Statistically Improbable Phrases

no time like the present

Wired has a interesting article on physics outsider Peter Lynds, whose work extends on Einstein’s in contending that time does not exist as such. As the articles suggests, in this theory, "a fundamental indeterminacy connects the blurry probabilities of the
quantum universe with the seemingly stable macroverse where you and I
live." Of course, for physics that’s not really quite enough and one of the questions Lynds and others raise is "if time does not exist as such, why do we experience the universe as a series of succesive events?"

Since Newton’s calculus, physics has imagined a universal clock that divides time and space into discreet units. Einstein brought that into question, and Lynds has built on Einstein’s work. Looking at the issue from a Deleuzian perspective, say with his concept of time as Aeon, this seems to fit with a certain strand of philosophy. And it is from Deleuze that one might get a sense of how to answer the question about the shift from Aeon to Chronos, from a plane of consistency to a plane of reference. Lynds hypothesizes that "in respect to causality, it would be nonconscious cognition that is the result of neuronal processes in the brain that causes consciousness: consciousness would be an emergent property of neuronal activity. Furthermore, as all cognition would  originate from nonconscious nueronal processes, consciousness would have no causal relationship to further conscious cognition." I would qualify this last claim by suggesting that consciousness does feedback into neuronal processes. However, I might agree that such a feedback wouldn’t necessarily be causal, though one might think of the way one can use conscious, meditative techniques to calm anxiety as an example of this feedback.

Anyway, I think it is interesting to note the potential coming together here of physics and Deleuzian thought. And I see two fundamental ways in which this is relevant for new media rhetoric and composition.

  1. Computers, with their clock speed, are clearly engineered to function as serial or parallel processors. We can see here that perhaps human cognition does not function this way, that time comes in almost at the end of the thought process. In attempting to understand the material processes of technology and thought, the rhetorical experience of new media, addressing models of cognition, such as this one, is imperative.
  2. As much as we may like to focus on the social, discursive, ideological elements of rhetoric, any rhetorical theory, by necessity, has at least an implicit theory of cognition. If we can suggest that time does not exist as such, that it is, like consciousness, an emergent quality of cognitive processes that occur in the spacetime of Aeon, a plane of consistency, or whatever Lynds might want to call it, then by necessity we must understand both rhetoric and pedagogy in a fundamentally different way.


2 replies on “no time like the present”

Yes, I read that article too. The connections you make to Deleuzian thought are quite important indeed, especially his Bergsonism and to Bergson himself. Everything that Lynds says about time, as the article notes, was already implicit with Zeno. But it gets developed by Bergson in various places as I’m sure you know. The theories of cognition that need to be made part of theories of Rhetoric you mention are there, in that Deleuzian-Bergson connection. Thanks for you post and suggestions.


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