below: Two Noble Kinsmen , I, ii, 7
table of contents commented bibliography and index say what? noframes


Nature is made better by no mean
t nature makes that mean. So over that art
hich you say adds to nature is an art that nature makes.

Modeling the integration of factors required for a comprehensively temporal thinking. Meaning's situation between objectivity and subjectivity. Is Plurality more basic than Unity for thinking?
Amongst thinkers for whom the notion of life was central, missing from treatment in this essay is Max Scheler (1874-1928). He is the phenomenologist most influenced by Nietzsche, praised by Steiner, and followed by that Polish Pope. Strange bedfellows, no? Scheler's Man's Place in Nature, to start with, deserves attention.
Bergson built his work around the notion of elan vital - spirit of life, Nietzsche insists on the priority of the body, Max Scheler Wittgenstein entertains linguistic practices as being 'forms of life, and Whitehead frames a 'Philosophy of Organism'. The reference to life pervades the work of our time's thinkers. And as the notion of life became more important for thinking, it reinforced further commitment to a new role in thinking for temporality.
Life, of course, is the subject of Biology, but there it receives a scientific treatment which often violates just those principles these thinkers found to be exemplified in life. Through exhibiting symbolic forms as reflecting organismic integrations, Susanne Langer's work more than justifies a common ground between scientific and philosophic meanings for life.
The word 'stochastic' comes from a greek root meaning 'to aim', and connotes probabalistically governed instances of deviance around an aim. 'Productively linked' here means that the processes activities have functional interdependence, as in constituting a metabolic substrate or an ecosystem. 'Cybernetic engagement' indicates that feedback effects 'steer' variations and set parameters within and between processes.

Gregory Bateson (1904-1980), by titling one of his books Steps to an Ecology of Mind, asks on our behalf the question which will concern us here: what might it mean to dress an understanding of mind in the lexicon of modern Biology? Gregory Bateson In this section we will construct a common space for the different types of thinking we have encountered on the basis of just such an inquiry - a composition where Mind is staged as unfolding in life's overall evolutionary scene. In Mind and Nature, Bateson sketches the common grounds between learning and evolutionary process: He relates these through comparing both to a model which incorporates a cybernetic engagement of diverse, productively linked stochastic processes, each generating streams of variations which are brought to bear in filtering each other to find and record 'relevant' variations. The model built here will use this same dynamic, but deploy it more metaphorically.
The error of our eye
directs our mind.
What error leads must err.

In analogy with a 'variety generating' stochastic process, Langer's philosophy of 'organic formation' shows a way to meet the challenge of linking diversities of representations into complementarily diverse 'symbolic forms' able to make articulate claims to more comprehensive human meaning. Allowing facts and hypotheses and imaginations to try out such organismic/symbolic ways of connecting with each other can enable the more adequate meeting of a world - whose situations have complex significance - with the alternatives of meaning it deserves.
Albert Bloch's 'The Blue Bough' (1952)
When we recognize experience as moving in a 'depth dimension' of alternative meanings for life's signifying structures, we are on ground where different kinds of more purely temporal thinking can take root and perhaps selectively engage their variety with what then becomes the provisional variety offered through symbolic forms. This is the basic outline of a model, derived from Bateson's, which we shall expect to be helpful in relating the various kinds of thinking we have considered to the possibility of a future where thinking, as a co-evolving element in human life, plays a more important role than it seems to play today.

What past thinking has lacked, from the perspective of this model, is sufficient differentiation between the processes generating facts, symbolic meanings, and modes of thought. In the light of the value of a threefold differentiation in these productive directions we will consider the model to have three layers.

Among these, developmental biology seems most evocative. It shows how tissues constellate from myriad cells, making layers - classically three primordial ones - whose functional dynamics direct the cues and conditions giving shape and differentiation to the unfolding new life. (Some biologists have meditated that the brain and its role in learning expresses an aspect of development's 'open-end'.)
vertebrate embryo crossection prior to neurulation
Our model is even more metaphorical than most, itself an invitation to the kind of thinking we have called 'amphibious'. For some, the model's metaphor may exhibit biological subtexts in evolutionary theory, developmental biology, neural net theory and ecology. Were traditional thinking to model a similar set of differences it might characteristically describe a hierarchy with facts at the bottom, symbols in the middle and thinking at the top. A hierarchy would, however, lose many of the echoes with typically organic processes which we would like to retain. For example, how the differentiation within each layer results from process both within and between layers in such a way that the kind of coupling between layers stands ambivalent and changes adaptively, even as the range of types of entities involved with each other change. Moreover, hierarchical models tend to emphasize the reduction of variety through 'unifying terms' at each level relative to the one below, which culminates at the top level with a 'king' or 'class of all classes' etc. Contrarily, in the kind of model we wish to employ, it is the variety available in any layer which constitutes its adaptive pressure and potential.
As we begin to bring this model to bear, it holds, in the way of thinking's emergent tendencies, a new kind of direct involvement in temporality in the place of the top layer, and a new role for the symbolic and metaphorical aspects of meaning where we identify a middle layer. The bottom layer too, which in one aspect we describe as productive of facts, has a distinctive character in our time; the shapes of facts being given increasingly in explicit accord with specific techniques of inquiry and instrumentalities of action.
William Blake's 'Newton' (1794) If such a model can help us envisage a future for thinking, it should also be able to shed light on its past. Indeed, even when we look backward we can discern the regions which differentiate more fully in our time: There seems always to have been polarization between the objective in the direction of our bottom layer and the subjective toward what we call the top layer. But in philosophy the zone between, which in its dynamism of forming symbols Langer recognized as feeling, has been treated more or less as an embarrassment threatening to contaminate the universality of both objects and subject. Hence feeling has been a thing philosophy has mostly tried to extirpate from thinking in the name of a 'higher subject' and more real objects.

O place, O form,
how often dost thou
with thy case, thy habit,
wrench awe from fools
and ti
e the wiser souls
to thy false seeming.

By the late Nineteenth century most of what we meet in that zone between the subjective and the objective are the barren supporting structures of ideologically rooted 'paradigms'. These typically had used logics which presupposed particular values to fix a form belonging to facts on the one hand, and similarly directed reflections on self-experience to fix the kind of unity belonging to the subject, on the other. In between, meanings become mere examples of principles. Numerous reductionisms in our own time still follow this overall pattern. Where people are dieted to any such 'official culture', totalitarianisms precede decadence and decay.
Changes in thinking which begin to redifferentiate that kind of polarization of mind show up in the vicinity of the transition into the twentieth century: Bergson identifies our prospective 'top layer' when he argues that the essence of subjectivity should be recognized not as an experience of identity reducible to unity but rather as an experience of pure duration bringing into creative play the qualities of experience.
Kurt Goedel (1906-1978)
Relative to a 'bottom layer' of objective facts, despite William James 'pragmatic' protestations, logic and positivism at first intensify their claims on the whole of the life of the mind but subsequently crumble and are abandoned as the implications of investigations like quantum physics and Kurt Godel's famous mathematical theorem sink in, leaving us with the contemporary instrumental approach to the constitution of a layer of 'facts'.

There's matter in these sighs,
hese profound heaves,
you must translate.
Tis fit we understand them.
With respect to our emergent 'middle layer', even before the century's turn, Dilthey courageously worked to develop his entire philosophy within a domain of perceptually active feeling which comprehensively informs both thinking and willing. For Dilthey feeling serves as the raw material from which experience shapes its entire world of meaning. Nietzsche's transvaluations alike point to how forms of feeling - symbols - are charged with polyvalent meaning.

To associate Will, even as bridged by a notion of instrumentality, with objectivity and facts may seem incongruous. But that connection expresses important conditions: Facere, fact's Latin root, means 'to make' (as in manufacture): will is proven only through what is made objective. The main challenge here is attributing the conceptual aspect of objectivity to our model's bottom layer instead of its top. This does foreshadow a drastic reorientation of the tradition in how we will subsequently situate the basic factors of experience. The interim fluidity of nomenclature is purchased from my reliance here on a model. Models are frameworks whose entities retain the status of conventions subject to adjustment for the purpose of describing function.

And Rudolf Steiner even articulates the same sort of threefold perspective we are suggesting: In his topography of experience, Steiner situates feeling as between thinking and willing; between what we are calling at this point the subjective and the instrumental. Moreover Steiner emphasized how his time had seen this aspect of experience dangerously weakened and undervalued. In our own time we find the polyvalence of the symbolic adequately clarified on the one hand in its temporality by Ricoeur, and on the other in how the course of feeling 'rhythmically' binds objective and subjective principles to produce symbolic forms which stand intermediate and mediating between the subjective and the objective, by Langer.
stained glass from Amiens cathedral stained glass Amiens cathedral
As we now turn our three layer model to look toward the future of mind, we meet the necessity of again assessing Heidegger's contribution. His work undoubtedly offers us a kind of 'top layer' where involvement in representations no longer displace thinking from its elemental temporality. Yet Heidegger's assignment of thinking to the question concerning the meaning of Being invokes a unitary principle, both in terms of the thinker's self-experience and in terms of the truth of Being toward which thinking aspires.

The capabilities of Heidegger's kind of thinking help make sense of thinking's past: his requiem for the cathedrals of philosophy shifted thinking into temporality as if possessing philosophy with its predestined after-life. But Heidegger is of little direct help in answering to a future where mind's entire productivity requires integration. For this, thinking must leave behind not only its fixation in representation but also its ideal of unity.
Hannah Arendt's
The Human Condition...
Hannah Arendt
In our evolutionary model, diversity within mind's lower layers requires diversity at the top as well. Nor should we really find this surprising: Hannah Arendt (1906-1975), following Aristotle, reminds us that thinking follows the pattern of conversation, and so what should seem surprising is that for so long it has been approached almost entirely apart from any syntax of engagement with others' experience, and instead held to be the crowning act of self-sufficient self-identity. Furthermore, because thinking is rooted in temporality, in duration, if we would think truthfully we should have our thinking heed, in all of its beginnings the overlap which Whitehead tells us belongs to entities whose boundaries include duration.
Thinking has characteristically referred itself to a unitary subject. In this it locates itself on the basis of its end results - concepts - both in the aspect of their powers of unification and in how they in general offer experience the kinds of 'handles' which persuade it of things' reality among other things. But subjectivity is not a thing among other things,blindersespecially for itself, and it unfitting for it to try and fit itself with handles for its own use on itself. Likewise, the subject's pretense to unity: the skill of concepts is more exclusion than inclusion - so a subject cut from the cloth of its concepts is one who dresses its self in equine blinders.
It is the case that the general question our model seems poised to pose with respect to changing Mind revolves around mind's involvement with multiplicities and pluralities, what James considered 'the most central of philosophic problems'. Traditional philosophy often regards multiplicity as an illusion which it is the task of higher orders of thinking to resolve into unity.

the US Net
Even when we look at our model we can find grounds for that unifying inclination: In the lower layer, regardless of the realities it addresses, instrumental reason is deployed in rounds of operations - systems of relations - which maintain consistency and which can be articulated as a unifying set of principles. In the middle layer we would feel great diversity of meanings, but each one makes its claim on the basis of offering experience of its wholeness - which we can then interpret as common between the different kinds of wholeness, as Cassirer did. In the top layer we find each subject separately experiencing its own identity, but that principle of identity is itself in common and can be interpreted as a window on the oneness of Being.

Let your reason serve to make
the truth appear where it seems hid,
and hide the false seems true.
However, by turning the whole demonstration around, the pretense of unity is again lost. Here, instrumental reason through its systems overlooks and conceals the real diversity of the events it manipulates; in the middle, symbolic thinking makes wholes only because its metaphorical codings require closure; and at the top, self-experience testifies not to an underlying unity but to unavoidable alienation. Similar critical inversions are well represented by current trends in Continental thought such as semiotics and deconstructionism.

Rembrandt's 'Aristotle Contemplating the Bust of Homer' (1653)

Such inversions often suffice to dethrone the priorities and orientation of traditional thinking, but offer little positive ground through which plurality can invest mind from top to bottom with a truer correspondence to life. James' and the later Wittgenstein's cultivation of distinctions which individualize experience in the light of lived contextual relevance is broadly helpful, but perhaps because they do not venture a typology of learning (for example, as may be found in Bateson's work), their work does not conveniently reflect the kind of 'layered' differentiation of Mind we here desire. We are guided, then, by the resurgent 'middle layer' of feelings and symbols pioneered by Dilthey and developed by Ricoeur and Langer, for here our model's need for real variations comes closest to satisfaction, but whence comes a renewal for mind's 'two other layers'?

We do have a pair of contemporary thinkers who make significant advances here toward grounding mind in genuine plurality. One, Gilles Deleuze, explores plurality in its 'objective' articulations, while the other, Emmanuel Levinas, works from the side we have called 'subjective' - thinking's temporality. The implications of their work allow us to complete our reorientation of the tradition, and so will make it possible to more coherently situate some of the issues raised in Sections VI through VIII. But these two thinkers are among the most challenging we have encountered, and their treatment will be less extensive than they unquestionably deserve.
before after
table of contents commented bibliography and index say what? noframes


Hannah Arendt: ...thinking ... conversation     The Life of the Mind: Volume 1, Thinking, page 186.

...lineup and alibi

The error of our eye directs our mind.
What error leads must err.

-Troilus and Cressida, V, ii, 112
O place, O form,
how often dost thou with thy case, thy habit,
Wrench awe from fools
and tie the wiser souls to thy false seeming.

- Hamlet, IV, i, 1
There's matter in these sighs, these profound heaves,
You must translate. 'Tis fit we understand them.

-Measure for Measure, V, i, 65
Let your reason serve
to make the truth appear where it seems hid,
and hide the false seems true.

- Measure for Measure, II, iv, 12

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