On the Transformative Function of the Shift of Aspect in Structures
1.1  

Forms of life and thought (including eg cultural and social forms, etc) constitute both a stable structure of relationships and a transformative process. They may be seen as a structure of fixed relations between determinate entities, or as a dynamic process transforming the pattern of relations between the elements which constitute the structure. [2/2:5]

1.2

In viewing cultural and other forms as structures, we may lose this sense of their dynamic aspect, their capacity to accommodate differing interpretations in shifting patterns of relations. [2/1:7]

1.3

History itself is a structure of the type described above. It forms a continuum - yet embodies numerous ends and beginnings and has many different centres. It is both a stable structure of relations and a transformative process. [1/1:10]

1.4

The elements which constitute a form of life (as mutually determining parts of a whole) establish both its limits and aspects of what lies beyond its limits. They may, for example, be seen as ends or beginnings by a change of aspect. [2/168:2]

1.5

Interpretations are contextually-determined and to that extent exclusive; associating a feature or event with the end of a period or phase, excludes the possibility of seeing it as an aspect of the beginning; seeing it either way, excludes the possibility of seeing it as a link, or perhaps as an aspect of the continuity behind transformations. [2/26:2]

1.6

These concepts in this order are the boundary dividing a form of life from other such forms. This is the organisation or order which must be overcome - logically or rhetorically. [1/164:12]

1.7

What lies in one cultural or historical phase is logically isolated from another. Minds are disengaged from the thinking of the past by new perspectives which vanquish ideas as links to the past by incorporating them. The passage from an age to a succeeding age aims, not to link the realms, but to facilitate progress. The sensibility of people living in the preceding age becomes inaccessible to those who follow - and to anybody who endorses their perspectives. [2/32:2]

1.8

In contemplating the passage of ideas from one age to another we shift between absolutes. [2/32:2]

1.9

Related difficulties arise in the interpretation of history (historiography) when a series of events or ideas which form a continuity are isolated by analysis - seeming then to lack a discoverable continuity. Collingwood attempted to surmount this difficulty by locating the origins of one cultural phase in the preceding period. In a sense this is where they are - the thinker's intervention itself halting the sequence whereby one context transforms and is transformed by the significance of events embodied in another. (See 1.3-8 above.) [s2/85]

1.10

Halting it, however, doesn't allow the thinker to inspect the mechanism of change..... [s2/85]

1.11

Within any perspective an event must be assigned to one locus or another. There is no neutral ground between one historical phase and the next and if there were it would not do; history cannot leap chasms. The foot, as it were, must be in one step or the other - since it is the steps we are intent on seeing. (See 2.24.1-4; also 3.7.5.) [2/121:5-8]

1.12

The boundaries which divide forms of life and historical and cultural phases are determined by the observer's perspective. The denizens of history were not baulked by them because they form an end or a beginning only in the context of what followed and is seen to have followed. Whoever thinks otherwise confounds their own point of view with the perspectives available to those whom they study and the furniture of their world. Boundaries established within the context of the observer's attention to history have become dissociated from this perspective. [2/121:5-8]

1.13

What may trouble us here is that the boundaries established by the relationships formed within this conceptual framework don't exist within the conceptual domain of the people who lived in those times. History acquires them retrospectively, in the context of the disciplines employed to study and gain knowledge of it. [2/121:5-8]

1.14

The implication seems to be that since ends and beginnings are introduced by historiography, they owe their existence to it. This is true only in the sense that the significance of anything is determined by the relations invoked in forming a conception of it (which may or may not be valid). The same point applies to any subject or way of seeing and doesn't in itself detract from a subject's autonomy, though other factors may undermine it. [2/121:5-8; 2/133:7]

1.15

For example, the casual observer examining the past through the perspective of his or her own culture will see many of its features as the primitive antecedents of those in present day society. This is inevitable given a context lacking any more appropriate means of interpretation. But the term 'primitive' has no function or meaning in the culture it is used to describe. As a tool of interpretation (often reductive) it originates in the observer's culture - deriving its meaning from the application to an alien culture. People who make use of it might claim that it does refer to qualities of this culture and though the features wouldn't be present in this form without the interpreting context, it is true it doesn't make them primitive. The significance of the observation is probably undermined, however, by appending the past to the present without considering its intrinsic worth or difference. [2/153:8]

1.16

A similar point may be made in respect of the relationship between remote periods in the earth's pre-history and the descriptions provided by contemporary science of the events then occurring. The scientist's way of seeing reality is historically determinate - it evolved at a particular time in a particular cultural form. The events described don't have an absolute autonomy; their autonomy occurs within the context of the relationship between scientific discourse and what it describes. We don't see this; instead by some deft agency a form of knowledge registers the dissociated aspect of its own determining relationship to the past as a free-standing event. The past becomes disengaged from the perspective which yields it. Once it exists, it seems what is known must exist in that form for everybody unconditionally. The contribution the determining context makes in forming an indistinguishable aspect of the events yielded by the scientific interpretation becomes inscrutable. [2/355:2; 2/361:5]



On the Relationship of Mind to What is Known
1.1  

Concerning the view (expressed in notes 4.15.1-10 and 4.17.8-9) that the relationship between autonomous entities (eg the image of a pen resting on the page of a magazine) distinguishes these entities from the apprehending mind; at first sight the claim is confusing because these relationships seem not to distinguish things when the mind apprehends them rightly. In such instances because the pattern of relations between things coincides with the pattern of relations between the ideas of them in the mind, the two are indistinguishable. [2/375:3]

1.2

Nevertheless the determining relationships between the entities conceived do distinguish them from our concepts or experiences of these relationships (though the distinction can only be pursued through the ideas and experiences we have of things) and as far as our experience of this difference is concerned it is that the mind's arrangements may encounter a resistance which manifests itself as a pattern we don't control disrupting the arrangements intended to comprehend it. This disruption is beyond the mind in the sense of not being part of its arrangements, not in the sense it isn't conceived or experienced. [-]

1.3

Contrary to our impression of being 'behind' the thinking, the mind doesn't stand outside this process, but becomes distinguishable from it by a shift of aspect - as an organising presence within the medium of reality expressed. Thus can the apprehending mind become indistinguishable from what is expressed or experienced (as the dancer from the dance), yet remain distinguishable by its affinities - establishing its identity as something distinct from the medium in which it invests itself. The beguiling idea of mind standing apart renders the concept of mind impotent in dualist thinking - reinforcing the point that 'nothing can be done from outside'. The alternative notion of mind as a distinct (not a separate) entity presupposes overlapping. The corollary of this view that the mind doesn't stand outside the world it organises (despite the knower's impression of disengagement) is that it isn't in a position to apprehend the relationship between the ideas and experiences it is deploying and the forms of life they express or represent, or indeed its own relationship to what is expressed. [2/393:1]

1.4

The purpose of the relationship between the determining role of the mind (via the ideas or experiences it arranges) and what is being arranged (the things or events experienced) is attained when a correspondence is achieved. Attainment is a matter of degree, signified by the usual conceptual distinctions applied in determining the degree of control or insight achieved by the mind. The terms that establish the limit or extent of the mind's determining role, exhibit evidence of the resistance to these arrangements in the form described in 1.2 above. [-]

1.5

On the one hand we seem to be free to arrange things; on the other the arrangement pursued is constrained by the relationships between things and the consideration that some arrangements of ideas and entities make more sense or are more useful than others. The sense of being free is in some degree an illusion that lasts only until we begin exercising it. [2/381:4]

1.6

While the mind has a determining influence on the formation of order (which it can get right or wrong) it doesn't determine relations between the entities represented or experienced in any other sense. Its power of determination is constrained by the extant arrangements between ideas and experiences of things whether right or wrong; not necessarily by those manipulated, but perhaps by others related to them. [-]

1.7

The difficulties inherent in thinking about this relationship seem specific to the first person mode of thought (see eg 3.6.4). The perplexity begins where the will comes into conflict with what opposes it, at the point where whatever resists our resolve to arrange things lies over the horizon of our capacity to determine the outcome. We seem to be partly free in this respect, but it isn't clear what 'partly' means. Metaphors of the relationship convey the impression of the would-be knower wrestling with something known or experienced and yet beyond the determining influence of mind and senses. At the very point at which mind and world come into conflict the relationship between them plunges into obscurity. [2/381:4]

1.8

The inaccessibility of certain aspects of the relationship may be intriguing, but doesn't presage the discovery of terra incognita. Applying a third person perspective brings the relationship and its constituents almost entirely into focus - and what eventually comes into view is going to seem oddly familiar. [2/381:4]

1.9

Freed (or deprived) of obscurity the relationship is familiar, the source of resistance obvious. Such conflicts are routinely resolved by the application of appropriate skills in third person encounters with the world. It becomes a matter of reconciling differences, of finding ways to accommodate the differences between (say) ideas - or ideas and experiences and what they represent. The process of resolution can be described, analysed, explained and pursued without the sense of difficulty and unfamiliarity associated with first person encounters with the world and its workings. [2/381:4]

1.10

Not that rediscovering its familiarity provides us with an insight into the nature of the resolution achieved. If the first person perspective prevented us peering into the gulf of inanity, the third conveys us safely beyond the hazard. The ordinary use of language has bridged the void, has done what it is supposed to do in securing the commerce between mind and world in the absence of an understanding which it has proved impossible to remedy. Impossible, because at the crucial point where what is 'partly' this and 'partly' that are presumably conjoined is an impasse the mind cannot make its way through, a relation which vanishes into limbo or dissolves in a hiatus. The pattern of the occurrence itself suggests the source of this mystifying event; the use of the fudging term 'partly' reflects the absoluteness of the aspects governed by the contextual shift which occurs in the process of resolving the conflict between a determining thought and the aspect of the world conceived. But that doesn't make it any easier to know what is going on. [2/375:3]

1.11

Thinking of the mediating role of the shift of aspect in the resolution of conflict as it might present itself in the first person mode, it seems evident our conception of its function would be limited in virtue of the entity at its centre appearing alternately (by a shift of aspect) in this context and now this - eg presenting itself by turns as determining perception, then an entity determined by perception. Obviously we couldn't see it as both at once. All we might achieve by way of apprehending this dichotomy is the sense of a 'something' beyond the context endorsed by the mind - an ironic insight similar to that associated with the dawning of an aspect in s. 2.9.1-8. [2/381:3]

1.12

Overlapping relations and the shift of aspect are at the heart of stability, conflict and change. The difficulty of forming an adequate concept of this process is a consequence of not being able to see the shared elements at the root of a conflict in both contextual forms or sets of relations at once (see 2.20.1-4). The observation that 'the idea finds a new dimension in the context of another's meaning' (2.12.5) hints at the nature of these difficulties which arise because the new meaning extends into a space occupied by a different idea rather than one previously empty of logical content. The impossibility of focusing on determining factors operating on shared concepts from different directions imposes a constraint on attempts to understand the mechanism of conflict resolution. [2/314:6; 2/320:2; 2/375:3]

1.13

Placing the shift of aspect at the centre of conflict shows why it would be logically impossible to grasp the conflict mechanism in operation. The shift of aspect precludes the possibility of apprehending the ideas/entities at the crux of a conflict simultaneously in the contexts precipitating it. Assigning this mediating role to the shift of aspect suggests how conflict mechanisms facilitate the resolution of strain using the overlapping aspect as a fulcrum in achieving an equilibrium between conflicting forms. Access to this process of balancing strains and stabilising conflicting tendencies is again precluded by the shift of aspect and the deflection of the mind from one to another. [2/381:3]