[Smt-talk] You say structure I say structuralism lets

Ildar Khannanov etudetableau at gmail.com
Mon Jul 14 20:49:47 PDT 2014

Dear Mark and the List,

I apologize for clogging the blog with postings, but it is you whom to
blame: I get inspiration from your responses and the dialogue. So, if I ask
Bob to post this one tomorrow I think I will not violate the rule of one
posting per day.

I would like to return to our discussion of structure. In a nut shell, the
main contribution of Stoics was their attention to the word as a reified
entity and their understanding of active cause of physics as the word of

They (Zeno, Cleanthes and Chrysippus) were the first to isolate word
(speech, language) from what it refers to, into a self-standing thing,
phenomenon in its own right. I would like to repeat my hypothesis that
caused the rage of one of my colleagues few month ago. What strikes me as a
substantial difference between the Old Testament and the New Testament is
the treatment of word. Of course, in the ancient text words (say,
commandments) were given a serious role, but they were fast attached to the
objects and meanings. In the New Testament, all of a sudden, en arche hen
ho logos is introduced in such manner that it seems that the word becomes
an independent agency. Where does this come from?

Among many possible sources I could name Greek Stoics. They introduced
propositional logic (the logic of language per se, independent of
references). In the quotation that we have discussed (and I would like to
thank Mark for important corrections to my translation) the most important
contribution, on my view, is that the whole (or everything) does not exist
by itself, but is constantly affected by the agency of word. It is a
well-known aspect of the physics of the Stoics. Unlike Aristotle, they did
not worship the outer world of objects and did not isolate the language
into secondary system. On the contrary, in stoic view, Logos permeates
Kosmos, just as the semen permeates the egg. Logos spermaticos is the most
fantastic interpretation of language I have ever seen. Words make
(poieomai) the whole (holon) by affecting the passive things outside. Words
inseminate the whole, making it pregnant with sense and order. The word,
therefore, is the semen (semeion). Here comes semiotics.

As for the Universe (and I disagree with Yonge's translation here), stoics
could care less for the Universe as the world outside. Their use of to
Holon is similar to German der Ganze, or Ganzheit. A grave mistake would be
to conflate stoic interpretations of the whole with our habitual Universe.
Students may assume, then, that Zeno was a stargazer, just as Stephen
Hawkins. Stoics promoted cancellation of all perception (aisthesis) and
focused on the inner world of fantasy. Fantasian kataleptike--fantasies
under the condition of blocked perception. Autistic fantasies.

The problem of Aristotle and all materialists is that they place our
psychic activity (language included) in strict dependence from the objectal
world. The things that I can see and touch have the priority over the
things that I can imagine and express.

This can be the key for music theory, the way to disentangle ourselves from
the net of onto-teleological tyranny. And music theory, as mentioned in the
blog of Stephen Soderberg, will become more relevant.


Ildar Khannanov
Peabody Institute
etudetableau at gmail.com

2014-07-14 22:01 GMT-04:00 Ildar Khannanov <etudetableau at gmail.com>:

> Dear Mark,
> thank you for your corrections. I quoted Zeno from memory. My teacher of
> Greek insisted that we read Plato's dialogues on a bus without the
> dictionary and memorize some important apophtegmata.
> Translation is a difficult matter (my teacher Derrida insisted that it is
> impossible). The 1895 English translation misses the point, I think.
> Dokei has nothing to do with thinking. It means "it is obvious". It seems.
> Or, it is clear that. It is derived from deiknumi. Another form that can
> clarify this is dike.
> Poieo is a verb that has strong philosophical connotations. We have its
> outgrowth in an English word poetics, The process of making for Greeks was
> a joyful creative experience that applied both to pottery and poetry.
> Active is a very poor translation. In Zeno's other statements he
> distinguishes the things that are made and that are unmade. He insists,
> that Logos permeates the whole and inseminates it with thought.
> Poios--I apologize, my mistake, of course.
>  Ousia has been discussed thoroughly by philosophers, Essence even sounds
> similar. It is a philosophical term. Existence is a very rough
> translation. There is a chapter in Derrida that is entitled Ousia ou
> gramme. (Some philosophers who side with ousia are nowadays labeled
> essentialists). Reading it can clarify (or, God, I think I called for a
> storm now, Derrida and clarify may not seem to work together). To
> translate Logos as reason is simply bad taste. Reason, mind, these are the
> words of English philosophy that are untranslatable into other languages.
> Logos is Word. Holon is not Universe. It is simply the whole (just as it
> sounds in English). Hule is not matter. It is raw condition, something that
> has not been used or touched by anyone. Virgin forests. Logon ton theou is
> an indivisible figure of speech,  Greek Stoics invented semiotics and
> introduced the category of the Word of God that has been gracefully adopted
> by early Christianity. Another one is pneuma ton Theou. This one is even
> more magnificent.
> In other words, reading a number of philosophical texts could clarify many
> things that occur as local misunderstanding.  I trust more the
> interpretations of Emile Brehier and use many translations of the same
> phrase into other languages (French, German, Russian) in order to make my
> own interpretive translation.
> Best,
> Ildar Khannanov
> Peabody Institute
> etudetableau at gmail.com
> 2014-07-14 19:12 GMT-04:00 Mark Ansoncartwright <
> Mark.Ansoncartwright at qc.cuny.edu>:
>  Dear Ildar,
>> I was interested to read your quotation from Zeno’s fragments, which I
>> did not know before. I took the trouble to look up the Greek online and to
>> check another translation, that by C.D. Yonge.
>> In your quotation/transliteration of the Greek, you left out a couple of
>> important vowels: "poiun" should be "poioun," while “apoioun” (“unmade”)
>> is actually “apoion” (“without quality”). Also, the accusative words
>> “hulen” (“clay” or “matter”) and “theon” (“god” or “God”) should be
>> rendered in apposition to the words “ousian” ("existence") and “logon”
>> ("reason"), respectively. At least, the rendering by Yonge would suggest
>> that’s how the accusative (NOT genitive, as your suggest) functions here.
>> Here is the corrected Greek (transliterated), followed by Yonge’s
>> translation.
>> Dokei d'autois arkhas einai ton holon duo: to poioun kai to paskhon. to
>> men oun paskhon einai apoion ousian ten hulen, to de poioun ton en aute
>> logon ton theon.
>> Source: Stoicorum veterum fragmenta, ed. H. von Arnim, p. 24 (available
>> at archive.org).
>> Translation:
>> They think that there are two general principles in the universe, the
>> active and the passive That the passive is matter, an existence without any
>> distinctive quality. That the active is the reason which exists in the
>> passive, that is to say, God.
>> Source: Diogenes Laërtius, The Lives and Opinions of Eminent
>> Philosophers, trans. C.D. Yonge (London: George Bell & Sons, 1895) Public
>> Domain.
>>  Thanks for stimulating us with some ancient writings.
>>  Mark
>>  Mark Anson-Cartwright
>> Queens College and Graduate Center, CUNY
>>  ------------------------------
>> *From:* Smt-talk [smt-talk-bounces at lists.societymusictheory.org] on
>> behalf of Ildar Khannanov [etudetableau at gmail.com]
>> *Sent:* Sunday, July 13, 2014 12:56 AM
>> *To:* Phillip Dineen
>> *Cc:* Smt-talk at lists.societymusictheory.org
>> *Subject:* Re: [Smt-talk] You say structure I say structuralism lets
>>   Dear Murray,
>>  agree, ah those continentals! Reminds me the phrase from the Adams
>> Family, You're so continental ! addressed to a vampire.
>>  That structure and function should be closer related and
>> examined--sure! Dokei d'autois arkhas einai ton holon duo: to poiun kai to
>> paskhon. to men oun paskhon einai apoioun ousian ten hulen, to de poioun
>> ton en aute logon ton theon. This crazy formulation was provided by Zeno of
>> Chitteum at the time when the Contintent to the West was populated by
>> savages.
>>  The causes of the whole are two: the active and passive. The passive is
>> an unmade essence of hule (clay); the active is the words of god.
>>  I guess, the structure (something that is built) is the product of
>> active cause (making) applied to the passive substance (clay, or, as in
>> Latin translation, wild forest, silva).
>>  If I read your thought correctly, the structure is not a passive
>> material but the product of action (of function) on that passive material.
>> Unfortunately, music theorists often take structure for granted, as if
>> it were something given and passive by itself. Sometimes they even try to
>> dissociate structure from function (as in non-functional pitch centricity).
>> All our patterns, embellishments, collections and sets are clay in Greek
>> terms. They become structure only after function is applied.
>>  Best wishes,
>>  Ildar Khannanov
>> Peabody Institute
>> etudetableau at gmail.com
>> 2014-07-12 9:05 GMT-04:00 Phillip Dineen <murraydineen at uottawa.ca>:
>>>  Oh those stretch Continentals. What a hangover.
>>>  Presumably the structuralists were looking at some kind of structure.
>>> Perhaps historically the functionalists -- Radcliffe Brown, Propp? --
>>> stopped at that point, and concerned themselves with only the function of
>>> (structural) elements within a system. (Perhaps as theorists we're
>>> functional.) But following the insights of Saussure (or his students), some
>>> folks took that a little further, suggesting that the nature of the
>>> functional elements determined the structure (not vice versa, or maybe vice
>>> versa, or probably both -- I'm simplifying here).
>>>  I don't think most music theorists have gone that far, although it
>>> comes to mind that articles by Roland Jackson (ITO, mid 80's) and the late
>>> Chris Lewis (19thCM) might have touched upon structural thought. (I'm
>>> forgetting others, memory being a thing of the past.)
>>>  Cleaning the Derrida out of the way so I can get at the coffee.
>>>  Murray (dineen)
>>> University of Ottawa
>>> murraydineen at uottawa.ca
>>> _______________________________________________
>>> Smt-talk mailing list
>>> Smt-talk at lists.societymusictheory.org
>>> http://lists.societymusictheory.org/listinfo.cgi/smt-talk-societymusictheory.org
-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <http://lists.societymusictheory.org/pipermail/smt-talk-societymusictheory.org/attachments/20140714/228a3a10/attachment-0002.htm>

More information about the Smt-talk mailing list