Keller Easterling

He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad.
—Jesus Christ, Matthew 12:29-31 King James Version

The same mistake would be made by a child witnessing the march-past of a division, who, having had pointed out to him such and such battalions, batteries, squadrons, etc., asked when the division was going to appear.

The theoretically interesting category-mistakes are those made by people who are perfectly competent to apply concepts, at least in the situations with which they are familiar, but are still liable in their abstract thinking to allocate those concepts to logical types to which they do not belong.
—Gilbert Ryle, The Concept of Mind (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1949)

In his book The Concept of Mind (1949), Gilbert Ryle introduced the notion of the category mistake to describe a seemingly nonsensical mixture of logics. For instance, one mistakes a part for a whole or inverts levels in a hierarchy. The child confuses a division with a battalion or a squadron when it is the overarching category. After a tour of the entire campus the visitor asks, “Where is the university?” Ryle used the category mistake to demonstrate that the mind often escapes Cartesian logics. To believe that the mind is contained within a singular dominant logic is itself nonsensical. A bemused Ryle noted that non-conforming phenomena must, in that event, be treated as “ghosts in the machine.”

When Jesus said, “He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad,” he made a category mistake—one hardened with an extra messianic twist. Jesus declared that anything in the world that does not include him is something that excludes him—implying that everything in the world is somehow governed by or concerned with Jesus. Jesus is the larger category within which everything in the world must be contained. Yet he also identifies a parallel world outside of his own—the world in which one can wantonly “scattereth abroad.” That space is then a strange phantom space, a vacancy of some sort that can only be defined by the rejection of Jesus. It is an imponderable, a non-conforming, not-Jesus space—a “ghost in the machine.” Jesus conflated the narrower realm (himself) with the broader domain just like the child who tries to find the broader designation within the narrower designation. But Jesus also makes the über-category mistake of declaring irrelevant or unknowable the gigantic space where people “scattereth abroad.”

While Ryle used the category mistake to identify the limits of Cartesian logics, it is also a useful symptom of any dominant logic with universal claims. In even the richest and most heterogeneous environments, ostensive isomorphism and rhapsodic absolutes of meaning are common. They usually involve the anointing of an approach or a subset of skills as pure, elevated or totalizing. While one would typically consider this move to reflect religiosity or exclusivity, it is also instructive to understand it as a category mistake. The identification of a category mistake helps to break the conundrum that occurs when a dominant logic takes on the messianic posture of declaring that it is everything.

In a critical discourse, one might challenge or argue with this messianic posture, yet most messianic characters know that attracting criticality on pre-ordained terms only enhances a campaign for omnipotence. Messiahs are primarily interested in keeping the attention on themselves, even if it means adopting an even more absolute position to attract contention. Arguing with Jesus, then, compounds the über-category mistake since it reinforces or reifies the dominant logic. It is best not to argue with Jesus. It is perhaps better to leave him alone.

An ability to detect the category mistake allows one to stand just outside the bounds of these absolutes, pointing to and working with the thumping extrinsic evidence found there. It allows one to focus on all of the material of potential creativity that is excluded from a dominant logic rather than merely quarreling with it. The category mistake can be a trap door into the vast pasture of options beyond the circular conundrums of recursive logic. With this expanded mandate the category mistake becomes a metacritical tool that is in constant use, kept at hand, or worn on a string around one’s neck.

"Superbug"

Log 39 Spring 2017 — March 15, 2017

"The Histories of Things That Don’t Happen and Shouldn’t Always Work"

Arjun Appadurai and Arien Mack, eds., Failure: Social Research International Quarterly — September 1, 2016

"Split Screen"

Ilke and Andreas Ruby, eds., Infrastructure Space, Holcim Foundation (Ruby Press). — 2016

"Things That Don’t Always Work"

Ryan Bishop, Kristoffer Gansing, Jussi Parikka and Elvia Wilk, eds., Across and Beyond—A Transmediale Reader on Post-digital Practices, Concepts, and Institutions — 2016

"A Man a Tree and and Ax"

Lola Sheppard and Maya Przybylski, eds., Bracket: At Extremes (Barcelona: Actar). — November 1, 2016

Encounters with Climate

Encounters with Climate

“Encounters with Climate” in James D. Graham, ed., Climates: Architecture and the Planetary Imaginary (Columbia Books on Architecture and the City/Lars Muller Publishers, 2015). — 2016

Infra-read: Interview by Jesse Seegers

Infra-read: Interview by Jesse Seegers

Pin-Up — May 1, 2016

<em>ARQ 92: Excepiones</em>

ARQ 92: Excepiones

April 1, 2016

Protocols of Interplay

Protocols of Interplay

Volume: The System — April 1, 2016

The Dispositions of Theory

The Dispositions of Theory

James Graham, ed.,The Urgencies of Architectural Theory (New York, GSAPP Books) — 2015

An Internet of Things

An Internet of Things

reprint in Brian Kuan Wood, Julieta Aranda and Anton Vidokle eds., e-flux journal: The Internet Does Not Exist (Sternberg Press). — 2015

Interview

Interview

Arqa — 2011

Pandas: A Rehearsal

Pandas: A Rehearsal

Cornell Journal of Architecture — 2011

Fresh Fields

Fresh Fields

Coupling: Pamphlet Architecure 30 Infranet Lab/Lateral Office (New York: Princeton Architectural Press) — 2011

Rumor

Rumor

Megan Born and Lily Jencks, eds, Via: Dirt, University of Pennsylvania — 2012

Come to Things

Come to Things

Metahaven and Marina Vishmidt, eds., Uncorporate Identity (Zürich: Lars Müller) — 2010

Graduate Sessions No. 9

Graduate Sessions No. 9

Syracuse University — 2010

The Activist Entrepreneur

The Activist Entrepreneur

John Wriedt ed., Architecture: From the Outside In (New York: Princeton Architectural Press) — 2010

World City Doubles

World City Doubles

Roldolphe El-Khoury and Edward Robbins, ed., Shaping the City: Studies in History, Theory and Urban Design (Routledge). — June 1, 2013

In the Briar Patch

In the Briar Patch

Jonathan Solomon ed., Sustain and Develop 306090 Volume 13 (New York: 306090, Inc.) — 2009

The Agent: Interview with Neeraj Bhatia

The Agent: Interview with Neeraj Bhatia

The Agent No. 0 — May 1, 2014

Absolute Submission

Absolute Submission

Crisis, a collaboration of C-Lab and Urban China — September 15, 2008

Without Claims to Purity

Without Claims to Purity

aX, vol. 1+2 (Winter) — 2008

Megabuilding

Megabuilding

Architektura 4, 163 (Kwiecien) — 2009

Intermediate Points of Interest

Intermediate Points of Interest

Gaby Brainard, Rustam Mehta, and Thom Moran eds., Perspecta 41 Grand Tour — 2008

The Knowledge

The Knowledge

Volume 13: Ambition — 2007

Disposition: In_site

Disposition: In_site

In_Site: A Dynamic Equilibrium, In_Site 05 (Friessen) — 2007

Foreword

Foreword

Young Architects 7: Situating, catalog of Architectural League's Young Architects competition and exhibition (New York: Princeton Architectural Press) — 2006

Other Aggressions and Maneuvers

Other Aggressions and Maneuvers

The Last Mile, photography catalog Satya Pemmaraju (Gallery SKE) — 2007

Non-statecraft

Non-statecraft

Maghreb Connection: Movements of Life Across North Africa (Barcelona: ACTAR) — 2007

Not Everything

Not Everything

Volume 2: Not Everything — 2005

Architect-at-Large

Architect-at-Large

Volume 1 — 2005

With Satellites: Remote Sending in South Asia and the Middle East

With Satellites: Remote Sending in South Asia and the Middle East

Brian McGrath and Grahame Shane eds., AD, Sensing the 21st Century: Close-up and Remote Vol. 75 No. 6 — 2005

Offshore

Offshore

Anselm Frank and Eyal Weizman, eds., Territories: the Frontiers of Utopia and Other Facts on the Ground (Berlin: Verlag der Buchhandlung Walther König) — 2004

Orgman

Orgman

Stephen Graham, ed., The Cybercities Reader (London: Routledge) — 2003

Subtraction

Subtraction

Perspecta 34: Temporary Architecture (MIT Press) — 2003

Tomato World

Tomato World

Praxis 4: Landscapes — January 1, 2002

A-Ware

Journal of Architectural Education, special digital issue — January 1, 2002

Wildcards: a Game of Orgman

Wildcards: a Game of Orgman

Metalocus 5 — 2000

Interchange and Container: The New Orgman

Interchange and Container: The New Orgman

Perspecta 30 Settlement Patterns — 1999

A Short Contemplation on Money and Comedy

A Short Contemplation on Money and Comedy

Thresholds 18 (MIT) — 1999

Distributive Protocols: Residential Formations

Distributive Protocols: Residential Formations

Beauty is Nowhere: Ethical Issues in Art and Design (Routledge) — 1998

American Town Plans excerpt

ANY — 1993

Siting Protocols

Siting Protocols

Peter Lang, ed., Suburban Discipline (Storefront Books) — 1997

Call it Home

Assemblage 24 — 1994

Perceiving Action

Offramp, SCI-ARC Journal, vol. 1, no. 5 — 1993

Switch

Switch

City Speculations (New York: Princeton Architectural Press) — 1996