Crypto-Current (013)

§0.71 — Three appendices are gathered in the penultimate section of the book. The first is devoted to a slightly larger reading of the Satoshi Nakamoto Bitcoin paper than that undertaken in Chapter-3. The second, folded into two sub-divisions, engages diagonal method (the principal procedure of modern philosophy), and its application to the techonomic integrity of the modern industrial process. The third discusses the geopolitics of Bitcoin in reference to concrete contemporary issues of currency hegemony, the status of the US Dollar, and the economic rise of China.

§0.72 — The apparatus includes a Bitcoin Time-Line, very short briefings on Coins, Organizations, and People, a Glossary, and References. This information is suggestive, more than exhaustive. The scale of the crypto-currency phenomenon already exceeds any realistic prospect of comprehensive purchase, or fine-grained general introduction.

§0.8 — Finally (but also before), there’s another thing. It might even be regarded as the main thread. Historically, it will have been. We can be exorbitantly confident about that, with such anticipation being the entire point. There is something more than a progressive causal series at stake in the arrival of Bitcoin. Preliminarily – and from historical necessity – this concern proceeds under the sign of teleology. It has to be noted clearly from the beginning, however, that an unambiguous defense of teleology would be no less unbalanced than its simple negation, amounting to mere regression. Between final and efficient causation it does not suffice – either in the end, or effectively – to choose. The philosophical obligation is always diagonal. In this case, Bitcoin entrusts us with the teleo-mechanical line, which inherits and protracts the fundamental modernistic pseudo-paradox of mechanistic liberalization. There is no real freedom outside the innovation of machines. Yet to recover teleology is simultaneously to attack it. As with anything worth defending at all, when teleology is critiqued, it gets stronger. It needs to be gnawed at more aggressively, which means – first of all – pulling it back off the shelf (or out of the fridge). Teleology is re-animated as a question when the end is intuited at work. Which is to say, in the working-out of the process the pretended sovereignty of the beginning is dethroned. We cannot but ask: What is Bitcoin becoming? This question is itself a piece of fate.

§0.81 — It cannot be sufficiently stressed that teleological thinking typically goes wrong. If it had not been prematurely dismissed, its structural failures would have been better understood. Modernity has not harried it enough. The principal teleological error is hubris (which is known to philosophy, in its general theoretical manifestation, as ‘metaphysics’). In this case, it manifests as the pretense to adequate apprehension of the telos, whatever its variant, as if it were an object.* This error is profound, and might easily seem to provide ample justification for the programmatic extinction of teleological thinking without remainder. Yet such a response – which has in fact predominated within modernity – is hyperbolic. It leads predictably, which is to say inevitably, or in fact by ultimate irony finalistically, to a cognitive vulgarization (and typically a geometricization) of time, in which the defining asymmetry of the temporal axis is extinguished. Transcendental temporality cannot be reduced to the correlate of a purely mechanical process – for instance, to a dimension – without obliterating its time-signature entirely. Radical space-time distinction is a Kantian inheritance that critique cannot elect to abandon. Once time is freed – again – from geometry, it announces itself through certain definite quasi-teleological or historically-anomalous effects. Minimally, it allows for something new. It thus lends itself to teleology in its rigorous employment, which is bound to the disingenuously innocent question: What is happening? Such interrogations conform to the eventuation (or emergence) of an entire ontological topic, delivered by the problematic – or non-objective – thing.

§0.82 — It might very reasonably be asked: Why clutter an already over-crowded book with an insistent sub-theme in partial defense of teleological thought? The primary response: Bitcoin is – finally – more intelligible in terms of its destination than its genesis. The more attentively it is examined, the more inescapable the question: What is it becoming? What does Bitcoin lead to? This is not a secondary, supplementary, or ancillary puzzle. The ‘network effects’ locking Bitcoin into history are exactly the same thing, seen differently.** Bitcoin makes historical sense, when it can be seen that it was expected, or anticipated (if only by a virtual subject, whose actuality is itself outcome-dependent). The attractor exceeds the protocol. It was a piece of destiny from the beginning. Capital Teleology is the guide. Reciprocally, what Capital has been about is unanswerable without attention to Bitcoin. Nothing denominated in money can be realistically apprehended without recognition that the nature of money is undergoing the single most catastrophic revolution in its history, and is thus ceasing to support expectations that rely upon the simple tracking-forward of precedent. Since Capital-process societies have long been denounced, understandably, for ‘attempting to put a price on everything’ the scope of this revolution is not readily bounded.

§0.83 —The story of Bitcoin, however enthralling it might be, cannot provide the central preoccupation of a book devoted to the philosophical meaning of crypto-currency. While it is a (subordinate) purpose of this work to recommend Bitcoin for dedicated historiographical attention, it does not pretend to execute such research in any serious way. Initially, the problem is quite straightforwardly practical. The extraordinary dynamism of Bitcoin makes it a moving target. It generates more history than can be humanly absorbed in real time. In other words, it escapes. Yet, while at one level this comparative paucity of historical resolution follows from an economic decision (about the distribution of time), it also doubtless reflects an essential philosophical prejudice, prioritizing abstraction. Despite firm conclusions regarding ultimate path-dependency, Crypto-Current cannot be primarily historical, because it is drawn into the idea of Bitcoin, in something far closer to the Platonic sense of this term than its epistemological, or even merely psychological, successor. Its topic envelops temporality, and engages the production – rather than the unfolding – of time. In this respect, it adheres to the mainstream of the critical tradition, for which primordial temporalization is the key. Crypto-current is chronogenic process. It is that – alone – which cannot assume time. History is grounded by critique, as in an abyss.

§0.84 — It might be asked, pointedly, in rejoinder: Is not time, in the end – or in the closure of the circuit – produced historically? While this question is incisive, and even irresistible, it is – notably – not itself historical, but rather dynamically meta-historical. No historian can ever confirm its force through accumulated evidence, since it would remain unsettled after even the most extravagant factual illustration. Historiography is disturbed by it no less than philosophy. When history descends into it, it is on an approach to its ultimate criterion. Such a question cannot, then, amount to a deflection from the philosophical task of thinking time as such. Tightening nonlinearity ensures that even if time itself has thresholds of emergence, marked by dates – such as ‘October 31, 2008’ – the dating-system provides no stable frame, but is plunged into immanence, and thus absorbed into the vortex of irreducibly cyclical dependency. There is nothing historical that can be known about time in advance. Bitcoin intensifies this problem – which is that of modern philosophy in general – towards its limit. Artificial time leaves no context unconsumed. It is transcendental, if it is time at all. No story of any kind can be adequate to it.

§0.85 — Such reservations do not suggest, even remotely, that the prospects for a history of time can be simply dismissed. Precisely because time is a transcendental horizon, time cannot be found anywhere other than in time. Nonlinear history, to employ Manuel DeLanda’s term in its most radical sense, comprehends the philosophy of time, through the exact real coincidence of its twin terms. It is only that, when historiography reaches this threshold, it has already become something else. The work of Peter Galison is a particularly remarkable case. His magnificent study of Einstein and Poincaré, which grounds the time-relativity problem of early 20th Century mathematical physics in the techno-administrative imperative to synchronization, is an exemplary excavation of chronogenetic circuitry. The point of theoretical climax is marked by an irreducible co-dependency of historical process and time-production, in which each finds its grounds within the other. Neither pole in this circuit submits to its alternative without cascading confusion.

* There are two basic types of teleological metaphysics. Both involve an untenable objectification. In the classical case, exemplified by Aristotle, it is the goal of a process that provides its intelligible object. In modern variants of teleological thinking, metaphysical objectification more commonly invests a purposive substance, or essence (an ‘entelechy’). Critique dismantles both. It strips teleology down to raw singularities. There are no general goals, or generic purposive forces. The sheer thing that is becoming is not an instance of anything other than itself. The event coincides exactly with its causality. Its power is its sole identity.

** This claim will strike many as completely wrong. For instance, it might be asked: Are not complex eventuations the precise opposite of teleological processes? Yet, if they seem so, it is only because teleology has been drastically misconceived. Teleo-process, sketched epistemologically, is nothing at all more than that which increases in intelligibility with reverse time-signature. It lends itself to modeling as a convergent wave. In other words, it is characterized by comparatively obscure – diffuse or loosely-connected and highly heterogeneous – precursor states. Every complex emergence exhibits such a pedigree, and production pattern. The mechanistic sciences – understood in the programmatically anti-teleological sense – are incessantly scandalized by such things, and will continue to be. Reciprocally, the concept of ‘emergence’ cannot – by the same necessity – be expected to achieve full scientific respectability, short of a theoretical and historical re-ordering of time. It can be confidently predicted, in short, that crypto-teleological agitations will continue to recur, that the natural sciences will not find them to be suppressible, and that they will each time, and essentially, be aligned with dissent against modern intellectual orthodoxy. There is no crypto-teleological ‘paradigm’ that could be recognized, and then comfortably installed. After all, the inadequacy of the actual is the phenomenon. What counts as currently-demonstrated depends on the time-frame. The scale of ‘now’ is problematic, so every ‘yet’ also is. What, or how much, has happened yet? Even without a causal framework oriented by the privileging of precursor states (or ‘efficiency’), this problem would remain irreducible. A mechanistic perspective attentive to teleo-process would already be something else. Furthermore, it would be something that could grasp itself. Mechanization as the supreme teleo-process is the final cosmic irony.

3 thoughts on “Crypto-Current (013)

  1. Every time I read about teleology what I can’t stop thinking of are emergent properties. I feel like this part is going to be my favorite part of the book.

    Will you publish the book chapter by chapter here, and/or will there be .epub/.pdf available from the beginning?

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