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PHENOMENOLOGY

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Phenomenology

VI. Additional Topics

1. Present Appearances

2. The Concepts of Space and Time

3. Apprehension of the Four Dimensions

4. Contents of Thought Processes

5. Universals and Potentiality

6. Social vs. Personal Knowledge

1. Present Appearances

1.1 The Present Appearance. The starting point of human knowledge (or opinion[1]) is what I shall here call the present Appearance (with a capital A), referring to the undivided totality of one’s experience and thought at a given moment, taken at face value. This is to be distinguished from appearances (with a small a), the constituents of the present Appearance, whose discrimination from each other require additional acts of thought, although the present totality may well include among its constituents discrimination between some of its constituents. It is also to be distinguished from cumulative appearance (or Appearance), a theoretical concept including not only the present moment, but also memory of all past Appearances, although the present Appearance may well include some memories of past Appearances.

These distinctions may seem like hair-splitting, but the point of the exercise is to draw the reader’s attention to the fact that moment by moment each of us is face to face with a limited sum total of objects or contents of consciousness (whatever their nature and status, at this stage), and that this totality includes both:

a) experiential presentations – perceived material or mental phenomena and supposedly intuited[2] items of self-knowledge, be they real or illusory; and

b) rational presentations – products of conceptual or logical insights and processes, be they inductive or deductive, correct or incorrect.

Before any item of knowledge (or opinion) is isolated from its context for evaluation, it is immersed in the body of data in our present awareness; my intent here is to focus your attention first on this (varying) whole.

My initial goal here is simply to enlarge the phenomenological stance or approach, and apply it equally to all appearances, i.e. not only to perceptual phenomena, but equally to objects of intuitive experience and to rational objects and processes. The present Appearance is a complex intertwining of all these, logically prior to making any distinctions between them, acknowledging them all at this stage as just there.

Just as, before we can identify the nature of the phenomena of perception and judge whether they are real or illusory, we have to first simply be aware of and admit their existence and manifest configurations – so with regard to the objects of intuition and the abstract products of conception and logic, the first step is to take into consideration their contents and claims. This ab initio stance or approach does not in itself prejudice our final judgment concerning the identity or validity of reason, anymore than it affects our evaluation of experience. It is merely ascertaining just what is under scrutiny and discussion. Nevertheless, such open-minded consideration does indeed, in the long run, strongly determine epistemological and ontological conclusions. Many philosophical conundrums and perversions are due to failure to adopt this ‘objective’ frame of mind, taking all things at their ‘face value’ to start with, as appearances or presentations.

‘Phenomenon’ is a philosophical term intended to deal with objects of perceptual consciousness, without regard to various epistemological and ontological issues concerning them, such as whether they are real or illusory, material or mental, results of physiological sensory processes or mere fantasies, and so forth. Before such issues can be debated and hopefully resolved, we have to just ‘look and see’ what data we have in hand. Some distinctions between things are possible already at the phenomenal level – we can for instance distinguish the various ‘phenomenal modalities’ or the ‘phenomenal qualities’ within each phenomenal modality, without prejudice as to whether their source is sensory (although we label them conventionally as ‘sense-based,’ we only mean ‘which naïve realism considers as sense-based’) or imaginative. Or again, we can distinguish between ‘material’ and ‘mental’ phenomena (again using the words merely conventionally, with reference to people’s everyday assumptions – but also somewhat with noticeable differences in their contents and qualities).

Philosophy has no terms similar to ‘phenomenon’ to refer to an intuitive experience or to an object of conception, prior to consideration of their exact nature and status. Kant’s term ‘noumenon’ is inappropriate (and self-contradictory), in that it historically purports by definition to concern (and thus know) something unknowable. Locke’s term ‘idea’ is also inappropriate, because its connotation of mental entity prejudices discussion at the outset and leads to serious problems and paradoxes. I propose here to henceforth[3] consider the term ‘appearance’ (or ‘presentation’) as more generic than ‘phenomenon,’ including concrete phenomenal appearances (i.e. percepts), concrete intuitive appearances (items of self-knowledge) and abstract appearances (conceptual and logical intentions). This larger term focuses on and emphasizes the primary ‘manifest’ or ‘given data’ aspect of all objects of consciousness, considering them phenomenologically, i.e. neutrally with regard to various philosophical issues.

The denotation of ‘appearance’ is the same as that of ‘object,’ but the former has the advantage of not tending to immediately connote the conscious Subject and his cognitive relation to the object (both of which some philosophers, notably Buddhist ones in the East and Hume[4] in the West, deny). Furthermore, the latter is often used with a naïve realist outlook, or with reference specifically to material entities, which we want to avoid, although strictly speaking the term is equally neutral (in my usage, at least). Similarly, the term ‘thing’ may have unwanted connotations (not clearly distinguishing existents and mere objects of thought), and in my opinion is best reserved for formal logic contexts. Thus, ‘appearance’ is the most appropriate term for phenomenology – and it is should be understood that phenomenology (despite its name) concerns all appearances not just phenomena.

And finally, to repeat, note that by ‘Appearance’ I mean the sum total of appearances at a given moment. So much for terminological issues, which are also of course clarifications of what we are trying to discuss here.

Before proceeding further, however, I want to here remind the reader not to confuse the present philosophical discussion of knowledge (starting with the concept of the present Appearance, etc.) with the subject-matter itself. Our words (and their underlying ideas and arguments) about the present Appearance and its eventual transformations are, as themselves objects, parts or components of our common present Appearance, but they are not all of it. There are Appearances (most of our conscious life) that do not actually include the present philosophical discourse, though they are here being claimed to potentially (logically, upon reflection) implicitly do so. There are Appearances that are completely wordless, and also Appearances involving words but not the words of this here philosophical discourse, which is a late arrival in the development of knowledge.

1.2 A Meditation. Our above verbal definition of the present Appearance will not by itself provide a good idea of my intent, if the reader merely imagines a field of non-descript ‘appearances.’ The best way to grasp it is to actually sit down and meditate, zazen-style, and become fully aware of the panorama of sights and sounds and tastes and smells and sensations and of the images appearing in one’s mind’s eye and the words thought inside and their understood meanings – i.e. to become more fully conscious of whatever presents itself to one’s attention right now. These experiences and thoughts are in flux, with one’s attention shifting from one factor or process to another, often without rhyme or reason; they cannot be pinned-down or stopped, though continuous sitting over a long period tends to calm things down noticeably. What I mean by the present Appearance is the sum total of these multimedia events and characteristics at any given moment.

Consider for example the Appearance I am facing right now (over the next few minutes, to be exact). I am sitting at my desk, in front of my computer, writing. Many things fill my awareness, though to different degrees. I feel parts of my body, my behind weighing down on my chair, my back leaning against the back of it, my legs crossed, a pain in my knee, a foot on the floor, my hands on the keyboard, my fingers hitting the keys. I see the sunlight, the frame of my glasses, the desk and computer, its screen and the words on it. I hear a bird sing, a plane overhead, a car drive by. All these are sensory experiences, physical phenomena in my field of awareness. I may at times experience them more intensely, at others only peripherally, at others still become so absorbed in my work as not to notice them at all. Additionally, there are mental experiences. As I write words, I hear them inside my head. Occasionally, a relevant pictorial representation may flash in my mind’s eye – a body in motion, a Cartesian space-time diagram, whatever. Extraneous mental words or images may come and go – such as ‘remember to do so and so tomorrow’ or a scene from a movie I saw yesterday.

Moreover, apart from the phenomenal aspects of my current consciousness, we have to take note of its intuitive and abstract aspects. The thoughts I am having are mine, I have to call on discipline to keep sitting and writing, I am trying to be as intellectually honest and fair as I can – these are intuitive components of my conscious content. The words I think and write have intended meanings, they are not mere sounds and letters, behind them is a large context of knowledge that I draw on, and I am constantly applying logical skills to ensure a quality product – these are abstract components of my conscious content. The present Appearance, then, is the sum of these three aspects, the phenomenal (material or mental), the intuitive (self-awareness) and the abstract (conceptual and logical). I am not at all times aware of them with equal intensity. Most of the time, I am absorbed in the subject-matter of my discourse, but I must still half-consciously look at the desired keys and guide my fingers to them as I type. My attention shifts from this detail to that, one moment into the meaning of a word, the next into a logical issue, then I feel a pain in my arm and press on it, and so on.

Thus, no two momentary appearances are identical, although the various factors and processes mentioned above may together last several hours. The scope of a given moment’s awareness will include only some of these items, though over time all may appear. Over time, some will momentarily come to the fore, others recede; some will be the center of my attention, others only vaguely present on the periphery. Such variations and differences may be understood as changes in direction and intensity of awareness (as regards the Subject) or more phenomenologically as comings and goings and changing intensities of manifestation (as regards Appearance).

What we call appearance is a very complex and varied thing, which cannot be reduced to or limited to the more obvious sensory data. Note that the various constituents of appearance may not all be actually present in a given present Appearance. It may be correct to say, however, that most are usually present, if only peripherally. Perhaps we should consider that each constituent is potentially present, though it may not be a major focus of attention at a given moment, compared to the others. Note also that our turning of attention on one or the other factor may be experienced as spontaneous or as the result of will.

The present Appearance, then, is whatever appears to someone at any time, considered as a whole, temporally or logically prior to any discrimination or judgment concerning it or its constituents, i.e. before or irrespective of any further reflection of reason. It is mere presentation, raw data. At this stage of things, we may be completely absorbed in it and unconscious of precise details. There is no prejudice, at this primary stage, as to whether what appears is ‘true’ or ‘false,’ ‘reality’ or ‘illusion,’ ‘representative’ of anything or not, ‘absolute’ or ‘relative.’ All these and similar characterizations are later developments (rational acts), though within some moments they may well be present as themselves ‘constituents of’ the present Appearance.

We have not or not yet discriminated between the ‘parts’ or ‘components’ of the present Appearance. We have not or not yet compared and contrasted its parts or components, finding them same or different to each other or to memories in various respects. We have not or not yet applied any logic to it; at this stage we have just a single ‘A’ and have not said ‘A is A’ or ‘A cannot be non-A’ or ‘either A or non-A.’ We have not either considered whether what we face is perceptual or conceptual, concrete or abstract, physical or mental, objective or subjective, internal or external, or whatever. We have not or not yet made a distinction between its various ‘sense-modalities’ (sight, sound, touch, smell, taste), nor between the various ‘sensible qualities’ (e.g. shape, size, intensity or color, in the case of visual aspects). We have not or not yet located things in space, or developed notions of perspective or space dimensions. We have not or not yet separated pure present from memories and anticipations, or located things in a dimension of time. We have not or not yet engaged in the ordering of given data by which we divide it into Subject, consciousness, Object, self, intimate events and characters, mind, own-body, sense-organs, other physical bodies.

We have not or not yet performed any such rational acts (rational in the sense of proposed by reason, whether rightly or wrongly). If later we are able to and do subdivide the present Appearance into such factors and processes, the particular appearances such subdivisions constitute (whatever their own nature, whatever they themselves happen to be – even if abstract, conceptual and logical) are themselves parts or components of the present Appearance at the time they occur. Thus, the present Appearance may sometimes indeed well include ‘philosophical’ reflections, but we here consider them as at the time concerned inherent in the given particular present Appearance. It always remains a comprehensive whole, in this perspective.

Some may argue that such a totality is unconscionable, that we can never in practice absorb ourselves in the whole without at the same time discriminating at least some of its aspects. Others will agree that ordinary consciousness is compulsively discriminative, but claim that we can overcome such handicap through meditation. But what I refer to here is just being aware of whatever you happen to be aware of right now, or at any given moment, including any eventual discriminations themselves involved in the whole. This is accessible to all, at all times, without special skill or training, at least for a brief while. In any case, the present Appearance is at least theoretically comprehensible, ex post facto, by logical aggregation of its constituents into the intended whole.

1.3 Temporal Aspects. Now, granting the above is understood, it is important next to clearly acknowledge the present Appearance’s temporal aspects.

By a moment, I here mean a duration of time (as distinct from an instant, which is a point in time, the beginning or end of a duration) spanned by one’s attention. And I refer to it verbally for the purposes of this analysis, but in the moment itself there may not be or not yet be any concept of time or of attention. It is merely mentioned to direct the reader to the situation under consideration, namely that the present Appearance is extended to some extent over what we later refer to as time (objective or subjective). The boundaries of the moment may well be unclear, such uncertainty being itself a ‘constituent of’ the present Appearance. But the latter is still undifferentiated, so one’s eventual doubt about limits has not yet crystallized.

Moment after moment, we are presented with a ‘new’ present Appearance. We refer to it as new, with reference to ‘memory,’ implying that a comparison is occurring between the present Appearance and a preceding Appearance, and that these are found in some respect(s) different. Such comparison or contrast is of course a rational act, full of assumptions about the ‘validity’ of memory. This is not denied, and we may return to the issue. But for now let us merely note this evidence, that the present Appearance seems limited in ‘time.’ Notwithstanding that the present Appearance is something singular in its temporal existence within our consciousness, there are seemingly a plurality of Appearances anyway. The remembrance of ‘past’ Appearances is itself of course part of the ‘present’ Appearance, and its distinction from the whole is an artificial, i.e. rational, act.

Next, we have to be aware that if in any given moment, relative to the given present Appearance, a new rational act occurs (such as the ones just proposed, of distinguishing memory of past Appearances within the present one or anticipating future Appearances), the present Appearance is thereby changed. That is to say, the addition of a new thought produces a new present Appearance, so that the one we seem to have faced a moment ago is strictly-speaking not quite identical to the one we face now. The present Appearance currently under scrutiny includes this new thought, which was intended to transcend the preceding present Appearance without affecting it. Thus, if I face a present Appearance and even just name it ‘A,’ I am no longer in present Appearance A but (momentarily, at least) in a new present Appearance which includes ‘name A’ in its composition, and so would have to be named something else, say ‘B,’ which in turn would cause the occurrence of yet a third, and so on.

This fragility of any present Appearance has to be clearly realized. More generally stated, the moment we focus on any aspect of a present Appearance, or distinguish its parts or components, or characterize it or them in any manner whatsoever, we perform a rational act. Such rational event involves phenomenal aspects (e.g. images and words) as well as non-phenomenal ones (intuitions, conceptualizations, logical verifications), whose appearance (whatever the cause of such appearance might be: spontaneous generation, a mechanical brain, or a Subject’s volition) modify the original present Appearance, presenting us with a new present Appearance including the rational act and possibly all of the preceding present Appearance. In some cases, the rational act, by its very nature, not only adds to the preceding Appearance, but also erases parts or components of it. Thus, when I concentrate my attention on the outlines of a figure, I see the outlines more intensely than before and somewhat or entirely cease to see its color and perhaps other figures in my field of vision. These now seen outlines are not quite identical to those seen a moment ago, and any comparison between them (between the present and my memory of the immediate past) would constitute a rational act. The latter would in turn modify the present Appearance, presenting me with a new one, and so forth.

Thus, we cannot claim to rationally ‘transcend’ any present Appearance and discuss it without admitting our discussion as itself within the (next) Appearance[5]. We can only seemingly produce (or find ourselves faced with) new Appearances, which by further rational acts (involving reliance on memory and other judgments) are successively transformed into still newer Appearances. Being aware of this fragility, we are better able to delimit what we mean by a single present Appearance or the current totality of experience and other conscious content. We are always bound to present Appearance.

Furthermore, we are all aware (or ought to be) that our minds are constantly and almost irrepressibly a-buzz with thoughts. This is especially evident when we try to still our mind during meditation; it is a very, very difficult task. That is, the present Appearance is not merely occasionally changed by thought, it is almost always in flux. Only mastery of meditation can ever (supposedly) stop this constant activity. Even sitting still in the middle of a static environment (say a plain room where no sound enters, etc.), thought continues to affect the present Appearance (e.g. I notice the right side and then the left, or reflect on the color, etc. – not to mention extraneous thoughts such as my recent conversation with someone or what to add to my ‘things to do’ list or ongoing philosophical discourse or personal injunctions to be thoughtless), so that the present Appearance is always short-lived and changing. What this means, is that we can even generate a notion of time by referring only to the shifts in our attention, and more generally to our changing intuitive contents of consciousness and rational responses to experiences.

However, such so-called subjective time inextricably relies on analysis of a present Appearance and the assumption of memory. It is only by distinguishing a fraction of that Appearance as being a lingering image or memory residue of a preceding Appearance, and comparing that fraction to the remainder, that we can and do conclude that (subjective) ‘time’ has passed. But there is, I am convinced, a more ‘objective’ concept of time, based on the content of some Appearances without reference to memory. That is, we see (in the sense of ‘perceive, by whatever means’) some phenomenal contents move or change (in place or otherwise) within the current span of attention. We may of course additionally remember that the entity, character or event concerned (whatever it be, real or illusory, physical or mental) was different in a previous present Appearance, but here what interests us is movement within a single, present Appearance.

Such movement within the moment, i.e. perceivable without reference to and assumption of memory, and so without rational activity, is purely experiential movement. It means that ‘the present’ we perceive is not a point in time, but a stretch of time, a duration. That is, our consciousness of events is not instantaneous, but straddles time (at least, a bit of past to the present instant). This portion of time that our awareness can span is what I here call a phenomenal ‘moment.’ How long precisely such moments are is hard to say. It may be that they are all equal or they may differ from one present Appearance to another or one person to another. To affirm the experienced present as extended does not, by the way, logically exclude that time be infinitely divisible (continuous). Appearances may well constantly overlap and flow into each other, without affecting the fact that our consciousness of phenomena is extended in time.

It makes no difference whether one considers perceived movement as objective or subjective – in either case, the phenomenon still occurs, still exists. To say ‘objects do not move, but are stationary world-lines in a space-time continuum; it is the Subject’s awareness of them which moves (scanning) or comes on and off and on again (like a stroboscope)’ does not explain-away or erase the phenomenon of movement – for then we would still have to acknowledge and explain the Subject’s motion over or through the continuum or the changes in his awareness. Similarly, whether we regard movement as continuous or as composed of instantaneous starts and momentary stops, is irrelevant – since in the latter case, too, we still have to deal with change from start to stop and vice-versa (i.e. that too is ‘movement’).

Our very concepts of time and memory are based on the direct experience of movement, so we cannot logically claim to know time only indirectly through memory. If we claimed that all experience was instantaneous, and that we only conceive of movement by rational acts – i.e. by mentally outlining within static Appearances a ‘memory’ segment and a ‘non-memory’ segment, and comparing these segments find that the former has enough similarities and dissimilarities to the latter to conclude that ‘movement’ has occurred – we would be begging the question. For all these mental acts are presumably themselves events, which in turn alter the present Appearance however slightly; and anyway we would be left with only a static picture of things or a static string of meaningless words! The image or concept of a geometrical time-dimension or time-line, however useful for purposes of measurement, is inextricably and infuriatingly static, and incapable of reproducing or representing movement. Only through experience can movement itself be known and understood. Rational constructs such as time and memory are merely attempts to interpret and explain our experiences of movement somewhat, and cannot deny or replace them.

2. The Concepts of Space and Time

I have already made some comments about space and time in the chapter on Organizing Principles and in the above section. I wish to here make some additional comments.

2.1 Time and space are fundamental aspects of world of appearance, because they constitute for us logical solutions to apparent problems in momentary experiences or straddling experience over time. The apparent ‘contradictions’ inherent in multiplicity, non-uniformity, movement and change oblige us to resort to these conceptual remedies. Such fundamental concepts are not ‘logical concepts’ (as e.g. Jean Piaget regarded them) but products of logic. They come to seem like ‘logical’ concepts, because they are so broad-ranging that they structure all our thinking. But they remain doctrines, as far as logic is concerned. That is, they are proposed responses to issues raised by our logical insight. While specific hypotheses of the special sciences of time and space may in some future context have to be revised, logical insight continues to reign unscathed.

2.2 Space is a conceptual construct, in that it we presume a relational arrangement between the different parts of an experiential (primarily the visual) field. We begin with a distinction between the first two dimensions of space and then find it wise to add the third dimension. The first two dimensions are more empirical; the third is more hypothetical. If one looks out at the world with one’s eyes (or at an inner image with one’s mind’s eye), one seems faced with a two-dimensional blob of light (of variegated color, intensity, brightness); the third dimension is eventually distinguished out from these first two (partly to interpret the said variations).

Our ‘sense’ of space is primarily based on sight, but eventually built up from data drawn from several senses, including hearing, touch and to a lesser extent smell and taste. It is with reference to the combination and correlation of these sense-modalities that we obtain our full concept, even though sight remains the central reference. Note however that blind or deaf people seem to have a sense of space, but I assume it is an imperfect one compared to persons with all their senses (this matter can be studied by experiment and questionnaire). Even smell and taste are related to space: we can seemingly tell the rough direction from which a smell came; we locate tastes within the volume felt inside our mouth. Correlations with visual imagination and the sense of touch are of course involved, here. Smell and taste, per se, play a relatively secondary, passive role in our grasp of spatiality, but the same is perhaps not true for animals, or even babies.

Parallelisms between the sense-modalities are first gradually established for two dimensions, and then extended into the third with reference to phenomena of motion and perspective. I must apparently move my hand or body to there to touch that place; sounds may vary in consequence of such displacements; things change shape as I or they move and I explain such changes through the laws of perspective.

Another set of factors involved in our construction of space is temporal. Space is not merely a moment-by-moment construct, but one that appeals to memory and anticipation. We collect memories of static and dynamic sense data concerning space and refer to these past occurrences to interpret present ones. Also, we use mental projections to express our interpretative hypotheses. For instance, I may think: “I would need to stretch out my hand thusly to touch that” to express spatial depth. Such imaginations may or not be put into action (of course, they must occasionally be or have been, to be confirmed), but may in any case be viewed as a futuristic aspect of our space concept.

All this goes to show that space is not apprehended immediately (merely as extension or distance in a visual screen), but is a complex concept built up using many factors. The Subject is active (whether instinctively or consciously) in this build up, intellectually in having to correlate very various experiences over time (a trial and error process) and even physically in having to experimentally move about, the whole body or members of it. It follows that volition is involved; one is not a mere passive observer. Yet, for all that, I do not conclude like Kant seems to that space is a subjective invention.

All it means is that the concept of space is a complex hypothesis, consisting of many subsidiary hypotheses (like perspective or volition, to mention two). We do not simply see space (though sight is involved), nor can we deduce it from our experiences – we have to induce it. We propose it as a way of ordering of the various data of our experience. It remains conceivable that we are wrong. Indeed, we have been wrong for long periods, thinking of space as having Euclidean properties, until mathematicians suggested this did not have to be so and Einstein found need for a non-Euclidean approach in Physics. We may well be called upon by new experiences to tailor our view yet again; even conceivably completely overturning it somehow.

Meanwhile, in the context of experience and hypothesis so far, it seems logically the best ordering, ensuring the strongest correlation and least conflict between our masses of different sense impressions. We acknowledge thereby Appearance as a multiplex, and at the same time manage to ‘make sense’ of it to an additional extent.

2.3 Time is also a conceptual construct. The direct experience of time consists in awareness of the present, moment by moment – the “eternal present” (so-called, though it is only as long-lasting as the Subject lives). I say ‘direct,’ to differentiate it from the intimations of past and future involved memory and anticipation, which we may regard as an indirect experience of time[6]. And I stress ‘experience’ to distinguish all this from the more intellectual construction of time, which comes later. Now, the present seems to have some duration or stretch, which is why I refer to it as a moment rather than as an instant. This temporal extension may not be constant for all observers at all times; sometimes we seem to be able to experience a larger chunk of time than at others.

For it seems evident that motion (i.e. movement in space or change of any kind) is in part phenomenal; it seems observable within a given moment, and is not merely a construct based on the comparison and contrast of the phenomenal situations in different moments. In other words, I am proposing that our consciousness can straddle a stretch of time and thus cognize segments of motion without appeal to memory or prediction. Such visible bits of motion are to be distinguished from larger segments, which are constructed with reference to alleged memories and predictions. The former motion is empirical; the latter involves certain assumptions.

The concept of time is built in response to the paradox inherent in all motion, whether phenomenal or inferred from memories or expectations. Movement or change, however gradual, signifies that something is so-and-so ‘at one time’ and something else ‘at another time.’ If we do not insert the qualifications ‘at one time’ and ‘at another time,’ the preceding definition of motion is self-contradictory, saying that something both is and is-not so-and-so. By means of these differentiating inserts, we dissolve the paradox. Thus, time is a hypothesis proposed to deal with a logically disturbing aspect of certain common experiences. We project an extension called time, similar in some ways to the spatial extensions[7], in which phenomena have partial existence – so as to explain how it is possible for them to vary before our very eyes (and indeed all our cognitive instruments).

Thus, time ‘comes from’ man in a sense, but it is also somewhat ‘given in experience.’ It is an inductive construct seemingly corroborated by experiences, rather than something directly experienced or an abstraction in the ordinary sense. In my view, the experience of phenomenal motion is indubitable; if motion were only known through memory and expectation, it would itself be hypothetical. In that case, time would not be a logically necessary response: we could also (and better) explain away the paradox inherent in motion by denying the reliability of memory and prediction. We must admit what we all experience daily, that (some) motion is empirically given.

This means that “the present” is extended, a duration and not a mere point of time. The hypothesis of time includes the distinction between past, present and future, which three elements it joins in a continuum. Note well, three elements, not two. If we arbitrarily cut time in two (past and future), viewing the present as but an instant, where would the present moment fit? Would it be part of the past or of the future or a bit of both? It is hard for us to tell, because a moment is so brief. I think the present is neither past nor future, so that the dichotomy past or future is artificial. The present is neither a residue nor an inchoate; it is distinctively here and now.

The above remarks do not of course even begin to fathom the mysteries of time; many queries remain. Why do we only directly experience the present? Are we stationary and events pass or is the world stationary and our spirit flies over it? Is the present always changing, or is it things that change while the present remains the same? What happens to the past or to past things, where do they go, or do they cease to be and what does that mean? Where are the future and future things, where do they come from, or do they come to be and what does that mean? Why are past, present and future different in their existential properties? What is the direction of time? These are some sample questions that come to mind, which I would not pretend to have (or have seen) answers to.

2.4 Some small additional comments on the distinctions between inner and outer (i.e. mental and physical) space and time. In this context, it is well to keep in mind that the phenomenal modalities and qualities perceptible in our mental world (color, shape, sound, etc.) are identical or similar to those perceived through the senses as being in the physical world. Such analogies force us to regards these domains as parts of one world.

With regard to space, it is more acceptable to posit an inner space in contrast to an outer space. For two different substances (the mental and the material) seem involved, and therefore two different fields or matrices are conceivable for them. We consider mental space as somewhat placed within material space, in that we tend to locate it in our heads[8]. Yet, even here we should perhaps not rush to judgment. For we must take into consideration the fact of hallucination: when we seemingly imagine things occurring outside ourselves. It may be that we think of imagination as in the head, because we usually do it with our eyes closed or because it is usually clearer that way. But there are circumstances when we are able to imagine with our eyes open[9]. It remains conceivable in my view that the two spaces, the inner and outer, are one and the same.

Some philosophers apparently distinguish between inner and outer time, or psychological time and physical time, with reference to the common experience that little time o’clock may subjectively seem a lot and long hours may seem like minutes. Admittedly, one’s happiness or patience or age[10], or whatever, evidently often have an effect on one’s guesstimates of duration without measuring instruments. When I meditate in the middle of the night, when everything is quiet, time seems to pass much faster than when, in the day, there are enervating traffic noises all around. But this does not mean that there are literally two time dimensions.

The Subject, whether faced with imaginary events or physical events, has the same logical reaction for both, the positing of a time dimension. It has to be a single framework for both kinds of event, or else it would not be possible to order them relative to each other, as indeed by the way the ‘psychological time’ proponents unthinkingly do anyway. (I of course do not mean here to contest the relativity of time measurement, as explained by Einstein, which concerns even physical time.)

3. Apprehension of the Four Dimensions

The four dimensions of our experience do not arise in knowledge in the same way; they are not all equally empirically based, involving different kinds and varying degrees of intellection, and they differ also in their assumed properties.

3.1 The first two dimensions of space refer to the flat field of (mainly) visual perception as presented to us phenomenally by the optical (and other) sense organs or by imagination in the mental matrix. This visual field is without depth, but testifies that the world of experience, whether physical or mental, is extended – a phenomenon we label space, distinguishing in it two aspects (called dimensions – length and breadth). The latter mental act of differentiation could rightly be characterized as an act of intelligence[11]. It requires a creative mental activity (consciously or not, projecting N-S and E-W lines – an imaginary grid – onto the visual field), and therefore (presumably) a certain involvement of the will.

Another act of intelligence, occurring already in a context of two dimensions, is the idea of direction, which includes not only projecting an angle of vision relative to some origin (a line on our grid), but also pointing one’s finger or tracing a from-to trajectory with it. Direction is often also communicated symbolically, by the very prehistoric image of an arrow (this aspect being pure analogy to a specific visual experience of actual arrows, their trajectory along our line in space); the arrow can traverse the line in two ways, called directions, according as it eventually reaches one or the other end of the line. This concept is later reused in the other two dimensions.

Visual experience is of course amplified by experiences in other sense-modalities. Thus, the frequent roving of one’s eyes up and down or left and right amplifies our sense of two-dimensional space. Other touch sensations, such as running one’s hand over a surface, likewise play a role, as do sensations of sound (and to a much lesser extent – for adult humans, at least – smell and taste).

3.2 The third space dimension arises in the observer in a more complex manner, involving more abstract considerations and a more active role for the observer. In the physical visual field, the assumption of depth (relative to the observer, me or you) serves to account for various phenomena, such as the different intensities of light and shade, apparent movement of distinct forms (i.e. shapes and colors selected by the observer as distinguishable), movement that may occasionally be experimentally assumed by the observer (potential involvement of volition) – things (granting continuity of phenomena) moving away-towards us (the origin or center of perception), getting bigger-smaller. Events that seem bizarre in a flat world become more understandable (explained, unified, predictable) in an assumed voluminous world.

In addition to such visual aspects, the touch-sensations in our eyes as we focus or unfocus them play a considerable role in convincing us of depth. Still other experiences must be taken into consideration too, such as feelings of bodily movement as well as pressure and roughness (touch sensations), sounds of varying loudness (hearing), smells in different directions and even the cavity in one’s mouth.

In the mental field, the third dimension (broadening the term dimension to include it) is admittedly often virtually absent from the inner visual field; but that the third dimension can be projected in the mental matrix is doubtless being proved by the very question (which presumes – thus, admits – that it has been imagined). Furthermore, we can introspect our apparently doing it and dreams often seem three dimensional, anyway.

The third dimension arises to resolve puzzles inherent in experience, such as correlating different perspectives on a seemingly continuous phenomenon (throughout a movement) or correlating the messages in distinct sense-modalities (or due to different sense-organs), and more broadly to integrate various experiences (e.g. the apparent unity between different apparitions, allowing one to regard them as one phenomenon in motion). The observer imagines this new dimension and presents it to himself as a credible hypothesis so as to explain or explain away his various inquiries and concerns. In each specific situation, the initial hypothesis is taken for granted, though it might later be supplanted by another that seems equally or more credible (the process is inductive, an adduction).

The main puzzle we try to solve through the third dimension is the apparent contradiction in different perspectives of an object. As the observer apparently moves around (that is, as his own body goes through certain variations in shape or feel), the external object seems to change in certain respects. Man has found that by projecting a third dimension of space, he could account for the perceived variations in experience of the first two dimensions. He formed the concept of perspective – he discovered (to some extent invented, insofar as a mental projection was involved) the relativity of appearances and their possible interconnections.

In this proposed description of the emergence of the third dimension, we see that it arises as a quasi-experience, but on closer inspection clearly involves inductive processes and imaginative projections of ideas and explanations. This is not a criticism, but intended to underline the different – more abstract, more conceptual, more active – status of the third dimension, in comparison to the first two. It is called a dimension by stretching of the meaning of the term dimension. It is assumed to have the same nature of extension, but more thought processes are required to conceive of it than to mentally separate the first and second dimensions from each other. These are acts of intelligence (a faculty of the observer), formulating concepts and frameworks, using imagination and inductive (including deductive) means, attempting to ‘make sense of things.’

3.3 The fourth dimension – that of time – has a yet more distinct emergence. Time relates distinctively to the puzzle of movement. Movement (including forms of change, qualitative or structural, other than motion in space) is I suggest a primary object. That is, together with objects like shape or color it is an experiential given, empirical fact in the strictest sense of the term[12]. All such primaries contain puzzles to our minds, and we itch to resolve them somehow (by curiosity – or perhaps biological need).

In the case of movement, the puzzle is an apparent contradiction inherent in any movement: how can what the observer has assumed is the ‘same’ thing, be somewhat ‘different’ in each of its many apparitions. The concepts of same or different are logical primaries; comparison and contrast are basic thinking processes. The impression that something is the same or different, following mere observation and followed by grouping and naming, gives rise to (or is at least the basis of) all abstraction, concept-formation, classification. For these reasons, movement stirs the observer to reconcile his conflicting impressions through some conceptual device. Man has chosen as his device against movement the idea of a fourth dimension.

But here, the concept of dimension must be stretched again, to allow for various distinctive characteristics of the proposed fourth. For a start, its different genesis, as described above. But then also, this additional dimension cannot be (however phenomenally) walked into like the others and only a single ‘direction’ (instead of two, like the others) must be posited for it (in order to account for the non-return of/to objects once overtaken in time, as against the apparent possibility of moving back and forth to or from an object stationary in space). A distinction arises between past and present and, at a later stage, future.

Clearly, one’s understanding of the other dimensions is also tainted by time, although more implicitly, in that one’s experimental body movements in search of perspective changes take time. But such understanding is ex post facto because the concept of time does not arise until (or unless) the fourth dimension is postulated. More precisely, the notion of time historically (and in individuals) arises well before that of a fourth dimension; but as man has further reflected on the subject, he has realized (or come to believe) that time logically implies/requires a fourth dimension. Similarly, of course, space arises as a notion first, and is then further structured and buttressed as a concept by introduction of the three dimensions.

3.4 Clearly also, the concept of memory is deeply linked with those of change, time and a fourth dimension. The hypothesis of memory is one of the postulates in the complex theory that seeks to resolve the puzzle of movement. Its role is to explain, not where things go after they are past us (that’s a purely time puzzle, an ontological one), but more introspectively how come we continue to be aware of something after it is gone (an epistemological puzzle). A “memory faculty” is proposed as at least an ability to store past impressions and observations (shunting aside the possibility of direct consciousness of past events as too heavy a postulate, initially at least). Just how such storage is possible is still mostly a mystery, but it suffices to suppose that it does occur somehow.

Memory is thus conceived to account for our apparent knowledge of past events that are no longer immediately present (in the phenomenal field currently observed). To account for the evident disappearance or waning of certain memories, we admit the idea that memory varies in permanence and intensity and vary its reliability accordingly. In this context, various degrees and kinds of memory must be distinguished, based on our experiences of remembering – and forgetting. Sometimes it takes us more time and effort than others to recall something. Sometimes we can, voluntarily or not, recollect a representation (inwardly project an image) of past events with varying clarity and precision, while at other times we are only able to recognize an event reminded to us (that is, after it reappears to us in some guise) as similar to a past one (for instance, looking at an old school photo and recognizing a face one had totally ‘forgotten’ – in the sense that one had to be reminded of it).[13]

3.5 On the other hand, for the future, we propose no special faculty. We normally distrust apparent anticipations of phenomena, and regard them as fantasies. They are mental projections of what the future might but will not necessarily hold, and not sure forecasts. Some people believe in prophecy of the future, by themselves or by other people; but most people doubt this notion. The concept of a future as such arises by the intelligence that “if past events were once present, then present events ‘will at some time’ be in their turn past.”

The fourth dimension thus arises in three stages, first comes the currently experienced present, then comes the past in the form of mental images that we relate to other present events, calling them the ‘same’ entity at ‘different’ times, and only lastly comes the future, by way of the said intellectual act.

But though we believe that there is a future (without offhand denying the possibility that it might not happen), we do not necessarily subscribe to the idea that we always know what that future will contain. We do not therefore normally presume a faculty of seeing into the future itself, not even an imperfect one like memory. We do however believe we can ascertain what the future might or could hold (a more modal knowledge), and even estimate that such possible event will more likely occur than such other (probability rating – another logical act). That is, the content of the future is thought of as accessible by inductive means (including deductive means). An indirect knowledge through concepts, propositions and logical tests – a knowledge not imprinted by its object, since its object does not ‘yet’ exist other than within the mind conceiving it as a possibility or potentiality, and indeed such object may never actually (come to) exist.

3.6 Clearly, we must say that the fourth dimension, assigned to time, is considerably different in its foundation and properties to the preceding three, assigned to space. I say ‘preceding,’ not to insist that the conceptualization of time is temporally after that of 3-D space, but only to reflect the increasing difficulty and complexity of their respective genesis. I can conceive of space (of one, two or three dimensions) without time, a static phenomenon, but not time without space (since time only arises given an experiential field of changing forms – we know of no movement without a manifest field of phenomena in an apparent space of one or more dimensions).

Another question would be, does time require a world of three dimensions of space? The answer would be that even one dimension suffices to give rise to the concept. We can certainly imagine a world without a third dimension of space, a phenomenal field of flat forms shifting around. The puzzle of perspective would be absent from such a world, but the puzzle of movement would remain, calling for the same conceptualization of time as did a three-dimensional world. Similarly, perhaps, for a world with one solitary dimension: segments of the world-line might be seen (if a mere line can at all be seen) to shift back and forth along it, which movements would be explicated by means of the time concept. But not of course, a zero dimensional world – such a point of existence is inconceivable (it would manifest nothing and therefore not be visible to any observer).

3.7 An issue that should be mentioned here is that of definition of “the present.” In one view, the present is a point in time without extension, the current instantaneous boundary between the past and the future. However, this view is by its very nature the more intellectual, since points are not perceivable, but inferred from extensions (to repeat, as boundaries between them). A more empirical view is to regard the present as extended in time, a moment, including a recent segment of the past (or perhaps straddling a bit of past and future, though that is a more difficult and conceptual position). This view is suggested by our apparent perception of movement (motion or change).

That is, if we grant movement to be an empirical given, a primary phenomenon, it means that we can apprehend some movement with one look without using our memory. If, on the other hand we said that movement is only knowable through memory, our above description of the concept of memory, as together with time an intellectual device for resolving the contradiction inherent in movement, would be weakened as being without empirical grounding. We may thus prefer to regard that we perceive, not merely static photographs of the phenomenal world, but indeed a cinematic display covering a certain stretch of time (the present moment). The static view of the phenomenal does not seem credible considering that the flash would be too ‘quick’ for us to register that anything at all occurred!

This view of the present as momentary does not exclude that memory come into play peripherally, in addition to perception, to further ground the present into the past. Such memory work is of course intellectual, involving judgments of continuity and causality (between the experienced moment and preceding ones no longer actual but suggested by memory). Inductive processes are involved, in that memory is of varying reliability and has to always be reevaluated contextually. Moreover, we tend to think that the moments we perceive are of varying breadth, according to our mental states. In some states, they are very narrow, in others wider (some people even claim prophetic ability to perceive very large chunks or all of time – the ‘timeless or eternal’ present).

3.8 The above accounts only attempt to detail the early stages of apprehension of the four dimensions. Many additional questions are eventually encountered and answers proposed, as these concepts are further scrutinized and developed.

For example, questions as to whether space and time are infinite[14] or finite (and in the latter case, what its size might be), and what geometrical axioms/system(s) is/are applicable to them. Gradually other kinds and degrees of interdependence between space and time have thus been proposed. Notably[15], the idea of additional dimensions (conceived by post-Cartesian mathematicians by algebraic methods, generalizing from the initial dimensions), Einstein’s view of space and time as bound together more deeply still (for instance, in his theory of Relativity, events separated by space cannot readily be granted simultaneity[16]), and Hawking’s suggestions that time has a beginning if not an end, and that space may expand (the Big Bang) and perhaps contract (the Big Crunch)[17].

These are however much later stages in development of the concepts of space and time, which arose in response to a large array of puzzles in the behavior of objects (e.g. the constancy of the velocity of light) as well as through complex theoretical reflections and calculations. Epistemologically, such further reflections on the possible nature of space and time are clearly highly intellectual and inductive. For most individuals, throughout most of history, advanced notions like Einstein’s do not play a role in their concepts of space and time. What matters to everyone are the said basic puzzles, such as that of movement (in response to which the very concepts of perspective and a third dimension and of time and a fourth dimension arise).

Many questions about space and time remain unanswered to date. For instance, the notion that things ‘travel in time’ (at least in one direction), or the notion that ‘time flies,’ to which we colloquially refer, is open to debate. As we have seen, the concept of time arises in an effort to understand movement in space (first the perceptible, later any conceptually assumed movement). Would not the idea (by analogy) of movement along a time-line be a doubling of the concept of time, calling perhaps for a further time-like dimension – is this not a redundancy, an unnecessary complication? Bound with this issue is the difficult ontological question as to what might be the meaning of ‘ceasing to exist’ or ‘not yet existing.’ Where do past things go when they disappear (do they remain in existence ‘somewhere’ in the past) and where do future things come from (are they waiting to appear in some repository ‘placed’ in the future)?

Clearly, until such problems are fully solved, our conceptual constructs of space and time remain scientifically immature. A theory has to always eventually resolve all puzzles, fill in all blank areas, tie up all loose ends – and do so better than any other – before it can be granted as finally trustworthy. Until then, some degree of epistemological doubt has to be maintained. Our concepts of space and time admittedly still need to be fleshed out a lot; but as for their competitiveness, we don’t seem to have any ideas to replace the above described basic assumptions. So we may rely on them with some confidence – we don’t seem to have much choice, anyway!

The very latest theoretical discovery of physicists is ‘M-Theory’, according to which our world involves ten dimensions of space and one of time (another theory, given less credence thus far, called F-Theory, proposes to add a second dimension of time to those). It is evident even to an amateur onlooker like me that these ideas (which have developed from String Theories of matter) are immensely interesting and far-reaching, addressing many of the issues just mentioned.

To conclude, though the four dimensions are all called dimensions, they do not arise in knowledge in the same way, they are not all equally empirical and they involve different kinds and varying degrees of rational activity (so that their epistemological status is not identical), and they differ also in their assumed ontological properties (in particular, time is conceived as different from space in various respects). These considerable differences may be glossed-over in some contexts, but should not be completely ignored in any discussion of the four dimensions.

4. Contents of Thought Processes

I wish to now briefly draw your attention to thought in the sense of the stream of verbal and non-verbal discourse in our heads, or in written or oral discussions between us. That is, consider the so-called ‘phenomenon’ or ‘experience’ of thought, which is part and parcel of our daily life, and cannot just be ignored as incidental. As is easy to see in the early phases of meditation, thought in one form or another is itself a constant intruder in our life experience. It does not stand aside and let us watch, but functions on and on. It is normally very hard for us to avoid, often grinding on even when we do not want or need it, oblivious to our will. Nevertheless, such involuntary thought may be erratic, and effort may be required for specific directions of thought.

The term ‘thought’ is pretty vague and used variably. Thinking, in the sense of a process, includes not only words mentally or physically spoken (or written) verbal sequences, consisting of sounds (or other signs) with meanings, which point our attention to things other than themselves – but also: ongoing current perceptions and intuitions; occasional plunges into our memory banks; imaginations of things and events; intentions to mean; conceptual and logical insights, conceptualizations; evaluations and emotional responses; intentions to do, acts of will or velleities; imaginations of thoughts, intentions, wills or velleities by oneself or some other(s).

Thought, then, in its minimal form of inner or outer meaningful speech, is to varying degrees an act of will. In its more complex forms, thought involves further acts of will (e.g. if I mentally project or intend the response someone else might have if I hit him). It also involves affections, being usually if not always driven by some desires and/or aversions, which stimulate not only its start, but also its directions and stop.

5. Universals and Potentiality[18]

Speculation is always permissible and valuable, to show we can muster at least one possible scenario, or two or more alternative scenarios. Every theory should be argued for, as well as against, as much as possible.

Whatever it is that particular existents (appearing in experience)[19] have in common, is referred to as a ‘universal.’ The term is also applied to any common character of such universals, in turn. A number of theories have been proposed to explain what these abstract things we call universals might be. Some accounts were transcendental, some substantial, some mental and some verbal. The issue is very important, because we need to justify our conceptualizations, on which all our knowledge is based.

In my view, the problem of universals should be approached mathematically. According to this theory[20], each universal is immanent in the particulars manifesting it, but it has no individual existence of its own anywhere else. Only in our minds is the separation between particulars and universals made. We have here a harmonious marriage of Idealism and Materialism.

Imagine all existents, all phenomena be they physical or mental or whatever, as consisting of ‘vibrations of energy’[21]. These vibrations of energy are differentiated somehow, in any of various ways waves vary, but they also have common aspects with many though rarely all others. To exist is to be a wave.

All waves co-exist in the concrete world. Furthermore, waves are related abstractly by their similarities, i.e. by the wave characteristics they have in common (except for their space and time coordinates, else they would be one and the same). Everything consists of vibrations, which affect each other over time, so that the waves change and move in a multitude of ways.

The result is a network, intense vibrational activity every which way, in constant flux. We perceive existents as they flash before us, by way of the senses, setting our own bodies, brains and souls in vibration (how precisely, has to be looked into). The world as a whole may be viewed as the additive and therefore common resultant of all particular vibrations. The overall noise or music they make, the orchestral symphony of existence.

The tree of classification of all existents that we constantly build up in our minds, judging and memorizing the interrelations between different concepts, has no objective counterpart, but our ‘classes’ are indeed to be found in the concrete world, in the way of comparable fractions or aspects or measures of vibrations, or of their motions, or of their interrelations.

A big question for the theory of universals to answer is the existence of potentiality[22]. For our universals are not always actual in a given moment of the world as we experience it. This issue is not unrelated to that of causality, as we shall see.

The universal is generally thought to remain constant while its manifestations in various points of space-time are the particular variations of it that we experience in our journey through space and time. Where is this ‘constancy’ expressed? It would seem that without actual particular manifestation, the universal does not actually exist. Does it suffice to say that false universals exist in mind instead of matter? But what of the potentiality of a universal that has not yet had a particular, nor been thought about?

We should in this context mention attempts to solve the problem of potentiality with reference to a multitude (or an infinity) of universes, like ours or unlike ours. This position is found in Buddhism, and has become interesting to scientists in recent years.

According to this view, the world in its largest sense would include multitudes of universes, which like ours constitute momentary, local explosions of manifest turbulent, plural being in the grand fabric of serene monist existence. Or like molecules of water in the ocean.

Such multiple universes might be connected somehow (Einstein speculated on this issue), or totally unconnected. The ‘laws of nature’ operative in these universes might be wholly or partly the same or different (as Newton speculated).

There might also be universes within universes, related as microcosm and macrocosm. Each quark in our world may be a universe on a smaller scale of space and time, full of black holes, galaxies, stars, planets, living beings, atoms and quarks, with its own Big Bang. Our world may in turn itself be but a quark in a larger universe.

In that case, potentiality (and other modes of possibility) could mean continued existence in another universe of the grand world, while impossibility means nonexistence or cessation of being “in all possible worlds” (a phrase we owe to Liebniz, I think). Whether man can really hope to resolve such issues is questionable. All this is speculation, of course.

A more down to earth answer would be as follows. For a start, the wave-form constituting a ‘potential but not actual’ universal is a mathematical potential of space-time, together with all other ‘potential but not actual’ universals. That is to say, the potentiality has no specific shape and form stored anywhere specific, but is merely a potentiality inscribed in space-time itself by the very fact of the mathematical possibility of this wave-form and all others in it.

If so, then perhaps everything is potential. Whether the course of the world ever gives rise to all its potentials is then another question. It would at first sight depend only on whether the previous positions of the world process allow for such outcome, given enough time. But if we consider the facts of causation, we see that the situation is more restrictive still.

Not all conceivable wave-forms occur for the simple reason that there are interactions between existing wave-forms. The few fundamental ‘laws of physics’ are supposed to summarize the given condition of the material world, and predetermine that certain wave-forms that pure mathematics would allow (if antecedents were ignored) will never in fact be actualized. Similarly, supposedly, in the mental domain.

Our knowledge of these ‘laws of nature’ is not given us in advance, so it has to be based on gradual accumulation of empirical information. Anything is conceivable, but not everything is potential. In most situations, we only know potentiality from actuality, though in some contexts we can predict it from earlier information.

This is where causation is sought out: so and so occurs when this or that occurs and only then. The potential is thus what occurs in specific circumstances. Therefore, the actuality wherein potentiality is ‘stored’ is in the surrounding circumstances, or their antecedents. Potentialities are inscribed in nature’s actualities, and passed on from moment to moment, by virtue of the interactions of all waves in the universe.

6. Social vs. Personal Knowledge

Each person has knowledge (experiences and insights, as well as introspections) that no one else has. Some of this personal knowledge is verbally shared – i.e. transmitted to others. Much of our individual knowledge comes from other people in this way. We absorb a bit from each of many people (family, friends, neighbors, books, teachers, media, etc.); but not, note well, from all people. Thus, social knowledge is diffuse, more a network of partly overlapping limited circles, than a totality we plug into and feed.

The ‘collective ownership’ of humanity’s knowledge is a theoretical ‘potential’, rather than an actuality. We do not each have all available knowledge – no one has that: we couldn’t in fact ever have it, it is just too vast. Thus, the idea is not just a fiction – it is not even possible.

For these reasons, it is not really accurate to speak of science as a common possession, the sum total of all scientific knowledge. Rather, science is a mutual process of communication, data-exchange, and peer acknowledgment or criticism – whose result is broader and more precise, though still limited, knowledge within each of the participants in science.



[1] I shall not keep repeating this. Strictly speaking, we count as knowledge only opinion that has been thoroughly checked, and evaluated by us as the best currently available in the cumulative context. But more loosely, the terms may be considered equivalent, in that we tend to regard our current opinions as knowledge!

[2] I label ‘intuition’ our intimate, innermost knowledge of our self and its cognitions, affections and volitions. Such objects are experienced particulars, sharing with concrete phenomena the character of being cognized without rational process, but they resemble abstracts in having none of the ‘sensible qualities’ that distinguish material and mental phenomena. For further clarifications of these other terms used, please refer to the previous chapters.

[3] In my past works I have often used the terms ‘appearance’ and ‘phenomenon’ as about equivalent.

[4] “Hume does indeed suppose the existence of impressions which are ‘unowned’ – a very strange idea,” according to Hamlyn (p. 198).

[5] Just as we cannot logically claim to know something outside Knowledge or that there are existents beyond the Universe or that there are miracles contrary to Nature – since concepts such as Knowledge, Universe, Nature are by intent and definition open-ended and all-inclusive.

[6] Husserl seems to have regarded the past and future aspects of objects as an intrinsic component of their present, whereas for me they are built up out of the present by means of various assumptions and inductive processes. They are by no means given through any transcendental consciousness.

[7] But different in some respects: e.g. in having only one direction.

[8] But note that mystics lay claim to a very large mental space. One perhaps as large as material space, existing in parallel somehow. Or larger still, and including it.

[9] If we pay attention, it is evident that some degree of hallucination is possible in ordinary situations, and not only in extreme conditions, like meditation, drugs or sickness. Also, as I have argued earlier, we need this ability to make certain judgments (e.g. in comparing phenomena). It is not so difficult to conceive how it might happen: since what we see is the front of light coming from an object impinging on our visual receptors, it is at that place of impact that projections from us outward would need occur. That these projections seem to be yet further out is a simple optical illusion, due to a superimposition. Thus, hallucination may simply be a distortion at the visual receptor (or perhaps even in the eye lens). Similarly for sound hallucinations.

[10] The older we are, the feebler our memory seems to get, and the faster time seems to pass. This is perhaps a function of the strength of our memory – how quickly it fades.

[11] Others might say, stupidity. I refer here, of course, to Zen claims to perceptual experience free of any intellectual interference. Buddhists ultimately regard intellection as stupidity, in that such judgments alienate man from pure contemplation of the phenomenon as it presents itself, breaking the nirvanic unity into a samsaric multiplicity. They may well be right; nevertheless, within a rationalist framework, differentiation would be counted among the acts of intelligence – so conventionally, at least, this term is appropriate.

[12] I discuss this more fully in Buddhist Illogic.

[13] In this context, see my Future Logic, chapter 62.2.

[14] A notion fraught with difficulties. See my Future Logic, chapter 66.3.

[15] Not to mention the revolutionary ideas of quantum mechanics, according to which a particle does not have a specific place at a given time but only variously probable positions – really, not just in knowledge (Bohr).

[16] What Einstein brought into consideration here is the issue of the measurement of space and time. How we come to measure them is quite a different issue to the one treated in the present exposé, as to the apprehension of space or time as such, irrespective of precise magnitudes. His innovation was the simple realization that our measurements of space and time are not made with an absolute measuring rod or clock, standing outside of them, but rely entirely on comparisons between phenomenal events – they are relative to practical acts involving movements of bodies or waves. Given this insight, the constancy of the velocity of light has deep implications regarding the structure of space-time.

[17] I must say that such ideas remain for me very uncertain. The suggestion that space and time are not infinite seems at first sight logically evident to me – I have ongoing misgivings about the very notion of infinity – but that existence can suddenly appear ex nihilo is also something hard to accept. (The idea of an infinite spiritual being – God – creating a finite material world – the kabbalistic tsimtsum theory comes to mind – is of course an attempted compromise between these two positions – though one with its own difficulties.) The newer suggestion that space-time might expand or contract seems conceptually more problematic still (I am not of course ignoring Hubble). Note well that this suggestion is that expansion of the universe (matter, including the space-time between its manifestations) is not expansion into a preexisting continuum, but is a deformation of space-time itself, into nothingness (as if nothingness is something). Similarly with regard to the reverse, contraction. I do not object to the denial that space and time are empty receptacles, inclining rather to the idea that what we call matter (or indeed mind) is merely the visible disturbances of (not in) the fabric of space-time. Neither do I object to space-time being finite. What bugs me is that dilation of the fabric into nothingness signifies a sort of ongoing ex-nihilo coming into existence of (more) space-time. I do not (at least, not yet) see why we do not first try a less radical thesis, that perfectly ‘calm’ regions of space-time, i.e. regions devoid of material (or mental) activity like stars or galaxies, might exist already on the outskirts of the more active regions (visible to us due to such activity precisely), whether to infinity or with ultimate borders, so that expansion does not involve ex-nihilo becoming. But I admit to being largely ignorant of physics and maths, and so not qualified to judge!

[18] These notes were originally written in 1997, but I have made considerable changes in them, to bring them up to date with my current thinking.

[19] Discourse in terms of Aristotelian categories has proven very confusing and stale, and we have in time come round to the simple and neutral idea of ‘events,’ when referring to particular existents. For us, anything noticeable, anything that stands out from its surrounds, is an event. (Even the world as a whole is an event, in that it is distinct from an imagined non-world.) Thus, an event may be static or dynamic, a property or an entity, or even a relation (like owning, doing or causing). In Buddhism, the emphasis is rather on ‘relation.’ The doctrine of interconnectedness of everything suggests that existents (entities, attributes, actions) are merely the crossroads of an infinity of relations, each devoid of substance but all together adding up to something.

[20] Discussed more fully in the chapter on Conceptualization.

[21] Those of the hippy generation would say, “vibes!” Of course, these ideas come to me from Indian philosophy, by way of its influence on Western youth of my time.

[22] The other modes of possibility are less of a problem. Thus, logical possibility refers to conceivability (imagination) without internal inconsistency. Extensional possibility implies that cases occur in other specimens of the same class. Whereas natural possibility (potentiality) could be applied to a single individual, that has not previously actually displayed the property in question.

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2016-08-23T09:54:02+00:00