘comprises our reality’. The mechanical machinations of the 17th through the 19th centuries which have solidified themselves into ‘common sense’ and naturalism have been irradicated in this abyss of modernity. What is at question here is the relevance of the ‘real’ to the ‘possible’ and all its associated weightiness in our valuations. The looming philosophical question is the relation of the thematic thesis-antithesis to their transformation and synthesis. Is their relation indeterminate? What is the role of logic in hermeneutically determining their clarity (linguistically, ethnocentrically, historically, etc.) and relevance to each other? Furthermore, what are the ramifications for the history of violence and the State (of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right).
Along these lines of inquiry, imagination always hold open a possibility which denies us, our history, and at the same time holds open an unmitigated, unmediated, ag-gnosis of the impossible Other. This Other is not alien although it is unsettling and contrary to our historically contrived sense of well-being which I heretofore simply deem as death. As death in the Orient is the beginning or re-birth; we find an impossibly, irreconcilable, interminable difference (‘differance’ in Derrida) between birth and death, existence and non-existence; all the historic anesthetics we tell ourselves in the ‘common sense’ truths of language. The symbiotic relation of sanity and insanity (as Foucault tells us), logic and contradiction, sense and non-sense have become natural bedfellows in our mortality. However, let us not lose the sense of wonder, beauty, the good beyond being (as Plato tells us). (sophia) Indeterminateness does not have to belong to oblivion necessarily. It may be a recognition of the residue that remains unlocalizable as ‘reality’. The Other may not be our enemy, the death of logic, the nihilism of meaning as in its deprecated common usage. The Other may remain exterior to our determinations of the confluence of the same and the many, stasis and dynamis. The Other may not be consummated in the same logically however, it may give rise to the field in which such determinations are first possible. The problem I think in Levinas given by the horrors of the concentration camps of fascism is that the instigation of the falling away from the infinitude of the Other into the same, totality and infinity, is itself a predetermination/pregiven of the Other which illudes our synchronicities, synchronisms in a symbiotic fashion. As the thought experiment I previously alluded to in the dogma of Christianity: If God thought equality with God was Not-God, not a thing to be grasped but emptied himself to be sin, the son of man, and escape the omnipotence, omnipresent, omniscient of absolute isolation and solitude deemed as eternal hell, who are we to lapse into power relations of godhood, ethnocentrism, nativism, eugenics; the certitude of a demigod?
The certain, fanciful detour of physics and historic metaphor here is simply to bring to light the rhymes of history and language which situate and re-situate themselves again and aging in our determinations, our certainties which as in the Greek notion of chaos circumscribe our forms and from which our forms draw their breath and being. For me, the Other is not a historic, linguistic consequence of a particular history convoluted with the anachronisms of phusis and founding phusis (of origin) but what has always escaped, transformed such determinations of presence and absence. I believe life is fullest when we let the sun fill our fire thrown imaginations on cave walls.
sophia. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.plato-dialogues.org/email/950304_1.htm
“Plato didn’t put the one beyond being, but only the good. The one was Plotin’s favorite, not Plato’s.I think the problem is not to look for something “beyond” being, but to stop giving “being” more weight than it has. For Plato, see the Sophist, “being” is the least meaningful of all predicates, as having the greatest extension; anything that can act or be acted upon, being only in my thoughts, has “being”: the “temporary” definition is never reformulated, and holds good till the end. The real problem is not “being”, but “participation”. The question is not “what you are“, but “what you are”; and you are what you become, what you participate in. If the good, and only him, is “beyond being”, it’s because the good is, contrary to being, the most meaningful of predicates, being the perfection of each being, its “telos“, and thus, cannot be one among the being. No more than evil is a “being”, but rather a lack of being, a lack of achievment of what a being is supposed to be, of its “good”. In all that, the “one” is only another name for the “same”, it is what makes each “being” someting, and something different from any other being; different, but not isolated; different, but capable of “participation”… And beware! participation is not only between “material” being and “forms”, but between all sorts of beings, between forms and forms, among others. We have to find out the rules of participation, of “koinônia“, and especially those which make us get along together as rational human “beings”…“