Truth, abducted, is being held prisoner in the tower of falsehood, from whose high windows she calls out to be freed: so depicts Thomas Le Myésier in 1321. Riding to her rescue are three parties: At the front, Aristotle, armed with reason and the syllogistic apparatus of Greek logic; behind him, Averroes, armed with imagination and its wily short-cuts to destination truth which always elude Aristotle’s cumbersome reasoning; and at the rear, Ramon Lull, armed only with the revolving wheels of his Ars Demonstrativa. Lull’s paper wheels, precocious precursors to the brass wheels Leibniz installed in his Stepped Reckoner, mark the beginning of truth as a calculation housed in a machine. As Lull anticipated, machines of thought, being uncontaminated by the error that plagues human cogitation, were to think no falsehoods, and certainly to have no truck with alternative facts. Now again truth is imprisoned in the tower; this time it is shiny and golden. But the machines of thought, far from coming to her rescue, in their latest avatars of bubbles and bots have started to resemble the multicolored demons that hang from Le Myésier’s battlements: deformity, confusion, emptiness, contrariety, idleness, weakness, hatefulness, and error. Perhaps she is free and it is now us who are imprisoned in the new space of the machinations of Llull’s machine?
Francesca Hughes is an architectural theorist and educator who teaches at the Architectural Association and the Bartlett School of Architecture, London. Her publications include The Architect: Reconstructing her Practice (MIT Press, 1996), Drawings that Count (AA publications, 2013) and The Architecture of Error: Matter, Measure and the Misadventures of Precision (MIT Press, 2014). She is currently working on a pre-history of the Universal Discrete Machine. She is part of Hughes Meyer Studio whose work has been widely published.
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