Panic in Central Park: Predictive Hermeneutics in Girls S5E6

Dez & Marnie are sitting on their marital bed. She has headphones in, sitting cross-legged staring intently into her Macbook; he’s got puka shells around his neck and strums an acoustic guitar, bobbing his head at her, raising his brow, trying to get a look. It’s harmless but needy, like a puppy who deep down you don’t really love giving you eyes from across the room. Marnie takes her headphones off. “What are you staring at me about?” “What do you mean?” “You’re staring at me.” “I’m staring at you?” “You’re playing aggressive guitar at me.” “There’s nothing aggressive about that. It’s a ballad. I think it’s weird you haven’t said anything since noon.” This is the way a well-designed en media res goes; it’s what makes it so exciting. You see a situation, you get an interpretation, take it at face, infer a world (Marnie: cold and distant; modern technology: not helping.) Then there’s an update, a rebuttal—reality either rearing up and answering, contradicting the hubris of human inference, or else another subjectivity speaking for itself. Here we get the latter.

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Predictive Hermeneutics

A preprint of “A Bayesian hermeneutic” — the cogsci paper Thomas Rutten & I worked on last summer in Mexico City — is available at Research Gate here. It aims to introduce a new subfield of hermeneutics we term “predictive hermeneutics.”

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The Mind-Expanding Ideas of Andy Clark

The New Yorker finally got around to predictive processing with Larissa MacFarquhar’s profile of Andy Clark. Clark is the author of Surfing Uncertainty, the premier book on the subject.

Perception did not, then, simply work from the bottom up; it worked first from the top down. What you saw was not just a signal from the eye, say, but a combination of that signal and the brain’s own ideas about what it expected to see… Continue reading “The Mind-Expanding Ideas of Andy Clark”

On the Erotics of Interpretation

by Suspended Reason w/ James Wood

In Antonioni’s film L’eclisse, the luminous Monica Vitti visits the Rome stock exchange, where her fiance, played by Alain Delon, works. Delon points out a fat man who has just lost 50 million lire. Intrigued, she follows the man. He orders a drink at a bar, barely touches it, then goes to a cafe, where he orders an acqua minerale, which he again barely touches. He is writing something on a piece of paper, and leaves it on the table. We imagine that it must be a set of furious, melancholy figures. Vitti approaches the table, and sees that it is a drawing of a flower. Continue reading “On the Erotics of Interpretation”

Valencia/Rectify/Film/Television/Literature

I.

James Nulick’s Valencia opens with an HIV diagnosis. Nulick, protagonist, is dying. He has traveled to the southern coast of Spain to stay at the hotel which gives the novel its name. He has traveled there to hasten his death, to preempt the prolonged and painful corporal vulnerability which immunodeficiency entails. Continue reading “Valencia/Rectify/Film/Television/Literature”

Predicting Joyce’s “Calypso”

Mr. Leopold Bloom ate with relish the inner organs of beasts and fowls.

So begins the fourth chapter of Ulysses. “Calypso” is one of the more straightforward episodes of the novel, but here we’ll look at the way the opening line maintains its own ambiguity throughout the chapter’s opening pages. The suspended ambiguity is initiated in the grammatical indeterminacy of “ate,” which functions either as preterit (simple past) or as unmarked imperfect, suggesting, respectively, either that Bloom has just eaten a meal consisting of animal organs, or that Bloom regularly eats animal organs (completed action vs. general habit or practice). Continue reading “Predicting Joyce’s “Calypso””