Issue #54 July 2022


How are deadlocks broken? We all know the mocking story of Buridan’s Ass, who starves to death standing between two equal piles of hay. The point of the story is rationality is not enough to break a deadlock, what drives actual donkeys must be something else.

There are two complementary solutions that arise at once. The first, have a meta-principle: tie breaker rules. The deadlock is referred to some law that would unravel it, “when in doubt, go left!”. The second is to flip a coin, roll a dice. We shouldn’t see this any more arbitrary than the first. Both effectively resolve the deadlock by the introduction of something that is beyond it, but that shares no relation to the specific deadlock in how it emerges. Thus, rolling dice and following rules defer the unchoosable choice to an arbitrary intervention. Dice don’t choose any more than rules do.

Besides, donkeys don’t play dice, or consult rule books and oracles, yet they don’t starve. How deadlocks are resolved can’t just be a matter of arbitrary intervention, but, rather, must introduce a foreign dynamic into choice that nonetheless has the form of a choice. Something both transcendent and immanent to choice.

For example, conscience sits in this relation to choice. It doesn’t guide by adding stones of satisfaction or guilt to the scales to effect a move in one direction. Instead, conscience floats above choice, yet has no independent existence of its own above and beyond its relation to choice.

This is just an example, what’s important is the form. Temperament, and its relation to action and reaction, forms a similar structure. Also cutting a knot with a pair of scissors.1placeholder The key point is that the donkey makes its choice and eats. Something perpendicular has intervened in the deadlock, not in the form of an external rule, or arbitrary chance, but in something wholly immanent to the deadlock but all the same beyond it.

Cover illustration: Ed Garman, “No. 260”, (1942) [Detail]


There’s nothing arbitrary or external in the “solution” of using a pair scissors to cut a troublesome knot, insofar as the material is disentangled just as well by the cut. Scissors transform the problem posed by the knot, solving it at a different “level”…


July 2022


The Pragmatism of William James

by Timofei Gerber

Hegel's 1803 Ethics: Perception and the General Will

by Antonio Wolf

Deleuze on Ideas, Dialectics, and Multiplicities

by John C. Brady

Overturning the Catechism: A Catholic Argument for Abortion

by Riley Clare Valentine

Deleuze's "Ideas and The Synthesis of Difference"