After a period of neglect these notes appear under a new title. Prefixing the word ‘Dualism’ to the preceding title is a less and a more radical revision than it seems. It signifies no change to the subject, which remains (as the previous foreword had it) ‘the role of the shift of aspect in language and thought, and its bearing on certain intractable difficulties affecting the nature of relation, change, reality, meaning and knowledge’; but it does, by invoking dualism, give prominence to a particular context of interpretation. That apart, the process of refinement and reorganization, mainly concerned with details, has continued. The latest revisions, in eliminating digressive strains, excising excrescences, and sharpening the focus of what remains, form an aspect of it. More serious defects cannot be remedied by this sort of attention; they belong to the chequered history of the text, the often unregulated evolution of its meaning, and the consequent difficulty of trying to identify and reconcile within the whole, those emerging strains that seemed most likely to bring it to maturity.
The admission of ‘dualism’ to the text by way of the title marks, not a certainty of having arrived at this point, for there can be no such certainty - but the point at which it seems worth attempting to unite the shift of aspect with a concept of reality of little use as it stands, but of sufficient magnitude to assimilate and amplify a device (the shift) with the potential to transform its significance. It was unnecessary to contrive this relationship, it had always existed. Whether it will be perceived thus is another matter; but identifying the shift of aspect as the source of both the missing mind/world link and the gap which forms the focus of dualist thinking, goes some way towards establishing the conditions for this insight.
Dualism was unnecessary to these thoughts, but useful. The intention has been to adopt a foundation provided by what already exists for the view that mind/world dualism is engendered by a shift of aspect, a shift which, in the context of the ideas expounded here, determines whether the mind-world relation (as a single event) is conceived to occur within or beyond the mind. The relationship is seen as inherently (and in itself incorrigibly) ambiguous. Observation confirms what is observed; what is observed confirms observation. The only way out of this cycle of self-reinforcing alternatives is through the mind/world network facilitated by successive shifts.
The introduction below doesn't attempt to provide a context for the notes or the thinking behind them. Its purpose is to link certain ideas and themes that emerged during the period in which the notes were written to a way of seeing they eventually issued in several years later. The author accepts others may attach a different significance to the content of the notes. Those who find something of interest in the introduction and its ideas are referred to an extended elaboration of them in the essay 'On the Indiscernibility of Connections' at http://www.metarealia.net.
In the context of the links between them, we usually have no difficulty in sustaining the distinction between physical objects and events as aspects of the world and our experience of them as aspects of the mind. The complications emerge when certain ways of thinking (typically, though not solely, associated with analytical activity) are introduced. The failure of these forms of thought to make sense of the distinction between the world in which objects and events exist and the mind in which experiences of them occur probably indicates the concept of the relationship is flawed. In any case it is impossible to reconcile these ways of thinking with our experience and the sense we make of it which suggests the world is (somehow) within and beyond the mind, while the mind remains distinct from the world it is invested in...
These notes contain in outline (and often no more than intuitively) a concept of relation which entails a different picture of the way reality works - one which accords with experience in allowing the mind to engage in the world while remaining distinct from it. They expound the view that all forms of relation involve an overlap supported by a shift of aspect. The feature, present in all forms of expression and by extension what is expressed, permits entities assuming an identical aspect (the thinker and the thought, thought and its object, the dancer and the dance) to be at the same time distinct and related.
The overlap eludes the process of conception. It isn’t possible to see what relates an entity to something else and what distinguishes it at the same time. Words and ideas, for example, have a dual aspect – pointing inwards to experience and outwards to their objects simultaneously. We can’t see them both ways at once; and since it is this simultaneity (and the equilibrium it sustains) that constitutes the link, the limitation conditions our view of reality; we see things as either distinct or related and depend on the shift of aspect to move between these states. Neither the shift of aspect or its function are revealed by analysis. Quite the opposite; the consequence of such investigation is to disrupt the link it attempts to investigate.
The shift of aspect, a versatile and ubiquitous presence in expression and perception, takes us from the thought to the thing invoked without apparently employing any means or encountering a boundary. The immediacy of this precipitation into the world accounts for certain anomalies which characterise the difference between people’s experiences, and philosophical views of the mind/world relation. People tend to be convinced they inhabit an autonomous world outside the mind experiencing it. The mind itself seems to be the source of this convincing illusion of unmediated access to what many philosophers consider can be known only through mental entities of one kind or another; but whatever the case, the sense of being in a world rather than experiencing or dealing with a mental version of it is consistent with the occurrence of a mind/world shift which places people inside a world determined by its relationship to the mind. The notion that the content of one is a reflection of the other probably has its origins in the dual images engendered by the shift of aspect.
A potential for ambiguity and confusion is present in the commonest of our transactions with reality. When we arrange words and ideas, we arrange something else at the same time by the same act. The shift between mind and thing can occur at any point in the relationship once established. We confuse our ideas and perceptions with the things which are supposed to be beyond them because an entity seems to stand within and beyond the bounds of the thought or perception that invokes it. Reality is inherently ambiguous and can be seen as an aspect of the conceiving mind or of the world perceived. Its ambiguity derives from functioning as an aspect of both and seeming to move between them. Reality as it is conceived or experienced has no determinate location until we ourselves assign it one by interpretation. It can be in the mind or the world - or in the process of migrating from one to the other by a shift of aspect.
Ideas don’t literally become things. No more do experiences become what is experienced. But we have the impression that this is exactly what does happen; things seem to migrate into the realm of thought and thoughts into the realm of things. The sense that the word or thought is the thing is at the root of mind-world difficulties. It persuades us that thought literally ‘goes into’ things – is invested in matter itself. The source of this deceptive impression is the shift of aspect whereby (for example) words seem to take on the aspect of our experiences of things, or things the aspect of the words expressing them. The apparent duality of mind and thing and the seemingly unbridgeable chasm between them are incidental consequences of the shift of aspect and the apparent autonomy both mind and world derive from it.
The problem the shift of aspect poses is that we cannot apprehend the connections involved because an overlap places what is dealt with (the object or event) within and beyond the means of dealing with it (our idea or perception) in such a way as to defeat any hope of inspecting the relationship between the two. The inaccessibility of intentional relationships arises from the same source – it isn’t possible to analyse them with any success; at a critically significant point, the workings of the relationship becomes inscrutable. A further indication of the ineffectiveness of analytical methods in tackling overlapping forms of expression is the inability to provide a satisfactory account of such commonplace devices of thought as metaphors, paradoxes, ironies and ambiguities, without first taking for granted their most significant feature - that they deal (like intentionality) with elements which are simultaneously related and distinguished; that is say, elements which overlap and undergo changes of meaning through a shift of aspect leaving no evidence of how the aspects were related.
The shift of aspect confronts the rational mind with a unique obstacle in the form of a hiatus it either cannot traverse or cannot detect. Inspection reveals no link between the distinct entities related. This is the source of our impression that mind and the world must either be separate entities linked by something we have yet to discover or else are one and the same. In some circumstances the evidence of experience suggests there is no distance at all between them, that the transition (as we previously observed) is seamless and instantaneous. In other respects experience indicates there is a barrier and the barrier is nothing less than the conceptions and perceptions which in propitious circumstances convey us immediately to what they are said to ‘reflect’ through a shift of aspect. Thus the mechanism of relation presents the inquiring mind with the equally inscrutable options of an open door or a blank wall. Neither is satisfactory or helpful.
The hiatus introduced by the shift of aspect creates an impasse for those seeking a logical route from the realm of mind into the autonomous domain of what can be known. Why else but because the knower stands at the brink of a chasm does the claim to know something (that the cat’s fur is smooth...) seem to attach itself to an entity beyond the impression which yields this information? What else but the void before it makes the claim to know something seem to amount to a claim to be able to transcend the toils of thought or perception and its contexts and arrive magically at a certainty about what lies beyond the mind? And in a sense this faith in transport without visible means is entirely justified by the outcome, since after the act of knowledge (or its failure) the fruits of knowledge (or those of error), having made their way across the great divide, become evident as features of the inaccessible kingdom.
The difficulty of understanding relation and its determining consequences arises from the obscurity of the means by which, in the course of normal activity and given that 'everything is what it is and not another thing', one thing becomes another or modifies another. That brings us to something worth noticing; the ease with which ordinary language overcomes the paradoxes which constantly baulk philosophical rationalism. Tacitly, this characteristic seems to have provided the foundation for the achievement of Wittgenstein's Philosophical Investigations. A primary function of language is to distinguish and relate things without revealing to the inquiring mind how it is done. The only demonstrable evidence of a sustaining link (ie an overlap) is the shift of aspect itself, whereby elements of the determining context become aspects of what is determined, thus transforming or modifying it (without ceasing to be aspects of the determining agent). But since what is changed is vanquished by what emerges from the change via the shift of aspect no enlightenment is obtained in the normal course of using language to bring about such changes.
Analytical attempts to discover a connection between distinct entities, are unsuccessful because mind’s activity disrupts the functioning of the very thing it seeks to apprehend - the relationship holding between the aspects it is distinguishing and the shift between them. The interesting thing is that it should seem possible we might overcome this limitation and discover a link. These symptoms of a mind divided against itself suggest the paradox which underlies our knowledge of things - that what we conceive and experience seems to us to exist in some absolute sense which has nothing to do with our seeing it in a particular context, situation or set of circumstances and so is unaffected by our choice of context. This is surely because the hiatus introduced by the shift of aspect divorces the knower’s context and its power of determination from the entity known - which consequently seems to stand free of the mind and its influence.
The link embodied in relation is undetectable, as are the consequences of this hiatus and their determining influence on our conceptions and perceptions and the way we deal with reality. In the absence of any conception of a link, our view of reality is fragmentary and lacks sense, and the nature of relation itself - for example that of thoughts and experiences to the elusive entities they are said to reflect - remains obscure. These are the consequences of dualism in their most tangible form.