continuity vs binary:long

Mon, 30 Oct 1995 10:14:01 EST

I am replying to Matt Tomaso's comment; I suppose I wasn't very clear.

What I am trying to say, is that meaning only exists within a
confined, separate 'unit'. (Actually, not a unit, but an action).
Pure amorphous energy is meaningless; it has to be locked into a
discrete quantum, even if only for one millionth of a second, in
order to exist...which is, to be meaningful.

A system that confines and organizes energy, is a code system.
Therefore by its very nature, a code system is an action of
differentiating something-from-something else. This differentiation
action is an aspect of all 'coming-into-existence'. It is not the
same as binarism, but is simply a separation of energy into discrete
or meaningful parts. eg.. I hear many sounds, and one sound
becomes distinct..and I recognize that it is a distinct
differentiated from a whole mass of other sounds. Nothing to do with
contrast, no value judgment, just differentiation.

At any rate, differentiation from Otherness is not binarism..just
separation, distinction-from Other(s). All the other sounds that I am
hearing in the night, are not clear, are not differentiated. All I
have picked out, is a particular sound. Code systems help me do this,
but then, code system continue on, and help me understand this sound
not merely as 'distinct' from other 'noise', but as meaningful. The
code system assigns a value to that sound. It is a cat's meow.

Code systems are not necessarily binary. They exist within a variety
of formats. They can be continuous. The numbers on a thermometer mean
something, in a continuous relationship to other numbers; this is not
binary. These continuities can be made hierarchical; separate status
levels within multiple castes. Clans differentiated from each other
and then differentiated into phratries and then moieties. These
differentiations are all factors of encoding, of organizing 'loose
energy' into meaning. They do this by relating different forms of
existence to each other. This is differentiation, as far as I am

Binarism is something else, and perhaps I am holding too limited a
view of it. To me, a binaristic code is one that differentiates (all
code systems must do this) by establishing a closed bond between two
entities. That's the key factor; the closed bond. In a normal
differentiation, the entity is differentiated from Other..and this
Other is not defined, is not is simply not the Entity.
But in the binary code, the Entity is bonded to the Other. BOTH are
defined. That's the other key; both are defined, and as opposite to
each other. Both forms need each other, in a perverse way.
They are really not two entities, but bonded to each other. I
consider this a 'degenerate code', because it traps meaning into that
negative bond. Meaning cannot exist when trapped; it must be
accessible to variation. There are lots of closed meanings (read
Roland Barthes- milk/wine eg)...and I find them hermeneutic and
unreal. Essentially, binaristic codes have, I feel, a functional but
very limited use in a society. (red/green= stop/go). They cannot
'talk' about very much, and are established to limit meaning/action.

To me, differentiation and binarism are two different things. In a
code system, the latter has a confining and limited use; it is
dangerous and explosive if it becomes too dominant. The fact that
Levi-Strauss was considering colours as differentiated - fine; that's
part of any codal system. That he put them as oppositional may have
been part of the code system..but I think it important to find out
the operative limits of any binary code system.

Any clearer?

Edwina Taborsky
Bishop's University Phone: (819)822.9600
Lennoxville, Quebec Fax: (819)822.9661
Canada JIM 1Z7