Monday, July 06, 2009

Tokyo as Non-Existent Present

Beautiful photographs of Tokyo by urban photographer Thomas Birke. I think he unintentionally nails a little Peircean insight about the nature of the present as non-existent, or at least my interpretation of this insight. Writing here about Peirce a couple of years ago:
This is to say that the consciousness of the present is not itself describable in terms of an atomic present since it is a function of inference. The present involves the felt impulse of immediacy, but the idea of the present itself is a construct of inferential processes...

...Since time in general is continuity but a continuity of some thing, and is therefore a continuous relating of past and future, and since concepts require time, the present in effect does not exist other than as a prescinded conceptual condition for the possibility of past meeting future. Or, to put this another way, Peirce argues for the immediacy of feeling--consciousness of firstness--and since time is a relation of concepts and the present instant an immediate feeling, the present may be said to be non-existent (or simply qualitative feeling) if to be is to be cognizable. Peirce writes, “feeling is nothing but a quality, and a quality is not conscious: it is a mere possibility.” (PW, 84: CP1.310). But “qualities merge into one another. They have no perfect identities...,” and they are thus understood only as prescinded. (PW, 77).

1 comment:

electric said...

Interesting quote.

Personally, I've never felt Tokyo embodied the like of blade-runner or the city in dadoe; Tokyo seems too... neat and sterile. I do appreciate Mr Birke's photos... i just think they're more Gibson than Dick.

"The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel."