Crypto-Current (008)

§0.2 — Chapter Two explores the reciprocal application of transcendental philosophy and the Bitcoin protocol to each other. It is proposed that the critical triple skein of ontological difference, subtraction of transcendence, and temporalization can be pursued, without significant interruption, into the analysis of Bitcoin. It takes Satoshi Nakamoto’s (2008) Bitcoin paper as its basic text, since this is what the word Bitcoin – by informally-standardized cultural convention – names.

§0.21 — Bitcoin is first broached as a philosophical topic, and thus, subsequently, as a mode of philosophical access to other things. Philosophy is required to concede much, in following this track, especially in regard to the traditionally-conceived cultural and institutional bases of its own authority. The order of discussion follows the course of the problem – the double-spending problem (DSP) as it is nominated – which is understood critically, not only as a practical obstacle to functional cryptographic currency, but also as a philosophical topic of radical generality. Duplicity in its deepest and broadest sense is the target.* The DSP cannot be resolved, then, without simultaneously bringing singularity into the fold of formal engineering. The concrete execution of the Bitcoin protocol provides a peculiarly vivid demonstration of the socio-technical (machinic, or techonomic) production of abstract singularities. Anything else would be cheating.

§0.211 — Critique – the critique of metaphysics – is philosophy (as a current undertaking). It is what philosophy has irreversibly become. Insofar as these terms still diverge, however minutely, there is a task that remains uncompleted. Philosophy establishes itself in modernity by way of auto-critique. ‘Like’ Capital it is a path with firm direction, but without destination (the path is the destination). It exists only by perpetually overcoming itself. Critical – or diagonal – method is a tool through which philosophy is definitively exhausted. Its sole product is immanence. The rigorously complementary formulation asserts: Residual transcendence is the negative of the philosophical undertaking. The systematization of the synthetic a priori is the model of diagonalization in philosophy. Bitcoin is therefore in the very strictest sense a critical enterprise, targeting “trusted third parties” as superfluous metaphysical structures. Immanence is its techonomic – or socio-historical – rather than its merely reflective-conceptual output (or production).

§0.2111 — Critical method coincides exactly with diagonal argument. It identifies pseudo-tautologies and proceeds through their complementary pseudo-paradoxes. The synthetic a priori is the model. Circuits are diagonals.** They do not resolve in one way or another, but always between, either in a hunt for equilibrium, or a flight through inter-excitation.

§0.22 — Analytic-synthetic difference registers cryptographic asymmetry within philosophy. It marks the irreversible. In keeping with the mainstream critical tradition, the formulation of methodical procedure is subsumed into the problem of time. The philosophical problem of time, it might be said, if this were not an invitation to misunderstanding. Restoration of transcendental temporality, or absolute succession, is a philosophical achievement only insofar as the process of philosophy has been thoroughly dis-anthropomorphized, technicized, economized, and (thus) spontaneously materialized. The realization of the idea is only accomplished in the machine. Auto-materialization is so essential to the critical process that it amounts to an intrinsic destiny. Critique cannot consolidate itself other than as historical modernity. It would be a redundancy, or merely emphatic, to add: in reality. Mechanization is nothing but mechanization in reality, and in fact compresses further, to sheer realization, or production.

§0.221 — Natural philosophy – which achieves intellectual autonomy as physics – lies directly in the path of the question of time. In particular, it has radically re-framed transcendental aesthetic within cosmological spacetime, where absolute temporality finds no place. Bitcoin can only interrupt this apparent tendency to theoretical detemporalization, since there can be no resolution of the DSP without strictly determinable succession. Bitcoin and time restoration are finally indistinguishable.

§0.23 — Network thinking – as instantiated by the Bitcoin protocol – complies with the pre-eminent contemporary operationalization of transcendental philosophy (which is considered here, with a maximum of strategic vehemence, to be exactly synonymous with critique). A reliable expectation follows, that Internet production is accompanied by format / data differentiation (into ‘layers’), eradication of transcendence (absence of ‘critical’ nodes), and temporalization (primordial production of absolute succession, or post-relativistic order). The network – radically conceived – is a quasi-teleological manifestation, tending towards the actualization of a principle that is itself emergent, and which functions as a criterion of intelligibility.*** In consequence, any network can be evaluated with reference to an abstract model of self-reproducing decentralization. Bitcoin exemplifies – which is to say realizes – this process with exceptional starkness.

* Duplicity is not merely error, but the malicious instigation of error. Once again, cryptography schools philosophy in realism here. ‘Confusion’ is, in this case, primarily enemy action. An effective response therefore exceeds epistemology, or cognitive self-correction. Doubling spending is more than a mistake. The requirement is not only for intellectual adjustment, but for a procedure that automatically secures resilient singularity, against attack. Knowledge is situated on a battlefield. It is this that constitutes Bitcoin’s principal achievement.

** “I think this is a reference to Bishop in Aliens,” suggested the anonymous ‘ClarkHat’ ingeniously, when this proposition was initially floated on Twitter. (Such entirely supplementary semiotic production exemplifies the surplus value of code.)

*** Given sufficient – i.e. radical – critical correction of classical conceptions, the network is an Idea in the strong (Platonic) sense and, still more definitely, an Aristotelian causally-efficient End (telos). It allows for judgments of adequate approximation and actualization, respectively. Subtraction of super-ordinate instances – i.e. metaphysical impositions – is the criterion, in either case. Through elimination of privileged or commanding nodes, a network is unambiguously improved, relative to its model. It is no less unambiguously enhanced relative to its intrinsic finality. Flatness is the ideal, and the goal. This is not, of course, to be confused with any psychological conception of purpose, or adequation. It is ‘merely’ the directive influence of equilibrium, or – to invoke a more recent coinage – ‘attractor states’ upon the partially-coherent evolution of a system. There are better (or worse) networks, independent of any reference to subjective judgment. In consequence, there is a real gradient to modern history. Only at the most superficial level of evaluation is Bitcoin a popularity contest. The conflict it survives is far more serious.