Currents in logic made ancient, for OS 9. An artist project bringing together the fragments of Heraclitus and the calculus of truth tables.
For the pre-Socratic philosopher Heraclitus (c. 540–480 BCE), language, like the natural world, is constantly in flux. All things are mutable, contrary qualities exist in the same thing, and everywhere things become their opposites. Heraclitus saw this set of circumstances as enriching language: It is what allows for the existence of poetry, and also what makes a definitive articulation of metaphysics impossible.
Truth tables determine the logical validity of a proposition, listing the truth values obtained from all the possible combinations of its components. Each component is signified by a variable, and each connective between them by a symbol that indicates the nature of the connection, whether conjunctive, conditional, or disjunctive. Deductive logic employs truth tables in order to reduce language to a system of unambiguous signs, whose fundamental purpose becomes the production of logically sound statements.
Heraclitus Series is an experiment in the logic of allegory. If language is subject to constant change, then employing it to discover some permanent relationship between the components of a proposition is pointless. In the five truth tables presented here—themselves relics of an obsolete operating system, OS 9—lines from Heraclitus’s fragments, his only surviving work, replace the variables meant to determine the validity of a logical proposition. The language of analysis becomes the language of experience, and a tool used to systematize thought is no longer a tool, but a proposition itself—or a screen shot of one.