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What do you see as an important substantive logic for PECE?

Tuesday, March 23, 2021 - 12:32pm

Sparked in part by Ali Kenner having to respond to editors (3/23/2021) as to why "The PECE Design Team" should be included as an author, I was reminded of these letters from Bateson to Norbert Wiener from 1954 and 1959.  Wiener (like Bateson, another "polymath," as these kinds of people were called at the time) was one of the key figures in "The  Cybernetics Group" that met in interdisciplinary Macy Conferences.  In the 1959 letter Bateson thanks Wiener for putting him on the list to receive Wiener's novel The Tempter, which is apparently about patents and who does or doesn't deserve them. This prompts Bateson to write:

I ran across in our old files the other day a curious case of intellectual indebtedness—a letter which I wrote to you in 1954. In that letter I outlined to you the first version of the “double bind” hypothesis on which we have been working ever since. My indebtedness consists in this—it was because I was writing to you that I could think those thoughts on that day. Life is not so simple that we can say that this man contributes this idea and that man that idea. There is also the mass of thoughts that are generated by interaction.

So Bateson could "think those thoughts on that day," thoughts that would get developed through other interactions with the Palo Alto group into double bind theory over the next 5+ years, and feel indebted to Wiener simply because he (Bateson) was writing a letter to him. Indebted not to Wiener as a source of ideas or inspiration or provocation, but just for being there in a position (of friendship) to receive Bateson's yet-to-be-developed thoughts.  We could say (and it  looks like I will say) that the 1959 Bateson realizes that in the future anterior of 1954 he will have been indebted to Wiener for a double bind theory to come.

And I could only think this because Ali started an email about recognizinng collaborative authorship, and Kim started a "PECE in Theory" essay to collect concepts like the "infinite indebtedness" one I just made up, and...and...and...and...  Hyperbole, obviously, thinking both of Blanchot's The Infinite Conversation and Levinas' "infinite responsibility," to whom I am indebted in ways I continually forget and later re-recognize. I thought maybe "disseminated indebtedness" or "indirect indebtedness" to avoid the totalizing transcendentalist implications of infinite, and maybe those are better. But I opted for hyperbole because I like it so much as a rhetorical trope.

But (he added later) it's more than rhetoric: the journal only recognizes named recognition, debts that can be accounted for and entered into a ledger. Those debts can still be disseminated and distributed, and still be named and recognized. Infinite indebtedness acknowledges that some debts can't be named, or can only be recognized in a future that may or may not transpire, or that will have been produced or altered by the debt itself.

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