Posted by: glue | November 15, 2008

Net Work

Avatar uses flash reason in order to deliberate on public policy issues in conditions of dromosphere.  Paul Virilio’s choice of the Greek term for “race” (dromos) to name the condition of dimension collapse in electracy is a clue guiding the heuretics of flash reason.  The method poses a question:  what is the reasoning that wins races; specifically (continuing with the tactic of retrieval), what was the logic of the race course in Classical Greece (grammatology, inventing electracy by analogy).



The oral Greeks called this reason metis, (after Zeus’s first wife) and it survived in literacy as prudence, phronesis, practical reason. Plato configured it as his contrast while inventing the pure or contemplative reason and its logic of identity organizing the philosophy of Being.  Metis, rather, is the logic of Becoming, useful in conditions of contingency such as those concerning ethics and politics, when the outcome depends on human judgment.  A phronimos or prudent person is one capable of immediately assessing the givens of a particular situation, and drawing upon maxims formulated from past experience, making a decision to act in a way that foresees the best outcome in the future.  In short, prudence is time-logic.

The details of prudence (metis) in their oral version are exemplified by Odysseus, who relies on cunning and deceit to overcome more powerful adversaries and forces.  The same vocabulary was used in early literacy in manuals teaching hunting and fishing.  The emblematic figure of metis, in fact, is the fishing net, especially the cast net with its encircling meshes.  The “net” of “network” in electracy resonates with this skill of creating or escaping snares, traps, lures, or any sort of aporia — mastery of circles and binds.



Marcel Detienne and Jean-Pierre Vernant (whom I am paraphrasing), in Cunning Intelligence in Greek Culture and Society, use the race course (dromos) to map the operating features of metis that may be projected onto any situation.  Prudence means not “caution” but the foresight that prepares one for success in open circumstances requiring improvisation and instant thought.  The race course holds three sites and moments of danger and opportunity:  the starting line, the turn (bend), and the finish line.  The charioteer stands in for any pilot, with the vocabulary of navigation, cybernauts, cybernetics, helping translate practical reason into flash reason.  The ultimate test of wayfinding is that of a stormy sea at night, when all guidemarks disappear (the scene of aporia), whether this night sea is literal or figurative (projected into the arts of medicine, politics, rhetoric).

Instruction:  use this ancient model as a relay to update the virtue of prudence for an Internet public sphere.

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