BOOK PUBLICATION - La jaula del tiempo: aspectos sociopolíticos y jurídicos de la aceleración contemporánea de Borja Muntadas Figuer...

May 4, 2021


Of course, the tendency to overlook water’s vital force and its mysterious creative power has not been entirely replaced by our fascination with the human capacity to take advantage of its kinetic energy.  For many, it is apparent that water yet retains its great power, as the Indian Ocean and the Caribbean Sea have recently reminded us.  Human effort is again seeking to plumb its mysteries, grasp it in all its richness and pay tribute to its necessary ubiquity.  In short, this is exemplified by three important trends in contemporary philosophy.


Athena defeats Poseidon
As human beings became city dwellers, urbanisation turned water into just another resource.  Offering potable water to the citizenry became a political task and a public service.  And who, after all, would still be able to worship something supplied as a public resource? The myth of Athens’ choice of city patron gives us an example of the complex process by which worship of one god is replaced by another.  While undoubtedly not the most central feature of this change, one outcome was the progressive waning of water’s importance and its symbolic presence, among other things.  The election of the patron of Athens is known to have been disputed by Poseidon (god of the sea, to whom the city owed practically all of its splendour since Athens was a seafaring city-state) and Athena (astute, industrious warrior goddess).  Legend has it that the two gods agreed that each would offer a gift to the polis then let the citizens choose between them[1].  When it came time to present their gifts to the polis, Poseidon struck the earth with his trident and a spring burst forth.  Unfortunately it was salt water.  Athena then gave the first domesticated, fruit-bearing olive tree.  Naturally, Athena was chosen.


In the popular mind, water was symbolised by a powerful, magical woman creating all wealth and life and, at the same time, by a capricious, deadly woman.  (It could be both if refused or enjoyed in excess.)  Humanity lived in a world where water mysteriously fell from the sky, either beneficently or cruelly, where it mysteriously sprang from the earth or ceased to do so, where it mysteriously, powerfully coursed rivers or spread out in the perilous immensity of the mysteriously boundless ocean.  This gave rise to awe, fear and admiration.  However, that all changed as man began to dominate water, as water was harnessed to irrigate crops productively, predictably.  Then, despite its centrality, water began to lose its mystery and magic, it began to lose its ability to awe and, to some degree, its power over life and death was less certain.  Moreover, such power, along with the capacity to make decisions of life and death, was usurped from it by the very humans who had harnessed it
[1], planned and built the irrigation ditches where—most of the time—water could only slide tamely along.  In a sort of civilising coup d’êtat, water was denied—in fact, denied itself—both such power and the generative principle.  In its place, the genuinely powerful, productive agent was taken to be the one able to harness and dominate water in a timely fashion.  And over time, water came to be overlooked as the necessary condition for all that.


Obviously, this piece packs a certain expressive punch insofar as its narrative or literary genre is panegyric.  However, the analysis of the myths, metaphors and symbols of water (in contrast to what was said before about the thousand waters that make one thin) leads instead to the conclusion that water’s centrality to life is not very well reflected in our philosophical, literary or cultural traditions
[1], not even if we take culture in its widest and most popular sense.   Instead, in its ubiquity and hushed constancy of purpose, water is overlooked, ignored by human eyes, replaced by other elements or fluids that are strange, special, unusual, out of the ordinary.  We have already seen one such set of examples presented by blood, yellow bile, phlegm and the completely fictitious ‘black bile’.  For centuries, they were together thought to hold sway over human character or ‘humour’.  Yet, at the same time, water per se or as an ingredient of these ‘humours’ was totally ignored despite being, without doubt, the most important, fundamental and ubiquitous liquid[2].  Additionally, within the traditional mind-body dualism, the body has traditionally been seen as earth, even though we know it is basically made of water.  At the same time, tradition has it that the mind, or spirit, is basically made of air or fire, while wetness is considered alien and alienating:  it leaves one drunk, dull and dim-witted.  We need only recall Heraclitus’ views.   Water does not seem to make any positive contribution to the symbolism surrounding the mind or spirit either.  It seems genuinely surprising that the fourth element has suffered such a fate within the prevailing popular imagination of the West. Yet, without minimising this surprising marginalisation in any way, it must nevertheless be seen as merely relative.  This is because water has traditionally been granted at least two roles that are highly significant, essential, even indispensable.  These two roles relate to two systems or complexes of metaphors with enormous and wide-ranging implications.


As merely negative form
Daily life shows that water is qualitatively defined through human senses and perceptions in a basically negative way: it is colourless, tasteless, odourless, transparent and shapeless (this last one being true of all liquids and gases). On the macroscopic level, water only assumes the form of the receptacle that receives and contains it.  As the psychologist Jean Piaget showed, an understanding of the conservation of matter is only acquired at a specific stage of infantile development.  Only at that point do children stop making the mistakes commonly made in the previous stage.  The following experiment can be easily reproduced.   Take a glass pitcher full of water and pour it into a long, thin test-tube.  Ask a child which contains more water, the original pitcher or the filled test-tube.  Any children who have not yet developed the idea of conservation of matter say that there is more water in the test-tube, even though they have seen it only being filled from the pitcher.  The experiment can be done again, pouring the water in the test-tube back into the pitcher and starting from scratch.  Even so, the children do not change their opinion.  Water’s lack of macroscopic form disorients the senses and we too would be confused if we did not know that matter is neither created nor destroyed simply as a result of movement in space, which is, after all, what switching receptacles amounts to.


Water, as can be seen from these few examples, played a brilliant role before and at the beginning of the history of the philosophy.  It seems to have been perfectly suited to becoming a natural, physical symbol of 'being' par excellence.  It was simply going to have to act as a key concept and metaphor in metaphysics.  Precisely because water and 'being' can be reduced to a lack of attributes, qualities and shapes, they exemplify what existed at the beginning, the necessary substrate (hypokeimenon, according to the Greeks) from which attributes, qualities and properties were able to appear.  In this way, water was seen as the primary matter of being, the very substance of life or, at least, its original, maternal womb.  From a conceptual standpoint, water and being both come to mean ‘proto-shape’ metaphorically.  This includes the initial, incipient shape and also the final, conclusive one.  On the one hand, it is the simplest denial of the assertion that nothingness does not exist.  Turning around the knowing confusion of that wording so that it is positive, the idea is to assert that there is indeed being or existence, that it is so indefinite and empty of concrete qualities, that it is the closest thing to nothingness, to the abyss.  From mythic, pre-Socratic origins, being and water are thus called to stand metaphorically for the alpha and the omega.  They point to a starting point that is so basic and foundational that it barely seems to allow for any shape at all.  It seems empty and thus, in a manner of speaking, practically nothingness.



'The clearest thing is water.' (A Catalan saying).

Metaphorologism[1] of Water[2]. The difficulty and ‘triviality’ of the subject

Giving serious thought to water is surprisingly problematic.  Case in point:  an amateur play to which I was recently invited served up a university lecturer as an object of ridicule.  Neurotic, bumbling and unable to make himself  understood, he was, tellingly, an expert on water.  The play thus set out to comment on the paradox of gaining wisdom about 'nothing', the paradox of specialising in what is—to all appearances—not a matter for specialisation.  After all, we all consider ourselves experts on the subject of water or, at the very least, know what needs to be known.

La jaula del tiempo


Mar 13, 2021

Laboratorio de pensamiento crítico - La jaula del tiempo


Laboratorio de pensamiento crítico – La jaula del tiempo /3

La saturación de información y la aceleración de la mayoría de los procesos sociales han provocado un cortocircuito en los diferentes desarrollos humanos y vitales. La mayoría de estos procesos generan un malestar que se manifiesta de diferentes formas: ataques de pánico, ansiedad, depresión, estrés, etc. 

En este taller, a lo largo de 7 sesiones, trataremos de elaborar un mapa de los diferentes espacios en los que la aceleración y la saturación de información se han apoderado de nuestras vidas. 

Feb 24, 2021


La humanidad ha creado una nueva era -el antroposceno- que es signo del enorme poder tecnológico-industrial que ha alcanzado y que la está afectando profundamente incluso a sí misma

Ello plantea tensiones que son presentes en muchos nuevos movimientos filosófico-culturales y transforma la definición de naturaleza humana, la cual se ha relacionado siempre con el mito de Prometeo


Vamos a imaginar lo que puede comportar la “ignorancia prometeicacomo patología cognitiva de la atención, que es aquella que no depende de la agudeza o fiabilidad de los sentidos, sino de la predeterminación intelectiva de lo que se busca y cómo –por tanto- se dirige la atención.

Pues la más reciente neurociencia confirma que la atención humana es intencional (usando el término acuñado por Edmund Husserl). Ello implica –como ya apuntaba Immanuel Kant- que para ser efectivamente percibidos, los fenómenos sensibles deben ser sintetizados no sólo espacio-temporalmente por la sensibilidad sino también categorialmente por el entendimiento humano. 


"No hay un método para encontrar tesoros ni tampoco hay un método para aprender". Gilles Deleuze

¿Cómo podemos imaginar hoy esa hipotética “singularidad” futura? Pues no genera sólo “vergüenza prometeica” de la humanidad respecto a sus propias creaciones, sino total ignorancia. 


La hipótesis que acabamos de formular está íntimamente vinculada a la vergüenza que experimentan los humanos -conscientemente falibles- ante sus propias creaciones que cada vez se vuelven más poderosas e infalibles. 

En concreto se trata de analizar lo que proponemos llamar “ignorancia prometeica” y que se manifestaría plenamente cuando los humanos no puedan ya comprender a sus propias creaciones cibernéticas

Lo denominamos “ignorancia prometeica” como homenaje a la aguda expresión de Anders ya citada. Pero nosotros nos referimos al momento singular y disruptivo en que la humanidad incluso no pueda explicar la lógica desplegada por sus propias creaciones maquínicas.



Intentemos pensar e investigar ahora la idea inquietante de que la sabiduría técnica pueda radicarse y continuar evolucionando fuera del receptáculo de carbono que son los humanos. 

Como apuntó Stiegler (2016) ello es una característica eterna de la tecnología, pues siempre se exterioriza y objetiva en creaciones materiales (por ejemplo: hachas de piedra) que –por eso mismo- la humanidad está obligada a reapropiársela cognitivamente (como certificando que efectivamente lo técnico no formaba parte “natural” de la condición humana).


Prometeo transforma la condición humana con dones divinos pero también artificiales

La turbohumanidad, que tan temerosa se siente hoy de la inteligencia artificial, es nieta de una inteligencia y de un robo a la vez divinos y artificiales. En el diálogo Protágoras de Platón se narra como Prometeo salva a la humanidad de la extinción, dándole el fuego y la sabiduría técnica que ha robado a los dioses. Por ello –según el duro relato de Esquilo- Prometeo recibirá el eterno y torturante castigo de Zeus

Pues con su robo, ha roto el equilibrio entre las criaturas mortales porque, gracias a Prometeo, los hombres ya no están al nivel del resto de animales, ya que ahora disponen de unos dones divinos que no les correspondían. Ahora tienen en ellos, de forma artificial y no “natural”, el poder divino del fuego y de la tecnología.