“Perhaps it would not satisfy completely, and that is what the esteemed author would have for all the diligence employed, whereas with a promise he could easily benefit himself and others even more than if he had written a prodigy of a system.”
“When the word “mediation” is merely mentioned, everything becomes so magnificent and grandiose that I do not feel well but am oppressed and chafed. Have compassion on me in only this one respect; exempt me from mediation …”
Kierkegaard – Prefaces
Here, I wish to make certain connections between the various articles on this site. For these connections, I take the metaphor of bridges. Some of these bridges should be straight freeways, undergirded with iron, but many will seem for now like ricketty precarious swinging walkways, with shaky handrails of bamboo and old rope. Above, I quote Kierkegaard satirizing systematic philosophers who, in the wake of Hegel, give promissory notes to the effect that they will soon deliver “The System” – for him, the note is, for its merciful brevity, preferable to the full-blown system. Kierkegaard, like Nietzsche, distrusted such systematizers, feeling that their systematization is inevitably also a falsification, forcing reality onto the mythical procrustean bed.
My “bridges” could be the equivalent of Kierkegaard’s promissory notes of, or perhaps more in lieu of, “The System” – I have the system-builder’s ambition, but alas, maybe not the stamina. So rather than here unveiling a pristine, crystalline architectonic, I will attempt to indicate some sort of unity by way of noting linkages between concepts across all the different articles. Without at least a glance at the other articles, what I say here will seem at best gnomic; this is not intended as an introduction, so do not start here.
NOTE: I have considered the use of hyperlinks, but for now don’t want to insert them for stylistic reasons.
Highlands and Lowlands
Most of my thought is underpinned by a generally “materialist” outlook, with which I was once preoccupied for a long while, but which is hardly directly argued for in these writings – the nearest would be some remarks in “The Mind Ouroboros”. However, I hope that a materialist / naturalist / physicalist / realist sensibility is easily detected in general.
Materialism is usually taken as a position within metaphysics, or ontology, and realism as a position within epistemology. Materialism, to put it in the simplest way possible, is the belief that matter is more fundamental than mind – that mind is a form of, an arrangement of, matter, which sometimes arises. Realism, again to put it in the simplest way possible, is the belief that there is a real world, which exists independently of our thoughts, and that we can and do know something of it.
The materialist orientation is hardly unusual or remarkable in philosophy, but at some point my materialism took a novel inflection into an awareness and recognition of the importance of relations, patterns, and regularities, and this metaphysical notion is for the moment best expressed in the post “Relationalism”.
Parallel to this inflection of materialism into relationalism is an inflection of my realism by an acknowlegement of the importance of schemata – a Kantian element. This is elucidated at the start of “The Mind Ouroboros” in the first section, “Frames”.
Relationalism is a very speculative and rudimentary attempt to expound a metaphysics based primarily on relations, using graph-theoretical notions, and this misty highland connects with the lower lands of pattern and regularity, both very much relationalist concepts, and maximization. One need not commit to the extreme version of relationalism of the article, but merely be prepared to give relationships their ontological due. Certainly, Patterns does not oblige one to my idea of Relationalism, since patterns can be across objects, properties, and other ontological categories.
With pattern and regularity, we must group maximization. Maximization is a core concept within my aesthetics, but transcends this – in its subjective aspect, it is a vital task of mind to identify patterns. In its objective aspect, it is a feature of complexity, indeed in algorithmic information theory a definition of complexity.
Relationalism, pattern, regularity and maximization, and schemata and frames, all fit very well with the generally formalist tendency at the core of the article Aesthetics.
Complexity deals with cyclicity, a general feature of life and metabolism, and The Mind Ouroboros with Edelman’s concept of re-entrance, the psychological form of the same. A unity of life and mind is discernible.
Between Ontology and Schemata, it is difficult to decide which constitutes the highland and which the lowland. In a sense, the two are roughly equivalent. For Kant, the Categories (the top-level ontology) are more basic than the schemata, which are something like a temporalisation of the Categories in their grasping of sense-data.
A top-level ontology is an attempt to specify the way frames or schemata usually fall in terms of their most abstract categories, which would make top-level ontology the highlands of ontology and schemata. However, top-level ontology is a species of ontology, and thus at a lower level: a species of ontology in general!
Another consideration is that Ontology is often regarded as a fundamental division of philosophy, and so a highland. Really, here, I regard the two concepts (Ontology and Schemata) as intimately related, and it is a matter of the specific enquiry which is the higher.
A related question might be why the relation of Ontology to Metaphysics is not more clearly elucidated. My main excuse is that my Kantian tack leads me to consider Ontology primarily under the umbrella of Epistemology. In another sense of the use of the term Ontology, it is, like my metaphysics, materialist – in objective terms, if we are considering “matter” and “mind” as ontological categories, I, like all materialists worthy of the name, regard the former as primary.
Similarly, Complexity should be taken as falling under Materialism, perhaps with “emergence” and “levels” as stops on the bridge, and then up to the highlands, perhaps by way of Relationalism.
Bridges of Duality – The Importance of Trade
“Duality” is in many ways the acceptable face of dualism: it is a mastered opposition, often, once grasped, expressed with the metaphor “two sides of the same coin”. To continue in an economic mode of metaphor, a duality is two islands linked by the bridge of commerce – each side of a duality needs the other.
The most significant duality is that between patterns and schemata. Without some purchase on the identification of patterns or regularities, schemata and ontology would be merely an unmotivated classification exercise or procedure. The whole raison d’etre for a schema or an ontology is as an aid to identifying patterns, primarily at and for our level and manner of existence.
Re-entrance has a duality with frames / schemata, but is more fundamental, re-entrance being a feature of neurological organization, and frames / schemata a higher-level concept. “The Mind Ouroboros” indicates their unity (in the section “Squaring the Circle”).
Another important duality is that between complexity and creativity; complexity, the more primary of the pair, is both cause of a need for, and the means by which we can achieve, creativity. Complexity, emergence, and a sort of openness within nature are, in a manner of speaking, the “creativity” of the objective world.
I include Darwinian evolutionary theory (the theory of natural selection) within complexity theory, as its most well-established aspect. Stuart Kauffman has perhaps been the most forthright in arguing that, though an immense achievement, it might not be the only major framework needed. He proposes, quite plausibly, his own theory of spontaneous self-organization as another such framework.
I note in Aesthetics but will repeat here the affinity between Darwinian evolution and creativity – both involve a binary of mutation / variation, and selection; a random element and a selective element.
Within complexity, there is something of a duality between the aspect of complexity considered in my article on Maximization – algorithmic complexity; and the aspect of complexity considered in my article on Complexity – which looks more to those thinkers rooted in the thermodynamics of open systems, and evolutionary theory. This duality is partly one of description and explanation – the algorithmic approach is descriptive, even quantitative, and the thermodynamic / evolutionary approach explanatory of how complexity arises in the real, most notably the biological, world.
Cyclicity has a strong duality with closure. If either is regarded as having primacy, it would be cyclicity. However closure, though here treated as being in a duality with cyclicity and as subordinate to cyclicity, is nevertheless extremely important; it underpins the very possibility of frames, schemata, formalism, and so on, in their widest sense. It is also related to insulation, dealt with in Aesthetics. The most base idea of closure of which we can conceive is a membrane or skin, a kind of physical boundary. [Topology of no breaks – sphere, torus, etc.] Higher levels become much more informational and virtual. Perhaps the easiest way of stressing the importance of closure, and perhaps essentially Kantian, is this – Without closure, no consciousness.
Mainlands and Islands
“No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.”
Dualisms and Distant Lands
By contrast to “Duality”, “Dualism”, its evil twin, must, for a monist, denote an unmastered, at least as yet, opposition. The thinker himself may not be the best identifier of weaknesses and contradictions within his own thought, but even so I’ll indicate a couple of potential sources of instability –
I would like at some point to tighten and clarify the relationship between my materialism and my patternism, as there may be an issue over whether we should be realist or nominalist, in the old scholastic terminology, regarding relations and patterns. Materialism still seems to have substance on its side, despite all the desubstantialization in modern, for example, quantum, science, as the “fire in the relations”, to twist a term from Hawking.
Similarly, my realism and my Kantian frame / schema orientation may be unstable. Evolutionary epistemology might help me here, but it remains to be seen.
Distant lands are – Ethics, Theology, Sociology and Political Theory, and a closer engagement with the life-blood of poetry.
“Far from proceeding by the auto-production of concepts, Marx’s thought proceeds rather by the position of concepts, inaugurating the exploration (analysis) of the theoretical space opened and closed by this position, then by the position of a new concept, enlarging the theoretical field, and so on, up to the constitution of theoretical fields of an extreme complexity.” Althusser
Some of the ideas in this article presented as a graph –
The artworks sampled above are –
Bridge at Iwakuni – Hasegawa Settan.