Saturday, April 15, 2006

West African mathematics

When I was at college at Warwick, I met a few apocalyptic types, some of whom were close to insanity (too many drugs and too much thinking). In any place where sanity and insanity sit close together, there is an air of prescience around. This was true with Nick Land in the philosophy department: in 1993 we were already talking about the consequences of convergence, well over a decade before this became public domain discourse. There's an interesting short piece bringing in advanced Yoruba mathematics on a website run by some of those I studied with. It argues that Yoruba and Fon mathematical systems reveal a metaphysical sophistication that can only lie somewhere off in the future of advanced research in the West.

See this wiki article for more on how ifa divination works.


St Antonym 3:31 pm  

"The binary coding of traditional African knowledge systems, like that of their antecedents in modern computing networks, is neither rigid nor arhythmic; its beat is a heritage heard by those who listen to the future."

I'd tread carefully. There's nothing so dangerous as to overpraise a culture. This, more than any adverse criticism, is what can lay you open to the charge of...well, you've heard it all before, I don't need to repeat the ugly words.

In any case, it seems what the paper is driving at is that there seems to be a strong base-2 foundation to Ifa divination. This is true. And modern computers are founded on binary. This is also true.

What's difficult to claim is that there's a causal relationship between the two. This, in fact, rather reminds me of a paper I once read that tried to prove that Malian astronomy was far in advance of its European counterpart in (I think) the 19th century. Total hogwash, and embarrassing to read, especially for anyone with a grasp of scientific method.

Having said all that, there's much of deep value in so-called traditional cultures. For example, we seem to have the sacred task of preserving certain expressive values for humanity, the same way the Arabs preserved Greek manuscripts all through the European dark ages. The West is going through a kind of emotional dark age, and there's something of great importance, maybe more important than science and mathematics, that Africa has to bring to a world that's forgotten certain subtleties of human and societal interactions.

This is all the more reason why Nigerians should be at the vanguard of human rights!

Anonymous,  3:54 pm  

I find your postings amazing. You're so incredibly 'British' that it's almost amusing. You ponder the most inconsequential yet deep issues ever. I have your page bookmarked, and it's with growing amusement I read your posts. It's almost like "Let's see what the heck Jeremy is going to use big words to astonish us with today". LOL. You must be an intrigueing person to talk to. Probably not too exciting though. You actually make me want to jump on this whole 'blog' bandwagon.

It might not seem like it, but everything here is written in good humor. You just never cease to amaze me with these posts of yours. I'm still awaiting a day when you'll post about something remotely 'ordinary'. LOL

eshu 8:37 pm  

yes, did someone call for me?

اصدارات جديدة,  8:41 pm  

اصدارات جديدةst antonym

Jeremy 3:32 pm  

agreed sadhu Antonym. However, my interest is not so much in the black science potentially buried within ifa divination, but the black metaphysics. White metaphysics has yet to emerge out of its cartesian headjam (after nearly 500 years!) Mind refuses body and versa-vice. Only certain strands of existential phenomenology and Deleuze have shaken free. I look to Eshu the way others earlier in the Euro tradition of philosophy (from Nietzsche onwards) look to the Greeks for a pre-Roman energetic sense of being and becoming.

eshu 3:43 pm  

you are welcome Jeremy

baba sala,  2:20 pm  


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