The Alan Sondheim Mail Archive

November 9, 2008

(written under zero sleep, apologies, but there's 'something here')

The What-If layout jpgs

The last theoretical, what to do when exhausted to
the point of trembling or shuddering, unchecked for
reason, false grammar, confusion:

Vaihinger and Bentham both developed the concept of fictions or the as-if
in relation to the real: as if the perceived real were real, as if reifi-
cation were the state of things - as if the real were within the simile
and subjunctive.

The what-if simultaneously doubles and reduces the as-if: Doubles, since
it proposes an alternative branching or possible world which is an as-if
within the as-if of th real - and reduces, since a fictionalized as-if
(that is, the as-if as fiction) branched into the aegis of a dominant
fiction no longer subjunctive - the what-if as production or temporal
process creates a fiction without split - no longer 'as-if X were real
within a perceived world that is necessarily split,' but an X which is all
the real there is within a generated world or simulacrum.

The what-if simultaneously quadruples and collapses: Quadruples, since the
epistemology splits and what is real has also divided - and collapses,
since the fiction is ontologically degree-zero; one might also approach
this in terms of codes and replaced or augmented codes, or replaced or
augmented scripts or objects, therefore basic operations of annihilation,
creation, displacement, condensation, substitution, branching and

The what-if does nothing and everything: Nothing, since ontology remains
as before, and the model - for that is what we are introducing - utilizes
the same fundamental rues, protocols, codes, and principles - and every-
thing, since what occurs is the construct of a new universe, related to
the old, but with a modification, however small.

The what-if places the world within which an enunciation is made, within
the subjunctive; it is always a time-dependent process.

Any real or virtual movement within real or virtual worlds is a time-
dependent process. But what-if is a movement with a diacritical mark or

The mark need not be within the real or virtual world; it may be within
the world of the spectator.

From the outside, a change is created within the gamespace. The rules
within the gamespace are the same as before.

A change is made from without to within. A demarcation occurs, a
separation of the gamespace into before and after.

Gamespace is always already before and after; the separation occurs on a

The separation is semiotic and the construction of a semiotic.

The separation is a figure of speech.

There is speaking within and speaking without; a model might insist on
these distinctions: go from real through virtual through channel through
virtual through real.

Of course what is real is virtual and what is virtual is real. Of course
the channel is simultaneously real and virtual; one might argue that the
channel is the diacritical mark, the demarcation itself.

The demarcation may be fuzzy. The change from X to X' may be sufficiently
complex as to prohibit or occlude a transformation. A transformation may
occur - the result of a what-if process - without being noticed; there may
be no notification or a misplaced or misrecognized notification.

So what-if implies an impending modification within a sememe from without;
it splits from itself, constructs on a meta-level, a semiotic which breaks
through and within the discursive. The transformation within the real
virtual, from X to X' is always already sutured; the break, again, occurs
within the subject hirself outside of, or constructing an outside-of, the

Needless to say the what-if may be nothing more than conversational, i.e.
what if the sky were green? It may or may not result in a process applied
from without to an ostensible subject. The ostensible subject, gamespace,
world, etc. may appear, from without, broken or of interest or anomalous
or cohering or 'the same as before' within the epistemological limits of
whatever transformations are already going on. The ostensible subject is
the subject of the subject applying the what-if, that is, the external
subject, placed as well, reflexively perhaps, within the subjunctive.
Whether or not anything is 'really' carried out.

The what-if, then; is always already a thought-experiment as well, no
matter what happens later or what happens reflexively, or even within the
case where nothing happens at all.

One might say that the human project implies thrownness into and through-
out the what-if on a continuous basis, that everything and nothing is
happening, that this happening is a model for human existence and

And in this light, a model perhaps of every organic existence and behavior
- but one might well ask if all organisms are capable of the subjunctive
in the sense used here? I would say no, that the subjunctive implies
something which, if not uniquely human, at least implies an intelligence
organized according to a just-so, which is rarely found otherwise in the

Roughly, it has to do with stewardship and dominion as well, placing the
world we witness, real or virtual or worlding, under the subjunctive: to
be human is to live within the semiotic of the subjunctive.

And here, within a specified virtual world, one carries out experiments
telling or foretelling, floundered and foundered on the subjunctive - this
these experiments might be taken as fundamental as well to any human
project, if such there be. Perhaps this virtual world lacks a sense of,
lacks the catastrophic; perhaps it is this lack which permits the what-if
a discursive and reified operation. Perhaps, only just at our moment and
in this configuration, perhaps nothing more.

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